Previous Degree Requirements

These requirements are for all students who matriculated into Cornell prior to Fall 2020.

Students who will matriculate in Fall 2020, or after, will meet new, updated degree requirements.


1. Two first-year writing seminars (FWS). A 5 on either the AP English Composition or Literature exam, or a 7 on the IB HL English Literature or Language exam will count towards one of these seminars. First-year students should plan to take an FWS during their first semester at Cornell.

2. Foreign language requirement. A student must either pass an intermediate Cornell language course at the 2000-level or above or complete at least 11 credits in a single foreign language at Cornell. AP and IB credits cannot complete this requirement, but usually indicate that you place into a higher level course. Note: Native speakers of a foreign language may be exempted from this requirement. To plan your first language course at Cornell, consult the Foreign Language section of this website.

3. Distribution requirements:

  • Four courses in Physical & Biological Sciences (PBS-AS/PBSS-AS),  and Mathematics & Quantitative Reasoning (MQR-AS): Students must take 2 courses in Physical & Biological Sciences (PBS), 1 in Mathematics & Quantitative Reasoning (MQR), and 1 course that is either in PBS-AS or MQR-AS.
  • Five Arts & Sciences courses of 3 or more credits from at least 4 of the following social sciences, humanities, and arts categories (with no more than three in the same department):

            --Cultural Analysis (CA-AS)
            --Historical Analysis (HA-AS)
            --Knowledge, Cognition, & Moral Reasoning (KCM-AS)
            --Literature & the Arts (LA-AS)
            --Social & Behavioral Analysis (SBA-AS)


  • To fulfill the requirements, courses must contain the suffix -AS. Courses offered outside of the college that are designated HA, CA, LA, KCM, SBA, PBS, or MQR without the -AS suffix in the Class Roster will not fulfill your requirements. Some additional acceptable PBS/PBSS  and MQR courses without the -AS suffix can be found on the Courses of Study. Courses listed on the Courses of Study will fulfill these requirements.
  • Courses counting toward a major may also count to fulfill distribution requirements.
  • AP,IB and A-Level credits may not be used to meet distribution requirements.

4. Breadth requirements:

  • Geographic breadth requirement (GB): One course that focuses on an area or a people other than those of the United States, Canada, or Europe. Courses fulfilling this requirement are marked with a GB in the Class Roster.
  • Historic breadth requirement (HB): One course that focuses on an historic period before the 20th century. Courses fulfilling this requirement are marked with an HB in the Class Roster.


  • Courses designated GHB will satisfy both breadth requirements.
  • Distribution and major courses may overlap with the breadth requirements.
  • AP, IB and A-Level credits may not be used to meet breadth requirements.

5. Major: Requirements will vary by department. See also the Thinking About a Major section of this website.

6. Residence: Eight full-time semesters, unless you can successfully complete all other requirements in fewer than eight semesters and meet the additional criteria to accelerate graduation.

7. 120 credits, 100 of which must be from the College of Arts & Sciences. 100 credits in Arts & Sciences is a minimum number, as is the 120 credit total. Students can take more than 20 credits outside of the College as long as they take 100 credits within; they can also take all their credits in Arts & Sciences and accumulate more than 120. Note: AP, IB, and A-Level credits count toward the 120 total credits but not toward the 100 A&S credits.

8. Passing a swimming test and two courses in physical education.