Frequently Asked Questions
1. HOW DO I DECLARE A GOVERNMENT MAJOR?
One needs to pass two courses with grades of C- or above; they need not be introductory courses. Advanced Placement courses do not count for the major (though they can count toward general Arts College credits).
Major applications are available in the Department Office, located in 210 White Hall, or here:
o Major Application (PDF)
2. HOW DO I GET A GOVERNMENT FACULTY ADVISOR?
Students are assigned an advisor when they are accepted into the major. You will be informed of your acceptance and advisor assignment by e-mail shortly after the application is submitted. If you need any further information about your advisor assignment, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. WHAT IS MY PROFESSOR/ADVISOR’S CONTACT INFORMATION?
4. HOW CAN MY GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT FACULTY ADVISOR HELP ME AND HOW OFTEN SHOULD I SEE MY ADVISOR?
Each student should meet at least once or twice each semester with his or her Department faculty advisor. Your advisor will give you academic advice about choosing courses and completing the Major. To make the most of these meetings, bring a rough list of the courses you would like to take, a draft of your proposed course schedule, and a list of questions with you. The advisor is also available for one-on-one meetings to discuss your academic progress, your future intellectual/career plans, and your applications for graduate school or law school. It is best to plan meetings with faculty advisors well in advance, avoiding last-minute requests for assistance.
5. WHICH GOVERNMENT COURSES SHOULD I TAKE FIRST?
Students can enter the Major once they have completed any two courses. Our courses typically do not have prerequisites. However, we assume that students are gradually building up their understanding of the field as they make progress in the Major. We strongly recommend that students take introductory courses before they attempt to take courses at the 3000 level. This preparation is particularly important for students who wish to enroll in 4000 level courses. Students will find that after they complete the Introductory course in a particular sub-field (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory), the higher level courses in that sub-field will be more accessible. In short, students are given a lot of freedom to structure the major themselves, but will benefit from coursework that establishes a foundation at the introductory level before proceeding to more advanced work at the 3000 and 4000 level.
6. HOW DOES THE ON-LINE ADD/DROP SYSTEM WORK?
Most students will not use paper add/drop forms.; they add or drop their courses on-line using Course Enroll. If a course has an enrollment cap, it may be full. (For example, our 4000-level seminars are limited to 15 students). Check the course listings to see which courses are capped and if you are having difficulty adding a course, contact the Undergraduate Administrator in White 210, and/or the instructor; they will inform you about the cap and waitlist rules for enrolling in that particular course.
Occasionally, the College designates the student as someone who must obtain his/her advisor’s approval. Once the advisor is satisfied with the student’s plans, he or she will give permission. The College will keep a student on this special case list until the particular College requirements are satisfied.
7. WHAT IS PLAGIARISM AND WHAT ARE THE RULES THAT GOVERN ACADEMIC CONDUCT?
Plagiarism is a major offence that can result in the student’s expulsion. The university’s code of academic integrity states that it is an offence to knowingly represent the work of another person as your own work. All outside assistance and material from published sources must be acknowledged in a footnote or in-text citation. Typical examples of plagiarism include: inserting text copied from a book or article (whether print or online) without fully and correctly citing the source; copying material from the internet and failing to indicate where you found it (you must cite the author and source and give the URL); and misrepresenting something written by another person as your own academic work. Cheating on tests or examinations is also forbidden, of course. It is the responsibility of the student to understand the code of academic integrity and to observe its rules. For further information please consult the Code of Academic Integrity. For more information about the academic integrity, cheating and plagiarism, please consult the College web site and use this on-line tutorial: plagiarism.arts.cornell.edu/tutorial/logistics2.cfm.
Get a writer’s manual like the 8th or latest edition of Kate Turabian’s A Guide to Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, and use it to learn proper methods for citing different kinds of sources. It is essential that Arts and Sciences students master citation forms using scholarly sources like Turabian. Do not rely on internet web sites for footnote tips.
8. I AM A DOUBLE MAJOR. DO I GET ANY SPECIAL EXEMPTIONS FROM THE GOVERNMENT MAJOR REQUIREMENTS?
Where College requirements are concerned, double majors do not have to do “electives;” the College considers the second Major as sufficient evidence that the student has achieved the required breadth in the course of study. Majors who have a second major can count a single course for both majors if it is accepted in both.
9. HOW DO I APPLY FOR THE CORNELL IN WASHINGTON PROGRAM?
Cornell in Washington has a program office in 2314 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall. (255-4090) where you can get information about the program as well as applications. They also have information on the web at https://www.ciw.cornell.edu/.
10. WILL COURSES I TAKE IN WASHINGTON COUNT TOWARD MY MAJOR?
4998, the core course that most Majors take in Washington, counts as two upper level government courses (4 credits each) toward the Major. Other courses offered in Washington can also count toward the major if they are cross-listed with . However, students should note that Cornell in Washington courses cannot be used to satisfy the Major Seminar requirement unless taught by Department professors.
11. WHAT IS A GOVERNMENT MAJOR SEMINAR, AND HOW DO I ENROLL IN ONE?
“Major Seminars” are arranged particularly for government majors who are seniors, but can also be taken earlier. Every government major must take at least one of these seminars. They are government courses numbered 4000.xx. Preference in admitting students to these seminars is given to majors over non-majors, and seniors over juniors. The seminar requirement can only be satisfied by taking a 4000 level class taught by a faculty member in the Department of , and enrolling 15 or fewer students. Please visit the Department website to review 4000-level courses that can fulfill the senior seminar requirement. Cornell in Washington seminars can count toward this requirement if they are taught by Govt. Dept. faculty members. Outstanding undergraduates may also approach faculty for permission to enter graduate courses (the professor has full discretion over admission of undergraduates). Graduate courses taught in a seminar format with a maximum enrollment of 15 students may be used to satisfy the seminar requirement. Students who have completed the honors research course, GOVT 4949, may also use that course to fulfill the seminar requirement.
12. HOW DO I APPLY TO THE HONORS PROGRAM?
Applicants must have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 in the Major. They are also strongly encouraged to complete coursework in the relevant subfield of the thesis topic before filing out an application. Students apply for the honors program in the second semester of their Junior year (the deadline is March 1). The Undergraduate Office will send an email to students and post a flyer listing the deadline and requirements for the Program.
o Honors program application form (PDF)
13. I AM CONDUCTING SURVEYS AND INTERVIEWS FOR MY RESEARCH IN A GOVT CLASS. HOW DO I GET PERMISSION TO WORK WITH HUMAN SUBJECTS?
Please consult the Institutional Review Board for Human Participants.
14. “I INTEND TO APPLY FOR THE CORNELL ABROAD PROGRAM. WHAT DO I NEED TO DO BEFORE I APPLY?”
Before you apply to a university abroad, you should meet with your advisor and discuss your application. When you go abroad, you should take courses with genuine politics content if you want to obtain GOVT credit upon your return. And since most majors finish their introductory coursework by the Junior year, they need to take courses abroad that are upper-level. Make sure you are choosing your courses with this in mind. Some schools do not even offer courses, and they may say that taking a History or Geography course will be good enough. However, these courses will probably not count for the ten core government courses.
GOVT credit for courses taken away from Cornell is only granted for courses in which the grade is at least a B-. Cornell does not include abroad grades in the calculation of Cornell GPA, but the department only grants major transfer credit for courses assigned at least a B-. Studying abroad can be difficult: one encounters new teaching styles, exam-driven courses, and foreign languages. So keep this in mind when choosing abroad courses for which you will need Cornell credit. If you go abroad, keep your paperwork organized. See the following FAQ item for instructions on how to apply for transfer credit; you will see that we need a good bit of documentation when you return.
15. “I AM PARTICIPATING IN CORNELL ABROAD (CUA), AND I NOW HAVE THE SYLLABI FOR THE COURSES THAT I MIGHT TAKE WHILE I AM ABROAD. HOW DO I KNOW IF I WILL RECEIVE GOVERNMENT CREDIT WHEN I RETURN?”
The Department cannot guarantee course credit in advance, since students often have to shift into other courses once they get there, and the final grade must be B- or above. But we can inform you when we examine your application for Cornell Abroad coursework whether the courses you have selected are likely to win approval. Upon your return, we will look at many factors, including: the level of difficulty of the course, the assignments and course requirements, the amount and type of reading, and so on. Credit for coursework completed abroad must meet, at minimum, our own 3000 level course standards. Talk to your advisor, or the Director of Undergraduate studies, who will make suggestions and sign off on your proposed course list.
16. HOW DO I APPLY FOR APPROVAL FOR MY CORNELL ABROAD COURSEWORK WHEN I RETURN?
When students who have been abroad return to campus, they must see the Director of Undergraduate Studies to obtain transfer credit. It should not be assumed that credit transfer is automatic (hence the need for advance consultation before you leave).
When you meet with the DUS on your return from abroad, bring with you:
1. an official transcript documenting your receipt of a letter grade of at least B- (or equivalent);
2. a copy of the course syllabus, detailing the objectives of the course and listing reading and other course requirements, and copies of your coursework (preferably with your instructor’s comments on them)
3. the Cornell Abroad coursework approval form, along with the preliminary course approval form you filled out before you left. [Note our special rules on internships. We do not give any credit for internships except those organized as part of Cornell in Washington].
After the DUS has reviewed the course materials and made the final determination regarding whether courses will count towards the government major, and at what level of credits, the form will then need to be submitted to the Abroad Office to complete the process.
17. HOW DO I APPLY FOR TRANSFER CREDIT FROM ANOTHER UNIVERSITY?
You will need to apply for transfer credit in the Department of if you have taken coursework in the political science field at another university and wish to receive government major credit from Cornell. Students requesting transfer credit for the major need to present the following paperwork to the DUS:
1. an official transcript documenting your receipt of a letter grade of B- or better;
2. a copy of the course syllabus with the course description, the assigned reading, and any other course requirements;
3. copies of your course assignments (preferably with the instructor’s comments on them.)
4. the transfer credit form from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Note on independent Studies: The only Independent Study courses acceptable for major credit are those conducted with a Cornell faculty member according to Arts and Science College procedures, and conducted during a period in which the student is registered as a Cornell student. Further, the Cornell professor and student must meet at the Ithaca campus throughout the Independent Study. In short, no GOVT credit will be granted for Independent Study coursework at another university.
Ithaca College courses: Cornell students may take Ithaca College courses and apply for transfer credit under these rules. However, credit cannot be given for any Ithaca College course that is essentially the same as a Cornell course.
Taking courses elsewhere (e.g. at Ithaca College or by distance learning) while you are enrolled full-time at Cornell is not advisable. The additional credits are added to your Cornell course load for the semester in question, and the over-hours rule is applied. (Students with a 3.0 or better the previous semester may earn up to 22 credits in any semester. Students with less than a 3.0 may only take up to 18 credits). A course that raises your course load above the limit cannot be undertaken without permission from the College of Arts and Sciences. You should consult the College and obtain explicit permission in writing before attempting any course of study elsewhere during a semester in which you are enrolled at Cornell. The department will evaluate the transferred courses independently, and may assign fewer credits or a lower level for the course than the credits and level recommended by the host institution.
After you have all of your paperwork organized, please sign up for an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and bring all of the paperwork listed above to your meeting.
18. I AM A TRANSFER STUDENT. HOW MANY TRANSFER CREDITS CAN I APPLY TO THE MAJOR?
The College determines the number of transfer credits it accepts when you are admitted as a transfer student to Cornell. Subsequently, the Department, as the home of your Major, must decide how to apply your transfer credits towards the Major. We want you to graduate with a degree that is truly a Cornell experience. For this reason, at least half of all your course credits must be completed under Cornell’s direction. Make sure that when you add up all of your Cornell, Cornell in Washington, Cornell summer and winter session courses that they satisfy at least half of the total Major requirements. You also have to make sure that you take the right combination of courses (seminar, distribution within the major subfields, and 3000+ level).
19. I HAVE ALMOST FINISHED MY DEGREE AT CORNELL, AND I AM NOW TAKING COURSES AT ANOTHER UNIVERSITY TO SATISFY THE REMAINING COURSE REQUIREMENTS. HOW DO I OBTAIN TRANSFER CREDIT AND PERMISSION TO GRADUATE?
There are two steps involved here: 1) transfer credit and 2) permission to graduate.
1. Students who are finishing up the Major and the undergraduate degree by taking courses at another college or university must obtain transfer credit from the appropriate office at Cornell. If you have taken general Arts and Science coursework to finish your degree, then you should approach the College of Arts and Science for transfer credit. If you have taken courses to finish your degree, then you must apply to the Dept. of ’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for transfer credit approval. We will need the same documentation that is required for normal transfer credit procedures (see the transfer credit item above for a complete list.) The only exception for students in this situation is that they do not have to meet with the DUS in person. Make sure that you gather all of the required materials together, and send them in one package by regular US mail or special delivery to the DUS, Dept., White Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Please send only hard copy materials; we do not handle e-mail attachments for this purpose. And please be sure to include your contact information: telephone number, e-mail, mailing address, and so on. Note: It is against Department policy to allow Cornell Majors to obtain transfer credit for a course taken elsewhere when that same course will be used to satisfy the requirements of a different degree at the other institution, such as a Masters in Public Policy, or a law degree.
2. Once transfer credit has been approved – which can take several days -- you may apply to the Dept. of DUS for permission to graduate. It may be helpful for you to consult the other items on this FAQ page to double check that you have indeed completed the Major. Where the College requirements are concerned, you should check with the College Dean’s office, and the university publication, Courses of Study.
20. WHERE CAN I GET INFORMATION ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS MINOR?
Students choosing to minor in International Relations should see the International Relations Coordinator in 156 Uris Hall. For further information, please visit www.einaudi.cornell.edu/international-relations-minor.
21. HOW IS AN INDEPENDENT STUDY IN GOVERNMENT ARRANGED?
Majors may apply to do an Independent Study with a faculty member. The student should approach one of the faculty members with a concrete idea for a special course in the politics field, and ask that professor to serve as his or her Independent Study instructor. Normally, we expect that an Independent Study would take the student well beyond our existing curriculum. The proposed scholarly project should deal with a topic or area that is not covered by one of our existing courses. The student should try to approach the faculty members who have special expertise in the field in which the proposed topic is situated. The student should have already taken some coursework in the field in question. Once the student has obtained a faculty member’s informal approval, he or she then has to obtain the formal approval of the College. Pick up the Independent Study (IS) application form in the Department Office, and work with your IS instructor to fill in the details (proposed reading and research, course requirements, meeting schedule, number of credits, etc.). Then have both the IS instructor and your regular faculty advisor sign the application. Finally, submit the form to the College for official approval. A student cannot officially enroll in our Independent Study course, GOVT 4999, until the College approves his or her application. Undergraduates should enroll only in GOVT 4999; GOVT 7999 is reserved for graduate students. As previously noted, we do not give credit for internships organized outside of Cornell in Washington. Thus, your Independent Study must be an exclusively scholarly project; you cannot receive credit for any internship component. We cannot give transfer credit, abroad credit, or extra-departmental credit for an Independent Study; this course must be conducted at our Ithaca campus and it must be supervised by a faculty member.
22. HOW CAN I BE CERTAIN THAT I HAVE COMPLETED THE GOVERNMENT MAJOR?
Students should meet with their faculty advisors on a regular basis to discuss their academic progress. Two semesters before the expected graduation date, students should locate the Application to Graduate Form (with two parts) from the College of Arts and Sciences, and fill out part one at data.arts.cornell.edu/grad/grad_app.cfm. Before enrolling in spring semester courses in your senior year, make an appointment with your faculty advisor to complete part II of the form online together. It is, of course, the student’s responsibility to ensure that requirements for the Major have been met. You can check your progress using the following
Checklist for majors:
- Major Course Check List (PDF)
23. HAVE I COMPLETED MY ARTS COLLEGE REQUIREMENTS (AND WHAT IS MY DUST REPORT)?
Keeping track of college requirements is essential. To check your progress at any time, go to the College of Arts & Sciences website and click on "Dust Report". The report will display the College’s understanding of your progress in completing degree requirements. The Registrar will have noted your coursework and automatically allotted you appropriate credit toward each requirement. On rare occasions, errors crop up on students’ reports. If you find any discrepancies, or if you need clarification of the College’s assessment of your progress, you should contact Student Services at email@example.com.