Bachelor of Special Studies

The Bachelor of Special Studies degree offers Cornell students the opportunity to design their own liberal arts degree program in order to meet their particular educational goals. This opportunity permits students to combine courses in an individualized fashion and to broaden or deepen their studies beyond the traditional framework of the Bachelor of Arts. Accordingly, the B.S.S. has no general education requirements and no restrictions as to either the number of courses that may be taken in any one department or the level of such courses, or even that a student complete traditional course work. Moreover, while students pursuing a B.S.S. degree may complete one or more departmental, interdisciplinary, or individualized majors, they are not required to complete an academic major.

The particular requirements for the Bachelor of Special Studies degree are:

  • complete a minimum of 31 course credits;
  • achieve a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or higher;
  • file for candidacy by submitting the Prospectus at any time after October 1 of the sophomore year; and
  • complete a minimum of 12 course credits after the Prospectus is approved. (Transfer students admitted with senior standing must complete a minimum of six course credits.)

The Bachelor of Special Studies degree is defined by the Prospectus, a detailed plan outlining the student's B.S.S. degree program. The Prospectus incorporates a narrative description of the program and a chronology of courses that will be taken by the student to fulfill the goals outlined in the narrative description. The Prospectus is to be written by the student, reviewed and signed by a faculty committee composed of a primary advisor and two readers, and filed with the Registrar, who verifies that it is complete and that it meets current academic regulations as set forth by the Faculty. The signed Prospectus is considered an agreement between the student and the College.

Course changes that involve substitution of courses accomplishing the same goals as courses originally projected require only an add/drop form. However, significant deviations from the program outlined in the Prospectus must be justified in a letter to the Registrar written by the student and approved by the student's B.S.S. faculty committee before the student may change the agreement. Significant deviations would include:

  • a shift in emphasis or direction of the program of study;
  • the addition or deletion of a major or minor;
  • a decrease in the ratio of upper-level to lower-level courses; or
  • the substitution of three or more independent studies or internships for scheduled courses.

If you have questions concerning the Bachelor of Special Studies degree, please contact the Registrar or your academic advisor.

Instructions and General Information for Students Contemplating the Bachelor of Special Studies
  1. Obtain a copy of the guidelines for the Narrative and the Chronology at the end of your first or the beginning of your second year (available in the Registrar's Office and on the web site at http://www.cornellcollege.edu/registrar).
  2. Discuss your proposed B.S.S. program with your advisor or one or more members of the faculty.
  3. Choose a committee of three faculty members including a primary advisor who will help you create your B.S.S. program and two faculty readers who, along with your primary advisor, will review and sign your Prospectus. The primary advisor and faculty readers must either be members of the full-time teaching faculty or part-time members who have been selected by the Department or Program to advise B.S.S. students. Some departments may choose certain members to advise all of their B.S.S. students. If you declare one or more majors, your primary advisor must be a member of a department in which you will have a major.
  4. In conjunction with your primary advisor, begin planning your B.S.S. program prior to registering for your junior year. Write a 500-1,000 word Narrative and complete the Chronology. Rewrite until your primary advisor gives initial approval to your Prospectus.
  5. Circulate your Prospectus to two faculty readers and schedule a group meeting with your primary advisor and your two faculty readers. After this review, your faculty committee may either approve and sign your Prospectus, or suggest revisions to strengthen it. If revisions are suggested, rewrite and re-circulate the revised document to each of your three committee members for their approval. Once approved, the Prospectus must be signed by each member of the faculty committee and filed with the Registrar, who will verify that it is complete and meets current academic regulations as set forth by the Faculty.

    Your faculty committee will evaluate the Prospectus according to these criteria:

    • Is it technically well-written (grammar, spelling, organization)?
    • Is it conceptually well-written (articulation of program clear, goals achievable, means reasonable)?
    • Is the Chronology consistent with the Narrative?
    • Is the plan consistent with the educational aims of the College?
    • Are the activities outside the classroom, in BSS 690 Blocks or other experiences, consistent with the Narrative and the Chronology?
  6. File your Prospectus with the Registrar any time after October 1 of your sophomore year. If it is complete and found to conform to current academic regulations, the Registrar will notify you of its approval. The Prospectus will become part of your permanent file at the College.
  7. You must obtain the written permission of your faculty committee for any significant changes from the Prospectus before effecting such changes. If in doubt as to whether the changes are significant, consult your primary advisor or the Registrar.
  8. In the fall of the student's senior year, the Registrar will review each candidate's B.S.S. program to determine whether the student has registered for the same or similar courses as are listed on the Chronology of Courses included in the student's Prospectus. (This review occurs during the senior conference, described in the Catalogue section on Degree Programs.) A student who has made significant deviations from the B.S.S. Prospectus without prior written approval of the faculty committee will not be awarded the B.S.S. degree.