The Cornell Tradition Program FAQs


What is The Cornell Tradition?

The Cornell Tradition is a fellowship program recognizing students for their commitment to a strong work ethic, service involvement, and academic achievement. The Fellowship supports students' efforts by offering programming and financial assistance.  The Tradition began in 1982 with an anonymous gift of $7 million dollars. The Cornell Tradition is one of the three programs that make up The Cornell Commitment.

What is The Cornell Commitment?

The Cornell Commitment is made up of three special recognition programs: The Cornell Tradition, the Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars (RCPRS), and the Meinig Family Cornell National Scholars (MFCNS).  The office was named “The Cornell Commitment” to represent the University’s commitment to Ezra Cornell’s belief in the importance of both work and study (the founding principle of The Cornell Tradition), as well as the core values expressed in its mission statement: service work, leadership, learning, research, inquiry and academic achievement. All three programs have a loan reduction component and various special opportunities for their students. Membership in these programs is mutually exclusive.

What staff and faculty members work with The Cornell Tradition?

The Fellowship is comprised of approximately 500 undergraduates from all class years and colleges. The student fellows are supported by Cornell Commitment staff, including a program coordinator, support staff and the Cornell Tradition Advisory Board. The Commitment Offices (including the Tradition Office) are located in 300 Kennedy Hall and can be reached at (607) 255-8595 (phone) and tradition@cornell.edu (email). 

How do freshmen and new transfer students become Tradition Fellows?

Incoming freshmen and transfer students are selected through the regular admissions process by college personnel for possible qualification for the fellowship; those nominated are forwarded to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions who subsequently administers a review process with the assistance of University representatives.  For current Cornell students not in the program: applications are accepted each May from Cornell freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. We strongly recommend that students review the application early in the fall to ensure ample time to meet work and service requirements.  All are welcome and encouraged to apply (including your friends and roommates)!  Acceptance decisions are made by Tradition staff; decision letters are mailed out over the summer.

Can current Cornellians apply? What are the eligibility requirements?

Students eligible to apply for membership in The Cornell Tradition program include undergraduate students who are U.S. citizens OR possess US permanent resident status OR F1-visa status.  All students MUST be authorized for employment in the United States, (either on-campus or off-campus) in order to meet the work requirement as a member of The Cornell Tradition (minimum 100 hours during each academic year).  International students will not be eligible for the financial aid benefit of membership but would enjoy access to the $3500 service support account and other program benefits.

What do I need to do to remain a Fellow?

Current and prospective Fellows MUST apply every year; once you join, it is our expectation that you will maintain your membership for the duration of your undergraduate years. Applications are due near the end of each academic year.  In order to become or remain a fellow, you must:

  • Complete a minimum of 100 hours of legal paid work (no cash or under-the-table work) during the academic year. This can include work done at home over fall, winter, and spring breaks. (Over the past several years, the average number of work hours per student was approximately 300 hours).
  • Contribute a minimum of 100 total hours of service (15 of which must be Community Service)**.
    • ** For our purposes, we divide service into two categories:  community service and campus service (including varsity and JV athletics). Community Service is defined as volunteer work for which the primary beneficiar(ies) are not associated with Cornell.  Campus Service is defined as volunteer work for which the primary beneficiar(ies) are associated with Cornell.  See the Service Guidelines for more details. Students may choose how to fulfill their total hourly requirement, as long as they complete at least fifteen hours in the community service category.  (Over the past several years, students averaged more than twice the number of required service hours.)
      See our service guidelines for more details.
  • Complete a minimum of 50 “flex” hours (can be either work or service or any combination of the two).
  • Achieve at least a 2.3 cumulative grade point average in a full-time degree program. (The average GPA for the past several years was approximately 3.18.)
  • Attend all required Explore CT events (freshmen fellows only; transfers must attend Orientation).

Endorsement forms are required for your off-campus work and service hours; all hours (and only the hours) performed between the August 12, 2018 and May 15, 2019 are eligible.  If you have completed off-campus work, you are required to submit the standard work endorsement form with either copies of paystubs OR the Supplemental Off-Campus Work Form.  Off-Campus Endorsement Forms submitted without necessary supporting documentation will NOT be counted toward your Tradition requirements.  IMPORTANT NOTE: There is no endorsement form for on-campus work (including Resident Assistantships) because we can view Cornell’s payroll system to see how many hours you worked.  You do, however, need to note that you held an on-campus job on your annual Tradition application.

Why should I remain a Fellow?

The Cornell Tradition offers up to $4,000 per year in loan replacement to fellows who are eligible for financial aid.

All Cornell Tradition fellows have access over their undergraduate career to $3,500 to support experiential opportunities designed to expose you to activities related to the ideals of the program.  In consultation with program staff, fellows have the opportunity to participate in internships (winter, spring, or summer), spring break service programs, Pre-Orientation Service Trips (POST), non-credit bearing service-learning opportunities, etc. 

The Tradition provides a wage subsidy of 50% to the employers of its fellows (those who are not eligible for Federal Work-Study as well as those who are once their funding has run out). Tradition fellows eligible for FWS who have exhausted those funds can come to the Tradition Office to apply for the wage subsidy.

Expected Savings Replacements (ESRs) may be awarded to aid-eligible fellows who hold Tradition-sponsored summer internships, but whose expenses during the summer prevented them from saving their expected student contribution from summer earnings.  The ESR covers up to $3,000 of the student contribution portion of the tuition bill (depending on students’ class year).  A limited number of ESRs are available.  ESRs are credited directly to the student’s bursar bill, half in the fall semester and half in the spring semester.  Please see a Tradition staff member for details about this benefit!

The Cornell Tradition and the Cornell Commitment sponsor a variety of special programs each year.  Past programs have included speaking engagements with the founder of Teach for America, leadership development training, and special events with President Skorton and/or other university leaders.

How can I fulfill these requirements?

Employment positions can be found by:                

  • Visiting the Student Employment Office's website.
  • Contacting professors or academic departments; often positions can be developed.
  • Contacting the community work-study program of the Public Service Center in 200 Barnes Hall for information about off-campus work-study positions with local service agencies.
  • Utilizing the Tradition Office, CTTalk (the Tradition’s email list) or by talking with other Tradition fellows (including your peer advisor).

Service opportunities can be found by:

  • Visiting the Public Service Center (PSC); individual volunteer placements and membership in student service groups are available from this office.
  • Contacting Willard Straight Hall for information on Student Activities.  The Straight often holds a Student Activities Fair in early September (see the September CTTimes for details).
  • Joining a student organization and taking on a leadership role.
  • Joining a University athletic team.  Please note participation in intramurals cannot count toward the service hour requirement.  See further details in the Service Requirement Guidelines.

What is the Cornell Tradition Student Advisory Council (SAC)?

The SAC is comprised of 10 to 14 fellows, with an effort made to represent every class year and college.  Its purpose is to represent the 500 fellows to program administrators as well as to coordinate and sponsor activities within the fellowship and/or the greater Cornell Commitment.  These activities encompass both community and campus service, social, and educational events for the fellowship or the Cornell Commitment. Fellowship activities are social or educational in nature and are meant to promote cohesiveness among Tradition fellows.  The Council plans and sponsors many community service opportunities to help fellows become actively involved in local organizations.  Among these are readership and/or nature education programs for kids, blood drives, community fundraisers, Adopt a Highway events, and the National Volunteer Week Kick-Off event.  The SAC also plans activities and conducts programs that fall in the realm of campus service, including the Peer Advisory Network, which is designed to provide new fellows with information and advice from a student perspective to help them in their transition to Cornell and the Tradition. 

How can I become more involved with The Cornell Tradition?

  • Join the Student Advisory Council. Applications are accepted annually, and selected candidates are interviewed early in the spring semester. Help the SAC plan events; contact tradition@cornell.edu to get involved.
  • Participate in Tradition events! In addition to SAC-sponsored events, the Tradition administration also sponsors a variety of service and social activities, including teambuilding for new fellows, National Volunteer Week Kick-Off Event, and Season of Service holiday event. Contact tradition@cornell.edu if you’d like to get involved with any of these events.
  • Promote The Cornell Tradition across campus — tell your advisors, professors, employers, and friends and get involved!


Contact us at tradition@cornell.edu, (607) 255-8595, or stop by and see us in 300 Kennedy Hall.