Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a different application for international students?

Columbia’s admissions application process is largely the same for all students regardless of their citizenship or country of residence. Please see our Application Instructions for more information on procedures and requirements, and What Does Columbia Look For for more information about how our office reviews applications and distinguishes candidates.

Please visit the International Student Admissions webpage for more information.

Related FAQs

Does Columbia allow students to start in the spring semester?

No, for most candidates. We do not accept applications for January/spring enrollment from First-Year, Transfer or Combined Plan Program candidates. Only Visiting Student Program candidates may apply for January/spring enrollment.

Should I send my AP/IB test results to Columbia?

AP and IB test results are not necessary for the application to Columbia, although the information when available may be helpful in assessing a student's academic achievements. You may report your results on your Common Application or Coalition Application, or send us a copy of your score report(s).

Students who seek to gain credit for AP or IB results should know that credit is granted only after a student is enrolled at Columbia and at the discretion of individual departments.

How does the admissions committee evaluate transcripts and applications from different countries?

Applications are reviewed by region and members of the admissions office have read and evaluated applications from all over the world and are familiar with a variety of school systems and transcripts. Included with the secondary school report is a "school profile," which includes a description of the school, grading system, curricular and extracurricular resources. If we need more information to make an informed decision or have any questions, we have the option to contact an applicant's school and to do our own research.

Any documents that are part of your application file and not in English, such as transcripts or recommendations, need to be officially translated into English and submitted along with the original documents.

For more information, please visit the International Student Admission page.

My native language is not English. Do I have to take an English proficiency exam?

To be considered for admission to Columbia, you must be comfortable with rapid and idiomatic spoken English. There are several different ways to demonstrate that you are proficient in English on your application.

  1. Your home language is English.
  2. Your primary language of instruction at school has been English for the duration of your secondary school career.
  3. You earned one or more of the following subsection scores:
    1. 650 or higher on either the Critical Reasoning or Writing sections of the SAT before March 2016
    2. 700 or higher on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing section of the redesigned SAT (beginning in March 2016)
    3. 29 or higher on the English or Reading sections of the ACT

If you meet one or more of the above criteria, you have fulfilled Columbia’s English Language Proficiency requirement. If you do not, you will need to take one of the following English Language Proficiency exams.

  1. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Please visit www.toefl.org for more information on this examination. A minimum score of 600 (paper-based test) or 100 (Internet-based test) is necessary for admission to Columbia. Your score must be reported directly to Columbia by the testing service, using report code 2116.
  2. IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Please visit www.ielts.org for more information on this examination. A minimum score of 7.0 is necessary for admission to Columbia. Your score must be reported directly to Columbia Undergraduate Admissions.

Columbia does not accept other English Language Proficiency exams at this time.

Please note that our Required Standardized Testing policies are in addition to any testing required for English language proficiency.

If I am rejected under the Early Decision Program, may I apply under the Regular Decision Program?

No. If you apply under the Early Decision Program and are denied admission, you may not reapply to Columbia College, Columbia Engineering or the School of General Studies again that year.

What is the Visiting Student Program?

Columbia welcomes college students who wish to spend all or part of an academic year taking classes at Columbia. This program has been designed as an opportunity for students to broaden their college experience and is intended as a supplement to the undergraduate program at their home institution. Students in the Visiting Student Program are not permitted to apply for transfer admission.

While we will try our best to accommodate students who wish to live on campus, we are not able to guarantee Visiting Student Program students campus housing. Admitted students will be notified at the time of admission if we are able to offer campus housing.

Students may enter in either January or September and may spend one or two consecutive semesters at Columbia. All Visiting Students must be in good academic and disciplinary standing at their home colleges. Application deadlines are March 15 for September entrance and October 15 for January entrance. No financial aid is available to visiting students, but they are welcome to use financial aid from their home institutions.

I'm a U.S. citizen studying in a country outside the U.S. Am I considered an international applicant?

Applicants are considered within both the context of their secondary school and the context of their personal experiences, including where they have lived and their cultural background. The admissions committee recognizes that regardless of citizenship, living and/or attending school in a country outside the U.S. provides a student with the opportunity for an international experience. Applicants are not simply placed into international vs. non-international categories based on citizenship or place of schooling.

May I submit supplementary recommendations?

We welcome an additional letter of recommendation if the writer has worked with you in a researcher or college course capacity. Any supplementary recommendations should not be completed on the Teacher Report forms, but instead submitted directly to our office. The Committee discourages the submission of additional recommendations, as admissions decisions will be based primarily on the required recommendations from your high school teachers and secondary school/guidance counselor.

What if I don't have a guidance counselor?

Many students in countries outside the U.S. do not have guidance counselors. At U.S.-style secondary schools, guidance counselors are responsible for important parts of the application: submitting the Secondary School Report, the official school transcript, and the Mid-Year School Report. They also write a letter of recommendation for applicants. If you do not have a guidance counselor, these parts of the application can be filled by a principal or director of school, essentially a school official who is able to comment on your academic ability, extracurricular activities and personal qualities within the context of your entire school community.

What is the deadline for applications?

Early Decision: November 1, 2016
Regular Decision: January 1, 2017
Transfer Admission: March 1, 2017
Visiting Student Program: October 15, 2016 (for spring admission); March 15, 2017 (for fall admission).
Combined Plan Program: February 15, 2017

Online applications must be submitted electronically by 11:59 p.m. (your local time), the day of the deadline.

What is the Early Decision program for first-year applicants?

If you are willing to make a binding commitment to Columbia as your first choice, you may apply under the Early Decision Program.

What is the process for being selected through the Higher Education Opportunity Program or the National Opportunity Program?

The Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) was established by the New York State Legislature in 1969 to assist eligible residents in obtaining higher education at New York private institutions. The National Opportunity Program was created by Columbia in 1986 to provide the same kind of academic and financial support to students from all over the United States. Selection for the HEOP/NOP programs at Columbia involves meeting both academic and economic guidelines.

There are no additional application forms for HEOP/NOP; all eligible applicants to Columbia will be considered for these programs, but applicants may be contacted for an interview.

In order to be eligible for HEOP, applicants must:

  • Reside in New York State and be high school graduates.
  • Demonstrate (through academic records) a need for HEOP support services.
  • Meet economic eligibility criteria set by the New York State Education Department.

Economic documentation for HEOP/NOP

HEOP Economic Eligibility: Household income can be at or below the amounts listed for the number of family members, with the exception of the "single head of household" instruction.

Size of Household

Amount

1 household member$21,590
2 household members$29,101
3 household members$36,612
4 household members$44,123
5 household members$51,634
6 household members$59,145
7 household members$66,656 plus $7,511 for each additional family member thereafter

The primary criterion for admission to NOP is academic; there is no residency requirement and Columbia may select applicants for admission to NOP whose income levels exceed the HEOP criteria.

Although many of our NOP students demonstrate significant financial need, Columbia financial aid is determined on a case by case basis and we meet the full demonstrated financial need of all applicants admitted as first-year students. There are no academic, athletic or talent-based institutional scholarships at Columbia as all of our institutional financial aid is need-based.

Students can estimate their eligibility for need-based financial aid by using the Net Price Calculator.

Please contact the Academic Success Program at 212-854-3514 or asp@columbia.edu with further questions or concerns.

What is Columbia's policy on the submission of supplementary materials (i.e. musical recording, artistic portfolio, science abstract, etc.)?

While we request that the submission of supplementary credentials be kept to a minimum, there may be occasions where such credentials provide valuable information that the standard application does not. As a result, some recommendations are detailed below. If you plan to submit supplementary credentials, please follow the instructions below. Please note that we specifically ask that you do not send collections of award certificates and the like and explicitly direct that you refrain from submitting your application in binders or folders.

Science, Engineering and Other Academic Research

If you have completed research with a faculty member or mentor in science, engineering or other academic disciplines (e.g., humanities, social sciences or languages), you are welcome to provide a one or two page abstract and/or a letter of recommendation from your research mentor for our review as a supplement to your application. If you are submitting an abstract, on the same uploaded document please include a short paragraph (250 word maximum) that describes the duration of your research involvement and details regarding your specific role in and contributions to the research project. This will help us better understand your specific research experience beyond what you may have already included in your other application materials.

You may upload your abstract in the Columbia-specific questions to either the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Your research mentor can send the letter via email to ugrad-confirm@columbia.edu, via fax to 212-854-3393, or via mail to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Artistic Talents and Performance

Candidates who wish to bring their talents in the creative and performing arts to our academic and extracurricular community on campus are welcome to submit supplementary materials that demonstrate these talents, though please note that these submissions are optional and not required for the admissions process. Candidates are also welcome to submit a letter of recommendation from an instructor or adviser for our review as a supplement to the application.

Dance, Drama and Theatre Arts, Film, Music and Visual Arts

On the Common Application or the Coalition Application, please indicate your intention to submit an arts supplement in Columbia’s member questions; you will then be provided a link to begin your supplement through our SlideRoom portal page. Please be sure to select the program within SlideRoom that aligns with the application (Coalition Application or Common Application) that you are submitting.

Live auditions are not part of Columbia’s admissions process, but auditions for private lessons, selective ensembles, troupes and various productions are held for enrolled students at the start of each academic year.

Each SlideRoom submission incurs a fee, listed in each program below. SlideRoom fee waivers are automatically provided for all applicants receiving a Common Application fee waiver through the Common Application system, and will be provided for all applicants receiving a Coalition Application fee waiver.

Dance

A video of dance accomplishments must be no more than 250MB and between four and six minutes in length. We require that students also list their name, title of the piece, choreographer, composer/music title and place and date of performance. 

Students should also submit a professional résumé listing their dance achievements. 

A processing fee of $5 will be required at the time of submission.

Drama and Theatre Arts

Students should submit a professional résumé listing their drama and theatre achievements as well as one of the following:

  • A video, no more than 10 minutes in total length, highlighting theatrical performance, directing, design and/or playwriting.
  • A document in .pdf format, up to 15 pages, of either a theatre script or a portfolio demonstrating contributions in design (such as scenic, costume, lighting or sound fields). Students should provide descriptions of individual images and/or additional information as necessary.

A processing fee of $5 will be required at the time of submission.

Film

Students should submit a professional résumé listing their film achievements as well as one of the following:

  • A video, no more than 15 minutes in total length highlighting film work from one or multiple productions.
  • A document in .pdf format, up to 15 pages, of a screenplay.

A processing fee of $5 will be required at the time of submission.

Music

We ask that students select two works contrasting in period and tempo, and choose from one of three possible types of submissions:

  • orchestral instruments (specify instrument);
  • jazz (specify instrument or composition) or world music;
  • piano, voice, non-orchestral instruments (e.g. classical guitar) or composition (score or recording of score).

We require that students also list the composer, title of the work and movement title or opus number. The total length of recordings should not exceed 20 minutes and should not include any biographical or introductory material. Recordings should be as clear as possible. Students will have the opportunity to indicate the time ranges for any highlighted portions of their recordings.

Audio materials will be accepted as .mp3 or SoundCloud files. Composition scores may be submitted as .pdf files. A processing fee of $5 will be required at the time of submission.

Students may submit two music supplements only when their talent is equally impressive in two different areas within music performance or composition.

Columbia College candidates applying to the Columbia-Juilliard Program should submit materials so that Columbia faculty may assess their talent and potential.

Visual Arts

Digital images will be accepted as .jpg, .gif or .png files, up to 5 MB each. Students submitting a visual arts supplement should select up to 20 digital images that highlight the best work in their portfolio. Live portfolio reviews are not part of Columbia’s admissions process.

A processing fee of $10 will be required at the time of submission.

Architecture and Creative Writing

Applicants may upload professional resumes that list artistic achievement in the Columbia-specific questions to the Common Application or the Coalition Application. There is no need to create a SlideRoom profile. 

When do application decisions become available?

The Columbia community is committed to environmental responsibility; in keeping with this commitment, we will provide some admissions decisions only online, not via regular mail. Applicants will receive specific instructions as to how to check their decisions online before decisions are released.

Admission decisions for first-year candidates who apply Early Decision are typically available on or before December 15.

Admission decisions for first-year candidates who apply Regular Decision are typically available on or before April 1.

Admission decisions for transfer candidates are typically available on or before May 15.

Admissions decisions for Combined Plan Program candidates are available in mid April.

Admissions decisions for Visiting Student Program candidates are typically available on or before May 15 (fall applicants) or December 15 (spring applicants).

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. 

What standardized tests are required for first-year admission?

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

May I transfer from Columbia College to the Engineering School (or vice-versa) once accepted and enrolled?

If you are enrolled at either Columbia College or Engineering and you genuinely feel that you should attend the other, you may apply as an internal transfer student. Internal transfers must submit the Internal Transfer Application by March 1. There is no guarantee that you will be able to transfer to a different school. Undergraduate Admissions consults with the Center for Student Advising to review your academic performance and curriculum and determine if a change is appropriate.

What is the Combined Plan Program?

Columbia offers a five-year plan in which you can attend Columbia College for three years and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science for two additional years, graduating with both the B.A. and B.S. degrees. If you are interested in the Combined Plan Program (sometimes known as "3-2"), you should apply to Columbia College.

Another five-year program allows you to complete your four-year B.S. program in The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and then, with an additional year of study in Columbia College, to earn the B.A. degree as well. If you are interested in the "4-1" Program, you should apply to The School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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 elect to take 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. 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.

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