For all students who matriculate in Fall 2020, or after, an updated undergraduate curriculum will come into effect, following approval by the faculty of the College of Arts & Sciences in October 2018. (Students who matriculated prior to Fall 2020 will meet our current 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.
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:
Students must complete courses that collectively satisfy ten distribution requirements:
- Arts, Literature, and Culture (ALC-AS)
- Biological Sciences (BIO-AS)
- Ethics and the Mind (ETM-AS)
- Global Citizenship (GLC-AS)
- Historical Analysis (HST-AS)
- Physical Sciences (PHS-AS)
- Social Difference (SCD-AS)
- Social Sciences (SSC-AS)
- Statistics and Data Science (SDS-AS)
- Symbolic and Mathematical Reasoning (SMR-AS)
- An A&S course can simultaneously satisfy up to two distribution requirements.
- Students can double-count distribution requirements on a maximum of two courses (i.e. taking a minimum of eight courses to meet all ten requirements).
- To fulfill the requirements, courses must contain the suffix -AS. Courses offered outside of the college that are designated without the -AS suffix in the Class Roster will not fulfill A&S 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. Major: Requirements will vary by department. See also the Thinking About a Major section of this website.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Passing a swimming test and two courses in physical education.
Distribution Requirement Definitions
- 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.