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Frequently Asked Questions
Chinese FALCON Program

Questions Relating To Curriculum:

What is Chinese FALCON?

FALCON stands for Full-year Asian Language CONcentration. FALCON's comprehensive, full-time approach to Chinese instruction is designed to build the linguistic foundation, cultural understanding, and real-world Mandarin Chinese language skills that students need to function independently in China.

How would FALCON benefit me?

Falcon is a full-time intensive language instruction program, progressing from beginner to advanced. In one year, the student learns approximately three years worth of traditional academic language instruction.

I'm currently enrolled at Cornell University. Can I take other classes while in FALCON?

No. FALCON is a full-time course load: if you take the entire full-year program, you will be enrolled for 8 credits in the summer, 16 credits in the fall, and 16 credits in the spring. Classes are in session Monday through Friday 9:00 to 4:30, with only small breaks during the day, plus mandatory evening lab times.

How many students are in Chinese FALCON every year?

In any given year, as many as 30 students are enrolled in Chinese Summer FALCON.  The program is designed to have small sections of 6-9 students. This allows for plenty of individual attention from instructors.  Fall FALCON is limited to twelve students attending classes together.  Spring FALCON in Beijing provides our smallest classes: 3-7 students per section.

I live in Syracuse.  Could I commute to FALCON?

This wouldn't really be feasible.  The course schedule runs Monday through Friday, from about 8:30 to about 4:30 with practice time in the lab and prep for the next day's class.  Adding drive time on top of the schedule would likely be too exhausting for you to maintain, and you would get far less out of the program than your potential.

Do you teach simplified or traditional characters?

We teach both traditional and simplified Chinese characters, starting with traditional characters in the summer term, then introducing simplified in the fall term. 

If I complete FALCON, will I be qualified to work in China?

China does not have any specific requirements in terms of language for working in the country, so one does not have to worry about any sort of formal "qualification."  However, you would be qualified in a more general sense in that by the end of FALCON you would have reached the point where you can converse with relative ease about everyday matters and you would have reached the point where you can understand the speech of Chinese people you encounter.

I want to study in China. How can Chinese FALCON help me?

Chinese FALCON conducts its spring semester in Beijing.  While we do not place students in study-abroad programs or correspond with departments about their policies for their students, the spring semester allows you to explore your opportunities for further activities abroad.

My goal is to work in China. Will Chinese FALCON afford me that ability?

At the end of the year, you will have covered comprehensively what typically takes about three years to cover in a traditional curriculum. So, while by no means fluent when the student finishes FALCON, the students does have a solid base for continuing to learn the language on their own. It is not unheard-of for FALCON students to get jobs in China directly following the program.

As an Orthodox Jew, I'm especially concerned about how a spring semester in Beijing might affect my religious observances.  Are classes held on Saturdays in Beijing?

In general, we would do as much as we can to facilitate this student's studies and accommodate his religious observance needs. There are no Saturday classes in any of our terms, including Beijing, and our classes end by 4:30. There is an Orthodox Jewish community in Beijing, and we can put him in touch with someone that would give more information about that. We would need to know how many days he'd need to take off for holidays in fall and spring.

I'm a non-native English speaker.  Can I succeed in FALCON?

Plenty of non-native English speakers have done well in FALCON. Your English would need to be strong enough that you could understand explanations of Chinese language and culture in English, but most of your other work would be conducted in Chinese. FALCON does not require the TOEFL exam for admission.

What does Intermediate Chinese FALCON cover?

Chinese Intermediate Summer FALCON (Chinese 2201-2202) offers the equivalent of Cornell's regular Intermediate Mandarin course sequence in a 9-week intensive program. Chinese Intermediate Fall FALCON (Chinese 2260) covers the same material and more: students complete the equivalent of Chinese 2201-2202, plus an additional reading course. The goal of both programs is to help students reach at least the Intermediate-Mid level on the ACTFL Proficiency Scale. Cornell University students who have achieved a B+ or better in Chinese 1101 and 1102 are qualified to enter either program. Applicants from outside Cornell may qualify for either program through placement testing. Please note that because first-year Chinese courses at many other universities are not as intesive as Cornell's regular Beginning Mandarin course sequence, one year of Chinese at another institution is no guarantee of qualification for Intermediate Chinese FALCON.

How do I know if I'm qualified to enter Intermediate Chinese FALCON?

For anyone who has studied Chinese, we conduct placement interviews over the telephone. These interviews are used to determine if you are applying at the best level for your needs.

Questions Relating To Applying:

Am I a "degree" student or a "non-degree" student? What's the difference?

Students who are currently enrolled at Cornell and are working toward a Cornell University degree would be "degree" students (at either the graduate or undergraduate level).

Students who are NOT in Cornell degree programs are welcome to apply to FALCON as "non-degree" applicants.

Should I include a language attachment form for languages learned in high school?

Yes, include your high school courses. The admissions committee likes to see all the languages you have studied formally. This helps them determine your experience as a language learner.

Should I have my high school transcript and/or SAT scores sent?

If you are currently a student enrolled in a college/university for two or more years, then you can send the transcripts from your university. If you have not yet enrolled as an undergraduate or have been at your university for less than two years, then we will need your high school transcripts so that the application review committee has materials to reach a decision.

What happens if after my year with FALCON I decide to continue my education at Cornell?

While you're here, you would be attending Cornell as a non-degree student, not as a Cornell degree-seeking student. You'd certainly be welcome to apply to a Cornell degree program if something sparked you interest. However, you would simply be applying to the university just as any new applicant would. (You would have Cornell transcripts and grades to strengthen your application, though.)

What are the language requirements for an M.A. in East Asian Studies?

The requirements for the M.A. in Asian Studies are "FALCON or equivalent". Students usually take one Chinese language course each term during the M.A.

I am currently enrolled at Cornell. While I am participating in Chinese FALCON for the fall and spring terms, will I be considered as a regular Cornell student?

You will be considered a regular Cornell student during your FALCON year, and the year may count as one of your four undergraduate years. However, you will need to plan your undergraduate career carefully in order to graduate within four years. You may be able to petition for a fifth year as an undergraduate in order to include FALCON. You will need permission from your adviser within your college to spend a year in FALCON.

What are the requirements to be accepted into your school?

If you are interested in applying to and being accepted by Cornell as a regular Cornell University student, you should contact Cornell Admissions for details.  Realize that if you apply to and are accepted into Cornell, you would still have to apply to FALCON separately. Similarly, if you apply to FALCON and are accepted, that does not mean that you are accepted to Cornell as a regular student.

Is it possible for a junior in high school to attend?

While we welcome high school students who are motivated and mature, the program is not designed for high school students. They would be among undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals. On one hand, younger people tend to internalize a new language much more easily than older people, so our high school students are often very successful. On the other hand, they do not always have experience with this level of rigor and this degree of structured demand for their time, so it can be a hard adjustment for some.

I'm an undergraduate, and I was told during orientation that I have to finish my undergraduate degree program at Cornell in four years.  If my FALCON year counts as one of the four years I will be spending at Cornell, should I take a leave of absence from Cornell, so that the year I take FALCON will not count toward one of my four Cornell years?

Whether  permission is granted to use a 5th year for FALCON study varies by college at Cornell. Determining factors include your financial aid package, your curriculum, etc. In the case of Arts & Sciences, we do have students who have petitioned for a fifth year. Consult your advising Dean. S/he might also be able to help plan your classes so that you can complete FALCON and your degree in four years.

Do I need to have a recommendation from a Chinese teacher to be considered for Chinese FALCON?

A recommendation from someone who taught you in a language class is a good thing to have, since s/he can attest to your general language-learning abilities. However, a letter from any professor who knows your work ethic, intelligence, etc. would also be fine.

Should recommendation letters be from teachers only?

Former teachers, in languages or not, are the best, although we do sometimes see letters from employers as well. Basically, you want to select people whose recommendation will paint a clear picture of your likely language-learning skills, or at least the types of skills that make a good language learner: discipline, analytical ability, etc.

Questions Relating To Funding:

Undergraduate Students

                          Please click here to see Financial Aid information

How can I fund Summer FALCON?

Undergraduate students are eligible to apply for merit based FALCON scholarships which can offset a portion of the tuition. Another alternative offered by many private loan companies is a career loan.

Are there any scholarships available for Academic Year FALCON?

There are two types of funding available for Academic Year undergraduate FALCON students:  FLAS scholarships and FALCON Scholarships.  The FLAS scholarship covers a portion of the tuition and living expenses for the academic year.   If you're here as a full-year or academic year student, you could apply for the FALCON (Spring) Semester Scholarship. It covers a portion of the spring semester tuition with preference given to Cornell University undergraduates. If you're coming from another institution, you should see what they might have available. Any private scholarship that you secure should be able to be applied to your tuition here.

Can I use the G.I. Bill for FALCON?  How do I do so?

You'd need to contact Sofia Salce, the Veteran's Affairs contact. Please be aware that the G.I. Bill has predefined limits and may only cover part of your time at FALCON, leaving you to find additional funding.

Which private loan company is most highly recommended for career loans?

Please click here for financial aid, loans and scholarship information. You might also try looking into that you or your parents use for checking—sometimes they will offer good rates to existing customers.

Graduate Students

                          Please click here to see Financial Aid information

How can I fund Summer FALCON?

In terms of fellowships, funding for summer-only study is not especially abundant. There is one option that you may want to look into: it’s called the FLAS, or Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship. There is a separate summer-only competition for FLAS awards, and the fellowship pays tuition and a living stipend.

The FALCON application for summer does not require transcripts, but the FLAS competition does require them. Since the FLAS deadline is in the spring semester, we would want your transcripts to include your fall grades.

How can I fund Academic Year FALCON?

Any graduate student (degree or non-degree/ Cornell or non-Cornell) is eligible to apply for loans through Cornell’s financial aid office.Additional financial aid (housing, living expenses, etc.) would have to be handled through the graduate school.

Do I have to submit GRE scores for the FLAS, or can I substitute other standardized test scores?

In the past we have accepted GMAT and LSAT scores from FLAS competitors, although this is not really an optimal approach. The GRE is a better measure of the types of skills needed to succeed in language study and you’d be competing against people who took the GRE. The FLAS competition—especially in Chinese—is quite intense. Thus, to be a more competitive applicant, you may want to consider taking the GRE.

To clarify, are non-degree graduate students eligible for FLAS Fellowships?

Non-degree graduate students are eligible as long as you have a Bachelor's Degree. Highest preference is given to those in degree programs at Cornell. Since the FLAS is a “portable” fellowship, your odds of receiving it through your own school may be higher.  You may look into competing for this fellowship at your home institution and using it to study here.

When are admissions decisions made for the FALCON Program and the FLAS Fellowship?

If you applied to FALCON in the fall, it’s possible that the director would review your application and make an admission decision before the start of the new semester in January. As for the FLAS decision, the committee’s goal is to decide by the beginning of April.  Applicants will hear about FALCON admission before they hear about fellowship competition results.

Can I use the G.I. Bill for FALCON?  How do I do so?

You’d need to contact Sofia Salce to discuss your specific situation. Please be aware that the G.I. Bill monies will only cover part of your time at FALCON, so you’ll need to find additional funding.

Which private loan company is most highly recommended for career loans?

Please click here for financial aid, loans, and scholarship information. You might also try looking into that you or your parents use for checking—sometimes they will offer good rates to existing customers.

Other than the FLAS Fellowship, are there any scholarships available for non-degree graduate students?

If you’re here as a full-year or academic year student, you may apply for the FALCON (Spring) Semester Scholarship. Any private scholarship that you secure should be able to be applied to your tuition here.

I am a graduate student at another university, and I am not a U.S. citizen. Am I qualified to apply for the FALCON Semester Scholarship? 

Yes, you are qualified.  You should be aware that preference is given to Cornell University students. Also, the International Students and Scholars office might be able to help with international student funding.