Courses of Study 2019-2020 
    Feb 24, 2024  
Courses of Study 2019-2020 [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 the Dean of Faculty website.

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.

Student Services

Academic Advising/Advising Deans

Located in KG17 Klarman Hall, (607) 255-5004, the Office of Student Services and Admissions is a resource for students and their parents, as well as faculty and peer advisors. Along with a faculty advisor, each student is 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. Advising deans hold weekly “drop-in” hours and are also available by appointment.

Career Development

Connecting you to your future.

Located in 172 Goldwin Smith Hall,, A&S Career Development offers a variety of services to help all students and recent graduates define and pursue their career goals. Counselors are available, by appointment, or during drop-in hours (Mon-Fri from 2:30-4 when classes are in session), to meet with students to discuss career exploration, internship and full-time job search strategies, graduate and pre-professional plans, and more!

Pre-Major Faculty 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.

Effective Fall 2019, faculty advising for incoming first-year students will take one of two forms. Students who have expressed an interest in biological sciences will typically be advised through a program organized through the Office of Undergraduate Biology. All other students will meet with their faculty advisor weekly, as a group, during the first part of the semester, through the first-year advising seminar.

Both in the first semester and in subsequent semesters, students are encouraged to meet their advisors individually to discuss academic or personal issues or to petition for an exception to college rules. We recommend that students seek input from their faculty advisor early in the semester, before it is too late to drop courses and to discuss their academic progress. Advisors and advisees should meet at least once each semester to discuss courses for the following semester, and more often if advisees wish to.

Major Faculty 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

Each new student is assigned a peer advisor, who is a current student, who provides information and advice about life at Cornell and helps new students become oriented to the university.

Registration and Course Enrollment

New Students

New first-year students pre-enroll in courses in the summer prior to their arrival on campus. They can seek advice from their Advising Dean and peer advisors as they make their selections. During August orientation, they attend briefings and other information sessions, meet with their faculty advisors and advising deans, and adjust their schedules as 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 this designated period will pre-enroll just before the new semester begins. 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 Student Services and Admissions, KG17 Klarman Hall.

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.

Numbers of Courses and Credits

To meet the 120- academic credit requirement, students must average 15 academic credits per semester. (Note: AP credit and/or summer credits may reduce the average numbers of courses and credits required each semester.)

To maintain good academic standing as a full-time student, students must complete at least 12 academic credits per semester.

Students who complete fewer than 12 academic credits in a semester will have their records reviewed by the Academic Records Committee at the end of the semester.

All students in good standing with the College may enroll in a maximum of 22 credits with the exception of first-semester freshmen who may only enroll in a maximum of 18 credits. Additionally, students who are on a warning or probationary status from the previous term may only enroll in a maximum of 18 credits.

If, for compelling personal or academic reasons, students seek to take more than 18 or 22 academic credits, they should consult their faculty advisor and advising dean. Permission must be obtained by submitting a petition to 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 toward the degree for that semester.


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, Arts and Sciences Advising will notify instructors at the request of the student. 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.

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. The university and college provide key academic dates before which it is permissible to add, drop and withdraw from courses in any given semester. It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of and abide by these deadlines.

Adding courses can be done during the first fifteen calendar days of the semester.

Dropping courses can be done in the first 57 days of the semester, if no issue of academic integrity is at stake. Dropping a course removes it from your academic transcript.

After these time periods course changes can only be done by submitting a petition to the faculty Committee on Academic Records.

Deadlines for short course will be adjusted according to the length of the courses.

After the 57th day, and before the 12th week of classes, students may petition to withdraw from courses, if no issue of academic integrity is at stake. Courses officially dropped after the 57th day 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, except in exceptional circumstances.

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


Letter Grades

See “Grading Guidelines .”

S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) Grades Guidelines

  • 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 graded credits must be earned.
  • Students must select their grading option by the end of the drop-deadline of the semester. No exceptions to this deadline are permitted. Students may not petition for a grade option change unless the class is being used for their 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. Grades appear on a student’s transcript.
  • 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.
  • Some courses, including First-year writing seminars and most language courses, do not allow students to enroll in the S/U option.
  • When available, students may elect the S/U option provided that such courses do not also count toward major requirements or serve as prerequisites for admission to the major.
  • Second-semester seniors in particular are advised to use the S/U option carefully: A student receiving a D in a non-major course he or she needs for graduation can still graduate 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 not earn credit for the course, thus impacting their ability to graduate on the desired degree date.

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 and credits, the criteria include about the top 30 percent of students. The criteria are subject to slight changes from year to year and are available at the Art and Sciences policies page and in the Office of Student Services and Admissions, KG17 Klarman Hall.

Academic Standing

Students are in good academic standing for the semester if they successfully complete at least 12 academic credits by the end of the semester and attain a semester GPA of 2.0 or better and are making reasonable progress towards meeting the requirements to graduate . Reasonable progress means: declaring a major by the end of the summer following the sophomore year; completing First-Year Writing Seminars during the first four semesters; and typically achieving 60 and 90 credits by the end of the sophomore and junior years, respectively (to facilitate graduating within eight semesters).Courses listed under “courses that do not count toward the degree” do not count toward good academic standing in a semester. Students enrolled in courses for undergraduate teaching assistants may petition once, during their studies, to have the non-degree credits count towards good academic standing (though they do not count towards graduation).

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 their advising dean in the Office of Student Services and Admissions. 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.

Students are not permitted to petition the Committee on Academic Records for any of the following:

  • Exceptions to acceleration
  • Exceptions to the residency requirement
  • Additions or changes to the assigned rubric of a course or adding a distribution category to a course (these must be requested by the instructor to Educational Policy Committee (EPC))
  • For courses to count towards distribution or breadth that have not been approved by Educational Policy Committee
  • For courses on the “courses that don’t count” list to count for credits or courses towards degree
  • Waiving of the 100 A&S credits graduation requirement
  • Waiving of the 120 total credits graduation requirement

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.

Academic Warning

Any student who fails to maintain good academic standing will, at a minimum, be warned. A student on academic warning may be required to meet with their advising dean to discuss their academic plans, and they may also have a limit on the number of credits in which they may enroll. 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.

Academic Probation

Any student who fails to maintain good academic standing following a semester on warning, or who is approved to return from a required leave of absence, will be placed on academic probation. A student on probation may be required to meet with their advising dean to discuss their academic plans, and they may also have a limit on the number of credits in which they may enroll. Academic probation is posted on a student’s college record but is not reported to the university registrar and does not appear on official transcripts. Probation is lifted if good academic standing is achieved in the subsequent semester. If good academic standing is not achieved in the subsequent semester, the student will face continued probation or a review for a required leave.

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 their leave activities 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 convincing evidence of their readiness to return. “Required leave” is posted on the student’s official transcript. Students returning from a required leave of absence are automatically placed on academic probation in the first semester.

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 Arts and Sciences Advising.

Students sometimes find it necessary to take a leave of absence at some point during the semester. In addition to the 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 personal, 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 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)

Prospective internal transfers are required to meet with the chair of the Arts and Sciences Internal Transfer Committee, Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Tam Shapiro, before they apply. Tam 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 Tam Shapiro at