So there's a certain character I've taken an interest in.
Canonically, he desperately wants to get into an Ivy League college, particularly Harvard. After the events of the story, it turns out that his application wasn't so favourable to him, and the only schools he gets accepted to are Cornell ("but that barely even counts!") and a Tufts-esque fictional institution. He picks Cornell and studies politics (I've looked into this, but somehow failed to find exactly what this major would be called).
So he packs his bags and moves from small-town Ohio to New York.
This is where we hit our first roadblock. This character has a girlfriend (of sorts; their relationship is complex and at this point in the story more of a very intense, deeply personal friendship). She has possible PTSD, terrible memories attached to the town, a very shaky mental state at this point, and a general inability to cope with life. He doesn't want to leave her alone, and even if he did, he really doesn't have that option -- she can't make it on her own right now. Given he's a freshman, what kind of options would he have to let her stay with him? Doesn't necessarily have to be them literally living together (in fact, it works much better if they're separated), just any kind of support system that could allow her to make the move as well. If they need to get married for it, that works excellently.
After that, they're in Ithaca and he's attending Cornell.
What was it like there in the late 80s/early 90s?
I can get some idea of how it is now, the culture surrounding the institution in general, etc. I can't seem to get much for this. I was born after the events of the story and wouldn't be going to an Ivy League even if I did attend college in the United States, so I have little to no basis on what the place was/is like. Most of what I know comes from the college website and some word-of-mouth that tends to more concern the school's status than its culture.
He excels there and ends up becoming a Marshall Scholar, which transports him to Oxford -- which rehashes the questions about Cornell. It also raises a new and rather more specific one: What exactly is life like for a Marshall Scholar? I know about all the opportunities it opens up, I'm talking about how they're perceived by other students at their schools, the 'fish out of water' feeling, etc. More generally, what would that transfer be like overall?
I have Googled extensively, scoured the websites for Cornell and Oxford and the Marshall Scholarship, read a whole bunch of news articles, and spent too much time on college gossip websites.
Thank you for your time!