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Harriet Vane

Xpost: Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa--tell me all about it

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My dd visited Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, with another family. I had never heard of this college before and am finding myself quite intrigued. They have some really nifty quirks, like doing one course at a time. Dd is in love with this school, though she's young yet and her thoughts may change with time. For now, though, I'd love to investigate further.


Dd would like to be a teacher someday. She specifically thinks it would be cool to operate her own school. She leans towards secondary ed, though I see in her a real affinity for little ones, and I wonder if elementary ed is a good fit. She is quite strong in lit analysis, writing, and foreign language (picks up languages with ease, can learn two concurrently and manage to keep the two separate). I also think it's possible she may thrive in a foreign setting as she really loves travel and is adaptable.


So, what can you tell me about Cornell?



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My husband, his sister, and I all graduated from Cornell in the 1980s. We all

had wonderful experiences and felt very prepared for life after college. Cornell is located in the picturesque small town of Mt Vernon and the entire campus is on the National Register of Historic Places, so it is very beautiful.


Cornell is one of only a few colleges in the country that uses the block plan. You take one class for 3 1/2 weeks and then have a 4 1/2 day break. When we were there they offered nine blocks each year, but you only needed to take classes during eight blocks to graduate in four years. Thus, most students had double majors and triple majors were not uncommon. Unfortunately, starting in the fall of 2012 they will switch to eight blocks.


Personally all of us loved the block plan, but I think it just depends on your personality and work habits. We had a variety of majors - Psychology, Math, Chemistry, Art, Political Science, and Religion, and it worked just fine for all of them. However, you simply cannot procrastinate and for math and sciences courses you do need the ability to quickly master the concepts, but being able to focus on one thing is really nice.


The flexibility of the block plan is wonderful for internships and study abroad. It's also great if you change or add a major late as it's easier to quickly finish prerequisites without waiting for the next semester or year. I didn't start taking math classes until my junior year and went on to grad school in statistics. My husband added an art major after a month in Mexico during his sophomore year.


Although Cornell is not one of the top 25 liberal arts colleges in the country, we all had many opportunities after graduation. We all have advanced professional and/or academic degrees and did graduate work at various research universities including two Ivy League schools. My husband was accepted to a great medical school and his sister to a top law school, although neither ultimately chose those options.


Probably the best thing about Cornell is the wonderful relationships that develop between the students and faculty. We now live on the west coast, but one of my husband's art professors and his family were just here over the 4th of July week-end and one of his chemistry professors has visited numerous times. My husband also taught with him for several years at Harvard summer school when we lived on the east coast. When we were in Mt Vernon over Spring Break we stayed with one faculty member and had meals with many others.


To offer some balance to the above glowing review, I'll say that for my rising senior son the two things he did not like about Cornell during our visit were the food and the science facilities. Many of the other LACs we've visited have new or newly renovated science centers and use Bon Appetit for their food service. My son is thinking about majoring in Chemistry and is one of those people that lives to eat.


I hope this helps and please feel free to ask any specific questions.



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