Degree Requirements

The following requirements are for students who matriculate during or after the fall of 2020.

Students who matriculated prior to fall 2020: Click here to view the previous degree requirements.

Remember: You have 8 semesters to fulfill these requirements and many of them will be covered by courses in your major or other courses you take out of interest.


Distribution requirements

Students must complete a minimum of 8 courses to fulfill all 10 distribution categories below. Distribution requirements can be taken S/U if they aren't being used to also fulfill a major or minor requirement. 

Arts, Literature, and Culture (ALC-AS)

Courses in this area examine arts, literature, and culture in various contexts. Students gain insights into the interplay of individual or collaborative creativity and social practice, and understand the complexities of the expression of the human condition. Topics include the analysis of artworks and literary texts, and the belief systems of social groups, cultures, and civilizations; they also focus on artistic expression itself (in creative writing, performing arts, and media such as film and video). 

Spring '24 ALC-AS courses

Biological Sciences (BIO-AS)

Courses in this area focus on understanding a wide range of life forms, from single cells to plants, animals, and their ecosystems. Topics include the molecular and biochemical makeup of life, the sub-cellular, cellular and organismal structures of life, and the evolutionary relatedness of all life forms. Students learn to describe how organisms are connected to each other and to their physical environment. Many courses address how genetic information is expressed from DNA, and how this expression leads to complex function and behavior. 

Spring '24 BIO-AS courses  

Ethics and the Mind (ETM-AS)

Courses in this area investigate the human mind and its capacities, ranging from cognitive faculties shared by humans and animals such as perception, to language and abstract reasoning, to the ability to form and justify ethical values. Courses investigating the mind may use the methodologies of psychology, linguistics, or philosophy. Those focusing on ethics explore ways of reflecting on questions that concern the nature of justice, the good life, or human values in general. Many courses combine these topics and methodologies. 

Spring '24 ETM-AS courses

Global Citizenship (GLC-AS)

Courses in this area examine the history, culture, politics, religion, and social relations of peoples in different parts of the world, as well as their interactions. They encourage students to think broadly about the global community and their place within it, beyond the boundaries of their particular national or cultural group, and cultivate skills of intercultural engagement that are vital to their role as global citizens. These courses introduce students to global challenges such as war and peace, social and economic inequalities, international migration, and environmental sustainability, and encourage students to think critically about international responses to these challenges.  

Spring '24 GLC-AS courses

Historical Analysis (HST-AS)

Courses in this area train students in the analysis of documentary, material, and oral evidence about social phenomena, institutions, events and ideas of the past.  Students learn to evaluate and critically assess differing analyses and interpretations of former times so that they may acquire a better understanding of the origins and evolution of the present. Questions addressed in HA courses include why and under what circumstances changes have occurred in how people have interacted with one another and with the environments in which they live. 

Spring '24 HST-AS courses

Physical Sciences (PHS-AS)

Courses satisfying this requirement provide an appreciation of how science generates and categorizes enduring knowledge of our physical world. This includes the physics, chemistry, and technology involved, of everything from light, to atoms, DNA molecules, Earth science, our Solar system, and to the Cosmos. These courses expose students to both the process and some of the substance of science. By learning the universal aspects of scientific enquiry, students will be better equipped to form opinions on scientific issues that affect the world. 

Spring '24 PHS-AS courses

Social Difference (SCD-AS)

Courses in this area examine social differences relevant to the human experience.  Social categories include class, race, ethnicity, indigeneity, nationality, language, religion, gender, sexuality, and ability as objects of study.  Students develop a deeper understanding of these categories and their intersections. Topics may include: how hierarchies in power and status shape social differences; how social, economic and political systems can impact the interpretation of social differences; and how differences attributed to various groups are explained.

Spring '24 SCD-AS courses

Social Sciences (SSC-AS)

Courses in this area examine social, economic, political, psychological, demographic, linguistic, and relational processes. Topics include understanding how different social contexts, for example neighborhoods, families, markets, networks, or political organizations, shape social life. Students learn to identify, describe, and explain the causes and consequences of social phenomena using quantitative and/or qualitative evidence based on systematic observation of the social world. They also learn to link evidence to theory through rigorous and transparent reasoning, and/or reflect critically on the concepts through which people make sense of the social world. 

Spring '24 SSC-AS courses

Statistics and Data Science (SDS-AS)

Courses in this area develop data literacy, essential to be an informed citizen in today’s world. Students learn and apply statistical and computational techniques to effectively collect, visualize, analyze and interpret data, and present conclusions. Applications span a wide variety of contexts: providing a better understanding of the communities in which we live, guiding and enriching our lives, and driving forward scientific inquiry. Students gain an appreciation of how to ask the right questions, and how statistics can depend on the context, assumptions, and limitations of data.

Spring '24 SDS-AS courses

Symbolic and Mathematical Reasoning (SMR-AS)

Courses satisfying this requirement help students develop the skills to solve problems through understanding abstract, logical relationships. Such skills include mathematical analysis of patterns and phenomena, modeling natural and technological systems, and creating algorithms essential to computation. These courses explore specific quantitative and symbolic methods, strategies for applying logical reasoning in diverse areas, and the intrinsic elegance of mathematics. 

Spring '24 SMR-AS courses

About the foreign language requirement

You can complete the Arts & Sciences language requirement in either of two ways:

Option 1 - Successfully complete one intermediate course of 3 or more credits at Cornell at the 2000 level or above.

Option 2 - Successfully complete at least 11 credits of study (2 or 3 semesters) in a single foreign language taken in the appropriate sequence at Cornell.

If you plan to continue in a previously studied language, you must take a placement test to determine the correct level for enrollment. Online placement tests in several commonly-taught languages are available online.

If an online placement test is not available, then consult the course descriptions to determine which course seems more appropriate for you. You may change your enrollment after taking a placement test during Orientation.

Please keep in mind the following:

  • If you plan to continue studying a language taken in high school, we recommend you do so in your freshman or sophomore year.
  • If you wish to start a new language at Cornell, be aware that the first course is usually only offered in the fall semester.
  • If you hope to study abroad in a non-English speaking country, additional language instruction beyond the intermediate level may be required. (Learn about the College's policy by attending the A&S study abroad information session at the start of the semester.)


I studied a foreign language in high school, but I'm not confident in my abilities, and I'd like to enroll in a lower-level course than I placed into. Is this all right?
No, it is not. Departments require that students enroll in the course indicated by their placement exams.

I am already fluent in another language. Can I be exempted from the language requirement?
Exemptions may be granted under the following circumstances:

1. Completion of secondary education at a foreign institution where the language of instruction was not English.

2. Native or near-native proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing a second language, as determined by examination.

If you are fluent in a language that is not offered for study at Cornell, you may petition to request that your language requirement be waived. Please see the Foreign Language Exemption petition for more information.

Can I use AP, IB or A-Level credits to fulfill the language requirement?
No. These scores may be used for placement into a higher-level course, but will not fulfill the requirement. 

After I fulfill the language requirement, can I still study another language at Cornell?
Absolutely!  Many Cornell students study more than one language, or continue in language study beyond the college requirement.

Tracking Your Degree Requirements

Your academic journey through Cornell won't be the same as anyone else's, so it's important to take some time to think about your interests as you select courses.

Schedule a meeting with your Advising dean to make your plans.

You can also monitor your progress toward meeting your college degree requirements by checking your DUST (Distributed Undergraduate Student Tracking) report. The DUST report is updated soon after the end of each semester. To monitor your progress toward meeting your major requirements, please contact your major department.