Prospective Students

Why Chemistry?

Chemistry involves understanding and manipulating matter at the molecular and atomic level. It is an experimental science, guided and inspired by theory. Chemists use careful reasoning and trial-and-error experimentation to create new molecules to explore new materials, study biological processes, and develop therapeutics, with the common goal of ultimately improving everyday life. 

Program Overview

The undergraduate chemistry degree at Cornell is designed to teach students the art of chemical experimentation and the conceptual frameworks required to understand and manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic level. The major’s core courses are organized around the subdisciplines of chemistry (analytical chemistry, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry) and are supported by required mathematics and physics prerequisites. As chemistry is a central science, the major supports a variety of upper-level electives with strong connections to biology, geology, engineering, and physics.

How to Apply

Prospective First-Year Students

Students interested in applying for admission to Cornell University can indicate their desire to major in Chemistry & Chemical Biology (C&CB) on their application to the College of Arts & Sciences. Information on applying to Cornell can be found at the College of Arts & Science and the main Cornell Admissions site.

Current Cornell Students

To apply for admission to the Chemistry Major complete the Application and you will be notified of a decision by e-mail. Notifications can take up to three weeks particularly during busy times, such as August, September, April, and May.

Admission to the Chemistry major requires the satisfactory completion of a number of introductory courses which, when taken together, demonstrate an ability to complete the major. Students who have completed the following courses with grades of C or better are almost always admitted to the major:

  • Introductory Chemistry: CHEM 2070 + CHEM 2080 or CHEM 2150.
  • Organic Chemistry: CHEM 3570 or CHEM 3590 or CHEM 3530 
  • Mathematics: MATH 1110
  • Physics: PHYS 2207 or PHYS 1112

Students who are second-term sophomores or beyond and have completed all but one of these requirements may also be admitted to the major provided that they have a plan for completing the requirements for the major on schedule. Students with a grade of C– or lower in one of the required courses may be considered for admission to the major after additional coursework (typically one semester) has been performed satisfactorily. Students who have received more than one grade below C in the required courses are not encouraged to apply for admission to the major.

Students are also welcome to contact or to stop by the undergraduate office, 131 Baker Lab, to discuss pre-major course selection. Students can gain provisional acceptance into the major in the semester in which they expect to complete the requirements and thereby have the benefit of their major advisors help in course planning.

Visiting the Department

Students and families visiting Cornell are welcome to attend a Chemistry lecture. Prospective students will typically attend CHEM 2150, CHEM 2070, or CHEM 3570 in the Fall semester or CHEM 2080 or CHEM 3580 in the Spring semester.

See additional information about exploring campus and help with planning your visit.

Career Paths and Alumni

The Chemistry major offers a near-unique combination of intellectual rigor and laboratory experience — thinking, making, and measuring. The undergraduate chemist will learn to design experiments thoughtfully, acquire data carefully, and draw firm conclusions from incomplete and diverse information.  

Roughly equal fractions of each Cornell chemistry undergraduate class goes on to pursue graduate work in science and engineering, matriculate into a medical school, or pursue their own path. Click here to access data on recent CHEM graduates' paths post graduation.

The major’s rigorous training is an outstanding launching point for a wide range of careers encompassing teaching, business, economics, law, and government service.