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Academic Policies

How Study Abroad Works at Cornell

Policies for semester and short-term study abroad shape how study abroad works at Cornell. Policies may be at the university level or specific to a college. On this page, you'll find full information about eligibility, academic and student conduct requirements, study abroad timing, and more.

Reach out to your college study abroad advisor if you have questions about your eligibility, college approval, or courses and credits. Education Abroad advisors can help you with program requirements and student conduct questions.

Jump to:

Eligibility and Requirements | Study Abroad Timing | Program Approval | Leave of Absence and Residency | Courses and Credits | Conduct and Integrity Abroad | Academic Accommodations

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Eligibility and Requirements

Undergraduates studying abroad must meet these eligibility requirements:

  • Be in good academic standing.

  • Meet college study abroad policies.

  • Complete any student conduct sanctions before the commitment deadline.
  • Meet the program's requirements for admission at the time of application.
  • Be registered at Cornell with an active NetID at the time of application and while abroad.
  • Be able to study abroad and graduate on time.

Students abroad for the semester or year are required to study the language of the country while abroad.

Maintain your eligibility until departure!

To retain approval to study abroad, students must remain in good academic standing, fulfill onboarding requirements, and continue to meet standards for student conduct. Students who fail to meet these requirements prior to study abroad can have approval to study abroad revoked. Note: Study abroad programs don't ask Cornell for students' GPA after they are admitted. 

If you have been given “conditional approval” to study abroad by your college or Education Abroad, you must fulfill the conditions for approval by the commitment deadline to study abroad.

Language Study

Language Study Prerequisite: Colleges and programs set policies on prior language study for semester study abroad. Students must meet both college and program requirements. Short-term programs do not have prior language study requirements unless required by the program itself.

Language Study Abroad: Cornell values engagement with the local culture while abroad. Language is a part of your host country’s culture and an important part of your experience. In non-English speaking countries, students must take a course in the language of the host country when studying abroad for a semester or year. Colleges define what types of language courses fulfill this university requirement. Students on short-term or multicountry programs are not required to study the language while abroad.

Incompletes and Grade Appeals

Approval to study abroad with an unresolved incomplete is a college decision. Colleges may choose to give conditional approval for study abroad to students who need to resolve incompletes or grade appeals or for other reasons as needed. Depending on the circumstances, students not in good academic standing may be able to petition their college to be approved.

In all cases, you must work with your college to resolve incompletes and maintain or secure permission to study abroad. You must have full college approval by your commitment deadline in order to pursue study abroad in the following semester.

Student Conduct

Cornell University requires a student conduct record check with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards for participation in all undergraduate study abroad programs. While student conduct history does not prevent a student's participation, records are taken into consideration during the application review and must be released for the student to be evaluated for Cornell approval to study abroad.

Incomplete Sanctions: Students who have incomplete sanctions may apply to study abroad, but will receive approval to go abroad conditional upon successful completion of all sanctions by the commitment deadline to study abroad. Students with a scheduled hearing may apply to study abroad, but a decision on approval will be deferred until the conclusion of the hearing process—including appeals, if applicable—and the completion of any relevant sanctions.

Probation: Students on probation or deferred suspension may apply during the probation/deferment period to study abroad after they have completed sanctions. Students who have completed probation or returned from suspension can be approved by Cornell to study abroad. Some programs may require students to give permission to share their conduct status and may deny participation by students with records of probation or suspended.

Suspension: Individuals who are currently suspended are not registered as Cornell students and are therefore not eligible to apply to study abroad or take courses as a study abroad student.

Students studying Gates building

Study Abroad Timing

You can study abroad for up to two semesters, subject to college approval. There is no limit to participation in short-term study abroad programs through Cornell. Short-term study abroad with non-Cornell programs is limited only by each college’s transfer credit policy.

Semester study abroad is approved only when it fits into your eight-semester plan to graduate from Cornell. Study abroad is not approved if it extends the time to graduation or occurs after graduation.

Program Dates and Early Exams

Program Start and End Dates: You are responsible for knowing your program’s start and end dates—which may differ greatly from Cornell's academic calendar. Students are not approved to participate on programs if the start or end date overlaps with a different Cornell semester.

Late Arrival or Early Departure: Students must arrive in time for mandatory orientation and stay through the end of their last scheduled exam. If for any reason you can't attend during the entire expected period, you must seek approval from the host university for late arrival or early departure. A personal or family trip, graduation, internship, or important family event may not be considered an acceptable reason by the host institution.

Early Exams: Cornell respects the right of partner institutions to set their academic calendars and policies for early exams. Students may ask for permission to take exams early following accepted protocols outlined by the host institution or its faculty as long as the assessment is of equivalent value, but this is in no way guaranteed and should not be expected. Cornell will not endorse requests for early assessment for non-emergency reasons if such assessment is not offered by the host institution. 

Extending from Semester to Year

You may request approval from your college to extend your study abroad experience for a second semester on the same program by submitting a new Study Abroad Participation and Course Approval form. The deadline to submit the new form to your college is the commitment deadline. Education Abroad will confirm your extension from a semester to a year only after receiving approval from your college and program.

Students who wish to study on a different program must apply to the second program by the regular Experience deadline.

Study Abroad for Graduating Seniors

College policies vary regarding permission to study abroad in the final semester. Graduating seniors must meet with their college study abroad advisor to confirm eligibility. If you are eligible, follow your college's petition process to submit a petition for approval to study abroad in your final semester. 

Cornell cannot confirm completion of the degree until your transcript from abroad has been processed. Study abroad in your final semester can delay your graduation if the classes are over after the end of Cornell’s semester or if the transcript is not received in time. Check with your Education Abroad advisor if you have questions about when a transcript is likely to be available. Estimated dates cannot be guaranteed.

  • May Degree: Your classes and exams must be completed by May 31, and your transcript must arrive by July 31. (Note: Fall semester transcripts received after February 29 will result in May degree conferral.)
  • August Degree: Your classes and exams must be completed by August 31, and your transcript must arrive by September 30. (Note: Even if the spring term ended before May 31, a transcript received between August 1 and September 30 will result in August degree conferral.)
  • December Degree: Your classes and exams must be completed by December 31, and your transcript must arrive by February 28. (Note: Spring semester transcripts received after September 30 and before March 1 will result in December degree conferral.)

Program Approval

The only way students can receive Cornell academic credit for study abroad during the academic year is by participation in study abroad programs administered by the Office of Global Learning or a college or school and approved by the student's college. Each college sets its own requirements for semester study abroad program approval.

Examples of college-administered programs include Cornell in Rome from AAP, Cornell-China and Asia-Pacific Studies Program (CAPS) from A&S, and college-based exchanges. College exchanges that are exclusively open to one college cannot accept students from other Cornell colleges or schools.

Petition Process for Unapproved Programs

Cornell offers a wide range of program opportunities vetted and approved by the Office of Global Learning and Global Cornell's travel safety experts. If you wish to attend a non-approved program, a formal petition is required to obtain Cornell's one-time recognition of the program.

Petitions for non-approved study abroad programs must meet the same standards and adhere to the principles that guide study abroad at Cornell. This includes the ability of the petitioned program to enter into a contractual agreement with Cornell on a student-by-student basis. 

Petitions are reviewed as exceptional opportunities that meet specific academic needs not available through existing programs. We encourage you to apply to an existing program as a back-up in case your petition is not approved. Learn more about the petition process

Leave of Absence and Residency

Study Abroad During Leave of Absence

If you study at an international program or university while on a leave of absence, Cornell cannot offer any administrative, health and safety, or financial aid support or award transfer credit. There is no exception for current institutional partners, such as Cornell Global Hubs.

Study Abroad After Leave of Absence

If you're on a voluntary leave of absence, you can petition your college to apply to study abroad in the semester you return. If you're on a health leave or required leave of absence, you can start the application process following your return to Cornell if you meet all eligibility requirements.

Study Abroad in Your Home Country

Part of the value of study abroad is learning about a new country or culture. For that reason, students will not be approved to study abroad in a country if that country is their permanent residence.

For international students: If you take classes in your home country (“country of residence”), this is not considered study abroad. If you plan to study for a semester or more, you must request a leave of absence. You will then need to petition your college to accept the credit. If you have questions about your residency, please contact Education Abroad.

Students commuting across Cornell campus in front of McGraw tower

Courses and Credits

Full-time study enables full academic engagement. You must enroll in a regular full-time course of study—the equivalent of 15 or 16 Cornell credits—while abroad for a semester, even if you need fewer credits for graduation. If a crisis arises while you're abroad, you can ask your college for permission to drop down to the equivalent of 12 Cornell credits. 

In most cases, credit from abroad is capped at 15 Cornell credits per semester. Learn about transcripts and credits, including how study abroad grades appear on your official Cornell transcript.

Major Credits, Transfer Credits, and More

Credit Equivalency: It is the equivalent number of credits—not classes—that counts. Students may need to enroll in more or fewer classes abroad to take a full load in that academic system. If you have questions about credit values or the standard course load, check with the Education Abroad advisor listed on the academics tab for your program in Experience.

Fulfilling Major and Graduation Requirements: Credit for approved courses counts toward Cornell graduation requirements. Colleges determine whether courses taken abroad fulfill graduation and distribution requirements; majors and minors determine major/minor credits. College policies vary regarding in-college credit. Refer to the Study Abroad Participation and Course Approval form that is part of your study abroad application.

Forbidden Overlaps: Students must choose their courses carefully to ensure that material does not repeat coursework they have already taken or plan to take as part of their Cornell degree.

External/Transfer Credit: Semester study abroad credits count toward the number of credits that can be brought in from an external institution, so transfer students may have less flexibility.

Note: CALS, Dyson, and ILR exchanges do not affect the credit limit for transfer students in those colleges. Cornell in Rome, CAPS, and Nilgiris Field Learning Program have Cornell course codes, so do not count as credit from an external institution.

Pass/Fail and Passing Grades

Pass/Fail and Audit: You must take all courses abroad for a letter/number grade. Students are not permitted to enroll in courses as pass/fail or audit courses.

Passing Grade for Credit: You must earn the equivalent of a “C” or higher to receive credit at Cornell. Some majors may require a higher grade for major credit. Education Abroad uses the grade conversion scales produced by World Education Services when communicating the equivalence of a "C" for passing/satisfactory credit.

Add/Drop Abroad

You may experience a scheduling conflict or simply want to take a different class once you arrive at your program. Email your academic or  college advisor for approval before making a change. Take note of your host institution’s deadlines. Checking with your advisor is key if the change affects your major or distributional credits. If you fail to notify your advisor of changes, your credits may not transfer back to Cornell as planned.

You must work with your program and college regarding permission to drop classes. In exceptional cases (health, family emergency, or other crisis), colleges may allow students to take 12 credits if permitted by the host program.   

Cornell and Online Courses

Cornell Courses: To support local learning, students are not allowed to register for Cornell courses while abroad except in special cases (particularly if required for ROTC or honors thesis). You may petition your college to take a necessary Cornell course online while abroad.  

Online Courses: Cornell values learning on location during study abroad. As a result, online classes at the host institution are not approved unless required for health and safety reasons. If you are taking an online course through Cornell or another institution before or after your semester abroad, it must not conflict with your program’s start or end dates. Contact your college if you have questions about special circumstances.

Conduct and Integrity Abroad

Any violations of Cornell's Student Code of Conduct that occur abroad and are reported to Education Abroad will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. Additional sanctions will not necessarily be applied, particularly if the matter has already been addressed by the partner institution.

Academic Integrity Abroad

As Cornell’s Code of Academic Integrity states: “The values most essential to an academic community are grounded on the concept of honesty with respect to the intellectual efforts of oneself and others.” 

While a registered student abroad, you pledge to uphold the values of academic integrity as defined by your host institution. Any violations of academic integrity reported to Education Abroad will be shared with the academic integrity hearing board of your college or school. Additional sanctions will not necessarily be applied, particularly if the matter has already been addressed by the partner institution.

Research Ethics Abroad

If you plan to conduct research while abroad, you are responsible for ensuring it conforms to the best ethical practices, as well as meeting any requirements of your host institution’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). If your host does not have a local IRB process, then you must meet the requirements of Cornell’s Institutional Review Board.

Follow Cornell’s IRB decision tree to determine if your research is subject to review. Undergraduate research conducted solely to meet course requirements does not need to go before the review board, while research that will lead to a thesis or other publication must.

Academic Accommodations

Cornell's partner universities and study abroad programs are committed to providing an inclusive and successful educational experience for all students. If you need accommodations for disability, medical, or religious reasons, please reach out before you arrive to communicate your need following your program’s procedures.

You may be asked to provide documentation from Student Disability Services (SDS). Accommodations may not be the same as those provided at Cornell. For more information, visit the SDS resource page for International Travel.

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