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Students follow their passions by internally transferring across Cornell's nine undergraduate colleges.

January 25, 2023

Self-Discovery Sparks Internal Transfers Across Cornell’s Nine Undergraduate Colleges

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Nearly 80 majors are offered among the colleges and schools at Cornell, and finding the right one requires some students to transfer to other colleges and schools after admission.

Prospective students apply for admission into one of Cornell’s nine undergraduate colleges and schools: the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, the College of Engineering, the College of Human Ecology, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. 

Upon further exploration of the University’s academic resources, students may decide to transfer internally.

“‘Any person, any study’ is 100 percent compatible with students’ exploring their interests and learning that their goals have changed,” wrote Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for Enrollment, in an email to The Sun. “If that self-discovery is happening to a Cornell student, at any point after the first semester of enrollment, they’re eligible to apply for an internal transfer.” 

This was the case for Isabel Hou ’24, who transferred from the Nolan School of Hotel Administration to ILR last fall as her interests shifted from business to law.

“The ILR curriculum is much better suited for me as a student with a desire to pursue classes that focus on analytical writing and critical thinking,” Hou told The Sun. “I am certain I made the right decision in transferring.”

Kayciel Ramos ’24 switched from Dyson to CALS last fall to pursue a major in information science.

“[Transferring] was sparked by not feeling motivated or engaged in the classes and not doing well,” Ramos said. 

At Dyson, Ramos faced difficulty getting into required courses, and her schedule hindered her from taking classes she was interested in. Ramos had initially intended to double major but realized it was an inefficient use of her last few semesters at Cornell.

“Each day [I] just felt more regretful that I didn’t switch out sooner, so I just took a leap of faith,” Ramos said.

The deadline for Spring 2023 internal transfers closed on Dec. 1, and decisions were released around the second week of January. The application will reopen later in the spring for Fall 2023 transfers with a May 1 deadline. 

Internal transfer eligibility varies greatly from college to college. To transfer into the College of Arts and Sciences and AAP, students must have a minimum grade point average of 2.7, while Dyson requires a GPA of 3.0. Students are highly encouraged to take classes in their potential new college. To learn more about the internal transfer process, students can visit the website of the Office of Internal Transfer and Concurrent Degrees.

Because internal transfer applicants are already on campus, transfer applications emphasize demonstrating involvement in the Cornell community.

Burdick recommends that students reach out to contacts within their original school, while also reaching out to the admissions office in their target college to speak about different options. 

“Enrollment and Student Services is happy to talk with you to learn about your interests and help determine if an internal transfer is the best option for you,” wrote Lauren O’Neill, AAP Senior Director of Enrollment and Jennifer Michael, AAP Senior Director of Student Services, in an email to The Sun.

Additionally, some colleges host information sessions for students to learn more about the process. According to Brudick, it is important that students are organized and plan ahead. 

“Admission to the new college isn’t guaranteed and they might change their mind later about transferring,” Burdick wrote. “They might want to design a semester that will work whether they transfer or stay.”

Hou took two ILR courses as a Hotel student last spring. Discovering ILRLR 4035: Intersectionality in Disability Studies affirmed her decision to transfer. 

“The course truly encouraged freedom of thought, which I had lacked in my courses thus far at Cornell,” Hou wrote. 

Students who do end up applying face unique challenges in crafting an entire application to a new school. 

“You’ve grown a lot since you applied to Cornell for the first time. Internal transfer applicants have the ability to show us that growth in a variety of ways,” O’Neill and Michael wrote.

Most internal transfer reviewers are the same staff who read prospective students’ applications to the University, and they look for similar attributes in students: evidence of academic preparation, fit with the target college and clarity on what is motivating the transfer, according to Burdick.

“Internal transfer reviews can often include consulting the faculty who teach in the destination college and even the specific department,” Burdick wrote. “So making an effort to understand in even greater detail who those faculty are, what they teach, and what they expect of their students can be important.”

Ramos said she was able to adjust well to her new major due to prior experience with Information Science classes. Transferring has allowed her to meet new people and keep an open mind.

However, Hou said she felt awkward taking ILR first-year core courses alongside freshmen, such as Labor Relations, Law and History 1100: Introduction to U.S. Labor History. 

“I wish there was an alternative class for me as an upperclassman transfer student. Other than that, however, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in the ILR School,” Hou wrote. 

Ramos advises students to make change in spite of hesitations. 

“As soon as they [students] start having feelings of being unhappy with what school they’re in, then they should take action as soon as possible,” Ramos said. “Listen to your gut feeling.”

Correction, Jan. 26, 7:21 p.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the University held eight colleges and schools. The Sun regrets this error, and the article has been corrected.