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College Scholar

Cornell University Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences Cornell University

College of Arts and Sciences, Liberal Arts at Cornell University

College Scholar Program

The College Scholar Program exists because the faculty in Arts and Sciences want to provide a very unusual intellectual niche in addition to the regular departmental majors and the Independent Major Program for students who are passionately focused on a particular type of problem, issue or singular aspect of a larger field. Sometimes that "crux" is very multidisciplinary in its nature, or sometimes it is particularly narrow within its discipline. The program can be useful to different students with different purposes: to explore subjects with a broader integration of related disciplines than most students would attempt, to develop a narrow aspect of an interdisciplinary field, or to pursue a subject in which they are unusually advanced.

The College Scholar Program is ideal for students who have had a very successful first year, who have an idea of their academic direction, who have formulated questions they can translate into a program, and who can function well independently.  The program never selects more than forty students a year.  

As the College Scholar program is a major in the College of Arts and Sciences, College Scholars are required to complete 100 Arts and Sciences credits (and 34 courses) to graduate, along with the University graduation requirements.

College Scholars typically complete more than half of the 120 credits required to graduate in the major field of study they have delimited in consultation with their advisers.  Though the Program does not provide the same type of structure as traditional departments (for instance, there is no required course sequence), the advisory board and the directors are committed to ensuring the quality of the students' programs of study.  In consultation with their advisers, Scholars select courses that will not only prepare them well for the specialized project they propose to complete during their senior year, but will also expose them to a variety of the disciplines and methods essential to a liberal arts education.  At the end of each semester, students submit an updated project description and course plan to their advisers and the directors of the program.

All students must write a thesis in their last year to complete the major.  Students who opt for the one-semester senior project are not eligible for Honors.  To qualify for Honors, College Scholars need to have completed a minimum of two College Scholar Seminars  (one in science or math, and one in the humanities or social sciences) and maintained a GPA of 3.5 or above.

Students interested in applying to the program should:

  • attend a general information meeting session in the Spring semester of their freshman year (see listing on this website)
  • call Academic Advising Office at (607) 255-4166 to set up a meeting with one of the program's directors to discuss the specifics of their projects (mid-March to June)
  • talk to faculty in related fields (mid-March to mid-May)
  • register their interest in applying by sending a one-page abstract to by June 30th
  • send a draft of their essays to by August 15th for comments (optional)
  • submit completed applications electronically to by 11:59 pm on September 15th


Each new scholar is assigned a faculty advisor from the College Scholar Advisory Board. That person will normally be the scholar's contact with the program and a member of the senior project committee.  The College Scholar Adviser is the major adviser.


Each year two or three College Scholar seminars investigate basic problems or texts. The purposes of the seminars are to expose scholars to a variety of intellectual disciplines and methodologies and prepare them to write strong senior projects. They are designed to help students become aware of what a "discipline" is and to help them learn how to approach a text or problem from various angles, such as form, the author's approach to the subject matter, or historical and philosophical context.


To be eligible for Honors, College Scholars have to complete a yearlong thesis (worth 8 credits).  Before they can enroll in the first half of the thesis, students need to have met the following requirements:

  1. they have completed two college scholar seminars (or approved substitutes) prior to the start of their senior year; non-scientists take at least one in some aspect of science, and scientists at least one in the humanities or social sciences.
  2. they have maintained a GPA of 3.5 or above.
  3. they submitted an initial draft of their thesis proposal by June 30th 
  4.  they submitted a complete and final draft of the proposal by the end of the first week of classes in the fall.  

Honors Theses Committees are composed of three faculty members, including at least one member of the College Scholar Advisory Board.


If you are interested in applying to the College Scholar program, please register for one of the mandatory information sessions below by emailing    We will discuss the goals of the program and answer any questions you might have. 

Information Sessions

Tuesday, March 17th 2015
Wednesday, April 8th 2015
Thursday, April 30th 2015

From 5:00-6:00pm in Goldwin Smith Hall G-64 

Please register for the information session that fits your schedule at the link below:

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