College Scholar

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Is the College Scholar Program Right for You?

If you are passionately focused on a particular type of problem, issue or singular aspect of a larger field and can function well independently, you may want to consider applying for the College Scholar Program after a successful freshman year. Arts & Sciences faculty developed the program to provide an unusual intellectual niche in addition to regular departmental majors.

As a College Scholar, you may explore subjects with a broader integration of related disciplines than most students would attempt; develop a focused aspect of an interdisciplinary field; or pursue a subject in which you are unusually advanced. To get a sense of the variety of projects pursued by College Scholars, here's a list of recent research projects completed by College Scholars:

  • Statistics and Society; Data and People (Kyla Chasalow)
  • The Politics of Food Choice (Jaia David-Clingham)
  • Explorations on a Rigorous Mathematical Basis for Olfactory Processing for Blind Sources (Jack Cook)
  • Beauty and Aesthetics: A Cross-Cultural and Philosophical Analysis (Camille Edwards)
  • History and Literature: Representations , Legacies, and Contemporary Impacts of the Australian Outlaw (James Slater Goodman)
  • Developmental Circus Arts: Investigating and Implementing the Therapeutic Benefits of Circus Arts for Disabled Children and Adolescents (Kasey Han)
  • An Exploration of Non-human Language (Severine Hex)
  • Perception and Taste: You Are What You Eat? (Benjamin Picket)
  • The Implications of Cognitive Science on the Legal Field (Jack Barnett)
  • Biological, Philosophical, and Cultural Interpretations of Pain and Pleasure (Sofia Hu)
  • Ferran Adria and Contemporary Catalan Cuisine: Redefining Culinary Boundaries (Jeanne Kessira)
  • The Catchiness Phenomenon: Understanding the Relationship between earworms, musical memory, and genre-specific preferences for music (Julia Klein)
  • Chinese Nationalism and China’s Naval Development (Zihao Liu)
  • Exploring the Syntax-Prosody Interface via Phase Boundaries (Adam Mahar)
  • When the obstacles aren’t obvious: The effects of implicit bias and benevolent sexism on women in physics and astronomy (Brenna Mockler)
  • End of Art? What End of Art? An Examination of Post-historical Art in the Modern Art Market (Mai-Lee Picard)

Students apply for the program in the first semester of the sophomore year. College Scholars are chosen by the College Scholar Faculty Board. They carefully review your application as well as your academic record. They want to see that you have taken challenging classes and performed well in them; that you are committed to the College’s requirement for breadth of knowledge across the disciplines; and that your interests truly can’t be served by an existing major. The program never selects more than 40 students a year.

I think that I developed a better understanding about how organizations and political bodies are driven by personalities than I would have had I been just a traditional government major. - Bob Harrison ’76, College Scholar; chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees; Chief Executive Officer, Clinton Global Initiative

College Scholars are not required to complete college distribution requirements. However, because the College Scholar program is a major in the College of Arts & Sciences, College Scholars are required to complete two FWS, 120 total credits, 100 credits in Arts & Sciences and 34 courses to graduate, as well as meet other university graduation requirements (two semesters of PE and passing the swim test). College Scholars must also complete a senior project or honors thesis during their final year.

As a College Scholar, you will work closely with your advisor to select courses that will not only prepare you for your senior thesis or senior project, but will also expose you to the disciplines and methods essential to a liberal arts education. At the end of each semester, you will submit an updated project description and course plan to your advisor.

Although it is not required or necessary, some College Scholars choose a second major. Completing a second major does not require College Scholars to complete College distribution requirements.

The Senior Honors Thesis or Senior Project

To complete the College Scholar major, you must write a final project: either a two-semester honors thesis or a one-semester senior project.

To be eligible for honors, you need to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or above and complete a minimum of two College Scholar Seminars (one in science or math and one in the humanities or social sciences, both approved by the program coordinator in consultation with your advisor).

To apply for honors, juniors must submit an initial draft of their thesis proposal to their advisor and the program coordinator,, by June 15th. A final draft of the proposal is due to the advisor and the program coordinator by the add deadline in the fall semester. 

How to Apply

First-year Student:

  • Attend one of the general information sessions:
    • Wed, April10, 4:30pm (KG42 Klarman Hall)
    • Thurs, April 11, 4:30pm (3343 Tatkon Center)
    • Wed, April 17, 4:30pm (KG42 Klarman Hall)
    • Fri, April 19, 4:30pm (3343 Tatkon Center)
    • Wed, April 24, 4:30pm (KG42 Klarman Hall)
  • During the spring semester, identify faculty whose research interests intersect with yours; if possible, set up meetings with them to discuss how you might refine your project.
  • Attend an information session scheduled in the spring.
  • Identify a Cornell faculty member who knows you well and can write a letter of recommendation for you
  • Attend senior College Scholar presentations scheduled for late April or early May (check back after Spring Break for the schedule). While this is optional, it’s a great way to connect with current College Scholars and learn more about the program.
  • Applications will be available in late spring with an October deadline.

Summer before sophomore year:

  • Reflect upon the courses you have already completed, your intellectual aspirations and how those might be served by the College Scholar Program. Draft and fine-tune your proposal and apply. Request an application by writing to: Please write ‘Request for College Scholar Application’ in the subject line.

Sophomore year:

  • Attend an information session scheduled in the fall.

Research and Activity Funding Support

The College Scholar Program has funds available to support student independent research and to recognize student thesis accomplishments. These funds have been created by the generous support of alumni.

The Lynne S. Abel ‘62 College Scholar Endowment Fund

David Rider ‘62 was inspired to make his substantial gift because of his deep care and admiration for Lynne Abel '62, after whom the Lynne S. Abel College Scholar Endowment Fund is named. The fund supports College Scholars' independent research during summer and winter breaks, giving students freedom to pursue explorations that characterize the program.

Recent funding requests supported by Lynne Abel Grants include travel to conferences and research conducted for the thesis (e.g. presentations at professional conferences, attendance at multicultural workshops, travel to conduct library and archive research). Students may apply for funding annually. The typical award amount is $500.

The Tomasic Fund

The program also receives support from the Tomasic fund, established in 1994 by the family and friends of Francis Tomasic. A 1980 graduate of the College Scholar Program, Tomasic was killed by a road mine near Mostar in 1994 while reporting on the conflict in Bosnia. He is remembered by all for his limitless intellectual engagement and unwavering generosity of spirit. The award goes to the best thesis proposal written by an honors candidate.

Contact Information

Jim Finlay, Program Coordinator
KG17 Klarman Hall
For all questions, please email

Current College Scholars

Class of 2019

Anjelika Lynne Amog, ’19

Samuel Barnett, ’19, Bedford, NY

Marlene Berke, ’19, New Milford, CT

Abigail Chen, ’19

Sean Cronan, ’19, Reno, NV

Slater Goodman ‘19, San Juan Capistrano, CA

Claire Liu, ’19, Palo Alto, CA

Pegah Moradi, ’19, Haymarket, VA

Drew Musto, ’19, Newtown, PA

Rachel Novick, ’19, Mamaroneck, NY

Elle Rothermich, ’19, Ridgewood, NJ

Joshua Sadinsky, ’19, Fayetteville, AR

Jesse Sanchez ‘19, Pico Rivera, CA

Griffin Smith-Nichols, ’19

Darby Tarlow, ’19

Class of 2020

Damon Albert Bogetti Pérez, ’20, Westley, CA

Sourabh Chakraborty, ’20, West Windsor, NJ

Kyla Chasalow, ’20, Pennington, NJ

Rebecca Clark, ’20, Nashville, TN

Jaia Clingham-David, ’20, State College, PA

Graham Cohen, ’20, Northbrook, IL

Jack Cook, ’20, Denville, NJ

Peter Glass, ’20, Mercer Island, WA

Jacob Hawkes, ’20, Encinitas, CA

Leo Levy, ’20, Philadelphia, PA

So Jeong Lim, ’20, Seoul, South Korea

Daniel Longenecker, ’20, Kuwait City, Kuwait

Adam Masters, ’20, Evanston, IL

Scott Partington, ’20, Ithaca, NY

Cynthia Shen, ’20, Shanghai, China & Cupertino, CA

Sarah Skrutskie, ’20, Earlysville, VA

John Yoon, ’20, Daejeon, South Korea & Ithaca, NY

Tianyi Zhang, ’20, Beijing, China

College Scholar alumni

Pauline L. Shongov ‘18 (concurrent degree with AAP), Phoenix, AZ

Liz Abeles ‘18, Washington, DC

Letitia Chai ‘18, Boston, MA. and Seoul, South Korea

Camille Edwards ‘18, Marin County, CA

Jose Fernandez Guerrero ‘18, Tijuana, Mexico

Meghan Hadley ‘18, Rose Valley, PA.

Kasey Han ‘18, Singapore

Severine Hex ‘18, Boise, ID

Conor Hodges ‘18, Orlando, FL

Rose Keel ‘18, Austin, TX

Luby Kiriakidi '18, Rochester, NY

Ben Picket ‘18, Westchester, NY

Sam Schirvar ‘18, Stillwater, MN

Celina Scott-Buechler '18, Tuscon, AZ

Zoe Ferguson ‘17, West Orange, NJ

Jack Barnett ‘17, Los Angeles, CA

Sofia Hu '17, Rockville, MD

Joseph Fridman ‘17, Oceanside, NY

Tamar Law '17, Ithaca, NY

Aaron Benedict ’16, Syracuse, NY 

Jeanne Kessira ‘16, Paris and NY

Julia Klein ‘16, Rye Brook, NY

Zihao Liu ‘16, Kaifeng, China

Adam Mahar ‘16, Rumford, ME

Blake Michael ‘16, Frankton, IN

Rachel Mochon ‘16, Houston, TX 

Brenna Mockler ‘16, Davis, CA

Mai-Lee Picard ‘16, Mexico City, Mexico and New York City

Michael Sun ‘16, Santa Clarita, CA

Irene Li ‘15, Boston, MA.

Devon McMahon ‘15, New York, NY

Emma Borden ‘15, Ithaca, NY

Zachary Zahos ‘15, Harrington Park, NJ

Claire Stack ‘15, Rochester, NY

Pat Nowak '14, Pittsburgh, PA.

David M. Katz ‘14, Syracuse, NY

Ari Fine ‘14, Boston, MA

Sarah Asman ‘13, Grand Ledge, MI

Perry Swergold ‘13, New Rochelle, NY

Diana Rypkema ‘13, Lynnwood, WA

Jennifer Fischell ‘13, Fair Haven, NJ

Benjamin Preston ‘11, Boston, MA.

Suk Chun Kwak ‘11, Seoul, Korea

Emma Herzog ‘10, Ann Arbor, MI

College Scholars in the News

News Stories:

College Scholars showcase research projects

College Scholars' research: circus arts to inequality

College Scholars study climate change, local food

Showcase honors student and faculty engagement projects

Students present wide range of humanities research

Students raise the curtain on Darfur in new play

Young alums' play focuses on human rights issues in Darfur

Students can 'teach, learn anything' at Splash! event

Cornell Splash! holds day of learning for local youth

Student Profiles:

Brenna Mockler '16

Rachel Mochon '16

Aaron Benedict '16

Julia Klein '16

Emma Borden '15

Devon McMahon '15

Claire Stack '15 


College Scholar Senior Presentations

Our 2016 graduates presented their work Thursday, April 28. Here's a taste of what you might choose to study as a College Scholar.

Global Challenges —3:30-4:30 

Zihao Liu, Chinese Nationalism and China’s Naval Development 

Michael Sun, The Cultural Hegemony of Finance Capital: Implications for Financial Reform in the Twenty-First Century 

Aaron Benedict, America’s Evolving Energy Landscape in the Face of Climate Change: Net Energy Metering, Disruptive Technological Innovation, and Changing Utility Business Models

Art Theory & Consumption-- 4:30-5:15 

Moderator: Professor Annetta Alexandridis (History of Art) 

Jeanne Kessira, Ferran Adrià and Contemporary Catalan Cuisine: Redefining Culinary Boundaries. 

Mai-Lee Picard, End of Art? What End of Art? 

Patterns and Cognition— 5:30 to 6:15 

Julia Klein, The Catchiness Phenomenon: Understanding the relationship between earworms, musical memory and genre-specific preferences for music 

Adam Mahar, Exploring the Syntax-Prosody Interface via Phase Boundaries 

See the poster here!