Academics at Cornell can be summed up in one word—OCAAT. OCAAT, or One Course At A Time, stands for the unique block plan Cornell’s academic calendar follows, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like. Students take one course for 18 days, and then have a four-day break before beginning their next course. Most courses average two to four hours of class time per day and all classes finish by 3 p.m., so the rest of the day is free for extracurricular activities and studying. This means no juggling an English paper, a math test, and a science presentation all in the same week. And instead of end-of-the-semester finals mania, you have just one final a month. Students still learn about the same amount of material as they would on a standard semester plan, just in a more condensed and intensive setting.
OCAAT provides a number of exceptional opportunities for students aside from the ability to focus on a single subject. With classes capped at 25 or fewer and professors who are only focusing on one course as well, many students develop mentoring relationships with professors in their major fields. Additionally, opportunities to study off campus are easy to come by and very affordable. There are between 20 and 30 courses offered in both domestic and international locations in a wide variety of departments. These block-long experiences include studying the genetics of fire coral in The Bahamas, learning about education in South Africa, and absorbing literature and theater on a tour of Great Britain. Cornell students can also take advantage of semester-long programs offered by the ACM—Associated Colleges of the Midwest—with locations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.