The Arts & Sciences Experience

Students walk through the Arts Quad.

By: Devon Jones, Assistant Director of Admissions for Diversity, College of Arts and Sciences

When I joined the Arts & Sciences Admissions team in 2017, the college overwhelmed me in the best possible way. Never had I been somewhere that offered such a wide variety of fields to study, hands-on experiences and research opportunities, and access to so many world-class faculty members. Allow me to briefly introduce (or reacquaint) you to the College of Arts & Sciences, and some of the qualities that make us unique.

Who We Are
The College of Arts & Sciences is the liberal arts college at Cornell. We are proud to offer an unparalleled depth and breadth of study, and invite students to continue exploring their current interests or discover new ones along the way. With 40 majors, 59 minors, and 2,000 courses housed in the college alone, there is no shortage of fields of study. We offer everything from Africana Studies to Archaeology and Classics to Chemistry. In Arts & Sciences, we do not have a core curriculum, but rather, a set of academic distribution requirements from which students will choose courses. Among others, these include the physical sciences, cultural studies, math, biological sciences, and the arts and literature. Additionally, 2/3 of the courses completed will be outside of their declared major. Through extensive offerings and the flexibility to explore across disciplines, our students enjoy an academic experience tailor-made to their unique interests and passions. We prepare our students to think, read, and write critically—skills that will prove useful in any field they choose to enter upon graduation.

Through a layered approach to advising, various members of our advising teams guide our students throughout their academic journey in Arts & Sciences. Academic deans help students explore the college’s resources and understand our curriculum requirements, faculty advisors are a go-to source for information about major requirements, and we assign peer ambassadors to all first-year students who can answer questions from a student perspective to ease the transition from high school to college. In addition to advising, our A&S specific Career Development team helps prepare students for the many paths they may venture down upon graduation. Our skilled staff specializes in assisting liberal arts students in identifying their long and short-term goals. The team provides support in areas such as, but certainly not limited to, career exploration, job or internship search, interview preparation, and pre-professional advising.

Signature Programs
One of the best benefits of being in Arts & Sciences is having access to signature programs available to our students. Below are just a few such programs.

Humanities Scholars Program
The newest initiative exclusive to A&S is the Humanities Scholars Program. The program fosters independent, interdisciplinary undergraduate research in the humanities, and provides a supportive community, through a series of curated courses, structured mentorship, special programming, and research opportunities and funding. Funding for undergraduate research projects will be available, as well as summer stipends to support participants who wish to complete unpaid summer internships in the humanities.

Milstein Program in Technology & Humanity
The Milstein Program in Technology & Humanity combines our liberal arts education with cutting-edge programs and courses for undergraduates at Cornell Tech. As part of the Milstein Program curriculum, students have workshops, as well as work in teams on community-engaged projects. One such project is H.A.A.T – Seeing with Sound, an initiative focused on designing a wearable product to help visually impaired people navigate their environment using the same technology employed in driverless cars.

College Scholar Program
Students interested in being a College Scholar will apply in the fall semester of their sophomore year. They will design a unique interdisciplinary major, organized around a question or issue of interest, and pursue a course of study they can’t find in an established major. College Scholars explore subjects with a broader integration of related disciplines than most students would attempt.

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship
The fundamental objective of this program is to address the problem of underrepresentation in the academy at the level of college and university faculties. We can achieve this goal, in part, by both increasing the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue a Ph.D. and supporting the pursuit of Ph.D.s by students who have demonstrated a commitment to the goals of Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. The program is designed to encourage fellows to enter Ph.D. programs that prepare students for professorial careers.

Who We’re Looking For
Please star, underline, and highlight the following: there is no box applicants have to stay within for us to consider them for admission. As the largest college at Cornell, home to roughly 4,600 undergraduate students, you might imagine just how diverse our student body is. The Arts & Sciences community encompasses students from all over the country and globe, who bring with them unique interests, life experiences, and perspectives. We value this rich diversity and look to continue building a community that reflects our ever-changing world.

There isn’t one specific thing we’re looking for as we review applications. In general, applicants who prove to be the strongest in the pool: demonstrate academic excellence and intellectual curiosity, have a commitment to liberal arts education, and are individuals who we believe will be a positive and impactful member of the Arts & Sciences community. Rest assured that we fully understand how different school systems are across the world, even how different schools can be in the same city. In addition to the attributes previously mentioned, the strongest candidates have challenged themselves within the curriculum made available to them.

I hope this brief overview of the College of Arts & Sciences proves helpful as you assist your students in navigating the college search and application process. If you feel you may have students with whom A&S would be a great mutual fit, encourage them to explore all that we have to offer and learn more about our admission requirements and process. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at as_admissions@cornell.edu if I can provide additional information about the college and/or the application process.