Information for Students

We understand that the transition to virtual instruction will be challenging for many students and faculty. This unprecedented situation is forcing all students and faculty into unchartered territory as we each do our best to maintain academic continuity in a wholly virtual environment. Doing this amidst uncertainty about the virus itself, changes in living situations, and concerns about loved ones makes it even more challenging. Please try to be as patient as possible as we navigate through this transition together, knowing that continued changes and updates are inevitable.

While courses will be taught remotely, many key resources will remain available, including libraries and The Learning Strategies Center support for undergraduate students.

 

Academic Calendar and Scheduling

Numerous changes have been made to the academic calendar. Key dates for this semester are:

  • First day of online instruction: Monday, April 6
  • Last day of drop/grade change: Tuesday, May 12
  • Last day of online instruction: Tuesday, May 12
  • Study days: May 13-15
  • Exam period: May 16-23

*Please note the following exceptions:

  • This revised academic calendar applies to all undergraduates except students in the Cornell in Rome or AAP NYC programs and those completing their semesters through study abroad.
  • The revised academic calendar also applies to all graduate students in research degree programs, except those enrolled in courses offered by Cornell Tech, which will maintain the existing calendar.
  • The revised academic calendar does not apply to many professional masters programs. Please refer to program-specific calendars for the following: ILR-EMHRM, DVM, all Law programs and Cornell Tech professional masters degrees (Meng, MBA, LLM).
  • The Law School and College of Veterinary Medicine have both modified their spring break timelines and resumed virtual instruction before April 6. Cornell Tech, which had already transitioned to virtual instruction along with some of our other NYC-based programs, will continue to conduct classes online. Please be sure to refer to your program’s leadership for guidance.

The following revised dates have been posted for university-scheduled preliminary exams that had been scheduled for after March 13. Final exams will follow the original final exam schedule, pushed back by one week. However, it is possible that instructors have altered the nature of the remaining graded assignments for the semester, including exams. You should make sure that you are aware of any changes that have been made.

Faculty are aware that they must be prepared to provide additional accommodations to students who may not have reliable access to an online exam; and that faculty who need to make accommodations for students, or who intend to move their prelim exam to a Monday or Wednesday, should communicate with their students in advance to determine the number of conflicts that may be created.

Changes to prelim dates
Originally Scheduled Prelim Date Proposed Alternative Prelim Date
March 19 April 9
March 24 April 14
26-Mar 16-Apr
April 7 April 21
April 9 April 23
April 14 April 28
April 16 April 30
April 21 May 5
April 23 May 7
April 28 May 7
April 30 May 7
May 5 May 7

Faculty have received the following guidance about time zone accommodations: Time zone accommodations may be necessary for students who live far away and are expected to attend class, take an exam or utilize office hours at a specified time.

A time zone accommodation for a student is generally not required for any course-related event that takes place between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. in the student’s time zone. Thus, an evening prelim scheduled for 7:30-9 p.m. EDT “works” for all students who live in the continental United States. On the other hand, a time zone accommodation would be made available to a student in the Pacific time zone who needs to take a 9-11:30 a.m. EDT final exam unless the student says they are OK taking an exam between 6-8:30 a.m. PDT.

Faculty will need to be flexible in terms of offering alternate exams, office hours, etc. Generally speaking, a student with a time zone issue should be accommodated so that the problematic event is handled as expeditiously as possible, typically within 24 hours.

The fall 2020 pre-enrollment process for undergraduates has been moved from April 27 to May 6 to mid- to late-June so that students can focus on their current coursework without the added stress of worrying about next semester’s course selection. Dates for pre-enrollment will be announced in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please reach out to your college advising office if you have any questions.

 

Grading

Students will have until May 12, the last day of instruction, to drop a course without a W or change the grading basis of their course to S/U. This applies to any full semester course, including courses that did not previously offer an S/U grading option, as well as 7-week courses offered in the second half of the semester. Between May 12 and May 23, the last day of the semester, students can drop a course with a W and petition their colleges to change their grading basis in any course from a letter grade to S/U or vice versa. Students can opt to take all of their courses S/U or make decisions on a course-by-course basis.

Courses in which a grade of S is earned can be applied toward fulfillment of graduation requirements, but courses in which a U is earned cannot. Please be aware that Cornell does not issue grades on a Pass/Fail basis; the S/U threshold for successfully completing and earning credit for a course is a minimum grade of C-. Credits taken S/U rather than for a letter grade this semester will be excluded from the maximum allowable S/U credits toward major or graduation requirements.

Remember that dropping below 12 academic credits may pose significant difficulty to your academic progress and may impact financial aid. You should contact your college advising office to discuss the potential implications of any drops or grading basis changes. Virtual student advising will continue to be available throughout the semester, as will other counseling and support services.

Please know that we considered input from thousands of students and faculty, and carefully examined our regulatory and technical constraints, before arriving at the revised policy described above. We realize that some students continue to wish that we had implemented a different policy; however, we ask that you respect this decision to be final.

The decision about whether to take one or more courses S/U is personal. You should choose what is right for you, knowing that as of April 1, over three-quarters of U.S. colleges and universities surveyed reported that they were implementing an optional S/U or P/F policy for the spring 2020 semester. This means that not only will Cornell faculty be supportive of your decisions, graduate programs and future employers will expect to see unusual grading patterns from the spring 2020 semester.

Due to external restrictions imposed on graduate and professional programs by relevant accreditation and oversight bodies, the grading policy modifications that may be possible vary across programs. Students should follow program-specific communications for guidance.

For the spring 2020 semester, courses in which a grade of S is earned will satisfy requirements for entering majors and minors, as well as graduation requirements for majors and minors. They will also satisfy college requirements for good academic standing.

All transcripts issued by Cornell University – for undergraduate as well as graduate and professional students – will include the following notation regarding the spring 2020 semester: “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.”

The Deans’ Lists will be suspended for the spring 2020 semester in all undergraduate colleges.

Grades of S and U are not given grade point values or considered in computing grade point averages. Therefore, if you take all of your classes S/U this semester, your GPA will remain the same as it was prior to the start of the spring 2020 semester.

For the spring 2020 semester, median grades will not be posted on official transcripts for undergraduates.

Dropping below full-time status, or 12 academic credits, may pose significant implications for your academic progress and financial aid eligibility. Students are urged to consult with an academic advisor in their college advising office prior to dropping any courses.

For international students, enrollment in a minimum of 12 academic credits is necessary to maintain legal F-1 visa status. International students are advised to consult with the International Services office by contacting international@cornell.edu.

Each of the courses that did not previously offer an S/U option has to be reprogrammed in the course catalog for the spring 2020 semester. In addition, the last day to drop also needs to be reprogrammed in the system. This is a time-consuming manual process. If you try to change the grading basis of a course before it has been reprogrammed, you will not see the option available in Student Center. Do not worry – instead, please set a calendar reminder to check back at the end of the month.

Faculty can see the grading basis you have selected on the class roster, which is dynamic and will update as students make changes. This means that once you make a change in Student Center, faculty could see this change if they check the student roster within Faculty Center.

Requirements for graduating with honors are managed at the department level. Please check with your faculty advisor and/or department chair for more information.

Traditionally, most health professions graduate programs prefer applicants to report grades for their prerequisites. Therefore, if possible, we encourage you to maintain letter grading in your required courses.

However, you should know that many programs have announced exceptions for the spring 2020 semester, though in different ways. We have been carefully monitoring the admissions policies of health professions graduate schools, which continue to evolve. For the latest information, please visit the health careers FAQ page. You can view a living document here, updated in real time, wherein medical schools can share their policies on S/U grading. Check this document for school-specific updates. Updates from all of the different health professional school umbrellas (e.g. AAMC, AACOMAS, TMDSAS, AADSAS) can be found on the NAAHP site.

We have heard that the majority of admissions offices will be flexible, both in recognizing S/U (or similar) grades for prerequisites and for test timing. Before making any decisions, you should consult with a health careers advisor.

For the spring 2020 semester, grades of S will satisfy conditions for enrollment into Cornell’s undergraduate colleges.

Yes, your work will continue to be assessed and your instructor(s) will give you feedback on your assignments, quizzes and exams. Whether you receive a grade of S or U will depend on the assessment of your work over the course of the semester.

The Cornell University Graduate School admissions committees for graduate and professional programs will take into account the significant disruptions and challenges associated with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic when reviewing applicants’ academic transcripts and other application materials. The admissions committees will respect decisions made by individual students and/or their academic institutions with regard to the enrollment in or adoption of S/U and other similar grading options during the pandemic disruptions. In addition, applicants will be invited to describe their individual experiences during the pandemic to provide context to inform the application review process.

Given emerging results from a survey of colleges and universities across the country, which indicate that the vast majority of undergraduate institutions have, like Cornell, decided to implement an optional grade system, similar principles about accepting S/U or similar grades without prejudice have been (and will continue to be) expressed and posted publicly on graduate school admissions websites. We expect that graduate and professional schools around the world will take into account the extraordinary circumstances posed by the pandemic when reviewing transcripts from the spring 2020 semester.

A grade of S (= minimum C-) shows that a student mastered enough of the content and training to progress to subsequent courses and/or to fulfill the learning requirements for a major, a minor, or a degree. A grade of P (= minimum D-) would not show that. If we had initiated a P/F option many students taking that option would have been earning a P that was actually equivalent to an S, but would still have faced increased risk of having to repeat the course, at Cornell or elsewhere, or to be assigned remedial work, a test, or another form of proven mastery before being considered prepared for a subsequent graduate school or professional licensing requirement.

 

Academic Progress

Dropping below full-time status, or 12 academic credits, may pose significant implications for your academic progress and financial aid eligibility. Students are urged to consult with an academic advisor in their college advising office prior to dropping any courses.

Students who need more time to complete their spring 2020 courses may ask their faculty for an incomplete (INC). Reasons for requesting an INC must be acceptable to the instructor, who will then establish specific makeup requirements. Policies related to the amount of time students have to complete INC courses, and the consequences of failing to complete remaining coursework within the time permitted, are determined by the student’s college of registry. Students are encouraged to check with their college advising office if they have questions.

Graduating seniors need to resolve any INC courses by June 9 in order to make the deadline for a spring 2020 degree date, and by August 17 to make the deadline for a summer 2020 degree date.

Yes. The extension for completing courses in which students have an INC grade will be extended to August 17.

Choices at individual colleges may vary, so please check with your college registrar. The recommended and most likely practice is as follows:

Students who can’t show the expected improvement during spring 2020 as required, but whose performance also doesn’t get worse, will remain in the status they had at the beginning of the term, whether warning or probation. Any grade of S will be counted as a positive step, even if the original expectation and goal was a letter grade of A or B.

Students whose measured performance and progress worsens will have another round of academic review before they would have any change in status.

Students who have been expected to resolve previous INC grades this term should still plan to resolve the INC or to show progress and continuing support from their instructor.

 

Online Courses

Online resources and virtual research help are available, but physical books currently are not. Make sure you check the Library’s service updates regularly as the situation is fluid.

The Cornell Store has partnered with VitalSource and publishers to provide free access to eBooks through May 25, 2020. Students can use their cornell.edu email address to access up to seven titles through VitalSource Helps. For detailed instructions and information visit: https://www.cornellstore.com/faqs. Please be in touch with your instructor(s) to discuss concerns you may have about accessing course materials.

The Cornell Store has extended the rental return deadline to September 5, 2020. If you are not returning to Cornell for the fall semester, we will provide a solution for returning your rentals at no expense to you. If you wish to keep your rented textbooks permanently, you may do so by converting your rental to purchase by contacting The Cornell Store’s Customer Care.

In our experience, you will have the best success connecting from China if you can connect via cellular service. Verizon and AT&T are widely available, and students report that local carriers and Wi-Fi in China also allow access to Canvas and Zoom. Faculty have been made aware of the fact that Canvas is accessible in China, but Google is not, meaning that students may not be able to access their Cmail accounts. We have recommended that faculty communicate with you by sending announcements in Canvas or using the Canvas Inbox to mail students directly from Canvas (since this is not linked to Cmail). Zoom is also currently accessible in Canvas and can be used for you to communicate directly with faculty if needed.

Yes! The Learning Strategies Center’s support courses, tutoring and consultations have all moved online. Check lsc.cornell.edu for up-to-date information. The LSC will also continue offering tips and resources for managing your time effectively and will add new tips to help you with your transition to online learning.

Student Disabilities Services (SDS) will discuss disability accommodations with students who register with their office. If you have a disability that may impact your ability to participate in online learning, please contact your SDS counselor, who can assist you with evaluating accommodation needs. If you are not registered with SDS but have concerns about the possibility of needing a disability accommodation in order to be able to participate in online learning, please follow the steps to register with SDS. Go to: https://sds.cornell.edu/get-started. Questions can be sent to: sds_cu@cornell.edu.

Both Cornell University policy and New York state law require professors to make reasonable academic accommodations for religious observance. However, it is your responsibility as a student to communicate your religious/spiritual needs to your professors. Please be sure to communicate early with your professors, and keep in mind that a “reasonable accommodation” may not be your preferred accommodation. If you have questions regarding how to work with a professor, please contact the Office of Spirituality and Meaning Making (OSMM), home of Cornell United Religious Work (CURW). For additional assistance, please contact Oliver Goodrich, Associate Dean of Spirituality and Meaning Making at og68@cornell.edu or 607-255-6003.

Students should set their current time zone in Canvas, which will change assignment due dates/times to reflect your current geographic location. This is particularly important for students making a religious observance at a time that may differ from Cornell’s main campus in Ithaca.

 

Tools for Remote Learning

The Learning Strategies Center has developed a checklist to help students prepare to learn remotely. Below are additional resources to help get you started.

 

International Students & Scholars

Yes. On March 9, 2020, the U.S. government issued guidance that recognized the need for flexibility around temporary arrangements for remote or online learning for international students. Provided that you continue to make normal progress in a full course of study (required by regulation), temporary arrangements for online or remote learning will not negatively impact your status.

If you are graduating this spring and planning to apply for OPT, we do not recommend that you depart the U.S. for the full remainder of the semester. In order to be eligible, you must be in the U.S. in F-1 status, with a valid I-94 document. Please contact an advisor in International Services if you have questions about your OPT application process and travel.

The Office of Global Learning has created an FAQ to help address many questions that our international students and scholars may have. Our advising staff is also available remotely to support Cornell's international community and campus partners. You can also email us at international@cornell.edu for most questions and services, including CPT, OPT, tax questions and extensions, or you can reach us by phone at 607-255-5243 during our regular business hours for urgent advising questions. Cornell Tech students should continue to work with Cornell Tech Student Services during office hours or by email at studentservices@tech.cornell.edu.

 

Summer Session

Following public health guidance, all previously scheduled Cornell Summer Session online courses, along with the Prefreshman Summer Program (PSP), Veterans’ Summer Bridge Program, and Cornell in Washington courses, will be delivered online.

All other on-campus Summer Session courses, including Cornell’s Adult University education vacations held during the summer term, will be canceled or converted to online offerings.

With guidance and support from the provost’s office and in collaboration with college academic units, the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions (SCE) is working as quickly as possible to identify and mount additional summer online courses to help ensure continuity of education for undergraduate and graduate students. Contact SCE for more details and updates.

 

Undergraduate Admissions

Cornell University is closely monitoring COVID-19, and Cornell University Undergraduate Admissions understands that this is a very difficult and uncertain time for freshman and transfer students around the world applying to colleges and universities. Cornell University Undergraduate Admissions are working closely with affected admitted students on a case-by-case basis and will do all that we can to assist and support those who have been accepted to the university. Those who have questions are asked to be in touch with us at admissions@cornell.edu.

While much will depend on the progression of the virus in New York state, at this time we plan to welcome fall 2020 admits to campus in August. In the meantime, all requirements and deadlines for matriculation are as published at newstudents.cornell.edu. Please be sure to view the New Students website and to reach out directly to the appropriate department with any questions or concerns.

 

Graduating Seniors

All students enrolled in semester-long PE who have met the attendance requirement will receive credit for the semester. Given the unusual circumstances, the university leadership has waived the physical education requirement for graduating seniors who have not yet completed them.

Yes, given the circumstances, you will receive a waiver.

 

Financial Matters for Students

 

Student Health Plans & Student Health Fee

 

Financial Aid

 

Other Financial Questions