Study Abroad FAQs

Fall 2020

What is Cornell’s policy for fall study abroad?

The Office of Global Learning has made the difficult decision to cancel fall 2020 study abroad, including remote study abroad, due to ongoing travel, health and safety concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that if you choose to study abroad this fall, you do so without access to university financial aid and travel resources and will not be permitted to transfer credit back to Cornell.

Is this decision final?

The decision is final and cancellations are in place for the entire fall term. A change to international travel criteria will not impact this decision.

What are my next steps?

Your Education Abroad advisor will reach out to help you consider next steps. With college approval, you can complete the process to defer to spring 2021 or fall 2021.

All fall and academic year 2020 applications will automatically be deferred to spring 2021. Fall 2020 applicants will need to submit a new proposed course of study form for the appropriate semester in order to obtain college approval. You can request to defer your application to fall 2021 or academic year 2021, or you can withdraw your application if you will not be spending a semester abroad.

If the semester you plan to study abroad would be your final semester at Cornell, you must make sure that your college will approve study abroad in that semester.

Does my study abroad program know about Cornell’s decision? Do I need to notify them?

The Office of Global Learning has notified all fall abroad programs with applicants of Cornell’s cancellation of fall study abroad. You may need to be in touch with your program to confirm deferral or withdrawal, so they can proceed with any processes related to refunds.

Why can some students Study Away, while others can’t Study Abroad?

Study Away is a short-term offering for students who cannot return to Ithaca because of factors outside their control. These study locations are only available to students who are citizens of that country or reside in a visa-free zone.


Spring 2021

We are still advising for and students may continue to apply to spring 2021 study abroad opportunities. At this point, we do not know whether COVID-19 will impact spring 2021 study abroad.

This is an ongoing and evolving situation that could change with little warning. We expect partners to be flexible with late dates for program deposits, and we encourage all students to avoid making non-refundable payments (deposits, airfare, housing) until closer to the time of departure.

Spring 2020


What is the grade option policy for spring 2020 study abroad students?

Questions about Spring 2020 study abroad grade outcomes should be directed to your college or school student services or advising office.

Cornell outlined a process for spring 2020 study abroad and exchange students to receive S/U grades on their Cornell transcripts and/or to drop a study abroad course if students requested a change in grading option by May 23, the same deadline given for Cornell students in formerly Ithaca-based courses. 

Will Cornell accept S/U grades on my transcript from my abroad institution?

Yes, for Spring 2020 semester only, Cornell will accept S/U grades on an abroad transcript.

  • Pass/fail grades are acceptable as long as they represent the equivalent of a C- or higher. This is an exception to the normal policy that requires the equivalent of a C or higher for abroad grades to count for Cornell credit. 
  • This does not affect the total number of S/U grades that you are able to take at Cornell.
  • S/U grades for this semester can be used to fulfill college and major requirements, with approval from your college/major.
Will Cornell put an S/U grade on my Cornell transcript even if the institution gives me a letter grade?

Yes, if you asked Cornell by the deadline given to Cornell students (May 23) to change a grade to S/U.

You will receive the grades as they appear on your abroad transcript, unless you requested the S/U option.

Can I have some of my spring 2020 courses S/U and others for a letter grade?

Unfortunately, we can only make all grades S/U or letter, depending on your response by May 23.

Some programs have blocks or multiple terms within a semester. Students who have earned letter grades for a block unaffected by COVID-19 will have letter grades for that period even if they choose S/U for the later block(s) or term.

If I choose to have my study abroad courses appear on my transcript with the letter grade, will these letter grades factor into my Cornell GPA?

No, whether you choose to have your study abroad courses appear on your transcript with a letter grade or as S/U, grades for study abroad courses will not be factored into your Cornell GPA. 

If I withdrew from a course by May 23, will it show on my Cornell transcript?

Cornell will post to your Cornell transcript all courses that appear on your abroad transcript. If you receive a W or an F for a course that we know you dropped by Cornell’s May 23 deadline, it will show as “W*” or “U*” with a note that it was dropped with Cornell’s permission.

Will there be some kind of note on my transcript indicating that my semester was disrupted by COVID-19?

Every Cornell transcript will include the following notation: “During the spring 2020 semester, the COVID-19 pandemic required significant changes to coursework. Unusual enrollment patterns and grades reflect the tumult of the time, not necessarily the work of the individual.”

Is there anything else I should know about changing from a letter grade to S/U?
  • Since the S/U option is widespread, many schools and programs are agreeing to accept S/U grades when they would normally expect to see a letter grade.
  • Some graduate and professional schools are reporting that they will accept an S/U grade if it was mandatory and you had no option to receive a letter grade, but would consider it differently for students who had the option to receive a letter grade.
  • If a graduate school or organization asks for your abroad transcript in addition to your Cornell transcript, they will still see your letter grades if they appear on the original abroad transcript even if the S/U is on the Cornell transcript.

Continuing Support

Who can I talk to about this life-altering experience?

We recognize that for many students, the experience of departing and the COVID-19 impacts on their study abroad semester were extremely stressful and unnerving. We strongly encourage you to seek support from family, friends, and other loved ones. At the same time, if you need someone to listen and help you process the experience, we want you to find the support you need.

Cornell Health provides a wide range of services – including medical care and counseling – through video visits and other telehealth visits, available to students without a copay. To schedule an appointment, students can call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155. Find out more about self-care and support resources at Cornell.

I loved being abroad and am upset that I missed the rest of my time abroad. Can I study abroad again another year?

We know this has been a great disappointment and interruption for students. At the same time, we hope you can find ways to celebrate the many wonderful memories of your abroad experience. Despite your early departure, your global learning journey can continue!

While much depends on your academic progress, do reach out to us for guidance. We are excited to help you explore other global opportunities, both at home and abroad.

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