Information for Incoming Freshmen
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Welcome to Cornell, and thank you for your interest in Economics!
As undeclared students, your three main contacts in the Department of Economics will be:
- Professor Stephen Coate, Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS)
- Professor Jennifer Wissink, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies (Associate DUS)
- Sarah Schupp, Undergraduate Experience and Outreach Coordinator.
All three will hold regular office hours during the academic year. In addition, Professor Coate and Professor Wissink will both monitor and respond to emails sent to the Economics DUS email account (email@example.com). Sarah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fall Orientation Open House
The College of Arts & Sciences will hold an Open House for incoming students on Sunday, August 19th from 1:00pm-3:00pm (details will come from the College). We will have an information table at the Open House and Professor Coate, Professor Wissink and Sarah Schupp will all be present. We encourage you to drop by our table to meet us, and to get answers to any questions that you might have.
Everything Econ Session
The Economics Department will have an additional information session the same day (August 19) from 12:30pm - 1:30pm in the 200 Baker Lab (Baker Auditorium), and students who are interested in Economics are strongly recommended to attend.
In the meantime, we have put together the following list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) designed to cover many points of confusion for incoming freshman. If your question is not on the list below, and if you'd like an answer prior to the Arts & Sciences Open House, please feel welcome to send an email to email@example.com. (The questions below are limited to issues that apply to incoming freshmen --- for a more extensive set of FAQs covering the full Economics Major, explore the rest of this site.)
Note: We understand that incoming freshman have been asked in July to enroll for their fall courses. However, students will have ample opportunity to adjust their schedules after arriving on campus in late August. Hence, again, we encourage you to drop by our table at the Arts & Sciences Open House on August 21st to ask questions, and then you can adjust your schedules at that time.
The Typical Routes through Economics: Check out this document for Incoming Freshmen that describes some typical options for how to progress through the major.
Also, check out the New Student Orientation website.
Q1: If I have placed out of Intro Micro (Intro Macro) --- e.g., by receiving a 4 or 5 on the AP exam --- should I take Intermediate Micro (Intermediate Macro), or take the intro class again for good measure?
In general, if you have placed out of an intro class, you should, in principle, be ready to take the intermediate class in that area. If you wish, however, you are allowed to forfeit the AP credit and take the intro class again at Cornell in your first semester. This may be advisable if you do not feel confident in your knowledge of the introductory material. Whether or not you should enroll in the intermediate class depends on how strong your econ background is and how strong your math and study skills are coming into Cornell. You should also consider how much you want to push yourself during your first semester at Cornell.As you think about enrolling in intermediate classes, please keep in mind that Intermediate Micro (Intermediate Macro) require calculus as a prerequisite (MATH 1110 or an equivalent). These courses can have a large number of non-freshman, which is also something to keep in mind.
Finally, we note that a common plan for people who place out of both Intro Micro and Intro Macro is to take a math course in the fall (either Math 1110 or a subsequent math course - click here for more math recommendations) and then take an intermediate class in the spring. Similarly, a common plan for people who place out of only one of Intro Micro and Intro Macro is to take the other course in the fall along with a math course, and then take an intermediate class in the spring.
If after reading this you are still unsure which route to take, your best bet is to talk with Professor Coate or Professor Wissink when you arrive at Cornell --- e.g., at the Arts & Sciences Open House --- so that they can suggest a plan that best fits your situation.
Q2: Does it matter in what order I take Intro Micro and Intro Macro?
No, Intro Micro and Intro Macro can be taken in either order. The same is true for Intermediate Micro and Intermediate Macro.
Q3: Can I take Intro Micro and Intro Macro during the same semester?
Yes. That said, you may want to be sensitive to test schedules for the classes, since they often fall on the same day.
Q4: I placed out of Intro Micro (Intro Macro) and planning to take both Intro Macro (Intro Micro) and Intermediate Micro (Intermediate Macro) during the same semester. Is that OK?
We do not recomenned this. If you do it, you need to ger permission from the instructor of the intermediate course.
Q5: If I have placed out of MATH 1110 --- e.g., via a calculus AP exam or via the Math Department's placement exam --- and I am planning to be an economics major, should I take more math?
You don't have to; it's not required for the major. But more math is certainly beneficial, both in Econ coursework at Cornell (you'll understand the material better, even if the presentation in class is not explicitly mathematical) and after Cornell. How much additional math we suggest you take depends on your intended educational and career path. This is something to discuss in person with faculty in the Econ program once you arrive at Cornell.
Q6: What do I do if the class I want to take is closed?
Keep trying on the Cornell Drop/Add system --- people add and drop frequently, especially at the start of the semester. In addition, professors sometimes keep waiting lists or grant special priority. Attend lecture on the first day of class, since the professor will often announce his/her policy or you can send them an email. Each class is handled differently so there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Please note that the DUS, Associate DUS, and the staff in the Economics Department play no role in enrollement decisions. It is up to the professor teaching the class.
Q7: What should I do if I want to be an economics major and can't get into Intro Micro this fall?
Don't panic. Consider taking Intro Macro first and then Intro Micro in the spring. Consider delaying your first econ class until the spring semester and take some math and other classes instead. Also note that Intro Micro and Intro Macro are offered every semester and are also offered by the School of Continuing Education and Summer/Winter Sessions as both "live" in Ithaca classes and as "distance learning" sessions. So there are several options.
Q8: What do I do if I want to switch sections in one of the classes I have enrolled in?
Do this via the Cornell Drop/Add system, but with caution if the class is full or nearly full. Sections and lectures are tied together in the system, so if you drop the section, you will be dropped from the lecture too. Now when you try to get into another section (and at the same time back in the lecture) you might discover you cannot find an open spot. At this point you are no longer in the section OR the lecture
Q9: I want to be an economics major, so how do I get involved with research and when?
Undergraduate research opportunities start to emerge after your freshman year, typically. There are several different avenues to consider based on your particular situation. However, it is best for you to get through the Intermediate Micro and Macro classes and the Stats and Econometrics classes before seeking research opportunities. It is also quite useful to have taken an elective course in the area you hope to do some research. So for example, if you want to get involved with research in, say, industrial organization, make sure you have taken a class first and either during or after the class has concluded, start a conversation with the person teaching the class about various outlets for undergraduate research. See the research opportunities page for more information.