Frequently Asked Questions

If I am accepted, may I defer for a year?

Yes. A candidate who has been offered first-year admission may ask to defer enrollment for a year to work, travel, complete mandatory military service or pursue a special opportunity. A student may not defer admission in order to enroll full-time at another college or university. A second year of deferral may be granted upon request. Students must request a deferral in writing by May 15 after submitting their first-year response form and deposit. Transfer students are not permitted to defer their admission.

Related FAQs

Does Columbia work with third-party agents?

Columbia University does not work with any admissions agent who expects compensation from a college or university. 

Columbia’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions is pleased to work directly with applicants and their families, with their school officials, and with a variety of government and non-profit community-based organizations in the United States and abroad.  While we respect the work of independent educational consultants, we of course expect them to adhere to the highest standards of professional ethics.

My country has mandatory military or other national service. How does that affect the timing of my application to Columbia?

It is your choice whether to apply during your final year of secondary school or during your obligatory service, but keep in mind that first-year students may enter Columbia only in September. You may prefer to apply to Columbia while you are still in secondary school and you have your counselors and teachers near at hand when you are arranging for transcripts, recommendations and other credentials to be submitted; if you are admitted, then we will grant a deferment of your entry to Columbia so that you may perform your mandatory service. On the other hand, you may wish to apply during your time of service in case it brings you additional self-awareness and life experiences that you feel may make your candidacy more compelling.

If you apply to Columbia during your final year of secondary school and are not admitted, then you may apply again during your obligatory service. That is permitted only if you are not holding a place at another college or university anywhere in the world.

When are Mid-Year Reports due?

Please have your school submit the Mid-Year Report as soon as first quarter or first trimester grades are available if you are an Early Decision candidate; for Regular Decision candidates, as soon as first semester or second trimester grades are available. We will accept the documents either electronically or in paper form via postal mail or fax.

There is no deadline for submitting the Mid-Year Report/senior grades.

We do not track Mid-Year Reports/senior grades through the online tracking system.

How do I track the status of my application?

Admissions online document tracking is only available during certain times in the admissions process. 

If, at that time, you discover that any items are listed as “not received/processed,” please have the school submit a duplicate copy of this missing information to us via fax or via e-mail at ugrad-confirm@columbia.edu as soon as possible. Faxed/e-mailed materials will take up to one week for processing. You will have time to submit the missing credentials before decisions are released without being penalized.

According to our Application Instructions, we will consider a file complete with only one Teacher Evaluation on file.

We do not track Midyear Reports/senior grades or additional materials.

How much is tuition?

For the academic year 2014-2015, the breakdown of billed costs is as follows:

Tuition and Fees: $51,008

Room and Board: $12,432

Books and Personal Expenses: $3,164

Estimated total cost of attendance: $67,125

Additionally, first-year students are assessed a one-time orientation and transcript fee of approximately $521. The purchase of medical insurance is also required for all students who do not have comparable coverage.

Is there a minimum test score, class rank or GPA required for admission to Columbia?

No. Columbia does not have a “cut-off” GPA or test score for applicants. For detailed information on the statistics of the most recent entering class, go to the Admissions Statistics page.

If I am accepted, may I defer for a year?

Yes. A candidate who has been offered first-year admission may ask to defer enrollment for a year to work, travel, complete mandatory military service or pursue a special opportunity. A student may not defer admission in order to enroll full-time at another college or university. A second year of deferral may be granted upon request. Students must request a deferral in writing by May 15 after submitting their first-year response form and deposit. Transfer students are not permitted to defer their admission.

What is Columbia’s policy on admissions interviews?

Volunteer members of Columbia’s Alumni Representative Committee (ARC) conduct interviews throughout the world from October through February every year on behalf of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. However, because we have a finite number of alumni and current student volunteers to interview the many thousands of candidates, we are unable to grant interviews to all of our applicants and can provide absolutely no guarantee that an interview will be available in any given area. Please note that interviews will be offered only in the area where your high school is located; if you have finished high school and no longer live in the vicinity, an interview will not be available to you. 

After you submit the Common Application, your name and contact information are provided to the interviewers in your area; if an interviewer is able to meet with you, you will be contacted directly by e-mail or by phone. Interviews are not offered on campus. Some applicants may be offered interviews via phone or video chat if an interviewer is not able to meet in person – please know that all types of interviews have equal weight in the interview process.

Candidates who are not offered an interview are not at any disadvantage in the admissions process. Because the actual assignment of interviews is not conducted by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, we respectfully ask that you do not call or write to inquire about receiving an interview. You will be contacted directly if an interview is available in the same area as your high school.

Interviews are not available for transfer candidates.

May I apply to both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering?

No. Applicants to Columbia must choose either Columbia College or Columbia Engineering.

What is Columbia looking for when evaluating students for admission? What are the criteria for admission?

The Columbia University first-year class College and Engineering students is chosen from a large and diverse group of applicants. Columbia employs a holistic approach in assessing candidates in order to judge which students are the best matches for Columbia’s unique educational experience.

In the process of selection, the Committee on Admissions considers each applicant’s academic potential, intellectual strength and ability to think independently. The Committee also considers the general attitudes and character of the applicant, special abilities and interests, maturity, motivation, curiosity and whether he or she is likely to make productive use of the four years at Columbia. In its final selection, Columbia seeks diversity of personalities, achievements and talents, and of economic, social, ethnic, cultural, religious, racial and geographic backgrounds. Each applicant’s academic record is examined, together with reports on personal qualities that have been supplied by the principal, headmaster or counselor and by teachers. The student’s record of participation in the life of his or her school and community is also important, as is his or her performance on standardized tests. 

May I submit the ACT instead of the SAT and/or SAT Subject Test scores?

You may submit ACT scores in place of SAT and SAT Subject Test scores, but remember that the writing component offered by the ACT is mandatory for candidates for Columbia. Even if you are submitting the ACT, we would still welcome SAT Subject Test scores if they were taken. If you have a specific area of academic interest, we recommend that you submit a Subject Test score in that area of interest if one is available.

What standardized tests are required for first-year admission?

Information on standardized testing requirements is found on the Required Standardized Testing page.

What are the final test dates that can be used for the application?

Early Decision candidates

The November test date is the latest acceptable test date on which scores may reach us in time. More information about Early Decision.

Regular Decision candidates

Scores for January tests are generally received in time for consideration, but it is strongly advisable to take testing no later than December. Testing taken in February or later cannot be considered.

Does Columbia give preference in the admission process to applicants whose parents attended Columbia?

We are always pleased to receive applications from students whose family members have graduated from Columbia. When an applicant is extremely competitive and compares favorably with other similarly talented candidates, being the daughter or son of a Columbia University graduate (from any Columbia school or college) may be a slight advantage in the admission process. This advantage may especially apply for “legacy” candidates.

Please note: applicants are considered to be “legacies” of Columbia only if they are the children of Columbia College or Columbia Engineering graduates.

How competitive is admission to Columbia?

Admission to both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering is broad-based but highly selective, and the Committee is only able to offer admission to only a small fraction of all applicants.

In 2012, we admitted just over 7% of the students who applied for first-year admission.

Admission for transfer students is also highly selective. Over the past decade, the Committee has admitted between 5% and 10% of transfer applicants each year.

A profile of the current first-year class is available on the Admissions Statistics webpage.

How can I register to receive more information about Columbia?

Students may fill out an information request form. By providing your electronic and home contact information, you will receive e-mail and print information throughout the year.

Is there a maximum number of students admitted from a particular country, region or school?

No. Columbia seeks to enroll students with unique achievements and talents as well as diverse economic, social and geographic backgrounds. We do not have any quotas for any particular population (i.e., race, ethnicity, religion, state, etc.). Applicants are compared to all other applicants, both regionally and globally.

Find out more by visiting What Does Columbia Look For?

May students rejected from Columbia appeal their admission decision?

No. If your application to Columbia is denied, that decision is final. There is no appeal process for admission decisions, and applicants are not reconsidered for admission. Every application receives a review from members of the professional admissions staff. As we do feel confident that our decisions, however difficult, are commitments that we make only after the care and deliberation that all our candidates deserve, we must say once again that we cannot accept any requests for reconsideration of these decisions.

What does it mean if I am “deferred” from the Early Decision applicant pool?

A small number of Early Decision applicants receive notification that we are deferring a final admission decision until April. Their applications will be reviewed and evaluated again among the Regular Decision applicant pool. Those Early Decision candidates whose applications are deferred to Regular Decision and who subsequently are offered admission in April are not then bound by any commitment to enroll at Columbia.

Will Columbia ever rescind an offer of admission?

If a candidate is offered admission, Columbia reserves the right to withdraw that offer of admission if:

  1. The candidate shows a significant drop in academic performance or fails to graduate.
  2. The candidate has misrepresented himself or herself in the application process.
  3. We learn that candidate has engaged in behavior prior to matriculation that indicates a serious lack of judgment or integrity.
  4. The candidate is holding both a place at Columbia and a place in the first-year class of a college other than Columbia after the May 1 deadline.

Columbia further reserves the right to require the applicant to provide additional information (and/or authorization for the release of information) about any such matter.

Will my chances for admission be affected if I apply for financial aid?

All applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or students granted refugee visas by the United States are read in a need-blind manner, no matter where they attend school or where they reside. The term “need-blind” means financial need has no bearing on the admissions decision. All other applicants are evaluated in a need-aware manner, which means that the admissions committee takes into consideration how much financial aid a student requires when rendering an admissions decision. Columbia admits a large number of foreign students who receive a substantial amount of financial aid.

Columbia is committed to meeting the full need of all applicants admitted as first-year students for all four years of study, regardless of citizenship.

As a foreign student, you should determine what amount you feel you and your family could afford to pay each year for four years of study. If you conclude that you and your family will be unable to assume the estimated total cost of attendance, you should apply for financial aid at the same time you apply for admission. If you are traveling to Columbia from another country, you will also want to consider travel expenses. If you do not apply for financial aid at the time of applying, you cannot be considered for financial aid in the future unless there has been a drastic and unforeseeable change in your family’s circumstances.

The Office of Financial Aid & Educational Financing website has information for foreign students interested in applying Early Decision and Regular Decision.

Are my chances for admission to a Columbia graduate school greater if I attend Columbia as an undergraduate?

Not necessarily. Columbia’s graduate schools make admissions decisions independent of those decisions made for admission to Columbia College or to Columbia Engineering; students who graduate from Columbia’s undergraduate programs are not given any automatic preference at the graduate schools.

However, many Columbia graduates do choose to continue their professional education at Columbia. In 2008, 14 Columbia undergraduates matriculated at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, the largest undergraduate cohort in the school’s entering class. At Columbia Law School, 50 students matriculated, which was also the largest cohort of students in the entering class.

Are admissions requirements different for home-schooled students?

Home-schooled students receive the same evaluation as other Columbia applicants – every application receives the careful attention of several members of the professional admissions staff, and decisions are made only after review by a committee of these officers. 

Home-schooled students should follow our Required Standardized Testing policy for the necessary tests. If you take both the ACT and any SAT Subject Tests, we encourage you to submit those Subject Test scores. We also recommend that if you have a specific area of academic interest, you submit Subject Test scores in that area of interest, if available. Your scores can assist the Admissions Committee in evaluating content knowledge and mastery in individual disciplines.

I have already graduated from high school. How may I apply to Columbia?

The answer depends on a number of factors, so pay careful attention to the distinctions below. You should also consult the instructions in the application itself. If you still are unsure of your status, please contact us by phone.

The distinctions below apply to all candidates as specified, regardless of citizenship or visa status or need for financial aid. If you are enrolled at a college or university overseas that follows a U.S.-style curriculum (e.g., the American University of Paris), then you should follow the same policy as a student at a college or university in the U.S.

Prospective Columbia Engineering Applicants

A gap in your schooling, whether for military service or any other reason, does not affect your admissions status as delineated in these distinctions.

  1. If you have not already spent a full academic year or more in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia Engineering as a first-year student.
  2. If you have already spent a full academic year or more in a university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to SEAS as a transfer student.
  3. If you have spent more than two full academic years in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia Engineering as an undergraduate at all.
  4. If you have spent a full academic year or less in a university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you must still apply to Columbia Engineering as a first-year student.
  5. If you have spent more than a full academic year in a university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia Engineering as an undergraduate at all.

Prospective Columbia College Applicants

I. If you have had no interruptions in your schooling of more than one academic year in total, or if the interruption in your schooling has been for the minimum length of your country’s mandatory military service:

  1. 1. If you have not already spent a full academic year or more in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia College as a first-year student.
  2. If you have already spent a full academic year or more in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia College as a transfer student.
  3. If you have spent more than two full academic years in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia College as an undergraduate at all. (See paragraph II.)
  4. If you have already spent a full academic year or less in a college/university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia College as a first-year student.
  5. If you have already spent more than a full academic year in a college/university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia College as an undergraduate at all. (See paragraph II.)

II. If you have had any interruptions in your schooling of more than one academic year, or if you have been referred here by item I.3 or I.5 above, then you are strongly advised to apply instead to Columbia University’s School of General Studies, Columbia’s college for nontraditional students who want to earn a degree while attending full- or part-time. Nontraditional students have had a break of one year or more in their educational paths or have compelling personal or professional reasons for completing their bachelor’s degrees part time. Students in the School of General Studies take the same courses with the same faculty and undertake the same majors as all other undergraduates at Columbia.

By visiting the General Studies website, you will find information on applying either as a first-year student or as a transfer. Financial aid is available to all candidates who qualify.

If the foregoing criteria apply to you, you may still apply to Columbia College if you insist, but you should be aware that you are doing so at a great disadvantage and that your acceptance is extremely unlikely.

What are your secondary/high school course requirements for admission?

Columbia College

The College has no explicit number of unit requirements for admission, but applicants must present evidence that they are prepared for college work in the humanities, mathematics, social sciences, foreign languages and natural sciences. Accordingly, the College strongly recommends the following preparation:

  • Four years of English literature and composition
  • Three to four years of mathematics
  • Three to four years of history and social studies
  • Three to four years of one foreign language (ancient or modern)
  • Three to four years of laboratory science

Students who plan to become scientists, engineers, physicians or dentists should be as solidly grounded in mathematics and the sciences as their high school schedules and curricula have permitted. The study of mathematics, at least through pre-calculus, is strongly advised wherever possible.

Modifying the preparatory program just outlined - by taking more work in some subjects and less in others - is not only acceptable but may be desirable in individual cases. The vast majority of successful applicants to the College have taken five academic courses per term for all four years of secondary/high school.

Columbia Engineering

The School of Engineering and Applied Science prescribes no standardized course of study for secondary school students applying for first-year admission. The School does, however, strongly recommend the following academic preparation:

  • Four years of mathematics (preferably through calculus)
  • One year of physics
  • One year of chemistry
  • Four years of English
  • Two to three years of a foreign language
  • Three to four years of history and social studies

What criteria are used for admissions decisions?

The Columbia University first-year class of College and Engineering students is chosen from a large and diverse group of applicants. In the process of selection, the Committee on Admissions asks questions about each applicant’s academic potential, intellectual strength and ability to think independently. The Committee also considers the general attitudes and character of the applicant, special abilities and interests, maturity, motivation, curiosity and whether he or she is likely to make productive use of the four years at Columbia. In its final selection, Columbia seeks diversity of personalities, achievements and talents, and of economic, social, ethnic, racial and geographic backgrounds. Each applicant’s academic record is examined, together with reports on personal qualities that have been supplied by the principal, headmaster or counselor and by teachers. The student’s record of participation in the life of his or her school and community is also important, as is his or her performance on standardized tests.

Are my chances for admission greater if I apply Early Decision?

Although a larger percentage of the Early Decision applicant pool is admitted than of the Regular Decision pool, that higher acceptance rate reflects the remarkable strength of a self-selected group of applicants. A candidate to whom we otherwise would not offer admission is not going to be accepted simply because he or she applied under the Early Decision program.

We strongly urge you to apply under the Early Decision program if and only if Columbia is your first choice.

Are my chances for admission greater if I attend a summer program or program for high school students on the Columbia campus?

Not necessarily. Although we recommend that all applicants whenever possible spend some time on campus before applying, applicants who have attended a program on the Columbia campus are not given automatic preference in the admissions process.

For more information on summer programs at Columbia, please visit the High School Programs website.

Does Columbia allow early admission for high school juniors?

Early admission is occasionally granted to students of special promise who are completing the junior year of secondary/high school and who meet the following requirements:

  1. an outstanding academic record
  2. the physical, intellectual and emotional maturity to handle the rigorous program at Columbia
  3. the full endorsement of their secondary/high schools.

Applicants for early admission should follow the normal procedure in applying, but should indicate they are applying for early admission under the “Additional Information” section of the Common Application.

Does Columbia have a waitlist?

Columbia places extremely compelling candidates on a waitlist to be considered for admission if spots in the entering class become available. Every year, the number of spots that become available is different.

We do not rank our waiting list, and all candidates are re-considered for admission if spaces do become available. We encourage students to submit an additional one-page statement expressing interest in the waitlist, but do not encourage the submission of additional letters of recommendation.

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