Block plan and athletics for the win

Cornell College solved the problem that every ambitious student struggles with—what do you do when two or more classes that you really want to take are scheduled at the same time? What do you do when the extracurriculars you’re interested in have practices or rehearsals at the same time as a course you need to take? 

Volleyball team
Cornell’s block plan and small classes emphasize collaboration and teamwork, which ultimately contribute to teams like this 2018 conference champion volleyball squad.

Thanks to the decision to adopt a block plan 41 years ago, students share a common daily rhythm. No competing classes, because they can only take one course at a time, and it is out by 3 p.m. every day, allowing time for practice, rehearsal, or their work-study job. 

Do you know who this is great for? Everyone, especially Cornell’s student-athletes. 

“One Course helps with the timing of practices,” says lacrosse player Erin Heflin ՚19. “We are able to get out of the classroom at roughly the same time, meaning that we are able to focus completely on practice, rather than having to worry about getting to another class on time after class is over. We are able to use our time efficiently on and off the field.”

Many of Cornell’s student-athletes value how they can find the right balance and focus between their academics and their athletic interests. They don’t have to cheat one for the other, and their stats prove it with 150 Academic All-Midwest Conference awards (requires a 3.33 GPA and varsity letter) in 16 sports for the 2018-19 seasons. In addition, Cornell’s men’s and women’s lacrosse programs gained 16 academic awards in their respective conferences for the 2019 spring seasons. 

“One Course At A Time is the critical piece in enabling our student-athletes to be the architects of their own amazing four-year experience,” says Head Volleyball Coach Jeff Meeker. “The block plan teaches focus and working intensely toward a goal. Our small class sizes emphasize collaboration and teamwork. Each of these traits translates directly to the work we do in the gym.”

Student-athletes at schools that follow a semester plan have to choose if they want to prioritize their academics or their team. Coaches cannot always expect all their players to show up to every practice or game if it conflicts with their student-athletes’ academic agendas. That’s what Cornell Baseball Coach Seth Wing remembers when he coached students whose schedule followed a traditional semester plan. 

“We never had every player at practice,” says Wing. “At Cornell we rarely miss anyone.”