Arts & Sciences Study Abroad Policy

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The College of Arts and Sciences encourages study, both on campus and abroad, that provides a greater understanding of the world’s peoples, cultures, economies, and environments, and prepares graduates for the challenges of international citizenship in the twenty-first century.  Study abroad programs approved by Arts & Sciences provide educational immersion through study at foreign institutions alongside degree candidates rather than in self-contained programs with courses specially designed for foreigners. Our college approves only those study abroad proposals demonstrating realistic and coherent academic goals consistent with the philosophy of a liberal arts education.  


  • GPA of 3.0 or higher and good academic standing
  • Language study at the required level
  • Area studies coursework
  • Acceptance into major
  • Fulfillment of A & S residence requirement
  • Fulfillment of foreign university or program requirements


All study abroad in English-speaking countries is undertaken through direct university enrollment. A & S students will engage in a full course of study alongside regular degree candidates in the host country.  For study in the UK especially, substantial academic work in the major field will be considered essential for university acceptance, and will expect visiting student to select half of their courses at the advanced level in their majors. 

For all study abroad in non-English-speaking countries, students must complete at least two semesters of language study at the 2000 level at Cornell.

Approved programs for study abroad in French-, Spanish-, Italian-, German-, Portuguese- and Russian-speaking countries must offer all academic instruction in the language of the host country, with direct access to regular university courses alongside degree-seeking students at that institution. Most programs will offer upper-level language instruction and some program courses taught in the host language, but at least 50% of academic coursework must be completed in regular university courses. The college requires a minimum of two semesters of language study at the 2000-level prior to departure. Some programs in Spain or Latin America require six semesters of formal language study, equivalent to at least one course at the 3000-level.

Study abroad in Africa follows direct-enrollment rules for Anglophone countries, and language immersion rules for Francophone countries.

For study abroad in Asia and the Middle East, course work entirely in the host language is not always practical even after two or more years of language preparation at Cornell.  For these world regions, students may be approved for programs that combine upper-level language study with additional subject course work in English. 

Cornell University directly administers study abroad programs in Paris, Seville and Nepal; students applying to these destinations are required to list the Cornell program as their top choice, and may choose comparable programs as back-ups in case the Cornell program cannot accommodate all applicants. Cornell also maintains consortium agreements with top programs in Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna and Kyoto. Students are strongly encouraged to consider these programs, but may make a comparable program their first choice with sufficient academic reason.

Several academic departments in the college endorse programs for their majors that do not fully meet the A&S requirement for direct enrollment or language immersion:

  • Classics: Duke-ICCS program in Rome or Sicily; College Year in Athens
  • PMA: BADA, London.
  • Math: Math in Moscow Program; Budapest Semester in Mathematics.
  • Cognitive Science Osnabrück

While prior language preparation is not required for these programs, it is strongly encouraged by the college, and many participants complete some study of the host language at Cornell before attending these programs. Other specialized programs will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the college in consultation with the DUS of the major department.

English-language programs in non-English-speaking countries are acceptable only if the host-country language is not offered at Cornell, and if the program of study allows direct access to regular university courses, taught in English, for degree candidates of that institution. Formal, accredited study of the host country language must be a part of the academic curriculum. 

The college does not approve study abroad that tours more than one country or that is more touristic than scholarly in content and structure.


Solid academic credentials are a basic prerequisite to study abroad. Students must be in good academic standing and hold a 3.0 cumulative GPA at the time of application. Good academic standing must be maintained after approval by the college. Most universities and programs approved by the college also require a 3.0 GPA. Oxford and Cambridge normally require applicants to possess a GPA of 3.7 or higher. The London School of Economics, King’s College London and University College London require a 3.3 cumulate GPA. Cornell Abroad, which coordinates applications to all international programs, will not forward applications that have no chance of acceptance at the host institution.

Students applying to study abroad in a language other than English must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA in language study at Cornell, in addition to the overall GPA requirement.

Any grades of “Incomplete” must be resolved before study abroad, and should be avoided in the semester before departure. 


Students who plan to study abroad in a non-English-speaking country should plan to attain the appropriate level of language competency at Cornell. The college advocates study abroad that enables students to become competent in another language in order to engage fully in daily life in another culture, to develop social relationships, and to accomplish formal course work in that language.  In most cases, and for all commonly-taught languages, students will complete all of their coursework in the language of the host country, with the majority of their coursework in regular university classes alongside degree-seeking students. 

For all study abroad in non-English-speaking countries, students must complete at least two semesters of language study at the 2000 level at Cornell. This is considered by most programs to be equivalent to five semesters of formal study. Additional coursework is strongly encouraged, and is required by top programs in locations such as Buenos Aires and Barcelona. Consult the Courses of Study for the required level of course work in specific languages. Students who have previously studied a language may take a placement test and begin at a more advanced level. Students who have not previously studied their chosen language are strongly encouraged to begin the 1000-level sequence in the first semester and commit to serious study in order to move into 2000-level classes after just two semesters. 

Study abroad in Asia or the Middle East normally requires a minimum of two years of language study at Cornell, but students who begin language study in the sophomore year may be approved for language-intensive study abroad with 2-3 semesters of prior study. Students who do not meet the required two years of language study at the time of application should make an appointment to meet with Dean McMillan to discuss their eligibility, and will be expected to enroll in language classes each semester until departure.

If you lack sufficient language training to study abroad in the host language, you should plan to:

  • postpone study abroad until you have the necessary language competence, or
  • undertake intensive summer language study in order to enroll in an advanced-level course at Cornell prior to study abroad.

Only in exceptional cases (to be discussed with Dean McMillan) will the college approve study abroad for a student who has not met the language requirement. In most cases, it will make more sense for a student without adequate language preparation to make summer study abroad plans independent of the college.


At least one upper-level area studies course or one course in the history, culture, economics, politics, or social relations of the country of destination (3 or more credits) in addition to language study should be part of every student’s preparation for study abroad. Such courses are most successfully undertaken when the subject matter coincides with student interests.  Comparative thematic courses on the world region you plan to visit (Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern or Western Europe, Latin America) may also fulfill the requirement.  First-year writing seminars or 1000-level introductory courses normally do not count as area studies. Students planning to study in Australia or New Zealand who cannot fulfill this requirement at Cornell must enroll in an area studies course while abroad.  A list of approved area studies courses offered each semester for a specific country or world region may be found here. If you have questions about whether a course not on the list may count as area studies, please consult Dean McMillan. 


The College of Arts & Sciences allows a maximum of two semesters approved study away from the Cornell campus to count toward the degree requirements.  Approved semesters away from campus include Cornell in Washington, Urban Semester and SEA Semester, as well as all Cornell Abroad destinations. All students must fulfill the residency requirement of six semesters on the Cornell campus in Ithaca; students who transfer to Cornell must complete a minimum of four semesters of residence on campus in Ithaca and may not study abroad during any of those four semesters. Internal transfers must complete four semesters of residence on campus in the College of Arts & Sciences.


Our study abroad approval process ensures that all students who successfully complete a full academic load of approved courses will earn 15 Arts & Sciences credits/four courses toward their degree for each semester abroad. All students must enroll in a full course load as defined by the host institution, considered to be equivalent to at least 15 credits at Cornell, and all courses must be taken for a letter grade. Students attending programs that use the U.S. credit system on its transcripts must enroll in a minimum of 15 academic credits. All coursework must be eligible for Arts & Sciences credit. Any course that falls outside the scope of the liberal arts and sciences may only be taken with the prior approval of Dean McMillan, and will earn non-Arts credits. Students are limited to a maximum of one such course per semester.

Students normally earn up to 15 Arts & Sciences credits per semester of full-time coursework, as long as the curriculum abroad is consistent with that of the college. A fall term at British universities will earn a maximum of 12 credits, and may require extra coursework. Two terms at Oxford or Cambridge may earn up to 20 credits. Some foreign universities offer courses for visiting students that are not eligible for any academic credit. Orientation or pre-session courses will not normally earn academic credit from the college even though they appear on the transcript.  Students may not earn additional credit for enrolling in extra courses during the semester or year abroad, and may not register for independent study credit at Cornell while they are enrolled in programs abroad.  All proposed courses must be approved by your faculty advisor and Dean McMillan as part of the application process, and any later changes must have Dean McMillan’s approval for assurance of credit. Major credit is decided by the department only after completion of study abroad and examination of all relevant coursework. Final credit for study abroad will be awarded only after completion of the term abroad, after the college receives your official transcript.

All courses taken abroad and grades received will appear on your Cornell transcript.  Grades earned abroad are not converted to the Cornell grade scale and are not calculated into the Cornell GPA. You must save all written work from all courses until your grades are received and recorded on your Cornell transcript.

Credit from study abroad may be used to satisfy distribution requirements. Please check all courses with Dean McMillan in advance of enrollment.  Science and quantitative reasoning (PBS-AS and MQR-AS) credit is not normally awarded for study abroad; distribution credit in the Humanities and Social Science categories (CA-AS, HA-AS, KCM-AS, LA-AS and SBA-AS) must be determined by Dean McMillan. Special departmental and college approval is required for any courses taken abroad to count toward acceleration as 300-level coursework (option B) and must be in the major field of study. Please see Dean McMillan for approval of requests related to credit from study abroad.


All Arts & Sciences students must be formally accepted into a major before going abroad, ideally before beginning the application process.  Most students plan to complete a significant amount of academic work toward their majors while abroad.  Whether or not study abroad in the major field is planned, the college requires that time spent abroad will not impede progress toward the degree.  

All students must meet with their faculty advisors and, if appropriate, the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) as part of the approval process.  Major and minor credit can only be awarded by the appropriate department after the receipt of the study abroad transcript and review of appropriate course materials.


The college recognizes the value of work experience for students in the liberal arts and sciences preparing for future careers.  Students are encouraged to acquire first-hand knowledge of different work environments in order to choose a compatible career path. The college, however, does not grant academic credit for such experience. In keeping with the philosophy that study abroad is first and foremost study that permits immersion in another culture, educational system, and language, students seeking work experience abroad are encouraged to take a leave of absence to pursue such experiences as non-credited complements to their formal curricula.  

Programs that place internships at the center of their curricula are not approved by Arts & Sciences. Some A&S approved programs abroad, however, offer internships as an option in addition to full-time study; students may participate in these opportunities as long as they remain enrolled in the equivalent of 15 academic credits. (The Hansard Scholars Programme in London, which features two courses, a research project, and an internship, is an exception. It is approved for 12 credits for the semester.)


Some study abroad programs, such as the Cornell Nepal Study Program or SIT semester abroad programs, entail a substantial independent study or fieldwork project for credit.  With guidance from a program advisor, students choose a topic, identify an appropriate field site, and apply a methodology to investigate some aspect of the society in question. Credit for independent projects can represent a substantial portion of the semester’s total credit for study abroad.

If you and your faculty advisor determine that such a program is ideally suited to your academic plan, you must have the written support of a faculty sponsor at Cornell who agrees to review your work and evaluate it for credit hours upon completion. Upon your return, your Cornell faculty sponsor will review all written work from your independent study, and must approve your request for credit on the Request for Credit from Study Abroad form.


The application process is coordinated through Cornell Abroad with the approval of the college. Detailed information on the application process, program approval forms, and links to specific programs can be found on the Cornell Abroad website All students must complete the Cornell Abroad application. Applicants to non-Cornell programs and for direct enrollment in foreign institutions must complete Cornell Abroad applications along with those of the host institution or program. Cornell Abroad will forward all application materials to programs of choice after receiving approval from the College of Arts and Sciences.