New Student Orientation
Welcome to the College of Arts & Sciences Orientation for first-year and transfer students. This website contains important information and resources to help you create a first semester schedule. A team of advising deans, departmental faculty and staff, as well as peer ambassadors (for first-year students) are ready to assist you through this process.
The academic calendar includes important dates and deadlines for the academic year. Make sure to refer to this calendar when planning for your semester.
Thinking About a Major
Your major will be a field of study that you find particularly interesting and intellectually challenging, and that you explore in great depth. The College offers 40 majors and gives you until the end of your sophomore year to make your choice. If you are thinking about starting in a major, you can begin by checking the Course Guidance or "Pro Tips" for Major Exploration on the Canvas site for a recommended or required introductory course.
For First-Year Students
All A&S first-years start as undeclared students. It's typical for students to stay undeclared for a few semesters, as it gives you the freedom to explore your options.
For Transfer Students
Most majors in the college have pre-requisite courses which must be taken before you can enter the major. You can find these pre-requisite courses as well as major requirements in the Courses of Study and on departmental website.
If you are continuing with a major you started at your previous institution, Cornell’s major department will determine how those course(s) will be used for the major. Contact them to determine next steps in the major. Refer to the department's contact information on the Course Guidance or "Pro Tips" for Major Exploration on Canvas. You may be asked to provide a course description or syllabus.
When you are prepared to add a major, visit Choosing a Major/Minor for more information.
Planning Your First Semester Schedule
When putting together your schedule, we encourage you to choose subjects you are excited to explore.
General Guidelines for First-Year Students
- A typical first-semester schedule includes 4 or 5 courses at the 1000- or 2000-level (12-16 academic credits) with a recommended maximum of 18 academic credits.
- Expect to take an average of 15 credits per semester (120 credits total) over the period of 8 semesters to earn your degree.
- If you have a major in mind, begin by checking the Course Guidance or "Pro Tips" for Major Exploration on Canvas for a recommended or required introductory course.
- Undecided about a major? Consider courses from among two or three departments that look most interesting to you.
- The A&S Advising Seminar (AS 1102) is a required 1-credit course for first-year students. This excludes students being advised by Office of Undergraduate Biology and Posse Scholars, as they participate in other advising activities. The A&S Registrar’s Office will enroll you in a section that works with your schedule.
- A first-year writing seminar (FWS) should be part of your first-semester schedule.
- You should begin fulfilling the foreign language requirement in your first or second year. If you plan to continue in a previously studied language, you must take a placement test to determine the correct level for enrollment. If you hope to study abroad in a non-English speaking country, additional language instruction beyond the intermediate level may be required.
- You should also enroll in a physical education (PE) course (though this does not count toward the 12 credits needed to be in good academic standing).
General Guidelines for Transfer Students
If you have not completed the college’s writing requirement, you should make this a priority by enrolling in ENGL 2880/2890 or an FWS.
We offer more than 50 languages at Cornell. If you are starting a new foreign language, please note that the first course in foreign languages is usually only offered in the fall. If you are continuing with a foreign language, you must take a placement exam. Please consult the appropriate department web page for details.
If you are starting in a major, begin by checking the Course Guidance or "Pro Tips" for Major Exploration on Canvas for a recommended or required introductory course. If you are continuing with a major you started at your previous institution, the major department will determine how those course(s) will be used for the major. Refer to the department's contact information on the Course Guidance or "Pro Tips" for Major Exploration.
Your schedule should include 4 or 5 courses (12-16 academic credits) with a recommended maximum of 18 academic credits.
Expect to average 15 credits per semester (120 credits total) to earn your degree.
Choosing in a Science & Math Course for First-Year and Transfer Students
Before selecting courses in the sciences, math, or computer science, consult the discipline-specific links below. If you are not considering a major in math, science, or a related discipline, you don't need to take a math or science course in your first semester. If your interests are in the arts, humanities, and the social sciences, taking introductory courses in these disciplines should take precedence over taking a math or science course in your first semester at Cornell.
Enrolling in Courses
Before enrolling in courses, review the university registrar information. Refer to the step-by-step guide to enroll in courses on Student Center. Due to impact of COVID-19, refer to the Enrollment Guide for most up-to-date information.
Tips on Using the Class Roster
Search for courses in departments that interest you by clicking on "subjects." If you need help interpreting the information in the roster, please see the FAQ section.
Mark the courses that most intrigue you as "favorites" using the star symbol. You can use your "favorites" to build and save possible schedules before officially enrolling through Student Center.
Courses are composed of either a lecture (LEC) or seminar (SEM). Many courses also include a discussion section (DIS) and/or lab (LAB). You must enroll in all parts of each course and be sure that they fit into your schedule without conflict.
The course number (1000-, 2000-, 3000-, 4000-) indicates the level of specialization in a given subject. First-year students typically enroll in courses at the 1000- and 2000-level, which provide general introductions to a subject or discipline. Courses at the 3000- and 4000-level are normally intended for upper-class students. AP, IB, or A-Level credit may be used where appropriate to advance more quickly into 3000- and 4000-level courses.
If you wish to take a 3000- or 4000-level course, look carefully at the course description for prerequisites. Remember that other students in the course will have more experience at Cornell, and will have a clearer idea of the expectations and how to manage the workload and rigor. You may wish to contact the instructor to make sure that you have the necessary background in the subject to be successful.
Courses numbered 5000- and above are graduate-level courses and are not recommended for first-year students under any circumstances.
Enrolling in an FWS
Consult the Knight Writing Institute for details on enrolling in a First-year Writing Seminar.
Log into your Student Center a few days before pre-enrollment and practice how to find and add your desired courses. It can be helpful to use the class number (4 or 5-digit blue number) in the Class Roster rather than the course number (4-digit number).
Adding courses to your shopping cart does not reserve your space — you must click "finish enrolling" for a course to appear on your schedule.
This is only your first opportunity to put together your semester schedule. Many students make some changes during the add/drop period.
Transfer Credit Evaluation-Transfer Students Only
This section applies only to transfer students. First-year students can skip to the next section. The credit evaluation lists which of your courses from your previous institution fulfilled Cornell’s degree requirements. You received your credit evaluation shorty after you received your admission letter to Cornell. The credit evaluation will be used to create your DUST record, the college’s tool for helping you keep track of your college requirements. In future semesters, Cornell courses that fulfill college requirements will appear in your DUST record.
How Credits Are Transferred
Residency (full-time study) is the major criterion for awarding credit. The College of Arts & Sciences awards no more than 15 credits per semester and 30 credits per year for full-time study at another institution, regardless of how many credits were awarded by that institution. We award credit course-by-course only for part-time students. Only courses passed with a grade of C or above and comparable to courses at Cornell will be eligible for transfer credit.
Unless a course is not comparable to a Cornell course or you have received less than a 'C’ grade, you may assume that the course has transferred. The credit evaluation will also indicate which courses do not receive credit. All of your previous credit has been translated into 15 Cornell credits per semester. Look near the bottom of your credit evaluation sheet to see if any courses are listed as “no credit.” If no courses are listed, you can assume that all your courses transferred.
The credit evaluation shows how your previous college work fulfills our distribution requirements. If any course is not listed, it likely means that 1) it does not fit into any of our categories for distribution, 2) other work you have done has already fulfilled that requirement, or 3) without a course catalog, it is impossible to determine into which requirement it fulfills.
If you think you took a class at your previous institution that should fulfill a college requirement, please contact Savannah Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Class standing (first-semester sophomore, first-semester junior, etc.) is determined by full-time semesters of study, not the number of credits you have. All students graduating from the College of Arts & Sciences are required to meet the residency requirement. Students who wish to graduate early should refer to the policy.
Arts versus Non-Arts Credits
The College of Arts & Sciences requires 100 Arts credits and 120 total credits. Credits at your previous institution that are liberal arts courses (English, physics, economics, etc.) are listed as Arts credits on the credit evaluation. At Cornell, Arts courses are courses taken in our college. "Non-Arts" refers to courses not taken in the College of Arts & Sciences at Cornell. It includes non-liberal arts courses, whether taken elsewhere or at the other colleges at Cornell (e.g., engineering, drawing, painting, business, accounting, etc.).
AP, IB, and A-level credit will not count toward the 100 liberal arts credits required for the degree but will count as "non-Arts" credits.
Once you matriculate at Cornell, any course taken elsewhere (e.g., in the summer) will NOT count towards the 100 required liberal arts credits, nor will they count toward college distribution or foreign language requirements.
Quarter-hour courses are eligible to transfer. If the course is 5 or more quarter credits, it will equal a 3-credit semester course. If the quarter courses are equal to 1 unit (and the official transcript does not indicate the semester equivalent), then normally 3 quarter courses are equivalent to 2 semester ones. To complete a Cornell requirement, a course must be at least 5 or more quarter hours. Courses which are fewer than 5 quarter hours may be combined to fulfill a Cornell requirement.
First-year Writing Seminars
Only composition courses which correspond with Cornell’s First-year Writing Seminars guidelines may be used for this requirement, not simply any English course or a course with a significant amount of writing.
To compete the requirement, transfer courses must be at the level of an intermediate-level course at Cornell (Option 1, typically this is the fourth course in sequence) or total language study must be 11 credit hours in one language (Option 2). Courses taken at your previous institution before you transferred to Cornell may be applied toward either option. We do not put transfer foreign language courses you transferred on the credit evaluation (unless you completed the requirement). To complete the requirement using courses taken at your previous institution and at Cornell, you will need to complete 11 credits in sequence. In other words, if you completed French I and II at your previous institution and you place into French II at Cornell, you would need to complete French II and III at Cornell to complete Option 2.
Courses you transferred may be eligible to complete college distribution categories. Click here for description of distribution categories and the types of courses which fall under each category. The focus of the transfer course must be on the distribution category for it to be assigned to that category, Note: a student only needs a minimum of 8 courses that meet the 10 requirements. Some courses fulfill more than one requirement. Once a student meets a distribution requirement, we do not list additional transfer courses for that requirement on the credit evaluation. This does not mean the course(s) didn’t transfer, simply that it is not fulfilling a college requirement (because the requirement is already fulfilled).
Courses for the Major
While it is likely that all of your courses have transferred (unless indicated otherwise on the credit evaluation), it is the prerogative of each department to decide whether any courses taken at other institutions count towards the requirements of its own major. When you arrive on campus, you will need to talk to your major advisor (if you are a junior) or the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) to find out whether specific courses fulfill individual requirements of the major. You can also contact the DUS during the summer about major course taken at your previous institution.
AP and IB Credit
Refer to the Credit and Placement page to learn how credits are awarded. The rules may be different from those of your former college. You can place into courses on the basis of your AP or IB scores. If you repeat an introductory course, you will not receive credit for both the course and the AP or IB exams that cover the same material. AP credit will be added to your record and credit totals only after we receive the official report of score(s) from ETS to Cornell University. The credits will appear in the Student Center—please note: these are processed over the summer, so you may not see them until August or September.
AP, IB, and A-Level Credits
To receive credits for AP, IB, A-Level or French Baccalaureate, refer to the Credit and Placement page. This page explains what (if any) credit you can be awarded, as well as what introductory courses you may not need to take. Any credit earned will be added to your records automatically after we receive your exam scores, which may take a few weeks. Check your unofficial Cornell transcript in Student Center for updates.
Some departments advise prospective majors to develop a firm grounding in the subject area and methodology by enrolling in the introductory survey course even if you have credit. Check the appropriate department websites and if you decide to take a course that your credit places you out of, you will forfeit that credit.
Note: You may enroll in courses at Cornell that assume placement on the basis of AP, IB, A-Level, or French Baccalaureate credit even if we do not yet have your credits recorded.
The University Class Roster provides detailed information on the meeting times and room locations of all Cornell courses (including the different lectures, labs and/or discussion sections for each course). You can browse courses by subject or use the search function to find a particular course. Scheduler and CourseCrafter can be found on the Class Roster site.
Courses of Study
The DUST report allows you to track your degree progress.
Student Center/Student Essentials
The Student Center/Student Essentials is your academic portal to personal information, course enrollment, transcripts, financial aid, bursar, etc.
Resources and Services
We work with partner units to assist you with the academic, personal, and professional exploration and planning process. We hope that you will work with them as you journey through Cornell. Visit our student services partners.
Every new student in the College of Arts & Sciences is assigned to the following advisors: an advising dean, a pre-major/major faculty advisor, and a peer ambassador (for first-year students only). Find your advisors here.
While preparing to enroll in courses, make sure to check the appropriate department websites to see which introductory courses are recommended for first-year students. If you have further questions about a particular course or major, contact the department directly.
Office of Undergraduate Biology (OUB)
Biological Sciences students are encouraged to work with advisors in the Office of Undergraduate Biology (OUB) on academic planning and programs related to the major.
If you have general questions or concerns, please email Student Services.
Please be aware that we will respond only to your Cornell e-mail address.