The Cornell academic year follows a semester system with a minimum of thirty weeks of instruction and twenty-four credit hours. Instructional periods include fall, winter intersession, spring, and summer.
Full time undergraduate students are expected to enroll in a minimum of twelve (12) academic credit hours of college-approved coursework per semester. Exceptions are granted only at the discretion of the student’s college.
Cornell interprets and adheres to New York State Education Department’s definition of a credit hour, as follows:
A student will receive one (1) credit by satisfactorily completing a course that requires at least fifteen (15) hours of instruction and at least thirty (30) hours of supplementary assignments. Hours are adjusted proportionately for other formats of study, e.g., laboratory, studio, research, problem-based learning, and independent study.
On average, there should be three (3) hours of work per week per credit. For students taking fifteen (15) credits per semester, this translates into an approximate work-week of forty-five (45) hours.
In order for transfer credit to be accepted by Cornell University, the coursework must be completed at a regionally accredited institution. A list of the six recognized accrediting bodies accepted by Cornell is available on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s website.
For courses taken outside of the United States, academic coursework may be evaluated for Cornell University credit provided that the coursework is taken at the college level and recorded on official transcripts. Additionally, students who wish to transfer credit(s) from outside of the United States may be requested to submit an international credential evaluation, or proof of accreditation for the institution where the coursework was completed.
Beyond what is stated above, transfer credit policies vary by college and not all colleges accept transfer credit. Students wishing to transfer credits from another institution should consult their college registrar’s office.
Students pre-enroll during the fall for the upcoming spring semester, and during the spring for the following fall semester. Dates are announced in advance and are posted on Student Center and on registrar.cornell.edu. Course offerings for a given semester are viewable and searchable on the Class Roster, which also includes a scheduling tool for planning purposes. Students are expected to meet with their academic advisors before pre-enrolling to affirm that the courses they intend to take will ensure satisfactory progress toward a degree.
New students pre-enrolling over the summer should follow the guidelines sent by their college about choosing classes. Students will have an opportunity to meet with their advisors when they arrive on campus.
During add/drop periods at the beginning of each semester, students may adjust their schedules using Student Center. Courses may be added, dropped, or swapped; see the Class Roster for up to date course offering information and the Enrolling in Classes page for assistance with the enrollment process. Professional schools, the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, the Department of Physical Education and Athletics, and First-Year Writing Seminars may have different course enrollment and add/drop policies. Address questions about permission-only courses and adding or dropping a specific course to the registrar in the college offering the course.
Taking a Course More Than Once
Students wishing to pursue research opportunities may enroll in courses such as research, honors research, or independent study. Some students enroll in research-focused courses for more than one semester. While the course number may be the same, these courses represent a progression of research and scholarship and are not a repetition of the same material. Students are expected to demonstrate positive forward development in their knowledge and scholarship.
Some topics courses, colloquia, and seminars carry the same course number and title. These courses, from semester to semester, focus on a different topic or area of study. Although students may enroll in the same course more than once, the content of each offering varies.
Students wishing to take a course more than one time to improve a poor or failing grade should consult their college registrar prior to enrollment. For more information about how repeat coursework may impact financial aid, see the Course Repeats and Financial Aid Eligibility site.
The university offers a broad range of diverse courses. Many of these courses have overlapping content, and students must make their selections carefully to ensure that they will receive credit for each course they take. Students who enroll in courses with overlapping content will only receive credit for one of those courses. Please refer to the list of courses with overlapping content .
Colleges or departments determine which classes are available for audit. Physical Education classes may not be audited. Graduate students and students taking classes through Continuing Education and Summer Sessions may choose to audit eligible classes. Undergraduate and professional school students may not audit classes. Classes taken as audits, and grades for those classes will appear on a student’s official transcript.