Requirements for Biology Majors at Cornell

January 19, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Requirements for Biology Majors at Cornell

The specific requirements for biology majors at Cornell University may vary depending on the student’s specific track they are following within the major. However, in general, students pursuing a biology major at Cornell will be required to complete a certain number of courses in the biology department, as well as courses in related fields such as chemistry and physics.

Additionally, students may be required to complete laboratory work, independent research, and a senior thesis. It is recommended that students check with the biology department or academic advisor for the most up-to-date information on requirements for biology majors at Cornell.

Does Cornell have a Good Biology Program?

Does Cornell have a good biology program? The biology department at Cornell University is widely regarded as one of the best in the country. Students at Cornell University have access to a diverse range of research opportunities and resources, and the biology department at Cornell is highly ranked and held in high regard throughout the industry.

Students can choose to major in biological sciences if they are enrolled in either the College of Arts and Sciences or the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at this university.

Students who intend to earn a degree in biological sciences are required to complete a series of six classes that cover fundamental aspects of the biological sciences. They finish the Introductory Biology Cluster, which includes the Investigative Biology Laboratory, and two courses from one of the following three main fields of biology: Comparative Physiology, Cell and Developmental Biology, and Ecology and the Environment in Introductory Biology.

Female student looking into a microscope in a laboratory.

The prerequisite for entry into medical, dental, or veterinary school is the completion of an introductory biology course, which can be met by completing the Introductory Biology Cluster. All students who intend to major in biological sciences are required to take three additional core classes: an Introduction to Evolution and Diversity class, a Genetics and Genomics class, and a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology class.

Students often study Genetics and Genomics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Introduction to Evolution and Diversity in their sophomore or junior year. Students take Introduction to Evolution and Diversity either in their freshman or sophomore year.

None of the core courses should be taken in the senior year. Students should make it a priority to finish the Introductory Biology Cluster, Introduction to Evolution and Diversity, general and organic chemistry, and mathematics sequences by the time they are in their second year of high school if at all possible. In addition, students majoring in biological sciences choose a specialization from one of the major’s 14 available options.

Students should develop an appropriate academic course plan in close collaboration with their faculty adviser and professional advisors in the Office of Undergraduate Biology. All students who wish to concentrate on biological sciences are required to make a declaration of their intended major and concentration before the end of their sophomore year.

Students should make it a habit to check in on their progress in their major on a frequent basis and conduct an honest assessment of the possibility that they will achieve at a level that is commensurate with both their academic and personal objectives.

It may be necessary to reevaluate one’s dedication to the major as well as their true interest in the field if one’s performance in required courses is subpar (C- or lower). Students who have questions or concerns are strongly encouraged to discuss them with a member of the Undergraduate Biology Advising Staff in the Office of Undergraduate Biology.

The university is also home to a number of research centers and institutes that are recognized all over the world, such as the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and the Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology. These institutes give students access to cutting-edge technology and experts in a variety of facets of biology, and they are both located on the university’s campus.

In addition, members of the biology department’s faculty are highly regarded scholars and researchers in their respective professions, and a significant number of them have been honored with important awards and accolades for their contributions. In general, the biology degree program at Cornell is regarded as being among the very best available in the United States.

What are the Requirements for Biology Majors at Cornell?

What are the requirements for biology majors at Cornell? The prerequisites to earn a degree in biology with a concentration at Cornell University are quite rigorous.

Students who intend to earn a degree in biology from Cornell will be required to take a set number of classes within the department of biology, in addition to classes in other departments that are connected to biology, such as chemistry, mathematics, and physics.

The onus is on the student to familiarize themselves with the academic requirements necessary to earn the degree in their chosen major and to organize their course schedules accordingly. Requirements 1–10 must be taken for a letter grade (grades of D- or better count toward major requirements).

University students talking in front of a laptop.

After matriculation, students are required to finish all courses in the six basic areas of biology (numbers 1-3, 8–10 below) either at Cornell University or during a Study Abroad semester that has been pre-approved by Cornell.

Students are required to complete all focus courses for a letter grade unless the course is only available on a pass/fail basis. Exceptions have to be okayed by the student’s faculty advisor through the Biological Sciences petition in order to be considered valid.


  • All requirements for biology majors at Cornell need to be taken for a letter grade unless the course is offered S/U only. Exceptions may be approved via the biological sciences petition process.
  • A grade of D- or better must be obtained to count the course for the major.
  • 42-55 credits of foundation requirements.
  • 12-16 credits of concentration requirements.

Foundation Requirements

Introductory Biology Cluster: (6-7 credits)

Take two of the three following subject areas:

  • BIOMG 1350 – Introductory Biology: Cell and Developmental Biology
  • BIOG 1440 – Introductory Biology: Comparative Physiology or
  • BIOG 1445 – Introduction to Comparative Anatomy and Physiology, Individualized Instruction
  • BIOEE 1610 – Introductory Biology: Ecology and the Environment or
  • BIOSM 1610 – Ecology and the Marine Environment

Investigative Laboratory: (2-3 credits)

  • BIOG 1500 – Investigative Biology Laboratory


  • BIOSM 1500 – Investigative Marine Biology Laboratory (Shoals Marine Lab)

Evolutionary Biology and Diversity: (4-5 credits)

  • BIOEE 1780 – An Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Diversity


  • BIOEE 1781 – Introduction to Evolution and Diversity


  • BIOSM 1780 – Evolution and Marine Diversity (Shoals Marine Lab)

General Chemistry: (4-8 credits)

  • CHEM 2070 – General Chemistry I and
  • CHEM 2080 – General Chemistry II


  • CHEM 2150 – Honors General and Inorganic Chemistry


Students who have achieved a score of five on the College Board’s AP Chemistry exam or have the preparation that is equivalent to this standard should enroll in CHEM 2150. (to be determined by the Chemistry Department). Students who have passed the CEEB AP Chemistry exam with a score of 5 will be eligible to get course credit for either CHEM 2070 or 2090.

Students who enroll in CHEM 2070 or 2090 will not receive AP credit for their work. AP credit will be maintained for students who enroll in CHEM 2150. Students have an additional opportunity to earn credit for CHEM 2070 by demonstrating that they are qualified by passing the Cornell Advanced Study Exam (CASE), which is administered during orientation in the months of August and January.

The chemistry Advanced Placement (AP) credit, when combined with the completion of the chemistry course CHEM 2150, is considered by Cornell to be equivalent to the completion of 8 credits of beginning chemistry coursework, such as CHEM 2070-2080.

Mathematics: (6-8 credits)

One course in Calculus I (3 or 4 credits):

  • MATH 1106 – Modeling with Calculus for the Life Sciences


  • MATH 1110 – Calculus I
  • or equivalent or higher-level

Organic Chemistry: (3-8 credits)

  • CHEM 1570 – Introduction to Organic and Biological Chemistry


  • CHEM 3570 – Organic Chemistry for the Life Sciences and
  • CHEM 3580 – Organic Chemistry for the Life Sciences


  • CHEM 3570 – Organic Chemistry for the Life Sciences and
  • CHEM 2510 – Introduction to Experimental Organic Chemistry


  • CHEM 3590 – Honors Organic Chemistry I and
  • CHEM 3600 – Honors Organic Chemistry II


  • CHEM 3530 – Principles of Organic Chemistry

As part of the requirements for biology majors at Cornell, students who want to major in either biochemistry or molecular and cell biology are not permitted to enroll in CHEM 1570. In addition, students who intend to specialize in Biochemistry are required to take CHEM 2510, which is titled “Introduction to Experimental Organic Chemistry.”

Last but not least, some schools of medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine, as well as some master’s and doctoral degree programs, require students to complete a full year of organic chemistry and/or an organic chemistry laboratory.

Physics: (8-9 credits)

  • PHYS 1101 – General Physics I and
  • PHYS 1102 – General Physics II


  • PHYS 2207 – Fundamentals of Physics I and
  • PHYS 2208 – Fundamentals of Physics II


  • PHYS 1112 – Physics I: Mechanics and Heat (or PHYS 1112 – Physics I: Mechanics and Heat and  PHYS 1110 – Introduction to Experimental Physics beginning fall 2021)


  • PHYS 2213 – Physics II: Electromagnetism

Genetics and Genomics: (5 credits)

  • BIOMG 2800 – Lectures in Genetics and Genomics and
  • BIOMG 2801 – Laboratory in Genetics and Genomics

If students have not studied BIOMG 1350 or Biochemistry (BIOMG 3300, BIOMG 3320, BIOMG 3330, BIOMG 3350) previously, it is suggested that students take BIOMG 2800 as a requirement for BIOMG 2801. Before entering one’s senior year, it is highly recommended that one fulfill the prerequisites for these two required classes.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: (4-5 credits)

  • BIOMG 3300 – Principles of Biochemistry, Individualized Instruction


  • BIOMG 3310 – Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins and Metabolism and
  • BIOMG 3320 – Principles of Biochemistry: Molecular Biology


  • BIOMG 3350 – Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins, Metabolism, and Molecular Biology

What is the Average GPA for Biology Majors?

What is the average GPA for biology majors? The typical grade point average for biology students at a given institution and within a certain program might be somewhat different from one another.

Biology is considered to be one of the most challenging and competitive majors at Cornell, and students are expected to maintain a high level of academic achievement during their time in the program. It is anticipated that the average grade point average for biology majors at Cornell will be higher than the overall average for the university.

View of students studying in a table.

It is important to keep in mind that the average grade point average (GPA) for biology majors at the majority of universities is typically between 3.0 and 3.5 on a scale of 4.0. It is possible for the minimum GPA to enter and succeed in the program to be different from the average GPA of students currently enrolled in the program.

When applying to graduate school, professional programs, or positions in the field, a student’s grade point average is simply one of many factors that are taken into consideration.

This is something that must be kept in mind at all times. Other aspects of a candidate’s background, such as their research experience, internships, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation, are also taken into consideration during the admissions process.

How Hard is it to get into Cornell?

How hard is it to get into Cornell? Due to the fact that Cornell University is widely regarded as one of the most renowned educational institutions in the United States, admission there is notoriously difficult.

Cornell University has a very selective admissions procedure, and the university receives a far larger number of applications than it is able to accept. In recent years, the admission rate at Cornell has hovered around 10–12%, which indicates that only a tiny fraction of students who apply are ultimately selected to attend the university.

View of a young student attending an online class.

During the admissions review process at Cornell, a number of components, including scholastic performance, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of reference, are taken into consideration.

In addition to this, the admissions committee looks for candidates who can provide evidence of their leadership abilities, character, and dedication to having a positive effect on the world.

It is important to have a strong academic record, high scores on standardized tests, and a well-rounded set of extracurricular activities that showcase your interests and talents if you want to increase your chances of getting accepted to Cornell University.

Other factors that can help increase your chances of acceptance include a high GPA, high test scores, and diverse extracurricular involvement. Writing an application essay that is well thought out and well written and highlights the unique qualities and experiences you bring to the position is also very significant.

It is essential to remember that gaining admission to Cornell is not only about your grades but also about showcasing your personality, passion, and capacity to impact the local community positively.

Want to learn more about the requirements for biology majors at Cornell? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college. Contact us today for more information on our services.

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