Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Core Curriculum?

The Core Curriculum is the cornerstone of a Columbia education. Central to the intellectual mission of the Core is the goal of providing all Columbia students, regardless of their major or concentration, with wide-ranging perspectives on significant ideas and achievements in literature, philosophy, history, music, art and science.

The hallmark of the Core is its commitment to the critical examination of challenging ideas in the context of small and intensive classes. At its center stands Contemporary Civilization (“CC”), a course founded in 1919 which over the span of two semesters surveys the history of moral and political thought from Plato to the present. This course is required of all Columbia College sophomores. Masterpieces of European Literature and Philosophy, commonly know as Literature Humanities (“Lit Hum”), similarly surveys, over two semesters, some of the most influential works in all of Western literature and is required of all first-year students .

Over the years the Core has grown and expanded to include the study of scienceartmusicwriting and an in-depth understanding of creative works outside of the Western canon. These courses maintain the tradition of the Core in which the pursuit of better questions is presumed to be every bit as important as the pursuit of better answers. The small size of Core Curriculum classes provides students with the opportunity to develop early on in their Columbia careers close relationships with faculty and to participate with them in a shared process of intellectual inquiry.

The skills and habits honed by the Core-observation, analysis, imaginative comparison, argument, respect for others’ ideas, nuances and differences-provide a rigorous preparation for life as an intelligent and engaged citizen in today’s complex and changing world.

Related FAQs

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.

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