Course Guidelines

Minimum Grade Requirement

A letter grade of C minus or better is required for all prerequisite courses for regular Fall applicants.  Early Acceptance Program applicants will need to show a B or better for all their prerequisite courses.

AP Credit

Advanced Placement credits with a grade of 4 or 5 are accepted for Physics and General Chemistry only. 

If a student receives a 3 or lower on the AP exam and credit is granted at the undergraduate institution, the student would need to do additional credits in that area to fulfill the requirement. The same is true if AP credits are earned for a basic prerequisite course other than Physics or General Chemistry. It is expected that a more advanced course(s) in the same subject will be listed with a college grade in fulfillment of our requirement. 

We must see grades for all prerequisites.

Pass/Satisfactory Grades

Pass/fail grades are not accepted, as we cannot accurately compare your course achievements with those of other applicants. You may submit a letter from your registrar stating that your Pass/Satisfactory mark is worth at least a C minus. Keep in mind that we would then convert your mark to a C minus when calculating your GPA. You may also substitute a course with a letter grade using the above procedures.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR PASS/FAIL DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC: Most colleges and universities moved their courses to online instruction due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the middle of the Spring 2020 semester and through the Summer of 2020.  Additionally, many are either requiring course work to be pass/fail or making it an option.  We do encourage students to think about the long-term benefits of continuing their courses with a letter grade if an option.  However, in either case we will accept pass/fail courses with a "pass" grade for prerequisite courses for the Spring and Summer terms 2020 without penalty.

Narrative Grades

These are not accepted for prerequisite courses, as we cannot compare your course achievements with those of other applicants.

Online & Distance Education

Cornell prefers prerequisite science courses to be completed in real classroom setting.

A few online & distance education courses are acceptable although laboratories must be completed in a real laboratory, not a virtual laboratory or home lab kit. Since a Distance Education course may not have a real laboratory associated with it, our prerequisites that do not require a laboratory (Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, the Advanced Life Science course, and English Composition or writing intensive courses) are good candidates for Distance Education.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR ONLINE LABS DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC: Most colleges and universities  moved their courses to online instruction due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the middle of the Spring 2020 semester and through the Summer term.  Because of this unavoidable change we will accept online labs for the Spring and Summer 2020 terms without penalty.  This will continue on a case by case basis for the Fall 2020 term.  If your instruction offers an in-class lab you should take that option.  However, if your college or university is completely online with no other option we will accept an online lab (for those prerequisite courses that require a lab).  Please complete a Prerequisite Substitution Form with documentation the lab will only be offered online.

If you have questions about completing prerequisites through Distance Education, please contact us at

10 Year Preference

We prefer your science coursework to be recent. Working in a related field to the science coursework often satisfies this preference. Science courses taken more than 10 years ago are acceptable, but not preferred.

12 Credits in Progress

You may apply with up to 12 semester credits (18 quarter credits) of prerequisite course work in progress at the time of application, with at least one semester of any two-semester series underway.  We must see grades for all other prerequisite courses, including at least one grade in Organic Chemistry on your initial transcript.  All prerequisite courses must be completed by June 15th of the year that you enter.

Biochemistry Credits

Some colleges offer Biochemistry for 3 credits only. If you have more than 3 semester credits of Organic Chemistry, we will substitute (only) one of those Organic Chemistry credits for Biochemistry. 

If you are on the quarter system and your course is worth 4.5 quarter credits, we can use 1.5 quarter credits from Organic Chemistry (if you have minimally 6 quarter credits of organic chemistry).

Students must have a minimum total of 13 semester credits (19.5 quarter credits) of Chemistry prerequisite course work (6 credits of General Chemistry, 3 credits of Organic Chemistry, and 4 credits of Biochemistry).

Prerequisite Substitutions

If you believe a course you have taken or will take is very similar to one of our course requirements (described on the generic prerequisite courses page (link to course description page)), yet your course title is not similar to our prerequisite course title, complete the Substitution Form. You do not need to complete this form for AP credit approval or for course titles that are very similar.