Physical Education

Cornell undergraduates are required to complete 2 credits of physical education during their first year.

It is the student's responsibility to sign up for physical education classes by reporting to Teagle Hall during university registration. Be sure to check the add/drop deadlines for physical education classes, which often are different from the normal university course add/drop deadlines. Physical education classes taken for credit will be graded Pass/Fail. Students receive credit for only one course per term.

Note: Physical education credits are not included in the 120 credit hour minimum for graduation.

In addition, students must pass a basic swim test to graduate. The test, conducted during the first week of classes, consists of a continuous 75-yard swim using front, back, and optional strokes.

Any student who cannot pass the swim test must include swimming as his or her physical education course before choosing any elective physical education class.  A grade of Incomplete will be issued until the swim test has been passed or the requirement has been filled by satisfactory attendance in two terms of beginning swim classes.

Note: Transfer students who have completed two or more terms of full-time study elsewhere, regardless of whether those terms included physical education courses, are not required to take physical education or the swim test at Cornell. Transfer students who completed only one term elsewhere will be required to take one term of physical education, including the swim test, at Cornell.

All students are encouraged to explore opportunities offered by the Department of Athletics and Physical Education.

Physical education requirements may be modified for the following reasons

  • Health. Either a temporary medical postponement or a permanent medical waiver, which must be officially certified by Gannett Health Center.
  • Work. If a student works 20 or more hours per week, he or she may qualify for postponement or a waiver, which must be approved by the athletic director's office in Teagle Hall.
  • Team Sport. Upon approval of the athletic director's office, students participating in a team sport will receive credit toward the physical education requirement.

Permission for postponement of, or exemption from, the physical education requirements is issued only by the University Faculty Committee on Physical Education or the director of physical education. Final authority for interpretation and ruling on requests for exemption rests with the committee.