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CALS Graduation Requirements

Students are responsible for fulfilling all the requirements of their curriculum. Click on each section to learn more about the requirements to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Minimum total credits: 120 academic credits are required for graduation.

  • Repeated courses increase the number of credits required for graduation by the number of credits in the course. These credits do count toward the minimum 12 credits required for full-time status.
  • Review or supplemental courses (e.g., 1000- to 1099-level) increase the number of credits required for graduation by the number of credits in the course. These credits do not count toward the minimum 12 credits required for full-time status.
  • Physical Education courses do not count toward 120 credits for graduation. They do not count toward the minimum 12 credits required for full-time status.

Minimum credits at Cornell: 60 academic credits must be completed at Cornell (includes CALS Exchange, Cornell in Rome, Capital Semester and Cornell in Washington).

Maximum non-Cornell credit: 60 (AP, CASE, IB, GCE, French Baccalauréat, transfer coursework, Cornell Abroad) can be applied toward degree requirements. Students are limited to 15 non-Cornell (transfer) credits earned before matriculation as a first-year student from an accredited college/university.

Non-Structured Credits:

15 credits of non-structured coursework can be applied toward graduation requirements, while a minimum of 105 credits must be structured to complete the degree requirements in CALS (Proration Chart for Non-Cornell credit).

55 CALS credits are required for graduation. CALS credits include all courses from departments within CALS and courses offered in Applied Economics and Management, Biological Sciences, Biology & Society, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Information Science, Nutritional Science, and The Department of Statistics and Data Science.

100 minimum letter-graded credits: Prorated Chart for non-Cornell credit.

15 credits of “non-structured” coursework can be applied toward graduation requirements, including internships, teaching assistant, research, and independent study.

The University has two requirements for graduation that must be fulfilled by all undergraduate students: the swim requirement, and two physical education courses. For additional information about fulfilling University Graduation Requirements, see the Physical Education website.

Physical education (PE): All incoming students must take two credits (two courses) of Physical Education before graduation. It is recommended they complete the two courses during their first year. Credit in Physical Education may be earned by participating in courses offered by the Department of Athletics and Physical Education, by being a registered participant on a varsity athletic team or by performing in the marching band. 

Swim test: The Faculty Advisory Committee on Athletics and Physical Education has established a basic swimming and water safety competency requirement for all undergraduate students. 

Eight semesters of full-time study are expected. External transfer students are credited with one semester in residence for each full-time semester (or equivalent) earned at another institution.

Internal transfer students must be enrolled in CALS for at least two full-time semesters.

The final semester before graduation must be completed in a Cornell program as a full-time student. (The School of Continuing Education does not count towards a final semester of residency).

Students in the ninth and final semester may be eligible to apply for prorated tuition.

A minimum cumulative GPA2.00 or above must be maintained. The cumulative GPA includes all letter grades earned at Cornell.

A student must be enrolled in the following to maintain a legal CALS Schedule and to maintain good academic standing:

  • A minimum of 12 academic credits per semester is required to be a full-time student in good academic standing. NOTE: Students must enroll in an average of 15 credits per semester to be on track to graduate in 8 semesters.
  • Students in good academic standing may enroll in a maximum of 22 credits with the exception of first-year students in their first semester who may only enroll in a maximum of 18 credits (see below).
  • Students must enroll in at least one CALS course each semester until 55 CALS credits have been successfully completed.
  • Review or supplemental courses (1000 to 1099 level courses and Physical Education (PE) courses) will not count toward the 12 credit minimum required for full-time status.
  • It is strongly recommended that entering first-year students enroll in a maximum of 18 credits in their first semester (including PE or review/supplemental courses). First-year students are limited to one S-U optional course per semester.

 Refer to the University Registrar's Courses of Study for details.

18 credits in at least three disciplines, six of which must be introductory life sciences/biology, and a minimum of three credits in chemistry or physics. Search “Breadth/Distribution” in the Cornell Class Roster to find courses that fulfill the CALS Distribution Requirements. CALS distribution codes end with “-AG”.

Introductory Life Sciences/Biology Requirement (BIO-AG):

Students must complete at least six academic credits from "BIO-AG."  Search the “Breadth/Distribution” category on the right-hand side of the Cornell Class Roster to find CALS code "BIO-AG”. 

Chemistry/Physics (CHPH-AG)

Complete a minimum of three academic credits in chemistry or physics. Includes all Cornell courses with the CHEM or PHYS prefix at Cornell (excluding courses that are supplemental, independent study, research, TA, internship, and First-Year Writing Seminar).

Quantitative Literacy (MQL-AG):

These classes focus on the mathematical analysis of data, modeling natural and man-made systems, and developing algorithms critical for computation. Students will learn various quantitative methods and how to apply quantitative reasoning across different fields. This requirement can be satisfied by earning a score of four or five on the AP Calculus exam or a score of five on the AP Statistics exam, or transfer an approved calculus or statistics course with a minimum letter grade of “C” or better; or take an approved calculus or statistics course at Cornell. Search the “Breadth/Distribution” category on the right-hand side of the Cornell Class Roster to find CALS code "MQL-AG”.

Other Physical Life Sciences (OPHLS-AG):

Offerings in this area explore additional physical and life science subjects and quantitative literacy (math) courses. Search the “Breadth/Distribution” category on the right-hand side of the Cornell Class Roster to find CALS code "OPHLS-AG”.

Students must complete four courses of 3 or more credits each from the following seven categories of courses in the humanities and social sciences (Cultural Analysis "CA-AG," Foreign Language "FL-AG," Human Diversity "D-AG," Historical Analysis "HA-AG," Knowledge, Cognition, and Moral Reasons "KCM-AG," Literature and the Arts "LA-AG," Social and Behavioral Analysis "SBA-AG"). At least one course MUST be completed in three different categories. Human Diversity (D-AG) is a required category and MUST be completed. No more than two courses in the same department will be counted toward the distribution requirement. Search the “Breadth/Distribution” category on the right-hand side of the Cornell Class Roster to find CALS codes ending with "-AG.” Also refer to Distribution Requirement Codes.

Cultural Analysis (CA-AG)

These courses study human life in particular cultural contexts through interpretive analysis of individual behavior, discourse, and social practice. Topics include belief systems (science, medicine, religion), expressive arts and symbolic behavior (visual arts, performance, poetry, myth, narrative, ritual), identity (nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality), social groups and institutions (family, market, community), and power and politics (states, colonialism, inequality).

Foreign Language (FL-AG)

Over 50 languages are offered at Cornell. The Language Resource Center links the offerings on its website.

Human Diversity (D-AG)

Courses considered for the CALS Human Diversity requirement will meet the following criteria:

  • At least 50% of course content focuses on the critical analysis of historically or contemporary marginalized communities and the culturally specific contexts that produce unequal power relations in terms of race, nationality, ethnicity, indigeneity, sexuality, disability, religion, gender, or economic status.
    • Definition of “marginalize”: Any group with reduced access to social status, political influence, economic advancement, educational advancement, health care, information, or any of the goods, services, and powers of a society can be considered “marginalized.”  Causes of marginalization may be related to ethnic status, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, geography, economics, and government policies.  Those who exist on the furthest margins of a society are frequently subject to several of these forces.
  • The course is a minimum of three academic credits.
  • The following learning outcomes are assessed as part of the course: After taking the course, students will be able to
    • Demonstrate knowledge and awareness of the cultural practices, values, and beliefs of diverse groups of individuals.
    • Demonstrate understanding of systemic oppression at multiple levels.
    • Assess one’s own cultural perspective and the potential for associated biases.

Students are required to fulfill a Human Diversity requirement with a pre-approved Cornell course. Search the “Breadth/Distribution” category on the right-hand side of the Cornell Class Roster to find CALS code "D-AG”. Cornell courses that do not have "D-AG" in Courses of Study will not be considered by student petition; however, Instructors may have their courses reviewed for the requirement by submitting a course proposal to the CALS Curriculum Committee.

  • Transfer courses will only be considered for Junior transfer students who have taken an appropriate course at their prior institution and whose schedule does not allow space to take a Human Diversity course at Cornell. These situations will be reviewed individually after a required appointment with CALS Student Services.These courses analyze historical or contemporary marginalized communities and the culturally specific contexts that produce unequal power relations in terms of race, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, gender, and economic status. 
Historical Analysis (HA-AG)

These courses interpret continuities and changes—political, social, economic, diplomatic, religious, intellectual, artistic, scientific—through time. The focus may be on groups of people, dominant or subordinate, a specific country or region, an event, a process, or a time period.

Knowledge, Cognition, and Moral Reasoning (KCM-AG)

These courses investigate the bases of human knowledge in its broadest sense, ranging from cognitive faculties shared by humans and animals such as perception, to abstract reasoning, to the ability to form and justify moral judgments. Courses investigating the sources, structure, and limits of cognition may use the methodologies of science, cognitive psychology, linguistics, or philosophy. Courses focusing on moral reasoning explore ways of reflecting on ethical questions that concern the nature of justice, the good life, or human values in general.

Literature and the Arts (LA-AG)

These courses explore literature and the arts in two different but related ways. Some courses focus on the critical study of artworks and on their history, aesthetics, and theory. These courses develop skills of reading, observing, and hearing and encourage reflection on such experiences; many investigate the interplay among individual achievement, artistic tradition, and historical context. Other courses are devoted to the production and performance of artworks (in creative writing, performing arts, and media such as film and video). These courses emphasize the interaction among technical mastery, cognitive knowledge, and creative imagination.

Social and Behavioral Analysis (SBA-AG) 

These courses examine human life in its social context through the use of social scientific methods, often including hypothesis testing, scientific sampling techniques, and statistical analysis. Topics studied range from the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes of individuals to interpersonal relations between individuals (e.g., in friendship, love, conflict) to larger social organizations (e.g., the family, society, religious or educational or civic institutions, the economy, government) to the relationships and conflicts among groups or individuals (e.g., discrimination, inequality, prejudice, stigmas, conflict resolution).

9 credits total, of which at least six must be in written expression. Oral expression is not required by the college, but may be required for some majors. If not required, all nine credits may be in written expression. Writing in the Majors courses do not count toward the writing requirement. Search the “Breadth/Distribution” category on the right-hand side of the Cornell Class Roster to find CALS codes "WRT-AG” or "ORL-AG."