In the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences .
Graduation Requirements for the Bachelor of Science
Students are responsible for knowing and fulfilling the requirements for graduation and for alerting the college to any problems with their records.
- Credit Requirements: 120 academic credits, of which a minimum of 55 must be taken from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell. A minimum of 100 credits must be in courses for which a letter grade was received (see below for courses that ‘do not’ count as academic credit).
- Physical Education: Successful completion of two one-credit non-academic PE Cornell courses with a satisfactory grade (SX) and successful completion of the swim test. Note: PE credit does not count toward the 120 credits needed to graduate or toward the 12-credit minimum required for good academic standing each semester. (see the physical education site for more information)
- Residency: Eight semesters of full-time study are expected. External transfer students are credited with one semester in residence for each full-time semester (or equivalent) earned at another accredited institution.
- GPA: Minimum cumulative GPA: 2.00 or above must be maintained. The cumulative GPA includes all letter grades earned at Cornell.
- Physical and Life Sciences: 18 credits in at least three disciplines of which six credits must be introductory life sciences/biology and three credits in chemistry or physics.
- Quantitative Literacy: Faculty legislation requires minimum competency in quantitative literacy. This requirement can be satisfied by taking an approved calculus or statistics class.
- Social Science and Humanities: Students must complete four courses of 3 or more credits each from seven categories of courses in the humanities and social sciences. At least one course MUST be completed in three different categories. Human Diversity (D) is a required category and MUST be completed.
- Written and Oral Expression: nine credits total, of which at least six must be in written expression. Oral expression is not required by the college but may be required for some majors. If not required, all nine credits may be in written expression.
- Major : see individual department listings for major requirements.
- Application to Graduate: see Graduation.
To check on their progress toward the degree, students are urged to consult their academic advisor and to check their DUST (Distributed Undergraduate Student Tracking) degree progress report. The DUST report is updated after each semester to reflect the student’s progress in college requirements. To check on the progress in the major, students should consult their academic advisors.
- Minimum total credits: 120 academic credits are required for graduation.
- Repeated Cornell courses increase the number of credits required for graduation by the number of credits in the course. These credits do count toward the minimum 12 credits required for full-time status and good academic standing.
- Forbidden Overlaps increase the number of credits required for graduation by the number of credits in the course. These credits do count toward the minimum 12 credits required for full-time status and good academic standing. More information can be found under the Course Enrollment and Credits page .
- Review or supplemental courses (e.g., 1000- to 1099-level) increase the number of credits required for graduation by the number of credits in the course. These credits do not count toward the minimum 12 credits required for full-time status or good academic standing.
- Physical Education courses do not count toward 120 credits for graduation. They do not count toward the minimum 12 credits required for full-time status or good academic standing.
- Minimum Credits at Cornell: 60 academic credits must be completed at Cornell (includes CALS Exchange, Education Abroad, Cornell in Rome, Capital Semester, and Cornell in Washington).
- Maximum Non-Cornell Credits: 60 non-Cornell credits (AP, CASE, IB, GCE, French Baccalauréat, Cambridge Pre-University, and external transfer coursework) can be applied toward degree requirements. A first-year student can transfer in 15 academic credits before the first semester in CALS (AP, CASE, IB, GCE, French Baccalauréat, and external transfer credits).
- Minimum Credits from College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: 55 CALS credits are required for graduation; CALS credits include all courses from departments within CALS and courses offered in Applied Economics and Management, Biological Sciences, Biology & Society, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Environment and Sustainability, Information Science, Nutritional Science, and The Department of Statistics and Data Science.
- Minimum Letter-Graded Credits: 100 (Proration Chart for Non-Cornell credit).
- Maximum Credits earned through Special Studies (Independent Study, Research, Teaching Assistantships, and/or Internships): 15 credits of “unstructured” coursework can be applied toward graduation requirements (Proration Chart for Non-Cornell credit).
Physical Education Requirement:
Exception: Students who externally transfer to Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences from another accredited college or university are exempt from the physical education requirement and swim test.
Physical Education Requirement*: Successful completion of two 1-credit non-academic PE Cornell courses with a satisfactory grade (SX). Students are expected to complete the Physical Education Requirement in their first two semesters at Cornell.
*Note: Physical education credit does not count toward the 120 credits needed to graduate or toward the 12-credit minimum required for full-time status.
Swimming Requirement: Successful completion of the swim test. Swim tests are recommended to be completed as part of the orientation process.
- Eight semesters of full-time study are expected. External transfer students are credited with one semester in residence for each full-time semester (or equivalent) earned at another accredited institution.
- Internal transfer students must be enrolled in CALS for at least two semesters.
- The final semester before graduation must be completed in a Cornell program as a full-time student. (The School of Continuing Education does not count towards a final semester in residency.)
- Students in the ninth (or equivalent) and final semester may be eligible to apply for prorated tuition. The eligibility criteria are listed online.
Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirements:
Minimum cumulative GPA: 2.00 or above must be maintained. Students must earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.00 or better to graduate. The cumulative GPA includes all letter grades earned at Cornell.
The purpose of the distribution requirement is to have all students achieve common learning outcomes. It is expected that through college and major course requirements graduates will be able to:
- Explain, evaluate, and effectively interpret factual claims, theories and assumptions in the student’s discipline(s) (especially in one or more of the college’s priority areas of Food & Energy Systems, Social Sciences, Life Sciences and Environmental Sciences) and more broadly in the sciences and humanities.
- Find, access, critically evaluate, and ethically use information.
- Integrate quantitative and qualitative information to reach defensible and creative conclusions.
- Communicate effectively through writing, speech, and visual information.
- Articulate the views of people with diverse perspectives.
- Demonstrate the capability to work both independently and in cooperation with others.
Through the study of the physical and life sciences, students develop their understanding and appreciation of the physical sciences, enhance their quantitative reasoning skills, and gain an appreciation of the variability of living organisms. The social sciences and humanities give students perspective on the structure and values of the society in which we live, and prepare them to make decisions on ethical issues that will affect their work and role in society. Written and oral expression is designed to help students become competent and confident in the use of oral and written communication to express themselves and their ideas.
- Distribution requirements may be taken in letter OR S/U style grading. However, if the course is being used to fulfill both a distribution requirement AND a major requirement, it must be taken for a letter grade.
- Credits received for independent study, fieldwork, teaching, research, work experience, and internships cannot be used to fulfill the distribution requirement. Review or supplemental courses, such as 1000- to 1099-level courses, will not be counted in the distribution areas.
- First-Year Writing Seminars (FWS) cannot be used to satisfy the Physical and Life Sciences distribution area.
Physical and Life Sciences:
18 credits in at least three disciplines of which six credits must be introductory life sciences/biology and three credits in chemistry or physics.
Introductory Life Sciences/Biology Requirement:
Students must complete at least six academic credits from the list of courses that fulfill distribution requirements.
Complete a minimum of three credits of chemistry or physics. Includes all Cornell courses with the CHEM or PHYS prefix (excluding courses that are supplemental, independent study, research, TA, internship, and First-Year Writing Seminar).
Faculty legislation requires minimum competency in quantitative literacy. This requirement can be satisfied by earning a score of four or five on the AP Calculus exam or a score of five on the AP Statistics exam, or transfer an approved calculus or statistics course with a minimum letter grade of “C” or better; or take an approved calculus or statistics course at Cornell. Please refer to the comprehensive search engine of college distribution requirement for the most up to date list of courses that meet this requirement.
Other Physical Life Sciences:
Please refer to the comprehensive search engine of college distribution requirements for the most up to date list of courses that meet this requirement.
Social Sciences and Humanities:
Students must complete four courses of three or more credits each from the following seven categories of courses in the humanities and social sciences. At least one course MUST be completed in three different categories. Human Diversity (D) is a required category and MUST be completed. No more than two courses in the same department will be counted toward the distribution requirement. To view a searchable list of courses, please search for courses that fulfill distribution requirements. If the course can be counted towards this requirement, the course will be coded in the Courses of Study with the category prefix listed below after the title.
Social Sciences & Humanities Categories:
(Also refer to Distribution Requirement Codes )
Cultural Analysis (CA-AG)
These courses study human life in particular cultural contexts through interpretive analysis of individual behavior, discourse, and social practice. Topics include belief systems (science, medicine, religion), expressive arts and symbolic behavior (visual arts, performance, poetry, myth, narrative, ritual), identity (nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality), social groups and institutions (family, market, community), and power and politics (states, colonialism, inequality).
Foreign Language (FL)
Over 50 languages are offered at Cornell. The Language Resource Center links the offerings on their website.
Human Diversity (D-AG)
These courses analyze historical or contemporary marginalized communities and the culturally specific contexts that produce unequal power relations in terms of race, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, gender, and economic status.
Definition of “marginalize”: Any groups with reduced access to social status, political influence, economic advancement, educational advancement, health care, information, or any of the goods, services, and powers of a society can be considered “marginalized.” Causes of marginalization may be related to ethnic status, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, geography, economics, and government policies. Those who exist on the furthest margins of a society are frequently subject to several of these forces.
Historical Analysis (HA-AG)
These courses interpret continuities and changes—political, social, economic, diplomatic, religious, intellectual, artistic, scientific—through time. The focus may be on groups of people, dominant or subordinate, a specific country or region, an event, a process, or a time period.
Knowledge, Cognition, and Moral Reasoning (KCM-AG)
These courses investigate the bases of human knowledge in its broadest sense, ranging from cognitive faculties shared by humans and animals such as perception, to abstract reasoning, to the ability to form and justify moral judgments. Courses investigating the sources, structure, and limits of cognition may use the methodologies of science, cognitive psychology, linguistics, or philosophy. Courses focusing on moral reasoning explore ways of reflecting on ethical questions that concern the nature of justice, the good life, or human values in general.
Literature and the Arts (LA-AG)
These courses explore literature and the arts in two different but related ways. Some courses focus on the critical study of artworks and on their history, aesthetics, and theory. These courses develop skills of reading, observing, and hearing and encourage reflection on such experiences; many investigate the interplay among individual achievement, artistic tradition, and historical context. Other courses are devoted to the production and performance of artworks (in creative writing, performing arts, and media such as film and video). These courses emphasize the interaction among technical mastery, cognitive knowledge, and creative imagination.
Social and Behavioral Analysis (SBA-AG)
These courses examine human life in its social context through the use of social scientific methods, often including hypothesis testing, scientific sampling techniques, and statistical analysis. Topics studied range from the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes of individuals to interpersonal relations between individuals (e.g., in friendship, love, conflict) to larger social organizations (e.g., the family, society, religious or educational or civic institutions, the economy, government) to the relationships and conflicts among groups or individuals (e.g., discrimination, inequality, prejudice, stigmas, conflict resolution).
Written and Oral Expression:
Nine credits total, of which at least six must be in written expression. Oral expression is not required by the college but may be required for some majors. If not required, all nine credits may be in written expression. Writing in the Majors courses do not count towards the writing requirement. Please refer to the comprehensive search engine of college distribution requirement for the most up to date list of courses that meet this requirement.
Application to Graduate
In their senior year, students are prompted by an email from the CALS Office of Student Services to complete an online application to graduate. The application is intended to help expected graduates identify academic issues early enough in the final year to make any necessary changes in course selection to satisfy those requirements. Meeting graduation requirements is the student’s responsibility; if a problem is discovered, it must be resolved before the degree can be conferred. Students are responsible for checking DUST degree progress and transcripts each term and should seek clarification from their major advisor and/or the CALS Office of Student Services if graduation requirements are unclear or there are problems with the academic record. It is the student’s responsibility to complete the Application to Graduate, located in DUST, by the given deadlines.
The college encourages high academic achievement and recognizes outstanding students:
Bachelor of Science with Honors
Students must meet one of the following sets of criteria to receive a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors:
- Students receiving a cumulative Cornell GPA of 4.00 or higher will graduate “summa cum laude.”
- Students receiving a cumulative Cornell GPA of greater than or equal to 3.75 and less than 4.00 will graduate “magna cum laude.”
- Students receiving a cumulative Cornell GPA of greater than or equal to 3.50 and less than 3.75 will graduate “cum laude.”
Note, final GPA is rounded to the second decimal point to determine Honors eligibility.
Bachelor of Science with Distinction in Research. Bachelor of Science degree with “distinction in research” is conferred upon those students who, in addition to having completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree, have satisfactorily completed the honors program in their area of major interest and have been recommended for the distinction by the honors committee. Special requirements are given in the section titled Research Honors Program.
CALS Honor Society The senior honor society of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the CALS Honor Society is awarded to students in the top of their class. The purpose of the CALS Honor Society is to aid members in the pursuit of their goals and to the student body in their endeavors to benefit our community through volunteering. The membership is comprised of the top ten percent of the CALS senior class as determined by grade point average. Seniors will be contacted regarding their eligibility.
Dean’s List. Each semester, students are recognized for academic excellence by inclusion on the Dean’s List. The following criteria determine eligibility for the Dean’s List in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences:
- a minimum enrolled course load for the semester of 12 letter-graded credits.
- achievement of a semester GPA of at least 3.50; and
- achievement of an S grade, or a “C-” or better grade in each course (including physical education), with no “Incompletes,” “Withdrawals (W),” or “NGR grades.”
Note, Dean’s List will be granted retroactively if a student meets all the criteria due to a grade change or makeup of an incomplete. It is the student’s responsibility to contact CALS Student Services to have Dean’s list posted to their record. Dean’s List cannot be granted once a degree has been awarded.
Graduating Early, Late or Elsewhere
Students who are contemplating to graduate one or two semesters early should ensure they will satisfy all college and major requirements in time. A meeting with your academic advisor is recommended to be sure you fully understand and can complete all major requirements.
Students can request an updated degree date no earlier than the first semester of the junior year. Although personal or economic reasons might factor in, please consider that your time at Cornell University is a rare and special opportunity where you can engage freely and intensely in courses, study abroad, and participate in research.
- in DUST, choose ‘CALS Application to Update Degree Standing’
- The major advisor will be notified electronically to review the application
- The application will be reviewed by CALS Student Services and the student will be notified through email
Delay Graduation (Ninth semester)
It is expected that students will make satisfactory academic progress on graduation requirements each semester and will complete requirements for graduation within eight semesters (or equivalent). Students may request to delay graduation to complete degree requirements for the college, including requirements for one major. Delayed graduation will be approved only for compelling academic reasons that prevented completion of requirements within the expected period. Compelling academic reasons is defined as a circumstance beyond a student’s control that prevented taking the necessary courses or credits in a timely fashion. Study beyond the eighth term is not granted for the purposes of changing a major. Requests to add an additional major or minor will not be approved for study beyond the eighth term.
- in DUST, choose ‘CALS Application to Update Degree Standing’
- The academic advisor will be notified electronically to review the application.
- The application will be reviewed by CALS Student Services and the student will be notified
In some cases, students need an additional course beyond their expected graduation date and are unable to complete this course at Cornell University. In this situation a student can request to complete their course work elsewhere (up to eight academic credits). To do this a student must complete the form to Complete remaining coursework/credits at another institution.
- Step 1: Attain pre-approval of the course the student would like to take by completing a transfer pre-approval form.
- Step 2: Navigate to DUST, choose ‘Student Petitions’, select petition to ‘Complete remaining coursework/credits at another institution’ and submit the request.
- Step 3: After the petition to Finish Elsewhere is approved, update the expected degree date through DUST. Choose ‘CALS Application to Update Degree Standing’ and complete the application.