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Cornell University

Residential Policy

Two-year residential requirement 2023-2024

Cornell has a 2-year residential requirement for our first-year and second-year students, including a required meal plan. Cornell implemented this requirement for all first-year students who began enrollment in the Summer of 2021 and beyond.
Studies indicate that students who live on-campus experience increased academic achievement, improved social-emotional adjustment, and develop a stronger ability to build cohesive community versus those who live off-campus during this transformative time in personal development. During this time, students also maintain a meal plan while living on-campus to ensure they have access to proper nutrition to sustain overall well-being, and to safeguard against food insecurity, which has increased for students at colleges across the country. The programmatic model of Cornell’s residence halls creates a place where staff and community are invested in the safety, security, and growth of residents at this crucial developmental point in their lives.

For the first year of residency, first-year and transfer students are assigned to university residence halls. In the second year of residency, students may live in university residence halls, and are permitted to live in approved, university-affiliated housing, which may include on- and off-campus housing owned or controlled by a registered or recognized student organization and university-owned cooperative houses (co-ops). See the lists of qualified sorority and fraternity properties (all recognized chapters), qualified off-campus properties, and qualified co-ops. Students living in on-campus housing are required to have a meal plan.

Individual Exemption Process/Policy


Students can request to be exempt from this policy for the reasons below. Supporting documentation may be required.

  • Married/Partnered - Students who are married will not be subject to the residency requirement.
  • Veteran and military status - Students who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who were discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable will not be subject to the residential requirement. This exemption will also apply to international students who served under their home country. This exemption does not apply to ROTC participants.
  • Dependents - Students who are coming to Ithaca with legal dependents will not be subject to the residential requirement.
  • Age - Students who will be 21 and older by the start of the academic year in which they are applying for an exemption will not be subject to the residential requirement.
    Students who are 16 and younger at the start of the academic year in which they are applying for an exemption and are living with a custodial parent or legal guardian for the duration of the academic year will not be subject to the residential requirement.
  • Transfer student status - Students transferring to Cornell who had two years of an on-campus residential experience at their previous institution, or who are matriculating as a junior or senior, will not be subject to the residential requirement.
  • Commuter - Students who have resided at a permanent residence for a minimum of six months with a custodial parent or legal guardian and within 25 miles of campus will not be subject to the residential requirement. Please note that Cornell believes the residential experience is of great value to new students. Students applying for an exemption under this category may be contacted by a member of Cornell’s Housing and Residential Life team to discuss their decision further.

Students may request an exemption by logging in to the Housing application and applying for the exemption term when it is available for spring and fall. We will accept exemption requests during the open application period but not after a signed housing license has been completed or during the term of the license period. Individual exemptions are for a single academic year. Transfers and returning students must reapply for each year that they would like to be exempt.

Qualified Second-Year Housing (In addition to residence halls and University-owned co-ops)

Requirements for University-recognized Sororities and Fraternities and Cooperative Housing

University-recognized sororities and fraternities and university-owned co-ops will be allowed to house second-year students as long as the individual students apply to live in one of those properties and the organization remains recognized. Any sophomore resident in a fraternity or sorority house must be a member of the fraternity or sorority at the time of the housing application.

All recognized sororities and fraternities will be automatically approved if they meet all current recognition policy requirements and have a live-in advisor and four upper-level officers, by January 1 annually. Recognized sororities and fraternities will work with OSFL to navigate this automatic approval process.


If a student decides to participate in recruitment and accept a bid, they will need to work with their organization to determine if they will be living in-house. If living in-house with their sorority or fraternity, students will need to affirm that arrangement in the Housing portal March 4 through March 7, 2024. Students who will not be living in-house will go through the General Room Selection process, beginning March 11, 2024 to select qualified second-year housing that complies with the two-year residential requirement. 

Requirements for Qualified University-Recognized Off-Campus Housing

To be considered as approved second-year housing for 2024-2025, please review the information below and use this link for the application. Please note you will NOT be allowed to house 2nd-year students if you do not complete the process and receive approval.

  1. Must be a Registered Student Organization
  2. Require officers (student leaders) to live on the property – this number may vary based on the organization's size.
  3. Open to moving in non-member Cornell student residents if capacity is needed
  4. Property must be in compliance with all applicable residential, building, maintenance, and fire codes and have a fire sprinkler system throughout the entire facility.
  5. Property and organization must have insurance that is on file with the institution. Commercial general liability insurance in the minimum amount of $1,000,000.00 (one million dollars) of primary liability coverage (each occurrence), with general aggregate coverage of at least $2,000,000.00 (total) must be maintained. Such liability insurance shall include Cornell University, its officers, employees and agents, as an additional named insured and shall be written with an insurance carrier acceptable to the University. A certificate of such insurance shall be forwarded to the University as evidence of such coverage, and the University must receive notice of any change, cancellation, or renewal of the policy. The insurance shall be considered primary over any and all collectable insurance that the University may have available.
  6. The property must have living-learning space and posted quiet hours.
  7. The organization must have a second-year experience curriculum or program.
  8. Any other required condition as issued by the university.

Applications must be submitted annually to the Manager of Off-Campus Living, who will oversee the organizational review process. The University shall have sole discretion to determine whether an off-campus property qualifies to house second-year students, including the right to establish additional requirements that a particular off-campus house must meet to be included in the program.

  1. Name of Organization
  2. Proof of Campus Recognition of Student Organization Status
  3. Letter of Support from a Cornell-recognized advisor or alumni organization
  4. Identify organization officers, including the president, who are juniors or seniors and live in the facility
  5. Outline of second-year experience curriculum
  6. Proof of Insurance from the property and organization
  7. Proof of Sprinklers (Sprinkler Certification)
  8. Proof of current relevant inspections
  • For Properties within the City of Ithaca submit a current Ithaca Building Department Certificate of Compliance (COC) - If the application is accepted this property will now be required to have yearly COC inspections.
  • For properties outside the City of Ithaca submit all relevant documentation.
  • Ithaca Fire Department - Use Permit
  • November 15, 2023: Organization application deadline
  • December 4-8th, 2023: Organization presentations in-person and at the organization's facility
  • January 1, 2024: Annual decision deadline for all organizations
  • January 19, 2024: Housing and exemption application opens to current students for the 2024-2025 academic year
  • March 2024: Room selection process
  • March 1, 2024: Approved Organizations must complete and submit a list of all second-year students (using the provided roster) living in the organization's facility 2024-2025
  • April 1, 2024: Approved Organizations must complete and submit a list of all second-year students (using the provided roster) living in the organization's facility 2024-2025
  • August 1, 2024: Approved Organizations must complete and submit a list of all second-year students (using the provided roster) living in the organization's facility 2024-2025
  1. Each organization should plan to have a PowerPoint presentation and present it to the Off-Campus Second Year Exemption Housing Review Committee for 30 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer period for an additional 30 minutes.
  2. Organizations should plan to present on the organization's culture and how they plan to contribute positively to the second-year experience on campus.
  3. Each organization will have at least one officer and someone from the sponsoring department present.
  4. Application and all supporting documentation should be submitted in advance of the presentation.

Failure to Comply

Individual: Individuals who fail to fulfill the residential requirement or receive an exemption will still be billed for the full year.

Organization: If at any time, based on information received by the university, the organization fails to maintain the expectations for organizations, the second-year students residing at the property may be required to move back on campus.

Property: If, at any time, based on the information received by the university, the property fails to maintain the expectations for the property (for example, not submitting renewed documentation for expired certifications), the second-year students residing at the property may be required to move back on campus.