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Cornell University
College of Veterinary Medicine

Prerequisite Credits and Courses

Credit Requirements

  • 60 completed semester credits (no bachelor's degree required)
  • At least 30 of the 60 credits must be completed at the upper-division level (300- and 400-levels) at a four-year institution.
  • 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, pending completion by the end of the Spring term prior to enrolling. We must see grades for all other prerequisite courses, including at least one grade in Organic Chemistry on your initial transcript. 
  • All transcripts for prerequisite courses must be completed by June 15 of the year that you enter.
  • If on the quarter system, you will need 3 quarters to fulfill the full year requirement.

Course Requirements and Recommendations

  • 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.
  • If your transcript's course titles differ significantly from the list of our prerequisite course titles, complete the Prerequisite Substitution Form. We prefer that you include a course syllabus, but in some cases the course description will work. A letter from a faculty member indicating the specifics of the course that meet the requirements is also acceptable. 
  • You do not need to complete a substitution form for (Advanced Placement) AP credit approval or for course titles that are very similar. Prerequisite substitution forms will continue to be reviewed after the September deadline. For a time-sensitive response, submit these forms well in advance of this deadline.
  • Labs are required for all science prerequisite courses except organic chemistry, advanced life sciences course, and biochemistry, although labs are recommended. If your college offers the lecture, but not the lab, you may want to either see if a faculty member would do an independent lab for that course or take the lab (or lab and course) at another college or university.

Prerequisite Course Details

General Grade Requirements

  • We must see grades for all prerequisites.
  • A letter grade of C minus or better is required for all prerequisite courses for regular Fall applicants. However, you may want to take a higher level course in the same subject area to show mastery, or retake a course if you wish to get a better understanding of the content. Consult your advisors at your college to make sure this is allowed and that it will not compromise any received financial aid.
  • Any grade below a C minus in a prerequisite course would require you to retake the class. If the course was an introductory course and you take an upper level course in the same subject area with lab and appropriate credits, then this could be used for the requirement. For example, if you received a D in general biology II, but then later received a higher grade in an upper level course, such as genetics with a lab, this course could be used for half of the general biology requirement.
  • Early Acceptance Pathway applicants must show a B or better for all prerequisite courses.
  • Pass/fail grades are not accepted, but you may submit a letter from your registrar stating that your Pass/Satisfactory mark is worth a C minus, which would be incorporated into our calculation of your GPA.
  • Narrative grades are not accepted for prerequisite courses.

AP Credit

Advanced Placement credits with a grade of 4 or 5 are accepted for physics and general chemistry only. 

If you receive a 3 or lower on the AP exam and credit is granted at your undergraduate institution, you must do additional credits in that area to fulfill the requirement. The same is true if you earned AP credits 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.

For any college-level courses taken in high school, you must have the transcript sent in from the college that awarded the credits (not your high school transcript).

English Composition/Writing Intensive Courses

  • 2 semesters or 3 quarters
  • Minimum credits: 6 semester credits or 9 quarter credits.
  • Courses under humanities/social sciences, literature designated as writing intensive.
  • If your college does not teach English composition (or you are waived out of the first year writing requirement), you may fulfill this requirement with any course in which 50% or more of your grade assesses your ability to write in proper style, as documented by a course description, syllabus, or an instructor’s letter attached to the Prerequisite Substitution Form. The other half of the requirement also needs to be accomplished prior to enrolling. Many colleges offer writing intensive courses in lieu of English composition. If your college transcript notes that your course is writing-intensive, that note is automatically acceptable and this form would not be required.
  • Other automatically accepted course titles on official transcripts: Writing, Technical Writing, Thesis, and Dissertation.
  • Not accepted: AP, foreign language, or communications credits.

Biological Science with Lab

  • 2 semesters or 3 quarters
  • Minimum credits: 6 semester credits or 9 quarter credits
  • A full-year of general biology or zoology with laboratory will fulfill this requirement. Labs should be in person on-campus.
  • If you have received AP credit for general biology, you should enroll in a full year of higher-level biology courses with laboratory for minimally 6 semester credits (for example, anatomy and physiology I and II with labs; cell biology and genetics with labs; etc.). The Admissions Committee will note in judging the quality of your academic program that you have fulfilled the biology requirement at a level higher than the minimum requirement.

General (inorganic) Chemistry with Lab

  • 2 semesters or 3 quarters
  • Minimum credits: 6 semester credits or 9 quarter credits
  • The expected course is a full year of general chemistry course with laboratory (usually for science majors). Labs should be in person  on-campus.
  • AP credits with a grade of 4 or higher, are accepted. If a higher level chemistry is taken due to AP credit, it will be noted on quality of academic program.

Organic Chemistry

  • 1 semester
  • Minimum credits: 3 semester credits; 4.5 quarter credits
  • Lab recommended


  • 1 semester; full academic year preferred 
  • Minimum credits: 4 semester credits; 6 quarter credits
  • Can be offered under the title of physiological chemistry or biological chemistry
  • Should be taken at the upper-division level with the prerequisite of organic chemistry
  • A laboratory is not required with this lecture course
  • Major topics usually covered are:
    • Proteins (amino acids and protein analysis),
    • Enzymes (kinetics, mechanism of action, and coenzymes),
    • Nucleic acids (nucleosides, nucleotides, and polynucleotides),
    • Carbohydrates, lipids, and metabolism (glycolysis, citric acid cycle, oxidative phosphorylation, urea cycle, etc.),
    • Biosynthesis
  • Most colleges teach a complete course in biochemistry in 1 semester. If you attend a college where biochemistry is offered as a full-year course, you should take the complete course, and your extra credits will be noted for the bonus for quality of academic program. 
  • Some colleges offer biochemistry for 3 credits only. In this case, we recommend you either: take biochemistry II; a biochemistry lab; if you have more than 3 semester credits of organic chemistry, we will substitute (only) one of those organic chemistry credits for biochemistry. Finally, you may take a 4-credit biochemistry course at another institution.
  • 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).

Advanced Life Science Course

  • 1 semester
  • Minimum credits: 3 semester credits; 4.5 quarter credits.
  • 300-400 level course (junior or senior level. An exception will be microbiology at a level of 200 or above)
  • Suggested courses include:
    • Microbiology (e.g. general or bacteriology);
    • Immunology (e.g. basic immunology);
    • Physiology (animal/comparative physiology, bacterial physiology, neurophysiology, cell physiology/histology, cell biology, endocrinology, developmental biology);
    • Genetics (genetics, molecular genetics, developmental genetics, bacterial genetics, or genomics)

Physics with Lab

  • 2 semesters or 3 quarters
  • Minimum credits: 6 semester credits or 9 quarter credits
  • This should be a full-year course in college physics with laboratory, not necessarily requiring calculus as a prerequisite. Labs should be in person on-campus.
  • The Admissions Committee will accept AP credits with a grade of 4 or higher in lieu of this requirement.

Additional Coursework

The above list of required courses represents Cornell's minimum requirements. Many applicants take more coursework beyond this minimum. The Admissions Committee will consider this extra work when making decisions regarding advanced and extra-credit coursework during the selection process. Other recommended courses include:

  • Anatomy/Comparative Anatomy
  • Animal Science
  • Behavior
  • Business Management or Administration
  • Calculus
  • Communication
  • Ecology/Population Biology
  • Embryology
  • Endocrinology
  • Entomology
  • Epidemiology
  • Invertebrate Zoology Medical Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Mycology
  • Nutrition
  • Parasitology
  • Production/Handling
  • Reproduction
  • Statistics
  • Toxicology
  • Virology

Online and Distance Education

Cornell prefers prerequisite science courses to be completed in real classroom setting. All lab components of a course must be completed in a real laboratory. Courses without labs such as organic chemistry, biochemistry, advanced life science courses, and English composition or writing intensive courses may be taken online.

If you have questions about completing prerequisites through distance education, please contact us at