The academic calendar for the College of Arts & Sciences includes important dates and deadlines for the academic year. Below are some important dates pertaining to summer orientation.
- Late June: Start pre-orientation program through Canvas (required for incoming first-year students only)
- July 6: Pre-enroll web chat #1 from 4:00-5:30 PM EDT
- July 7: Pre-health info session from 4:00-5:30 PM EDT
- July 9: Pre-enroll web chat #2 from 9:00-10:30 AM EDT
- July 12: Complete pre-orientation program through Canvas (required for incoming first-year students only)
- End-July/Beginning August: Pre-enrollment starts (See COVID-19 FAQ site for updated information)
- TBA: Pre-enrollment ends
- TBA: FWS balloting begins (after pre-enrollment ends)
- TBA: FWS balloting ends
- TBA: FWS will appear on your schedule
Thinking About a Major
Your major will be one field of study that you find particularly interesting and intellectually challenging, and that you explore in great depth. The college offers 40 majors and gives you until the end of your sophomore year to make your choice; all A&S first-years start as undeclared students. It's typical for students to stay undeclared for a few semesters, as it gives them the freedom to explore their options.
Visit the Choosing a Major/Minor site for more information.
Degree Requirements-Fall 2020
- First-Year Writing Seminars (FWS)
- Foreign Language
- 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)
- 120 total credits, 100 of which must be from the College of Arts & Sciences
- Physical Education and swim test
Planning Your First-Semester Schedule
When putting together your schedule, we encourage you to choose subjects that you are excited to explore.
General guidelines to follow as you begin to make your choices:
- A typical first-semester schedule includes 4 or 5 courses at the 1000- or 2000-level (12-16 academic credits) with a maximum of 18 academic credits.
- Expect to take an average of 15 credits per semester (120 credits total) over the period of 8 semesters to earn your degree.
- If you have a major in mind, begin by checking the Course Guidance or "Pro Tips" for Major Exploration for a recommended or required introductory course.
- Undecided about a major? Consider courses from among two or three departments that look most interesting to you.
- The A&S Advising Seminar (AS 1102) is a required 1-credit course for first-year students (students being advised through the Office of Undergraduate Biology will participate in alternative advising activities). Details about seminar enrollment will be available later this summer.
- A first-year writing seminar (FWS) should be part of your first-semester schedule. You will enroll separately in an FWS through a balloting process during the enrollment period.
- You should begin fulfilling the foreign language requirement in your first or sophomore year. If you plan to continue in a previously studied language, you must take a placement test to determine the correct level for enrollment. If you hope to study abroad in a non-English speaking country, additional language instruction beyond the intermediate level may be required.
- You should also enroll in a physical education (PE) course (does not count toward the 12-credit needed to be in good standing).
Before selecting courses in the sciences, math, or computer science, consult the discipline-specific links below. If you are not considering a major in math, science, or a related discipline, you don't need to take a math or science course in your first year. If your interests are in the arts, humanities, and the social sciences, taking introductory courses in these disciplines should take precedence over taking a math or science course in your first semester at Cornell.
Enrolling in Courses
Search for courses in departments that interest you by clicking on "subjects". If you need help interpreting the information in the roster, please see the FAQ section.
Mark the courses that most intrigue you as "favorites" using the star symbol. You can use your "favorites" to build and save possible schedules before officially enrolling through Student Center during the pre-enrollment period.
Courses are composed of either a lecture (LEC) or seminar (SEM). Many courses also include a discussion section (DIS) and/or lab (LAB). You must enroll in all parts of each course and be sure that they fit into your schedule without conflict.
The course number (1000-, 2000-, 3000-, 4000-) indicates the level of specialization in a given subject. First-year students typically enroll in courses at the 1000- and 2000-level, which provide general introductions to a subject or discipline. 3000- and 4000-level courses are normally intended for upperclass students. AP, IB, or A-Level credit may be used where appropriate to advance more quickly into 3000- and 4000-level courses.
If you wish to take a 3000- or 4000-level course, look carefully at the course description for prerequisites. Remember that other students in the course will have more experience at Cornell, and will have a clearer idea of the expectations, and how to manage the workload and rigor. You may wish to contact the instructor to make sure that you have the necessary background in the subject to be successful.
Courses numbered 5000- and above are graduate-level courses and are not recommended for first-year students under any circumstances.
Consult the list of fall 2020 FWS offerings.
After you have enrolled in your other courses, submit your ballot at any time during the FWS ballot window. Balloting is not time sensitive or "first come, first served," so make sure to ballot only after finalizing your other courses for your fall schedule. If you change your mind, you have to submit a new ballot as only your most recent ballot cast within the ballot window will count.
Log into your Student Center a few days before pre-enrollment and practice how to find and add your desired courses. It can be helpful to use the class number (4 or 5-digit blue number) in the Class Roster rather than the course number (4-digit number).
Adding courses to your shopping cart does not reserve your space - you must click "finish enrolling" for a course to appear on your schedule.
This is only your first opportunity to put together your semester schedule. Many students make some changes to their schedule during the add/drop period.
AP IB and A-Level Credits
Some departments advise prospective majors to develop a firm grounding in the subject area and methodology by enrolling in the introductory survey course even if you have credit. Check the appropriate department websites and if you decide to take a course that your credit places you out of, you will forfeit that credit. If you have credit in math or science and are considering enrolling in courses in these areas, please be sure to read through the Choosing Courses in Science and Math section of this website.
Note: you may enroll in courses at Cornell that assume placement on the basis of AP, IB, A-Level, or French Baccalaureate credit even if we do not yet have your credits recorded.
Placement examinations are administered to determine a student’s appropriate level of study within a discipline. Refer to the placement exams site for more information about specific subjects and exams.
Foreign language placement
Science and Math placement
Placement exams are available for the following subjects. Information on specific date, time, and location are found on the department's website by visiting the placement exams site.
- Chemistry & Chemical Biology: CHEM 2070/2090 and CHEM 2080
- Computer Science: CS 1110
- Math: MATH 1110, MATH 1120, and MATH 1910
- Physics: PHYS 1112 and PHYS 2213
Additional Resources and Services
- Career Development supports students with career exploration, internship & job search, interviews, resume/coverletter writing, graduate & professional school applications, etc.
- Cornell Health provides students medical, counseling, and pharmacy services.
- Identity Resources-Students & Campus Life
- John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines provides tutors to help writers get started on an essay, brainstorm an outline, shape coherent arguments, and more. This is your go-to resource for support in FWS courses.
- Latinx Student Success Office (LSSO) hosts programs and serves as a "hotspot" for the Latino/a community
- Learning Strategy Center (LSC) provides services such as study skills workshops, supplemental courses, time management resources, and tutoring.
- Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) provides support and resources to ensure academic success for students identify as under-represented minority, low-income, and first-generation.
- Office of Global Learning
- Pre-Law Advising provides information and resources for pre-law students
- Pre-Health Advising provides information and resources to help students plan and navigate the processes for applying to medical/dental/vet/other health professional schools.
- Student Disability Services (SDS) provides supports, accommodations, and resources for students with disabilities. Students are encouraged to register with the SDS office to request disability services or accommodations for the placement exams and semester courses prior to the start of the semester.
- Undergraduate Research provides information on how to get started in research as well as funding supporting research.
The University Class Roster provides detailed information on the meeting times and room location of all Cornell courses (including the different lectures, labs, and/or discussion sections for each course). You can browse courses by subject, or use the search function to find a particular course. Scheduler and CourseCrafter can be found on the Class Roseter site.
The University Courses of Study catalogs Cornell’s academic programs and policies. It contains information about colleges, departments, degree requirements and policies, and course offerings. Browse the Arts & Sciences section of the website here.
The DUST report allows you to track your degree progress.
Student Center/Student Essentials
The Student Center/Student Essentials is your academic portal to personal information, course enrollment, transcript, financial aid, bursar, holds, etc.
Every new student in the College of Arts & Sciences is assigned to three advisors: an advising dean, a peer ambassador, and a faculty advisor.
- Advising Dean: This is your advisor in the College's academic advising office. Your advising dean will be assigned to you by mid-August. You may schedule an appointment or reach by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peer Ambassador: This is a current Arts & Sciences student who will help you get settled and answer your questions about academics and student life on campus. Your peer ambassador will contact you and serve as a resource for you as you adjust to college life.
Pre-Major Faculty Advisor: This is your faculty advisor and advising seminar instructor, though not necessarily in the discipline in which you currently intend to major, which is by design. Your faculty advisor's main role is to advise you on general academic matters until you are ready to declare a major. Once you are in a major, you will be re-assigned to a new faculty advisor in your major field of study. Each major has a faculty member who serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), so if you have major-specific questions, you can always seek advice from the DUS.
While preparing to enroll in courses, make sure to check the appropriate department websites to see which, if any, introductory courses are recommended for first-year students. If you have further questions about a particular course or major for which you cannot find the answer online, you may contact the department directly.
If you have further questions, email the advising deans at email@example.com. Please be aware that we will respond only to your Cornell e-mail address.
Frequently Asked Questions
Thinking about majors
Can I complete more than one major in the College of Arts & Sciences?
Yes, but the college only requires that you complete one major to earn your degree.
Can I complete a second major in one of the other colleges at Cornell?
The only way to do so is through the "concurrent degree" program between Arts & Sciences and Engineering or Architecture, Art & Planning. This is a five-year program for which you can apply at the end of your first year. Most minors offered by the other colleges can be completed by Arts & Sciences students.
Do I have to select a major directly related to my intended career path?
No. The major that you select should be based upon your interest in the topic and your ability to succeed in the classes within that particular major. Students from the College of Arts & Sciences have varied career experiences upon leaving Cornell, regardless of major. Each year, the College publishes a report on post-graduate outcomes, both for the College as a whole, and by major. . *Please note that international students should consult the Arts & Sciences Career Development Center and the International Student & Scholars Office for guidance on career and major selection, as some restrictions may apply based upon their visa type
Planning your first semester schedule
How do I know which course to take first?
Generally speaking, there are no recommended sequences of courses in the humanities and social sciences. The introductory courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics, for example, can be taken in either order. Other fields, such as the sciences, math, and foreign language, require students to take courses in sequence. Be sure to check the course descriptions in the Class Roster as some of these sequences start only in the fall.
How do I enroll in a course that is designated as “Instructor (or Department) consent required”?
To enroll in these courses, you must first contact the department office or the instructor to get their consent before attempting to add this course to your schedule. Departments handle this process differently and will give you instructions on how to proceed.
Will I be able to make changes to my schedule later?
Yes. Your pre-enrollment is just the first step in building your final schedule. Add/drop starts a few days before classes begin; during this time, you will have ample opportunity to make changes to your schedule.
How can I tell if I'm enrolling in an Arts & Sciences course?
All courses offered by departments in the College of Arts & Sciences are Arts & Sciences courses. Keep in mind that some departments are shared between colleges - for example, Biology (A&S and CALS), Computer Science (A&S and ENG), Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (A&S and CALS), Information Science (A&S, ENG, and CALS), and Statistical Science (A&S and CALS). Courses in all of these departments count as Arts & Sciences courses!
Can I sign up for courses in other colleges?
We recommend that you use your first semester to explore courses in Arts & Sciences. Some courses offered by the other colleges do not count for academic credit in Arts & Sciences - please check this list of courses that do not count for credit before enrolling in courses outside the college.
A course I want to enroll in is full! What should I do?
- Don't panic! You can keep checking for open spots until pre-enrollment closes.
- In the meantime, it is always smart to have a few back-up courses in mind in the same department, or in related fields of study. Find another course that appeals to you and enroll in it instead. (You can plan to take your original choice in a future semester.)
- Contact the department offering the course. If it is a course you feel you really need to take in your first semester, the department may have advice on how to proceed. Sometimes you should attend the first class meeting or add your name to a waiting list for that class. Be assured that the college's departments will do as much as they can to help you get into the course that you need.
- Wait until the add/drop period (TBA) . As students make changes to their schedule, spaces will often open up in courses that were previously full.
- It is possible that you will not be able to enroll in all the classes you were hoping to take during your first semester. If this happens, keep in mind that the College of Arts & Sciences is very flexible, and that you can be, too; there are no specific courses that you absolutely must take right away.
Foreign Language Requirement
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:
- Completion of secondary education at a foreign institution where the language of instruction was not English.
- 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, it may be possible to arrange for testing in that language, but test availability is not guaranteed. Contact the Academic Advising Office for further 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.
Physical Education Requirements
When can I add a PE course to my schedule?
Physical Education courses can be added during pre-enrollment, at the same time that you add any other courses to your schedule.
Do varsity athletes need to fulfill the PE requirement?
Participation in a varsity sport can fulfill the PE requirement. Consult your coach for details.