The Undergraduate Major

The American Studies major includes an individually-designed concentration area as well as a required distribution of courses. All students majoring in American Studies must take a total of twelve courses, which must be a minimum of 3 or 4 credits each, selected from the American Studies roster, completing them with a grade of C or better. No more than six of these courses can come from any one discipline.

Students considering the American Studies major are encouraged to speak with the Director of Undergraduate Studies as early as possible to arrange for a major advisor.

Distribution of Courses

Three of the twelve courses must have a substantial focus on material before 1900, two must deal with American diversity, and one must be a 4000 level  American Studies seminar. (AMST 4997 and 4998, taught in Washington, D.C., do not fulfill the seminar requirement though they do count as one course toward the major.) Note: a single course may satisfy more than one of these requirements: e.g., a course on Native Americans in the 1800s is both a course dealing substantially with pre-1900 material and one dealing with American diversity.

Students may find courses relevant to American experience that they wish to take but that are not on the American Studies course list. With their advisor’s approval, students may count two such courses towards fulfilling the major.

Concentrations Within the Major

Although a good bit of freedom is encouraged in the selection of courses, American Studies majors, in consultation with their advisor, must define an area of concentration and complete six courses in that area. The area of concentration can be designed to fit the particular interests of a student, but it must include subjects in at least two disciplines. We encourage students to develop their own concentration. 

Sample concentrations can be found here.

Courses taken to satisfy the concentration may be used to fulfill other requirements of the major


Students wishing to earn honors in American Studies must maintain an average of B+ in courses pertinent to the major and complete an honors thesis under the direction of an American Studies faculty member. Applications for honors must be received by May 1 of the junior year.

Recent American Studies thesis titles

For more information, contact the American Studies Program office.

Research Grants

There are two kinds of undergraduate research grants in American Studies:

  •  Research related to a student’s own research project. This could be for a senior honors thesis or other independent research.

  •  Research done as a research assistant for an American Studies faculty member.

To be eligible, students must be American Studies majors enrolled full-time and in good standing. The maximum award will be $500. For more information, contact the American Studies director or speak with the American Studies faculty member with whom you’d like to work.

Cornell in Washington and Study Abroad

Many American Studies majors participate in the Cornell in Washington program or study internationally. Recently our majors have studied in Spain, South Africa, Argentina, France, Italy, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Course credit toward the major is determined on a case-by-case basis, but typically students may receive major credit for up to two courses taken while studying abroad.