Transfer Requirements: Cornell University Case Study

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April 18, 2011 in Admissions, All Transfers, Community College Articles, Four-Year Transfer Articles, Ivy Plus, Requirements, Specific College

Meeting requirements for the transfer application is crucial; missing even one item could disqualify your application from being considered. Unfortunately, the requirements are not always straightforward. This post examines the process of determining course requirements for transfer applicants using Cornell University as a case study.

Specifically, let’s say you want to apply to transfer as a junior into the Applied Economics and Management program, a highly competitive major, within the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). Begin by following this website pathway: CALS Home > Prospective Students > Admissions > Transfer > External > Required Coursework. You’ll end up on this page showing required coursework for external transfer students.

The top of the page tells you that transfer applicants to most majors within CALS need

  • one full academic year of intro Biology with hands-on labs
  • and two college Writing/English Composition courses or one Writing/English Composition course and one Public Speaking course.

Those requirements sound quite specific already, but look closely at the requirements for particular majors. Click on the one you’re interested in, here, Applied Economics and Management. Now the list is extremely detailed and there are different requirements depending on whether you’re applying as a sophomore or junior transfer. Here are the requirements for students that want to transfer as sophomores:

  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Calculus I
    • Encouraged (but not required):
      • Public Speaking
      • One full year of Introductory Biology (labs not required)
      • One course in either Chemistry or Physics

The requirements for junior transfers are similar, but there are many more required courses, given that you would have two full years of college before transferring:

  • Three College Writing/English Composition courses
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Calculus I
  • Statistics

The list looks cumbersome. Note that taking the “encouraged” courses will give you a competitive edge.

Let’s further investigate the College Writing/English Composition requirement because it looks like a major hurdle. Three College Writing/English Composition courses is a lot. However, if you dig carefully enough, you’ll find some semblance of loopholes on the AP credit, transfers, and substitutions page.
Here are the key points about applying AP credit toward this writing course requirement:

All students who score 5 on the Princeton Advanced Placement Examination in English receive 3 credits… Of students who score 4, only Agriculture and Life Sciences students may apply their 3 credits toward the writing requirements of their college.

For most majors, the university will accept nothing but a 5. For students in CALS, a 4 on one of the AP English exams will cover one writing course requirement. Going back to the example of trying to transfer as a junior, even with a 4 on one of the AP English exams, you still have two more required writing courses to fill, so you’ll have to take actual college writing courses. Here’s key information about college transfer credit for these writing courses:

… students must provide evidence that the course was offered on a college campus as part of its normal curriculum and that the work done was comparable to that in a First-Year Writing Seminar (see the guidelines–it is not sufficient to write, say, one 30-page term paper). Courses not taken in the academic year must be at least six weeks long. Students must earn a B+ or better in the course.

Cornell seems “picky” about these writing/composition courses. Now it’s time for you to look at the course catalogue of your current college and seek writing courses that are comparable to Cornell’s First-Year Writing Seminar courses. You can download the spring 2011 brochure of these classes here.

Even after looking at Cornell’s brochure and the brochure of your current school, you may still not be quite sure if writing courses at your college will count toward Cornell’s writing requirement. Try calling the office of admission or registrar, and, if you really want to keep things honest, take notes on whom you speak to, when, and what they tell you. You can keep a log of phone calls (or emails) in an Excel spreadsheet with the following column headings:

School | Name | Position | Date | Notes

If any doubt remains, use the “additional information” section in the Common Application or school-specific application to explain that you did all you could to meet all the transfer requirements and include information about when you called the school and what they told you.

Each school has its own requirements for transfer applicants. With a keen eye, you can be sure to meet every requirement and even go beyond them to put together the best possible application possible.

(Photo: Joe Shlabotnik)

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4 responses to Transfer Requirements: Cornell University Case Study

  1. What’s the fastest and easiest way to find out if the school you are interested in has any class transfer requirements?

    • I can’t think of anything better than the school’s website right now. We’re building out a directory of colleges with transfer-specific information, but that’s still a little while away!

  2. Do you guys take college requests for transfer requirements case studies?

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