Elizabeth McKenzie Klein : 'This institution encouraged me to pursue my passions – even if they seemed somewhat contradictory'

May 24, 2016

Elizabeth McKenzie Klein

English (with a pre-med curriculum)

McLean, VA

Why did you choose Cornell?

When I toured Cornell’s campus during admitted students day in the spring of 2012, the university’s motto – “I would found an institution where any person could find instruction in any study” – very much resonated with me. I appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum and was intrigued by the thought of pursuing a minor in another college. And, four years later, as an English major who has also completed a rigorous pre-medical curriculum, my appreciation for Ezra Cornell’s famed words has only grown; this institution encouraged me to pursue my passions – even if they seemed somewhat contradictory – and for that I will always be grateful.

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

My most profound turning point while at Cornell was – without a shadow of a doubt – how I responded to a very sub-par grade on my first organic chemistry prelim the fall of my sophomore year. I was taking an incredibly rigorous course load that semester – including physics, organic chemistry, and comparative physiology – and could have easily let this minor mishap undermine my confidence and derail my studies, but I didn’t. I promised myself that I would do whatever it took to get an “A” in that class, because that’s what I believed I was capable of. The hard work and many hours of studying that ensued forced me to really evaluate why I was pursuing my chosen career path, an internalization that only intensified my professional ambitions and set a precedent for my succeeding semesters at Cornell.

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

I have grown considerably in my four years at this university; I have become a more astute scholar and a more compassionate and socially conscious individual. Cornell’s diverse student body made me more profoundly aware of how very fortunate I am. I have always considered education to be a gift, but relationships forged and experiences had at this university instilled in me a desire to pay that gift forward to those less fortunate than myself. Consequently, I have decided to spend my gap year in between college and medical school working for AmeriCorps and help other ambitious students gain access to the very gift that I myself have just received.

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