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College of Arts and Sciences

Courses & Curriculum

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The breadth and diversity of courses you can take in the College of Arts & Sciences is extraordinary: in addition to more than 2000 classes offered each year by the College of Arts & Sciences, you'll enjoy access to nearly 2,000 additional courses in the six professional and applied colleges at Cornell, many considered the best in the nation in their respective fields.

Academic Distribution Requirements

The College’s academic distribution requirements will give you:

  • cultural breadth (both geographical and temporal)
  • effective writing and quantitative skills
  • facility in a foreign language beyond the introductory level
  • imaginative and critical thinking

To choose your courses for a semester, use the Class Roster. It shows the schedule of all classes offered in a particular term, along with class enrollment information and course details. The Class Roster is updated frequently.

To plan your classes over your four years at Cornell, use the Courses of Study. It represents Cornell’s full catalog of courses and is published annually. It provides information on Cornell degree programs, requirements, policies and procedures.

If you need help as you consider your courses, call 607-255-5004 for an appointment with an advising dean. Or contact a career counselor in the Arts & Sciences Career Development Center at 607-255-4166 to talk about your interests and how they can translate into a major and a future career.

A New Curriculum 

On October 30, 2018, the College of Arts & Sciences faculty approved a new undergraduate curriculum to be implemented over the next two to three years. The new curriculum focuses on the theme of exploration and reaffirms the college’s commitment to a liberal arts and sciences education. Changes will make the curriculum easier for students to navigate, simplify the graduation requirements and expand student opportunities for interdisciplinary work and faculty opportunities for innovative teaching. 

Innovative Learning

If you’re one of the 3,000 students across the university taking biology or physics at the College, you may be part of an innovative classroom project that uses active learning, a new model that is proving to be the quickest path to expert-level mastery.

Your education at Cornell will extend far beyond the classroom, and likely beyond Ithaca. You can join a faculty member’s research team on campus, conduct field study research from India to Maine or spend a semester in D.C. with Cornell in Washington. You could study abroad in one of more than 85 countries or develop your own research project through independent study. Give yourself the freedom to explore.

Independent Study

If you have special interests or would like to do research not treated in regularly scheduled courses, consider doing independent study. Through independent study you can delve more deeply into a topic not covered in our regular curriculum: write a book, choreograph a dance, synthesize organometallic compounds. A faculty member -- who becomes your instructor for the independent course -- must approve the proposed study and agree to provide continuing supervision of your work.

Undergraduate Students: 

To apply for A&S independent study, you will need to complete an on-line form which you can access via data.arts.

The form should be completed within the first two weeks of the semester. After the add deadline, you must include a statement explaining why it is being submitted late.

For each credit of independent study, approximately three to four hours of work per week is usually expected. You may earn up to a maximum of 6 credits in one semester with one instructor or up to a maximum of 8 credits with more than one instructor. However, if you are being paid to assist faculty in research, you cannot simultaneously earn course credit and pay for that work.

Graduate Students:

To apply for independent study, complete an add/drop form (including relevant signatures and department stamp) and return it to the Graduate School Registrar, 143 Caldwell Hall.