Courses of Study 2017-2018 
    Oct 01, 2023  
Courses of Study 2017-2018 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Policies and Procedures

In the College of Arts and Sciences  

 Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the heart of intellectual life—both in learning and in research. All members of the university community must support each other’s efforts to master new material and discover new knowledge by sharing ideas and resources, by respecting each other’s contributions, and by being honest about their own work. Otherwise the university will fail to accomplish its most central and important goals.

The Essential Guide to Academic Integrity at Cornell is one of the documents new students receive. Students should read this booklet carefully and not assume they understand what integrity and cheating are and are not. Academic integrity implies more here at the university than it usually did in high school. The standards of integrity are those that prevail in professional life. This means that students must acknowledge and cite ideas they adopt from others (not just direct quotations) and help they receive from colleagues or parents. With productive emphases on collaborative learning and writing, students must understand the general standards and policies about academic integrity and the expectations in individual courses as well. When in doubt, ask the instructor. For more information, consult

Forgery or Fraud on Forms

Forging signatures or credentials on college forms is an academic offense and constitutes academic fraud. In all cases of forgery on academic forms, the effect of the forged documents shall be negated; such incidents will be recorded in the Academic Integrity Hearing Board’s confidential file for forgeries. If the student forges more than once, or if the forgery would advance the student’s academic standing unfairly or fraudulently, or if for any reason the situation requires some response in addition to the uniform penalty, the Academic Integrity Hearing Board might recommend further action, such as a notation on the student’s transcript, suspension, or dismissal.


The following offices provide academic advising, help with problems, and information on college procedures and regulations.

Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Advising

Located in KG17 Klarman Hall, (607) 255-4833 or (607) 255-5004, the Office of Advising is a resource for students and their parents, as well as faculty and peer advisors. Along with a faculty advisor, students are also assigned to an academic advising dean who works with them throughout their time at Cornell. Advising deans are available to guide students in defining their academic and career goals, advise about special academic options and exceptions to college rules, and help when personal or academic issues arise. Deans hold weekly office hours and are also available by appointment.

Career Development Center

Located in 172 Goldwin Smith Hall,, Arts & Sciences Career Development Center offers a variety of services to help all students and recent graduates define and pursue their career goals. Counselors are available to meet with students to discuss career exploration, internship and full-time job search strategies, and graduate and pre-professional plans.

Pre-Major Advisors

Each new student is assigned a faculty advisor. Advisors help students plan programs of study and advise them about ways to achieve their academic goals. Advisors may also help students with study or personal problems or may direct them to other offices on campus where help is available. Academic difficulties may frequently be solved or avoided if students and advisors recognize and address problems early.

Advisors and new advisees meet first during orientation week to discuss course selection. New students are encouraged to see their advisors again early in the semester, before it is too late to drop courses, to discuss their academic progress and to become better acquainted. Advisors and advisees should meet at least once each semester to discuss courses for the following semester, and more often if advisees wish to discuss academic or personal issues or to petition for an exception to college rules.

Major Advisors

After acceptance into a major, each student is assigned a faculty advisor in his or her department, with whom the student shapes and directs the course of study. The advisor eventually certifies the completion of the major. Students should consult their major advisor about all academic plans, including honors, study abroad, acceleration, and graduate study. The advisor’s support is especially important if a student petitions for an exception to the normal procedures or requirements of the college.

Student Advisors

Student advisors pass on lore about the college and life at Cornell and help new students become oriented to the university.

Committee on Academic Records

The college faculty’s standing Committee on Academic Records has two main tasks: (1) to decide on students’ petitions for exceptions to college requirements or rules and (2) to review the records of students who fail to maintain good academic standing and to take appropriate action. It accomplishes both those tasks with attention to each individual situation. Its overriding goal is to help students achieve the best undergraduate education possible.


The college faculty takes graduation requirements seriously, and the faculty’s Committee on Academic Records virtually never waives a requirement outright. However, some students, with the support of their advisors, propose structuring their educations or fulfilling the spirit of college requirements in ways other than the specified norms. The Committee on Academic Records decides on such requests. Students who find that their undergraduate education would be better realized by satisfying requirements or proceeding in a way that requires an exception to normal rules, should meet with an advising dean in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Advising. The advising deans are expert in the college’s expectations and procedures and can help the student formulate a petition, if appropriate. The committee decides petitions on the basis of their educational merit.


The College of Arts and Sciences has no minimum grade requirement for graduation beyond the guideline that at least 100 Cornell credits of the 120 total required for graduation be passed with grades of C (not C–) or above. Consequently, only through actions of the Committee on Academic Records, described below under “Academic Standing,” does the college maintain the quality of the degree and attend to individual situations when things academic are not going well.

Registration and Course Scheduling

New Students

New first-year students pre-enroll in courses in the summer prior to their arrival on campus. During August orientation, they attend briefings and other information sessions, meet with their faculty advisors and advising deans, and adjust their schedules if appropriate.

Continuing Students

Continuing students select and schedule up to 22 credits during the semester before the one in which the courses will be taken. Students who do not pre-enroll during the designated period must wait until the beginning of the semester and may have difficulty securing places in the courses they most want. Before enrolling in courses, students plan their programs and discuss long-range goals with their faculty advisors. In addition, all students are welcome to discuss programs and plans with an advising dean in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Advising.

At the beginning of each semester, students find their schedules on Student Center. Periodically during the semester, and particularly before the add/drop deadlines, they should confirm the accuracy of their records.

Limits on Numbers of Courses and Credits

To meet the 34-course requirement, students must normally take four courses during each of six semesters and five courses during each of two semesters. To meet the 120-credit requirement, students must average 15 credits per semester. (Note: AP credit and/or summer credits may reduce the average numbers of courses and credits required each semester.)

Minimum number of credits per semester
To maintain good academic standing as a full-time student, students must complete at least 12 degree credits per semester; if for compelling personal or academic reasons students need to carry fewer than 12 credits, they should consult their faculty advisor and an advising dean. Permission is by petition only, and after the first semester, such permission is given only in extraordinary circumstances.

Maximum number of credits per semester
First-semester students, and students for whom the previous semesters’s GPA was < 3.0, must petition to enroll in more than 18 credits; other students may enroll in up to 22 credits if their previous semester’s average was 3.0 or higher and they are in good academic standing. No more than 22 credits may be taken in a regular semester without permission of the college faculty’s Committee on Academic Records. Students who fail to receive approval for excess credits from the committee may count only 18 or 22 credits, depending on their previous semester’s average, toward the degree for that semester. Students taking summer courses may earn no more than 12 credits in any one summer.


Attendance in classes is expected. Absences are a matter between students and their instructors. If a student cannot attend classes because of illness or family crisis, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Advising will notify instructors at the request of the student or the family. Nonetheless, the student must arrange to make up examinations or other work with each instructor. A student who will be absent because of religious holidays or athletic competitions must discuss arrangements for making up work with his or her instructors well in advance of the absence. A student who must miss an examination must also consult with the professor in advance. Alternative arrangements are at the discretion of the instructor.

Student athletes should discuss scheduled absences with their instructors at the beginning of the semester. Courses vary in their tolerance of absences. Instructors are not obligated to approve absences for purposes of participating in extracurricular activities, although most will be as flexible as is sensible for a student’s academic program.

Adding and Dropping Courses

After course enrollment (also known as “pre-enrollment”), students may not adjust their schedules until just before the new semester begins. During the first fifteen calendar days of the semester, students may change courses without petitioning.

After fifteen days, students must petition their advising dean to add courses. They may drop courses through the 57th calendar day of the semester if no issue of academic integrity is at stake. Between the seventh and approximately 12th week students may petition to withdraw from courses, if (1) the instructor approves; (2) the advisor approves; (3) an advising dean approves; (4) the drop does not result in fewer than 12 credits; and (5) no issue of academic integrity is at stake. Students must meet with an advising dean to obtain petition forms.

Courses officially dropped after the seventh week will be noted on the transcript by a “W” where the grade would normally appear. This is a matter of record and cannot be petitioned. Petitions to withdraw from courses may not be submitted after the published deadlines. Deadlines for short courses will be adjusted according to the length of the courses.

The effective date of all course changes will be the day the student submits all completed paperwork to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Advising.


Letter Grades

See “Grading Guidelines .”

S/U Grades

The S/U (satisfactory/unsatisfactory) option allows students to explore unfamiliar subjects or take advanced courses in subjects relatively new to them without being under pressure to compete with better-prepared students for high grades. Students are expected to devote full effort and commitment to a course and complete all work in a course they take for an S/U grade. The S/U option is contingent upon the instructor’s willingness to assign such grades. Students must select their grading option by the 57th calendar day of the semester. No exceptions to this deadline are permitted, and consequently students adding courses after the seventh week of the semester must add them for a letter grade. After the seventh week of the semester, students may not petition for a grade option change, unless the course in question has been taken for S/U and is now part of the student’s major. Students should note that a grade of S is equivalent to a grade of C– or higher; a grade of U, which is equivalent to any grade below C–, is a failing grade equal to an F. S means the student receives the credit specified for the course. U means no credit is given. A few courses in the college are graded exclusively S/U; in that case, the final grade appears on the transcript as SX or UX.

Prerequisite courses for graduate school and courses counting toward the major (and some minors) should not be taken for an S/U grade unless the department grants permission. Students may elect the S/U option in courses used to satisfy distribution and elective requirements, provided that such courses do not also count toward major requirements or serve as prerequisites for admission to the major. First-year writing seminars and most language courses disallow the S/U option. In any case, students are advised to use the S/U option sparingly, if they intend to apply to graduate school or for transfer to another college. In addition, second-semester seniors in particular are advised to use the S/U option carefully: A student receiving a D in a nonmajor course he or she needs for graduation will still be graduated if that course has been taken for a letter grade. If, however, the student has taken the course S/U, the D will be recorded as a U and the student will be unable to be graduated on the desired degree date. There is no limit on the number of courses each semester for which students may elect the S/U grade, but within the 120 credits required for the degree, a minimum of 80 credits must be in courses for which a letter grade was received.

Note of Incomplete

An incomplete (INC) signifies that a course was not completed before the end of the semester for reasons beyond the student’s control and acceptable to the instructor. Students must have substantial (normally at least 50 percent) equity in the course, be able to complete the remaining work, and have a passing grade for the completed portion. When a grade of incomplete is reported, the instructor submits a form stating what work must be completed, when it must be completed, and the grade (or permanent—”frozen”—incomplete) earned if the work is not completed by that date. When a final grade is determined, it is recorded on the official transcript with an asterisk and a footnote explaining that this grade was formerly an incomplete.

Students should be aware that incompletes are interpreted as credits not passed during a given semester. If a student’s incomplete takes his or her record below 12 credits in a given semester, the student risks being placed on warning or on leave by the Committee on Academic Records. If placed on leave, the student must complete the INC before being allowed to return, and readmission will be permitted only at the beginning of a given semester. If the incomplete is not completed by the beginning of a regular academic term, the student may not register for that term. Students must resolve (make up or “freeze”) any incompletes with their instructors before graduation.

Note of R (Yearlong Courses)

R is recorded for satisfactory progress at the end of the first semester of a two-semester course. Students enroll in such courses both semesters. The grade recorded at the end of the second semester evaluates the student’s performance in the course for the entire year and will replace the grade of “R” for the first semester of the course.

Students enrolled in an R course for the thesis may occasionally wish or feel compelled not to complete that thesis. In order to drop the thesis but continue with an independent study, the student should contact their advising dean.

Grade Reports

Grade reports are available online on Student Center; they are not mailed to students. Students should periodically check their courses and grades to be sure that they are recorded correctly.

Class Rank

The college does not compute class rank.

Dean’s List

Inclusion on the Dean’s List is an academic honor bestowed by the dean of the college semester by semester. Based on grades, the criteria include about the top 30 percent of students and vary with the number of credits the student completes. The criteria are subject to slight changes from semester to semester and are available at and in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Advising, KG17 Klarman Hall.

Academic Standing

Students are in good academic standing for the semester if they successfully complete at least 12 degree credits by the end of the semester and earn no more than one D and no F or U grades. If a student completes only three courses, all grades must be above D. In addition, students are expected to make satisfactory progress toward satisfying requirements for the degree and to earn grades of C (not C–) or better in at least 100 of the 120 credits for the degree. Courses listed under “courses that do not count toward the degree” do not count toward good academic standing in a semester (

Academic Actions

Students who are not in good academic standing will be considered for academic action by the college faculty’s Committee on Academic Records or by one of the advising deans of the college. Students are urged to explain their poor academic performance and submit corroborating documentation. Students may appeal a decision or action of the committee if they have new relevant information and documentation. They must consult an advising dean about appealing.


Any student who fails to maintain good academic standing will, at a minimum, be warned. A warning is posted on a student’s college record but is not reported to the university registrar and does not appear on official transcripts.

Required leave of absence

A student in serious academic difficulty may be required by the faculty Committee on Academic Records to take a leave of absence, normally for a full year. Usually, but not always or necessarily, the Committee on Academic Records warns students before requiring them to take a leave of absence. Before being allowed to return and re-register in the college, students must document what they did on leave and how they resolved the problems that led to the leave of absence, and they must submit a plan for completing the degree. In some cases students are required to furnish evidence that they are ready to return or satisfy other conditions before being allowed to re-register in the college. Students who request to return in less than a year must present to the committee extraordinarily convincing evidence of their readiness to return. “Required leave” is posted on the student’s official transcript.

Required withdrawal

The faculty Committee on Academic Records may dismiss a student from the college because of a highly unsatisfactory record for one semester or for failure to make satisfactory overall progress in grades, credits, or degree requirements. This action expels the student permanently from the college. “Withdrawal” is posted on the student’s official transcript.

Leaves of absence (LOAs)

Most leaves of absence are not required. Taking time off from college to gain experience or funds, or to find direction, is sometimes useful. In general, students arrange in advance for leaves to take effect the following semester. Students in good academic standing must see an advising dean to obtain and submit a leave of absence form, to be approved by the advising dean. Students may take a personal leave of absence up to the beginning of the semester (defined as the first day of classes). Students not in good academic standing may pursue a conditional leave of absence from the college up to the first day of classes. If health issues are involved, students must consult Cornell Health about the advisability of a health leave of absence. Any student who wishes to take a leave of absence must consult with an advising dean in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Advising.

Students sometimes find it necessary to take a leave of absence at some point during the semester. In addition to the serious financial consequence of taking leaves after the semester has begun (see the Proration Schedule for Withdrawals and Leaves of Absence), all leaves taken during the semester are granted at the discretion of the college and must, if granted, be conditional leaves of absence. Students must discuss their need for a LOA with an advising dean.

Leaves of Absence are of four types:

  1. Personal leaves impose no conditions concerning reentering the college except for the five-year limit (see “Return from Leave,” below). Readmission is automatic upon written request made by the student to his or her advising dean by June 1 for a fall semester, or October 1 for a spring semester. The college is not obliged to re-admit any student who does not meet the deadline for a given semester.
  2. Conditional leaves are granted by the college for students who wish to take a leave but are not in good academic standing, or for students who wish to take a leave during the current semester. In consultation with the student, an advising dean and the Committee on Academic Records set the conditions for the student’s return. Students may not return from conditional leaves for at least two semesters and/or until specific and individual conditions, such as completing unfinished work, have been met, and permission to return must be granted by the Committee on Academic Records. Students may be granted conditional leaves after the 12th week of a semester only under extraordinary circumstances and with the approval of the faculty’s Committee on Academic Records.
  3. Health leaves are granted by the college only upon the recommendation of Cornell Health, and are usually issued for at least six months. The college may attach additional conditions appropriate to the individual situation. The student’s academic standing is also subject to review at the time of the leave and on return. Students must receive clearance from both Cornell Health and the college to be readmitted to study. Students wishing to return from a health leave should contact Cornell Health several months in advance to initiate the return process, and only then contact the college.
  4. Required leaves. The Committee on Academic Records may require a leave of absence if a student is not making satisfactory progress toward the degree. See “Academic Actions.”

Students on conditional or required leaves of absence (LOA) may not attend any classes at Cornell through the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions. Students on a health LOA may not register for classes at Cornell unless they obtain the permission of the college and a recommendation from Cornell Health. Courses taken without college permission will not count toward degree requirements.

Return from Leave
Students wishing to return from leave must contact the college and, where appropriate, provide documentation that all conditions for readmission have been satisfied including Bursar holds. All requests for readmission must be received by the college by June 1 for the fall semester and October 1 for the spring semester. In the case of conditional and/or health leaves, students must consult well in advance of those dates with both the college and Cornell Health. On readmission, the student’s graduation date will be recalculated to account for the time spent away. Five years is the maximum length of time a student may be on leave before being withdrawn from the college.

Transferring Credits Earned While on Leave
Students who take courses elsewhere in the United States while on leave may petition to have credits transferred. Applications for transfer credit are available in KG17 Klarman Hall and at Approval depends on acceptable grades and the judgment of the relevant departments about the quality of the courses. If approved, these credits may be applied toward the 120 credits and 34 courses needed for graduation, but not toward the 100 credits required in the college. They may be applied to elective requirements or to the major, as allowed by the department, but not to any of the breadth or distribution requirements. Credits earned during a leave do not count toward the eight semesters of residence and may not be used to reduce the terms of residence below the required eight. See “residence  .

Study Abroad and International Students on Leave of Absence

Study abroad undertaken during a leave of absence will not receive academic credit. International students on leave of absence from the College of Arts and Sciences may enroll in courses at a college or university in their home country only, as such enrollment is not defined as study abroad. They may petition for transfer of credit upon return to Cornell. If approved, the credit will count as described in the previous paragraph.


A withdrawal is a permanent severance from the university and from candidacy for the degree. Students planning to withdraw should consult an advising dean. Students not requesting a leave and failing to register for a semester will be withdrawn from the college. The college faculty’s Committee on Academic Records may require a student to withdraw because of a highly unsatisfactory academic record, and the college may require a student to withdraw because of failure to register in a timely fashion.

Transferring within Cornell (Internal Transfer)

As of Fall 2017, prospective internal transfers are required to meet with the chair of the Arts and Sciences Internal Transfer Committee, Assistant Dean Tammy Shapiro, before they apply. Assistant Dean Shapiro will introduce applicants to the College’s academic opportunities and offer guidance about course selection, Arts and Sciences requirements, and the transfer process.

For more information, prospective internal transfers are encouraged to stop by walk-in hours (posted on the A&S Internal Transfer webpage) in KG17 Klarman Hall or to e-mail Assistant Dean Shapiro at

Calendar Supplement

All of the dates in the university calendar apply to all Cornell students. Listed below are additional dates that are of importance for students in the College of Arts and Sciences.

  Fall 2017 Spring 2018
Last day for adding Seven-Week 1 courses Aug. 29 Jan. 31
Last day for adding courses without a petition (including FYWS) Sept. 5 Feb. 7
Deadline for applying to the College Scholar Program(sophomores only) Oct. 13  
Last day for dropping Seven-Week 1 courses Sept. 19 Feb. 21
First deadline for submitting independent major requests. Visit KG17 Klarman for further information. Sept. 25 Feb. 26
Last day for changing grade option to S-U or letter Oct. 17 Mar. 21
Last day for dropping courses without petition Oct. 17 Mar. 21
Last day for adding Seven-Week 2 courses Oct. 16 Mar. 26
Last day for dropping Seven-Week 2 courses Nov. 6 Apr. 16
Last day to petition to withdraw from a course Nov. 17 Apr. 27
Second deadline for submitting independent major requests. Go to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Advising, KG17 Klarman Hall, for further information. Nov. 20 April 30
Deadline for requesting internal transfer to the College of Arts and Sciences for the following semester. Dec. 1 May 9
Deadline for applying to study abroad See Cornell Abroad, 300 Caldwell Hall