Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Core differ for Columbia Engineering students?

Engineering students will take half of the humanities Core: they can elect to take either Literature Humanities or Contemporary Civilization or a Global Core course and either Art Humanities or Music Humanities. They must also complete University Writing and the Physical Education requirement. In this regard, all students at Columbia are fully integrated into the philosophy beyond the Core-critical thinking, debate, respect for ideas-and the unifying educational experience which is a hallmark of Columbia.

Columbia engineers will also take courses specifically designed to better prepare them for their lives as innovators and entrepreneurs. These technical courses will prepare students in the five major areas of technical inquiry: engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science. The level of inquiry will depend on an individual student’s prospective major choices.

The technical Core courses consist of the following:

  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Design Fundamentals Using the Advanced Computer Technologies
  • Physics

Related FAQs

What majors are offered in Columbia College?

There are 59 Departments of Instruction offering more than 80 different Areas of Study for students in Columbia College. A complete listing of majors and concentrations offered by Columbia College is available under Columbia College Programs of Study.

Does Columbia provide support for students applying to major fellowships?

The Fellowships Office works with students at all levels in preparing for a variety of fellowship applications. In recent years, Columbia students have won more Fulbright grants than those of most other universities, in addition to many other prestigious fellowships and grants.

What academic requirements are necessary for graduating from Columbia Engineering?

All students in Columbia Engineering must complete a major area of study as described in the departmental section of the school bulletin. Students must complete the Core Curriculum as specified for the Engineering school and in total earn 128 points, approximately 40 classes.

How available are research opportunities?

Since Columbia is a major research institution distinguished across a wide variety of fields and subfields, research opportunities are plentiful for students who wish to begin research immediately.

Please review our Research page for some special programs for research at Columbia, a sampling of some student work and an introduction to Columbia’s more than 200 different research institutes.

What is the difference between a major and a concentration?

The purpose of the major or concentration requirement is to give each student the experience of doing sustained and advanced work, including individual research, in a field of special interest. A major consists of intensive study in one department involving the satisfaction of a variety of requirements; a concentration demands fewer departmental course points or requirements than a major.

How does the Core differ for Columbia Engineering students?

Engineering students will take half of the humanities Core: they can elect to take either Literature Humanities or Contemporary Civilization or a Global Core course and either Art Humanities or Music Humanities. They must also complete University Writing and the Physical Education requirement. In this regard, all students at Columbia are fully integrated into the philosophy beyond the Core-critical thinking, debate, respect for ideas-and the unifying educational experience which is a hallmark of Columbia.

Columbia engineers will also take courses specifically designed to better prepare them for their lives as innovators and entrepreneurs. These technical courses will prepare students in the five major areas of technical inquiry: engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science. The level of inquiry will depend on an individual student’s prospective major choices.

The technical Core courses consist of the following:

  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Design Fundamentals Using the Advanced Computer Technologies
  • Physics

What majors are offered at Columbia Engineering?

There are 9 Departments of Instruction offering 16 majors for students in Columbia Engineering. A complete listing of majors offered by Columbia Engineering is available under Columbia Engineering Programs of Study.

Is it possible to be able to work while going to class?

Columbia holds classes from early in the morning until late at night. This allows students to hold on-campus jobs, pursue internships in the city and adjust their schedules to make the most of their academic and extracurricular experience. Many students, moreover, have no classes on Fridays, so many use Fridays as an opportunity to pursue internships and other commitments. The Center for Career Education also provides students with opportunities for employment on and off campus.

Can undergraduates take classes at Columbia’s graduate and professional schools?

Yes. Columbia undergraduates may generally take up to four classes toward their degree in most of the graduate and professional schools at Columbia, with the exception of those at Columbia Law School and the Columbia Medical Center. Special restrictions may apply.

What academic requirements are necessary for graduating from Columbia College?

All students in Columbia College must complete either a major or a concentration as described in the departmental sections of the school bulletin. Moreover, students must complete the entirety of the Core Curriculum, and in total earn 124 points, approximately 40 classes.

How are classes selected?

First-year students register during orientation week of their first semester.

In subsequent years students are assigned a registration time; this registration time gives seniority to upper class students, and times are distributed by lottery within each class year. Students then can participate in on-line registration for courses.

For more particulars about the registration process, consult the academic bulletins for the College and the Engineering School.

When do students take Core courses?

Students will primarily take Core courses in their first two years, but only in the first year will students be pre-registered for specific Core courses.

Columbia College: students will be pre-registered for Literature Humanities and University Writing. Most students will elect to take Contemporary Civilization in their sophomore year and then have the choice of when to complete the remaining Core courses. In general the Core will make up roughly one third of the courses a student will take in the College.

Columbia Engineering: students will be pre-registered for The Art of Engineering, University Writing and Principles of Economics. Most students will complete most of their technical Core courses in their first two years to better prepare them for specific majors. Students will complete the remaining humanities requirements throughout their tenure at Columbia. In general the Core will make up roughly one fourth of the courses a student will take in the Engineering School.

How large are Core classes?

Though celebrated for their content, these courses are equally important for their small class format. The hallmark courses in the Core (Literature HumanitiesContemporary CivilizationArt Humanities and Music Humanities) are taught in seminars of approximately 22 students; these courses ensure that education at Columbia begins with an emphasis on every student’s active intellectual engagement.

Are there any tutors available?

Tutoring for all subjects is available for students through Academic Success Programs.

How many courses do Columbia students take per semester?

Columbia students usually take an average of 16 points (generally five classes) per semester. Students must be registered full-time and therefore must take at least 12 points per semester.

Does Columbia grant credit for college courses and credits earned during high school?

No. Entering first-year students are not granted credit for college courses taken before graduation from secondary school. However, a maximum of six credits may be awarded for college courses taken after graduation from high school and prior to matriculation at Columbia. For more specific information, please consult the bulletin of Columbia College or The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

How often do professors teach courses?

Professors lead every departmental level course at Columbia. In the Core Curriculum, full-time professors teach the vast majority of the courses with select advanced graduate students leading some sections.

Does Columbia grant placement, advanced standing or credit for standardized examinations?

Yes. Some placement, advanced standing or credit may be granted for nationally or internationally standardized examinations. Columbia will grant a maximum of 16 credits toward the bachelor’s degree. For more specific information, please consult the bulletin of Columbia College or The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Is Columbia on a semester or quarter system?

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering run on a semester system.

Are there advisors for specific departmental majors?

Yes. All departments will assign faculty advisors to every student committing to either a major or concentration in that department.

How large are Columbia's classes?

80% of undergraduate classes taught at Columbia have fewer than 20 students. Since Columbia’s Core classes are small seminar classes and since more advanced courses are meant to allow direct connection with faculty, few courses at Columbia are larger than 20 students. Those classes generally are either popular introductory lectures or upper-level classes in especially great demand.

What are the advising and support services on campus?

All Columbia undergraduates will have a single all-purpose advisor from the Center for Student Advising for all four years.

What is the student-faculty ratio?

The student to faculty ratio is 6 to 1. The ratio in some of the physical science departments in the College is as low as 2 to 1.

How many students go on to top professional schools?

Columbia does not officially track this information, since many students may choose to apply to graduate or professional school many years after college and other students choose to go into careers where their undergraduate degree is sufficient.

Nevertheless, a large number of students and alumni benefit each year from the support of the Office of Pre-professional Advising and gain admission to preeminent graduate and professional schools around the country and all over the globe.

What services does Columbia offer physically and learning disabled students?

Columbia offers a wide variety of assistance for physically and learning disabled students. For more detailed information, visit the Office of Disability Services.

Can I minor in Columbia College?

No. Columbia College does not offer minors, but students may elect to complete a concentration which demands fewer requirements than a major. A concentration is alone sufficient for graduation.

Does Columbia offer study abroad programs?

Columbia operates programs in Beijing, Berlin, Kyoto, Paris, Shanghai and Venice. Columbia also sponsors special programs with Oxford and Cambridge and in Paris at Sciences Po and at Ecole Polytechnique. The Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U) allows Columbia College students the opportunity to fulfill in part the Core’s science requirement and participate in field ecology abroad. The Office of Global Programs assists Columbia students in studying or interning abroad at nearly 200 approved programs in both developed and developing parts of the world.

In addition, Columbia offers students the chance to study for one semester at Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, D.C., or at Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia.

Can I minor in the Engineering School?

Yes. The Engineering school offers both engineering and liberal arts minors for students.

What are the courses of the Core Curriculum for Columbia College students?

Does Columbia allow students to double (or triple) major?

Yes. Students are allowed to take on more than one major. Doing so, however, is likely to require additional coursework and may not be possible in four years.

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