Image of multiple Post-It notes, some of which say: the hills!!; Student Union board; it's where I met my best friends!; the hills of Cornell.

We Asked: ‘What Makes Cornell Feel Like Home?’ You Answered!

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What Does Cornell Mean to You—In Five Words or Less?

Based on our (unscientific) Homecoming exercise, it’s the campus, the community spirit, the food, and—above all—the people

By Beth Saulnier

“What makes Cornell feel like home to you?” That’s the question we asked revelers during Homecoming 2023. It was a follow-up to our previous year’s exercise, the wildly popular “What Does Cornell Mean to You—In Five Words or Less?

At the Cornellians booth during the Crescent Lot’s Fan Festival prior to the Saturday football game, alumni and students lined up to write their answers on brightly hued sticky notes—and many also recorded their responses on video (see below).

Image of hundreds of Post-It notes that depict what makes Cornell feel like home.
So much Big Red love—we almost ran out of wall!

In exchange for jotting down their memories via Sharpie, they received one of Homecoming’s most coveted pieces of swag: a gray-and-red-striped knit beanie, sporting the Cornellians logo and topped by a fashionable pom-pom.

The more than 300 responses formed a neon pastiche of Big Red spirit on the wall behind our booth.

(And we could have gotten scores more—but we ran out of hats! Thanks to those alumni and students who still contributed their thoughts, even sans beanie.)

Many of the notes cited multiple factors that make Cornell homey to the author—and there were a number of common themes.

A student holds a kitten in one hand and writes "Dairy Bar ice cream" on a Post-It with the other.

“Friends” was the winner, by far—noted more than 100 times—and the related response of variations on “the people” had 60-plus mentions.

“It’s where I met my best friends.”

“All the amazing people I’ve met.”

“The friends who became family.”

“Friends who believe in me.”

“Spending time with friends on the Slope.”

Speaking of the Slope: it got nearly 30 call-outs, with natural elements like the scenery, waterfalls, and gorges garnering another 40.

More than a dozen people specifically named the sunsets—communal viewings on the Slope remaining a beloved tradition across generations.

“Sitting in the crypt in Sage Chapel as the sun sets and the belltower chimes.”

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“Crisp air, tower chiming, Big Red Bands & apples.”

(OK, this one was hard to top: “When I was in labor, I got through the pain by remembering the view of Willard Straight and the Hill.”)

Over 40 Cornellians cited the University’s sense of community, its diversity, its dedicated faculty and staff, and/or its welcoming ethos:

“Knowing we are in this together.”

“Finding community based on shared interests.”

“The network of supportive peers, staff & faculty.”

“The best of the best, doing the greatest good.”

Cornellians writing what makes Cornell feel like home to them on Post-Its.

And then there was … the food!

Tasty comestibles in one form or another drew dozens of shout-outs: the Dairy Bar ice cream; meals on-the-go from Louie’s Lunch truck; bagels at CTB; Sunday dim sum brunch at Appel Commons; the camaraderie of house dinners and tea parties.

One of the Dairy Bar’s more modest offerings got a particular homage from a student, who opined: “What makes Cornell feel like home is all my friends, the warm welcomes I receive, and the plain yogurt.”

For a notable number of participants, groups like the Big Red Marching Band, University Chorus, Daily Sun, Human Ecology Ambassadors, Greek organizations, or their church were home; others enthusiastically embraced their grad school cohort, research lab, or academic peers.

“Singing with the Glee Club and Chorus on Ho Plaza.”

“My friends and sorority sisters.”

“Growing and learning with others who share my passion.”

Cornellians writing what makes Cornell feel like home to them on Post-Its and receiving beanies.

Overall, it was an overwhelming outpouring of Big Red spirit—a reminder that the Cornellian experience is replete with elements both commonly shared and highly individual.

One alum may have summed it up best. When asked to fill a tiny square of paper with what makes her alma mater feel like home, she wrote:

“I would need the whole wall!”

Photos of display board by Lindsay France / Cornell University; photos of participants by Joe Wilensky / Cornell University.

Published October 9, 2023

What makes Cornell feel like home to you?


  1. Nome Cruz, Class of 1984

    That’s where I met the love of my life!

  2. James Strub, Class of 1952

    In Kansas when I received notification (and a half-tuition scholarship) to Cornell, I was not aware that Cornell was NY State’s “A&M” college — a system system set up in the 1860’s by Ezra Cornell and his legislator friend Mr. Morrill that required a college to enroll all incoming freshmen and sophomore men instruction in the Agricultural and Mechanical arts — as well as basic military training. Thus in 1948 I found myself in the ROTC, actually in the very first Air Force ROTC class at Cornell — which was the beginning of my 32 years in the USAF.

  3. Stephanie Rowe Simmons, Class of 1990

    Cornell has a spirit. The feeling that all things are possible, the energy to live with purpose.
    The views are pretty sweet too!

  4. Mark, Class of 1983

    I attend Homecoming nearly every year as it’s a great way to catch up with other alums, students, and my fraternity. We had a beautiful sunny day! However, it’s sad to see the poor state of historic Schoellkopf Field and I can’t remember the last time Cornell actually won the football game.

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