Enrolling in Courses

Course enrollment refers to the process of adding, changing grading options or credit hours, or dropping classes. 

Course Requirements

The Graduate School does not set specific course requirements for earning a degree but students are required to enroll in a minimum of 12 credits per semester. After consulting the special committee, or the advisor for a professional student, students enroll in courses appropriate to their academic program. The Graduate School does not set specific course requirements other than the student is required to enroll in a minimum of 12 credits each semester.

  • Students not enrolling in sufficient courses must be enrolled for research using either Graduate School or, if available, departmental course numbers assigned for that purpose. Graduate School research courses will be automatically adjusted at the end of the drop period to bring total credits to 12.​

Enrolling in Courses

Enrollment must be completed within 15 calendar days of the start of the semester and is accomplished using Student Center. Review Classes + Enrollment at the University Registrar’s website for enrollment dates and information.

Some fields require your advisor to authorize your online enrollment. Check with your graduate field administrator (GFA) or the Office of Student Services at the Graduate School if you have trouble signing up for courses.

Some courses require permission of the instructor to register. To get permission, complete a course enrollment form, available from the Graduate School, and get the signature of the course instructor.

Grading Options

When you enroll in a course for credit, you may be offered the option of taking it for a grade or pass/fail. Not all classes offer this option.

Incompletes (INC)

If you do not finish all the course work by the end of the course, the professor may assign you an incomplete (INC) and give you time to finish. However, instructors are not required to do this and may instead deduct unfinished work from your final grade.

Dropping Classes or Changing Grading Options

Courses can be dropped or grading options and credit hours can be changed as follows:

  • Add/change: The last date to add a class or change credits is within 15 calendar days of the start of the semester.
  • Drop: The last date to drop a class or change the grading basis is seven weeks after the start of the term. All drops and changes must be made through your Student Center.

Please be aware that changes to course enrollment are not permitted after official course enrollment dates. In accordance with university policy, the Graduate School will only accept course enrollment petitions for truly exceptional circumstances. If you drop a course after the drop date your transcript will show a “W” signifying that you withdrew from it. The deadline to drop with a “W” is the last day of classes.

Changing an ‘Incomplete’ or ‘No Grade Reported’

You have one year from the end of a course to satisfy its requirements. Once you have satisfied this requirement, your professor will change your grade from “Incomplete” (INC) or “No Grade Reported” (NGR) to a letter grade. That grade will appear with an asterisk on your transcript. If you do not satisfy course requirements, the INC or NGR becomes a permanent part of the transcript. You can retake the course, but both the INC or NGR and the most recent grade will be on your transcript.

Auditing Classes

Auditing a class means you regularly attend the class, but do not participate in all aspects of the course. You won’t receive any credit hours and the course will be marked with a “V” on your transcript. Some courses do not lend themselves to auditing, and in such cases instructors may not allow it.

Graduate students may enroll in any course offered by the university, though some courses impose restrictions or prerequisites. Your special committee may want you to concentrate solely on your research, so you should discuss potential elective courses with your committee members.

Part-Time Study

Generally, part-time study is not permitted except under the following circumstances:

  1. A Cornell University staff member may be eligible to apply for graduate admission to research and professional degree programs as part of the Employee Degree Program (EDP). While participating in the EDP, the staff member continues to work full-time and completes courses and degree requirements part-time.
  2. Established Ithaca-area residents may be admitted on a part-time basis to both research master’s and professional master’s degree programs. Study for a doctorate, however, may not be conducted in this manner. Graduate fields must accept or reject applicants seeking admission for part-time study following the same admissions standards as are applied to applicants for full-time study. This program is not to be used for applicants who were refused admission to full-time study.