Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions
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? What majors are offered?
A. The College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) is the liberal arts College at Cornell and the largest of Cornell’s seven Colleges. Students choose A&S for many reasons, including the breadth of our academic programs, research opportunities, and career prospects. With 40 majors, 59 minors, and more than 50 foreign languages, A&S offers uncommon academic diversity and the ability to double major within A&S. Two-thirds of the A&S curriculum is taken outside of the major, so you will have the flexibility and opportunity to explore many interests and design your own path of study including access to an additional 63 minors in Cornell’s other colleges.
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 or combine any Arts & Sciences major with a minor at any of Cornell’s seven colleges.
Q. Does the College of Arts & Sciences have a core curriculum?
A. No, there are no required courses in the College of Arts and Sciences. Ten area distribution requirements ensure that students receive a broad educational foundation. 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 2018 found that 61% of graduates are employed, 29% are attending graduate school, 5% are seeking employment, and 5% are traveling/volunteering/preparing for graduate school. Top employment sectors for our graduates include Financial Services (21.4%), Technology (16.4%), Consulting/Professional Practice (11%), and Education (8.6%). Top fields for graduate study include Law (with 90% of recent graduates being admitted to at least one law school of their choice) and Health Care (with 87% of recent graduates being admitted to at least one medical school of their choice).
Q. How many students are admitted to the College of Arts & Sciences?
A. The class size varies a bit by year; the total undergraduate enrollment in the College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2018 was 4,602. In Fall 2018 we received over 20,000 applicants for a class of approximately 1,000 first-year students. For the Class of 2023, the College’s acceptance rate was approximately 24% in Early Decision, and 9% in Regular Decision.
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 students in the Class of 2018 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. 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 years) with the innovation and vibrant environment of Cornell Tech in New York City (during two summers). 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. The program facilitates informal intellectual discourse outside of classes by providing subsidies for research projects and a program of monthly events.
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, and textbooks 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 other classes you want to take beyond the major and visit the websites for both the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and 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, and textbooks. The difference is in the requirements outside of the major as each college has different distribution requirements. You’ll want to think about what other 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 and 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 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. 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 years of a foreign language. If you did not take three years of foreign language in high school, you should include an explanation of why you did not (e.g., you are bi-lingual, limited high school offerings, etc.) in the Additional Information section of your application. If possible, please have your high school guidance counselor address this in their recommendation letter as well.
Q. What is the foreign language requirement for students in the College of Arts & Sciences?
A. 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.
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. AP and IB credits cannot fulfill this 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 are you actually looking for in the College of Arts & Sciences' Writing Supplement?
A. Appropriately referred to as the “Why Cornell” essay, the wording of the 2019-2020 Writing Supplement prompt for Cornell's College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) has changed a bit but the intent stays the same as in recent years. It 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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