Cornell College in Iowa is based on the principle of ‘One Course at a Time’. In order to enable students to concentrate properly on one subject, different courses are not spread out through the day; instead, each course runs for 3½ weeks before the students move on to the next one. This enables the students to gain a deeper understanding of the material and prevents them from being constantly torn away from their current studies. In addition to theory, the college strongly emphasises work-based learning, and this can take place in the laboratory or in the natural environment. Moreover, as there are no lessons after 3pm, and no homework, the students can also work part-time alongside their studies, pursue hobbies or take part in voluntary work. After each study block has been completed, the students take four days off so that they can internalise what they have learned.
In addition to the programs offered by the institution, the students can also create their own study paths together with at least two professors from different chairs. This enables the students to specialise according to their interests, as long as their subject combinations correspond to a Bachelor of Arts program. Finally, the students also have the opportunity to change their course of study and the focus of their course.