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Academic Policies

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) faculty, students, and administration support and abide by the university Code of Academic Integrity. CALS adheres to the university guidelines regarding academic integrity including the establishment of an Academic Integrity Hearing Board. Read more about the Academic Integrity Policy.


These are the main tools you'll use as you enroll in classes:

A large part of your coursework will be outside your major, the College encourages you to explore topics that interest you. 

Choosing Your Courses

To receive a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences degree, you will need to fulfill all of the degree requirements listed in the Courses of Study. 

  • Because some courses have overlapping content, they cannot both be counted toward your degree. Check this list of overlapping courses before you enroll in courses.
  • Courses taken with the S/U option can be used to fulfill college distribution requirements. 
  • You can monitor your progress toward degree completion by checking your DUST (Distributed Undergraduate Student Tracking) report here. The DUST report is updated after each semester to reflect your progress toward completing college requirements.

At the end of each semester, the Committee on Academic Achievement and Petitions reviews the records of all students and takes appropriate action, including but not limited to issuing warnings, placing students in the Academic Success Program, granting students leave of absence, advising students to withdraw, or place them on required academic leave or required academic withdrawal. Students may submit a written statement explaining their academic performance for committee consideration during the grade review process.

CALS expects all students to maintain good academic standing, which is defined as:

  • Semester GPA of at least 2.00.
  • Cumulative GPA of at least 2.00.
  • Satisfactory completion of a minimum of 12 or more academic credits per semester.
  • Reasonable progress toward meeting the requirements to graduate. Reasonable progress means completing courses to meet both college and major requirements to facilitate graduating within eight semesters.
  • Students must enroll in at least one CALS course each semester until 55 CALS credits have been successfully completed.

Time Conflicts: The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will have a similar time conflict policy as in past semesters. The University has encouraged a no time conflict policy given the desire to minimize situations that will create stress for students.

Time conflict petitions will be considered if the following criteria are met:  

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will have a similar credit limit policy as in past semesters. Students who wish to enroll in additional credits are encouraged to discuss academic loads with their academic advisor or major department. 

CALS undergraduate students may enroll in up to 22 credits maximum (22 credits are allowed when add/drop begins). It is recommended that entering first-year students enroll in a maximum of 18 credits in their first semester.

Petitions to Exceed Maximum Credit up to a max of 25 credits will not be considered, except for students expecting to graduate in May 2023. Petitions will be considered based on the following criteria, if applicable: 

  • Case-by-case review showing strong academic performance with a heavy credit load. 
  • GPA of at least 3.3 for the previous few semesters
  • No grades of incomplete
  • The course is required for graduation with confirmation by the Academic Advisor.  
  • Timely petition submission (available in DUST). Petitions will not be accepted after the university add deadline.   

Through Student Center enrollment pages or submission of a completed add/drop form (only open during the add/drop period), students may add and drop classes during the specified enrollment periods (pre-enrollment and add/drop) of each fall and spring semester. Students select and enroll in up to 18 academic credits during the pre-enrollment period through Student Center and up to a maximum of 22 credits during Add/Drop. 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.

Specific deadlines and further instructions regarding course enrollment are available in the Course Enrollment and Credits section of the courses of study and the Class Roster each semester. Note: individual courses may have add/drop deadlines separate from the University dates. Please be sure to check.

Electronic Student Add/Drop Enrollment Request Form 

 Voluntary Leave of Absence 

A student may choose to request a voluntary leave of absence (VLOA) due to an opportunity or personal circumstances that are not related to a health condition. Students seeking this kind of leave have an expected return date after the end of the current term. A student seeking a VLOA is responsible for initiating the request by submitting the online Cornell Leave of Absence and Withdrawal Request.

  • Deadline: A student may request a VLOA at any time after the student has commenced attendance at the university. If the VPLOA is for the current term, the Last Day of the Semester is the deadline (see the academic calendar).
  • Duration: A student is not permitted to return from a VLOA after an academic term has begun.  A VLOA is granted for up to five years. A leave exceeding five years results in an official withdrawal from the University. Due to changing curriculum and major requirements, requests for readmission from a leave five years or greater require reapplication through CALS Admissions. 
  • Student Status: Students on a VLOA may not enroll in any courses offered by the University. Students on VLOA are not registered with the university and therefore are not eligible for privileges afforded to registered students, including, but not limited to, residing in university housing, accessing university resources, and receiving direct supervision by faculty members.
    To satisfy Cornell degree requirements, courses taken at an external institution must be pre-approved. Credit for courses completed at foreign institutions during a VLOA will not be accepted for transfer credit unless students return to their countries of permanent residence during their VLOA.  Study Abroad undertaken during a VLOA will not be accepted as academic credit toward the Cornell degree.
    For international students, taking a VLOA may have implications for the student’s visa status. International students are advised to consult with the Office of Global Learning, International Services, regarding federal immigration requirements.
    The student’s college or the university reserves the right to change a VLOA to a required leave or withdrawal if an academic or disciplinary review determines it appropriate.
  • Transcript Notation: A student approved for a VLOA will have “Leave of Absence” noted on the student’s official transcript. The student will receive a grade for any course that was completed prior to the VLOA request date.

While a student may take a leave at any time, the college retains the right to add conditions that must be met before a student may return from leave. Students would be notified if any conditions for return were added to their leave. An example of when a condition for return may be added is if the student is in questionable academic standing at the time of their leave request and demonstration of successful coursework completion while on leave may be added as a condition of return.

If the student submits the VLOA request after the published deadline to drop classes, the student will receive the “course withdrawal” notation (W) for any courses that have not been completed. The student is not eligible to take an incomplete or receive a grade for a course when the leave date precedes the class end date.

Health Leave of Absence

Students with health concerns considering a Health Leave of Absence (HLOA) should first schedule a consultation with the Cornell Health Leaves Coordinator healthleaves [at] For more information about the process and steps, refer to the Health Leave of Absence section on the Cornell Health website.


A student who decides to withdraw from Cornell University for personal reasons or matriculation in another institution of higher learning, with no intention of returning, is responsible for submitting the online Cornell University Leave/Withdrawal form.  The student’s withdrawal from the university will be effective the date the student submits the form. Students not requesting leave and who fail to become registered will be withdrawn from the university.  For more information, refer to the University Registration section of the website. 

  • Deadline: At any point throughout the term, the student can request to withdraw from the institution. Once withdrawn, the student must apply for readmission for any future enrollment. Readmission to the university is not guaranteed.

Students may not be returned until any Bursar, Loan, Collections, or Enrollment holds are cleared from their account. Please log in to Student Center to view any holds and contact the appropriate offices for more information.

Voluntary Leave of Absence

A student requesting to return from a VLOA must petition to return through DUST. A completed form must be submitted no later than July 31 for a fall semester return, or no later than November 30 for a spring semester return. These deadlines are firm to allow students ample time to make arrangements for housing, financial aid, and to clear any outstanding holds. Any petitions to return from VLOA that include conditions are reviewed by the Committee on Academic Achievement and Petitions.

Health Leave of Absence

Students who are ready to return from a Health Leave of Absence (HLOA) must work with the Health Leaves Coordinator to initiate the return process. First, email the Cornell Health Leaves Coordinator healthleaves [at] For the remaining steps, refer to the Health Leave of Absence section on the Cornell Health website.

The university offers a broad range of diverse courses. Many of these courses have overlapping content, and students must make their selections carefully to ensure that they will receive credit for each course they take. Students who enroll in courses with overlapping content will only receive credit for one of those courses. Within the "Forbidden Overlaps" section of the Courses of Study website, you can find the list of courses with overlapping content if you scroll down to the "Forbidden Overlaps" section

Graduating Early

Students who are contemplating to graduate one or two semesters early should ensure they will satisfy all college and major requirements in time.  A meeting with your faculty advisor is recommended to be sure you fully understand and can complete all major requirements.  Students are able to apply non-Cornell (transfer) credit to graduate in less than 8 academic semesters. Students wishing to make any changes to their degree date are able to request an updated degree date in the first semester of the junior year. Although personal or economic reasons might factor in, please consider that your time at Cornell University is a rare and special opportunity where you can engage freely and intensely in courses, study abroad, and participate in research. 

  1. On the CALS Resources webpage, choose 'CALS Application to Update Degree Standing'
  2. Submit the online form for review

Delay Graduation (Ninth Semester)

It is expected that students will make satisfactory academic progress on graduation requirements each semester and will complete requirements for graduation within eight semesters. Students may request to delay graduation to complete requirements for the college, including requirements for one major. Delayed graduation will be approved only for compelling academic reasons that prevented completion of requirements within the expected period. Compelling academic reasons is defined as a circumstance beyond a student’s control that prevented taking the necessary courses or credits in a timely fashion.  Requests to add an additional major or minor will not be approved for study beyond the eighth term. The policy does not allow for an exception for adding second majors, minors, or specialized coursework.

Finish Elsewhere

In some cases, students need an additional course beyond their expected graduation date and are unable to complete this course at Cornell University. In this situation, a student can request to complete their course work at another institution (up to 8 academic credits). To do this a student must complete the form to Complete remaining coursework/credits at another institution.

  1. Attain pre-approval of the course the student would like to take by completing a transfer pre-approval form.
  2. On the CALS Resources webpage, choose 'CALS Student Petitions'
  3. Choose the bullet 'Complete remaining coursework/credits are another institution'
  4. Submit the petition
  5. Request an update to the expected degree date

Once the course is complete the student must send an official transcript to the CALS Student Services Office verifying a grade of “C” or better. When the transcript is received, the students degree will be posted for the next eligible degree date (example: transfer received June 5; the student will be an August Graduate).

Students wishing to make any changes to their degree date, including finishing elsewhere are able to ask questions and request their record to be changed through DUST.

The grade of incomplete is appropriate only when two basic conditions are met (1) the student has substantial equity at a passing level in the course with respect to work completed. (2)The student has been prevented by circumstances beyond the student’s control, such as illness or family emergency, from completing all of the course requirements on time. While it is the student's responsibility to initiate a request for a grade of incomplete, reasons for requesting one must be approved by the instructor. The instructor will establish specific make-up requirements and deadlines for completion.

CALS students should not re-enroll in a course where they have received an incomplete (INC). Instead, coursework should be completed under the direction of the course instructor. Generally, deadlines are two successive semesters, but instructors may require shorter deadlines.  If a deadline is not entered, two successive semesters serves as the default deadline. If coursework is not completed within the designated time period, the notation of Incomplete (INC) will be converted to a failure (F*) or unsatisfactory (U*/UX*) grade depending on the grading structure of the course. Once a CALS student has graduated, no additional work can be completed. Evidence of an incomplete remains permanently on the transcript. When the course has been completed, a grade is entered with an asterisk (*), indicating that it was not completed during the regular semester. 

Note: A student may not graduate with an Incomplete (INC) on the transcript.

More information can be found in the Grading Guidelines section of the courses of study.

Prorated tuition is a University policy. Visit the University Registrar's website for the conditions that must be met in order for undergraduate students to be considered for prorated tuition.

All applicants for prorated tuition should be aware of the possible impact that this enrollment status may have on financial aid, student loans, scholarships, on-campus employment, health insurance, or other considerations. It is the responsibility of the student to resolve these situations prior to submitting the application. To determine if you are eligible to apply for prorated tuition, please schedule a meeting with the College Registrar.

Students wishing to pursue research opportunities may enroll in courses such as research or independent study. Some students enroll in research-focused courses for more than one semester. While the course number may be the same, these courses represent a progression of research and scholarship and are not a repetition of the same material. Students are expected to demonstrate positive forward development in their knowledge and scholarship.

Some topics courses, colloquia, and seminars carry the same course number and title. These courses, from semester to semester, focus on a different topic or area of study. Although students may enroll in the same course more than once, the content of each offering varies. For more information about how repeat coursework may impact financial aid, see the Course Repeats and Financial Aid Eligibility site. For more information, visit the Courses of Study in the "Repeated Courses" section

Students are able to repeat a course at another institution, however if the student has successfully completed the course at Cornell, it will not transfer onto the students record.