Saturday, December 20, 2008

Letter from our far-flung Transfer Correspondent II

By Sihyun Kim

Good day to you all in New York City! How I miss that tasty falafel from the streets. This is Sihyun Kim (LaGuardia '07, Cornell University '09) writing from cold Ithaca, New York.

So I'm going to write a counter piece to what good ole' Aaron Hudson wrote below. I don't know about you, but his piece on Syracuse University is a bit intimidating. Four year colleges could be quite approachable depending on your planning skillz [sic]. As a matter of fact, I'm currently having a relatively stress-free semester at Cornell University, and I'll tell you how you, too, could achieve a memorable senior year! One note of disclaimer: what I write below may be more relevant to those pursuing the humanities. Sorry engineers!

1) Apply to grad school during your senior year.

Yes, depending on the type of graduate studies you are pursuing, this could actually make your life a lot easier. The thing about law schools, for one, is that they accept students on rolling admissions (and I'm pretty sure that's also the case for medical schools). What this means is that, if they like you enough, schools will accept you soon after they get your applications. I sent my application to a particular law school on November 4 and got a letter of acceptance on November 21. This is not at all like the transfer process where all applicants are placed in the same pool when the deadline passes. Furthermore, the implication behind the rolling admissions is that it is to your advantage to apply early as possible (possibly by November 1). The bad news? You might have to finish applying during the heat of midterms. The good news? Law schools may not have the time to see your first semester grades! But I'm not telling you to just idle around! Schools that accept you will still want to see your transcript later on, and if you've done quite poorly, you might have to explain yourself to the dean. The only thing I'm trying to say here is that you can relax a bit (I repeat: a BIT) during senior year.

Oh and another thing: extracurricular activities for purposes of law school applications seem to matter a bit less in comparison to those for purposes of undergrad admissions. Of course, you don't want to be sitting around doing nothing. All I mean by this is that, should you not land that coveted internship at the United Nations, you should not lose your sleep because of some minor setback. Do something else with your free time. Pick up a new hobby. Volunteer your time tutoring fellow classmates in need. Maybe you could finally work on that novel you've always wanted write.

2) Don't actually pursue what you were pursuing at LaGuardia (come again?)

Okay, I admit this piece of advice may sound ridiculous, and it really is, but the major – albeit inadvertent – reason that my years at Cornell have been far from tumultuous has been the fact that I changed majors upon coming to Ithaca. This is indeed counter-intuitive, but bear with me. Cornell accepts no credits from two-year institutions for your major (at least that's the case with the English Department). However, because I have an A.S. in Liberal Arts: Math and Science, every one of my science requirements (namely, stuff OUTSIDE my major) at Cornell was met. I had just one requirement to fulfill – a language one – but I didn't really care because I thought it would give me the perfect excuse to pick up on Spanish again. In any case, for the aforementioned reasons, I have been focusing almost exclusively on fulfilling my major requirements when I came to Cornell. I still have some electives left over though – I am currently taking Introduction to Wines, which you simply must take should you too find yourself at Cornell. The class is the epitome of awesomeness; it has made me realize how yummy Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec are.

3) You're not superman, don't kid yourself.

Pay very close attention to your school's environment! So many of my friends get screwed over this. Most schools allow you to shop around for classes during the first few weeks of classes. This gives you plenty of time to get to know the professors and see how they are. You think some of the professors you have now are bad? This, even if you were to go to an ivy league, will never stop. As a matter of fact, good schools are filled with awful teachers. Being a good researcher or a Nobel laureate does not preclude poor teaching abilities! And make good use of! While some comments on the website are poorly and thoughtlessly written by students who are clearly inept and have no idea how the real life works, many others offer valuable insight on the personality of the professors. This may sound obvious, but if you find a particular teacher with whom you work well, stick with him/her. That professor may one day write you that valuable letter of recommendation that will help you land that job you've always wanted.

4) Write that honors thesis.

This is probably what gave me so much breathing room this semester. Most schools will either require you to write a thesis or recommend that you do. Should the opportunity be optional, consider taking it. Great thing about writing an honor thesis is that you can go at your own pace, and, should you be hit with several midterms, you could at least put one responsibility aside. My thesis advisor has been great about helping me pace myself and, knowing that I'm currently applying to law schools, has cut me some slack when I had other obligations competing for my valuable (just kidding — it's not that valuable) time.

5) SLEEP, damn it!

Sleep is so, so, oh so very important. If you tell me, "No, I just have too much going on Sihyun Kim!" perhaps you should shrug your shoulder like Atlas in that famous novel by Ayn Rand that I don't really care for (but if you like it, that's good too!) One person can only do so much, and perhaps the most important thing to know is your own limitation. In any case, some of my friends call me the "sleeping master." What I do is that as soon as I come back from classes, I take a nap. The logic is that you're bound to feel sleepy later on while you're doing work, but you, thinking that you could fight Mother Nature, shrug it off and continue on with your studies. But there are few things wrong here: (1) you will probably end up falling sleep anyway; (2) your work will suffer from diminishing returns as your full potential is not unleashed thanks to your lack of sleep. By sleeping from the beginning, you do not waste time fighting sleep. Furthermore, you are at your full potential when you actually do sit down and get to work. Another thing: you know that test you're studying for? Chances are that an extra hour of sleeping will help you more than an extra hour of studying. Economize your time, my fellow brothers and sisters!

Anyway, that's all from me. I hope your remaining months or year(s) at LaGuardia will be fruitful ones! And if you're ever at Ithaca, please remember to bring some falafel!


  1. Thanks for the feedback.

  2. Sihyun thank you all the recommendations and for sharing your story! can you please describe a little bit of yourself and what activities did you use to do at Lagcc? Also any recomendations for students aiming at the IVY'es?

    1. Sorry, I just noticed your comment! Have you already gone through the transfer process? You can always ask Dr. Koh for my contact info should you want to talk to me directly. Thanks!



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