Planning Your First-Semester Schedule

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The Class Roster

Student use the Class Roster to plan their pre-enrollment schedule. As you do so, remember the following:

  • Your total course load must consist of at least 12 and no more than 18 academic credits (4 or 5 courses, usually at the 1000- or 2000-level, not counting PE).
  • If you have a major in mind, begin by checking the department website for a recommended or required introductory course. Some majors require a standard introductory course, while others offer a range of options. Your intended major may offer different versions of introductory courses; read the descriptions carefully to determine which is the correct choice for you.
  • If you do not have a major in mind, choose courses in the two or three departments that look most interesting to you. 
  • 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. To avoid possible scheduling conflicts, pick the five writing seminars you will ballot for only after you have enrolled in your other courses.
  • You should begin fulfilling the foreign language requirement in your freshman or sophomore year. 
  • You should also enroll in a physical education course. PE courses do not count as part of your total number of 12 academic credits needed for the semester.  

Tips on Using the Class Roster

  • Choose your courses using the Class Roster, which lists all of the courses offered at Cornell for the coming semester, with descriptions, times, and locations. The Scheduler feature is a popular tool used by students to help them map their schedule.
  • Start searching for courses in departments that interest you by clicking on "subjects" on the right-hand side of the page. If you need help interpreting the information in the roster, please see the FAQ section
  • While browsing for courses, make sure to mark the ones that most intrigue you as "favorites" using the star symbol. You can then 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 juniors and seniors. AP, IB, or A-Level credit may be used where appropriate to advance more quickly into 3000- and 4000-level courses. 
  • If you are interested in taking a 3000- or 4000-level course, look carefully at the course description for any prerequisites. Remember that other students in the course will have more experience at Cornell, and will have a clearer idea of the expectations, workload, and challenges of academic life here. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 (PDF) of courses that do not count for credit before enrolling in courses outside the college.

Next: Sample Schedules