Frequently Asked Questions
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- For questions about student life at Cornell, you can ask a current Arts & Sciences Cornell student about academics, clubs and activities, or life in Ithaca.
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- International students, please visit our international student website and review these guidelines.
- Students at another institution interested in transferring into the College of Arts & Sciences, please review these guidelines and address additional questions to email@example.com.
- Current Cornell students interested in transferring from another college into the College of Arts & Sciences, please read our guidelines for internal transfers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When can I visit campus or attend an Information Session?
A. The Cornell campus is currently closed to visitors. We invite you to learn more about our college by watching our 4-part Virtual Information Session, meeting some of our most recent graduates, and exploring our academic departments.
Q. What degree(s) does the College of Arts & Sciences offer?
A. Regardless of major, the College of Arts & Sciences grants one degree: the A.B. A.B. is the abbreviation of the Latin name for the degree “artium baccalarius,” or translated into English, B.A., “Bachelor of Arts.”
Q. What is the focus of the College of Arts & Sciences?
A. The College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) is the liberal arts and sciences college at Cornell and the largest of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges. With 40 majors, 59 minors, and 2000+ courses across the disciplines, A&S offers uncommon academic diversity and the ability to double major within A&S. With up to two years before you declare a major and two-thirds of courses taken outside of your major, your educational path will be defined by structured flexibility and be guided by your own academic interests.
The A&S curriculum is designed so that you can work closely with inspiring faculty to develop the hallmark skills of a liberal arts and sciences education: the ability to read critically, write persuasively, and think broadly…all while taking full advantage of the resources of a leading research university. Students choose A&S for many reasons, including the breadth of our academic programs, research opportunities, and career prospects.
We encourage you to watch Part 2 of our Virtual Information Session to learn more about academic opportunities in Arts & Sciences.
Q. What are the most popular majors in the College of Arts & Sciences?
A. Of the 40 majors offered in the College of Arts & Sciences, the top 10 in alphabetical order are Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Economics, English, Government, History, Information Science, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. Other students find smaller majors especially rewarding within the context of a large research university, and it is common to double major within the College, to major and minor within the College, or to combine any Arts & Sciences major with one or more of the 63 minors offered by Cornell’s other six colleges.
Q. Does the College of Arts & Sciences have a core curriculum?
A. No, the flexibility of the Arts & Sciences curriculum encourages students to explore their interests broadly so there are no required courses in the College of Arts & Sciences. Instead our faculty have outlined ten broad distribution requirements in key areas such as Global Citizenship, Social Difference, and Statistics and Data Science, all of which are essential for preparing students to contribute to a society experiencing significant social, technological, and economic changes. In addition, students take two first-year writing seminars to hone essential writing skills, and pass a foreign language course at the intermediate level. Graduates earn at least 120 credits, approximately one third of which are in their chosen major.
Q. What do graduates from the College of Arts & Sciences do?
A. A survey of College of Arts & Sciences students in the Class of 2019 found that 62% of graduates are employed, 28% are attending graduate school, 4% are seeking employment, and 5% are traveling/volunteering/preparing for graduate school. Top employment sectors for our graduates include Technology (18%), Financial Services (17%), Consulting/Professional Practice (13%), and Education (11%). Top fields for graduate study include Law (with 90% of recent graduates being admitted to at least one law school of their choice), Medicine (with 87% of recent graduates being admitted to at least one medical school of their choice), and Computer Science.
We encourage you to watch Part 3 of our Virtual Information Session as well as our student panel discussions on Advising and Careers to learn more about Academic Advising and Career Development in Arts & Sciences.
Q. What does the College of Arts & Sciences Admissions Committee look for in applicants?
A. The Admissions Committee looks for academic excellence, intellectual curiosity, commitment to a liberal arts and sciences education, community impact, and fit with Cornell.
We invite you to watch Part 4 of our Virtual Information Session for more information on our admissions process.
Q. Can I be pre-med in the College of Arts & Sciences?
A. Cornell does not have a "pre-med" or “pre-health” major, rather students in the College of Arts & Sciences interested in the pre-med track complete specific Cornell course sequences required or recommended for health careers, while majoring in any subject area of their choice. Pre-health students may, of course, decide to pursue the Biological Sciences major, but they may also decide on any other major in the College while still preparing for medical school.
Students in the College of Arts & Sciences find that their liberal arts education offers strong preparation for a career in health as they are exposed to a broad base of knowledge while honing critical thinking, creative, and analytical skills. Students in the College of Arts & Sciences have an excellent track record of applying to medical school: 87% of recent graduates who applied to medical schools were admitted to at least one school of their choice.
Students interested in health careers are encouraged to consult the Health Career Advising page.
Q. Does the College of Arts & Sciences give credit for Advance Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), A-Level, or French Baccalaureate Exams?
A. Yes. The Credit and Placement for Students in A&S chart summarizes what (if any) credit you would receive, as well as what introductory courses you could choose to place out of, based on your scores.
Cornell’s individual academic departments determine whether to award exam-based credit. In all cases, scores must be at the highest level (i.e., 4 or 5 for APs; 6 or 7 for IBs). Some departments administer their own department exams to determine credit and placement instead.
Additionally, because college courses are generally more comprehensive and substantive than AP courses taught in high school, some departments advise prospective majors to develop a firm grounding in the subject area and methodology by enrolling in the respective introductory survey course at Cornell in lieu of claiming exam-based credit. Please check the appropriate department websites and note that if you opt to take a course that your credit would place you out of, you would forfeit that credit. If you have credit in science or math and are considering enrolling in courses in these areas, consult Choosing Courses in Science & Math.
Q. Does the College of Arts & Sciences give credit for Dual Enrollment courses (college courses taken during high school)?
A. Dual Enrollment courses taken to fulfill a requirement for high school graduation are not eligible for transfer credit at Cornell. If, however, you took college coursework for your own personal interest on a college or university campus, the courses may be eligible for Cornell credit. Please submit the college/university transcript for your coursework in addition to your high school transcript when applying.
Q. As a student in the College of Arts & Sciences can I double major in one of the other colleges at Cornell?
A. Many students double major within the College. Additionally, most minors offered by the other colleges can be completed by Arts & Sciences students. Completing a second major at another college is a 5-year option available by application at the end of your first year through the Concurrent Degree program between Arts & Sciences and either the College of Engineering or the College of Architecture, Art & Planning.
Q. What is the difference between studying Computer Science in the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Engineering?
A. The Computer Science major is exactly the same regardless of which college you attend: the major requirements, professors, classes, rigor, and research opportunities are all the same. The difference is in the requirements outside of the major at each college: the College of Arts & Sciences has distribution requirements and a foreign language requirement whereas the College of Engineering has a core curriculum. You’ll want to think about what classes you want to take beyond the major and visit the websites for both the College of Engineering and the College of Arts & Sciences to see which would be the best fit. If you are thinking about double majoring, keep in mind that you can only select another major from within the same college.
Q. What is the difference between studying Biological Sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences?
A. The Biological Sciences major is exactly the same regardless of which college you attend: the course requirements are identical, as are the 14 concentration options within the major, the professors, classes, rigor, and research opportunities. The difference is in the requirements outside of the major as each college has different distribution requirements. You’ll want to think about what classes you want to take beyond the major and visit the websites for both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Arts & Sciences to see which would be the best fit. If you are thinking about double majoring, keep in mind that you can only select another major from within the same college.
Q. What is the foreign language requirement for applicants to the College of Arts & Sciences?
A. Applicants to the College of Arts & Sciences are required to have three units of one foreign language OR completion of at least the third level of a foreign language sequence (e.g., Spanish 3). N.B. It is our strong preference that students complete 3 units of one foreign language during high school, however, students who have initiated a foreign language sequence before high school or who have heritage language skills that allow them to place directly into a higher level course will have met our minimum requirement by completing at least the third level of a foreign language sequence (e.g., Spanish 3).
If you do not meet the language requirement, you should include an explanation (e.g., you are bi-lingual, limited high school offerings, etc.) in the Additional Information section of your application or have your high school guidance counselor address this in their recommendation letter.
Q. What is the foreign language requirement for students in the College of Arts & Sciences?
A. Faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences believe that the study of language plays a central role in a liberal arts and sciences education, and is fundamental to creating global citizens. In support of this, students in the College of Arts & Sciences 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. Cornell students have access to one of the most extensive language offerings of any university: a choice to pursue one of over 50 living or extinct human languages, including American Sign Language.
AP and IB credits do not fulfill the language requirement, but usually indicate that a student will place into a higher-level course. Bi-lingual students may be granted an exception to the foreign language requirement if they 1) completed secondary education at a foreign institution where the language of instruction was not English, OR 2) have native or near-native proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing a second language, as determined by examination.
Q. What is FYSA?
A. FYSA is the First-Year Spring Admission program, which welcomes a small group of first-year students in the College of Arts & Sciences to begin their Cornell experience in the spring semester rather than the fall. Applicants indicate their interest in FYSA on the Common Application. Students selected for spring semester enrollment are exceptional candidates whom we were unable to admit for fall because of on-campus space constraints.
Q. How can I study at the Cornell Tech campus in New York City?
A. The Milstein Program in Technology & Humanity is a selective track within Cornell’s College of Arts & Sciences that combines an outstanding liberal arts and sciences education from Cornell University in Ithaca during the academic year with the option to partake in the innovation and vibrant environment of Cornell Tech in New York City during the summer.
To apply, indicate your interest by checking the Milstein Program box when applying to Cornell’s College of Arts & Sciences and then use the Cornell Supplemental Essay to explain how your interests align with the mission of the Milstein Program.
Current A&S students can apply to the Milstein Program during the spring semester of their first year.
Q. How can I become a Tanner Dean’s Scholar?
A. The Pauline and Irving Tanner Dean’s Scholars are nominated by the College of Arts & Sciences Admissions Committee and selected by faculty of the College during the admissions process. There is no separate application, rather all applicants to the College of Arts & Sciences are considered for nomination and the Admissions Committee nominates a small group of its outstanding applicants for this honor. Tanner Dean’s Scholars demonstrate academic curiosity beyond the classroom and possess outstanding high school records.
Q. What are you actually looking for in the College of Arts & Sciences' Writing Supplement?
A. Appropriately referred to as the “Why Cornell” essay, the 2020-2021 Writing Supplement prompt for Cornell's College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) is:
Students in the Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person…any study” founding vision. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College.
We know students wonder about what admissions folks really want to see in these essays, so we will share with you some of the thinking behind our prompt. We really care about learning about your personal background and interests, and you wouldn’t believe how much discussion on our end went into crafting those few lines of text in the prompt!
- Note the plurals: “academic interests,” “areas of study,” and “pursue them.” There is no core curriculum in A&S; instead, students have the unprecedented freedom to choose among 4,000 courses and 40 majors. Our students are intellectually curious and a third of them double-major, so this is a great place for scholars who have a deep passion, multiple interests, or who are undecided and want to explore.
- Note the active engagement: “embrace,” “delve,” “excited to explore,” and “wish to pursue.” A&S students are inquisitive, appreciate the active learning initiatives here, and also have strong, motivating interests outside of the classroom.
- Note the focus on you: “areas of study you are excited to explore” and “why you wish to pursue them” here. Avoid generalities or simply regurgitating anything from the Cornell website; we want to hear about your interests and how you plan to broaden your horizons here at A&S.
- Note the focus on us: “specifically why…our College.” We want to know what, in particular, you have learned in researching Cornell that makes you want to further your intellectual pursuits among the world-class faculty, engaged community, and incredible research facilities here in our College. If your primary academic interest is in a field of study available in more than one college at Cornell (i.e. Biology, Computer Science, Environment & Sustainability, or Information Sciences), we are particularly interested to learn why you have chosen to apply to A&S.
The college-specific essay can be as important as the general essay in telling us about you since it gives you the opportunity to tie your multiple interests to the research you have done about Cornell, and to make a persuasive case for why you want join our Cornell community.
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