arrow grid linear view icon
The College of Arts Sciences Search

Transfer Credit

You are here

Procedural Details

Requests for transfer credit are handled by the Physics Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Kyle Shen, 532A Clark Hall, or  Forms can be dropped off in 117 Clark Hall.  They will be signed within one week.

Pre-approvals may be obtained via email.  Send the course information to  Please include the course number, and a link to the course description at the university at which you would like to take the course.  Also please state what the equivalent Cornell course is.  Sample syllabi are below.  Please read the remainder of this page before submitting your requests.

What you should determine before you look for courses at other universities:

1.  Know what the Cornell curriculum is. Cornell’s intro physics courses are offered as pairs of courses at three levels:  a) PHYS 1101 and 1102: least mathematical, but requires algebra and trigonometry;  b) PHYS 2207 and 2208: more rigorous, requiring reasonable understanding of calculus and some proficiency in using it;  c) PHYS 1112 and 2213: requires both good understanding and proficiency in using calculus.

2.   Know what are the physics requirements of your program or major that you are trying to satisfy.  Is PHYS 1101/1102 sufficient or does your major require 2207/2208, or 1112/2213?

When you plan to propose a course at some university for transfer credit, consider the following factors.

1.   Choose a four-year university or college.  Note that we can not approve transfer credit for courses from community colleges, nor for online courses (regardless how prestigious the university).

2.   Check the math prerequisites.  A course described as requiring “algebra and trigonometry” is probably going to match with PHYS 1101 or 1102; a course described as requiring “algebra and trigonometry with some use of calculus” probably matches PHYS 2207 or 2208; and a course requiring calculus fully will match to PHYS 1112 or 2213.

3.   Check the language in the course description.  Key phrases like “for life-sciences, pre-med students, or biology majors” probably means the course will match to PHYS 1101/1102 or PHYS 2207/2208, while “for science and engineering students” normally means the course will match to PHYS 1112/2213.  A course that is described as “conceptual physics” or “requires only basic arithmetic and some algebra” won’t transfer at all.

4.   Check to see if the course you’ve selected is in the Transfer List .  Not being in this list simply means it hasn’t been requested before and doesn’t imply that the course is not acceptable.

5.   Check whether the course includes a lab or not.  It must, to obtain transfer credit for one of our intro courses.   At some universities the lab component of the course is actually a separate course you have to register for.

6.  If the course is a summer course, or is offered at a university on a quarter system, tally up the total number of contact hours.  This is defined as the total number of hours spent in lecture, discussion section, labs, and other formal instructional interaction with professors or Teaching Assistants.  The total contact hours should exceed 60 hours.  Note that summer courses often fall short and don’t qualify.

When you have identified Physics XYZ at University ABC as the course you want to take and get transfer credit for, you must seek pre-approval from the Physics DUS BEFORE you take the course.  This should be done by email to  In this email you should provide the following information:

1.   The university and the course number.  Example: “Physics 160 at George Mason University”.   If it is a summer course, note that.   If it is already on the -Transfer List, note that too.

2.   A link to the course description and syllabus at the university at which you would like to take the course.

3.   A clear statement of which Cornell course(s) you are seeking credit for.  For example, “I want to get transfer credit for PHYS 1112.” Or “I am seeking transfer credit for any of PHYS 1101, 2207, or 1112.”

4.  Obtain the transfer credit form from your college registrar’s office, fill out the form, attach the syllabus, and submit it to 117 Clark Hall.



  • College of Engineering Transfer Credit Form
  • College of Arts and Sciences Transfer Credit Form*    
    *Beginning with the Class of 2007, Arts and Sciences transfer credit no longer can be used to satisfy distribution requirements.
  • There is no longer a form for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students. The student must email with the name/number of the course, institution name, number of credits, and attach the syllabus.  If the course is approved, we will forward the email to the CALS Registrar with the Cornell course equivalent.  All Physics transfer courses must be approved by the Physics Department.

Please review transfer credit information for particular colleges at the links below:

College of Engineering: Transfer Credit

College of Arts and Sciences: Transfer Credit

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Transfer Credit

Advanced Placement

Advanced placement credit (AP/IB or A-level) is handled by the registrar: detailed criteria.

Basic Requirements

The depth and breadth of topics covered must be similar to the Cornell course for which the student is seeking a substitute. This requires that the DUS be presented with a syllabus or detailed course description. Two common “problems” are that the substitute is part of a sequence that has a different number of semesters or that the college or university of the transfer is not on a semester-based schedule. Courses at Universities with a quarter based system typically do not transfer.

If the course at Cornell has a laboratory component, so must the substitute course. In rare cases the Department can arrange to have the student take the laboratory portion at Cornell, providing there is space available.

Math Level 
It is expected that the level of math sophistication of the substitute be equivalent to that of the Cornell course. This particularly applies to 1112/2213/2214 and 2207/2208, for which the course description must clearly indicate that the substitute course is “calculus-based”. Algebra based introductory courses may be appropriate substitutions for PHYS 1101/1102.

“Physics for Poets” courses are not acceptable substitutions for any of the standard introductory sequence courses.

The student must obtain a grade of C (not C-) or higher.

Acceptable Courses

There is no list of ‘acceptable’ schools. In general, the department accepts transfer credit from most accredited four-year colleges and universities. (Please note that credit is not as readily granted from courses taken at community colleges.  In addition, on-line courses are not accepted.) You should have your course pre-approved by the Physics DUS for transfer credit before taking it, if you have any question about the appropriateness of the course.

Sample Syllabi

Below are typical syllabi for some of the courses for which we students seek transfer credit: