Frequently Asked Questions

Where do students come from?

Students come from all 50 states and over 90 countries. The states sending the greatest number of students are New York, California, New Jersey, Florida and Connecticut. The highest sending international countries are South Korea, Canada, China, India and United Kingdom. Visit our Admissions Statistics page for more detail.

Related FAQs

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.

How does Columbia support international students?

Columbia University is one of the most international institutions of higher education in the United States. In order to best support the myriad international communities in the student bodies of Columbia College and Columbia Engineering, Columbia Student Affairs created the office of International Student Programs and Services (ISPS).

ISPS is committed to providing a caring and supportive atmosphere for international students through a variety of academic and student life resources. ISPS aims to infuse international perspectives into the support services offered to students, enable individuals to represent their international background with their own story, advocate for the importance of a diverse international population in academic and social life and stimulate conversation about international issues.

How can I find out if Columbia will be visiting my town?

Columbia admissions officers travel to various parts of the country and the world throughout the year, but the majority of our travel occurs during the fall. If you want to know if Columbia will be visiting a location near you, please visit the Columbia Visits You page.

Are there information sessions offered in my country, and where can I find the schedule of such events?

You can determine if Columbia will be visiting a location near you by reviewing Columbia Visits You.

My family does not speak English. Does Columbia provide information in other languages?

Columbia provides self-guided walking tours in five other languages to accommodate families that do not speak English. Copies of these self-guided walking tours are available in the Visitor Center.

I do not think I can visit Columbia. Is there a way in which I can get a sense of the campus?

We provide an online campus tour podcast that allows prospective students and families throughout the world to gain a better understanding of campus. The tour is led by Columbia students who describe academic and student life on Columbia’s historic Morningside Heights campus in the middle of New York City.

Does Columbia perform any outreach efforts away from New York?

Columbia has a presence around the world through our outreach efforts. Prospective students will be able to meet current admissions officers at local high school visits, college fairs, community-based organization sessions, Introduction to Columbia information programs and at information sessions offered jointly by Columbia and other colleges. Our efforts are supplemented by members of our Alumni Representative Committee who attend college fairs and other events on Columbia’s behalf. Please go to Columbia Visits You for more information on upcoming programs around the world.

What is the international population at Columbia?

Including the entire University, Columbia has the fifth largest number of international students of any college or university in the U.S.

Among the undergraduate students in the 2015 fall entering class:

  • Percentage of international students for the Class of 2018: 19%
  • Number of countries represented in the Class of 2018, by citizenship and places of schooling: 62
  • Top countries represented include: South Korea, China, India, United Kingdom, Canada, Turkey, Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Colombia

Among all undergraduates:

  • Number of countries represented in the entire student body, by citizenship and places of schooling: over 90

For more information on international programs and services, please visit the Office of International Students and Scholars website.

What is the percentage of international students on campus?

17% of the undergraduate student body brings an international perspective to campus. For more information on international programs and services, please visit A Global Community section of our website.

Does Columbia accept international transfer students?

To apply as a transfer, you must be enrolled in a “U.S.-style” college or university. A college or university is considered U.S.-style if:

  • courses are offered term by term (quarters, semesters, etc.);
  • a grade is given for each course in each term;
  • your college/university can provide an English-language transcript showing those courses and those grades.

If your school is not U.S.-style as defined above, you must apply as a first-year student, by the appropriate Early Decision or Regular Decision deadline, and only in your first year of study; if you have begun your second year of study or beyond, you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia as an undergraduate at all. Should you be admitted to Columbia and accept our offer, your post-secondary work cannot be considered for credit and you acknowledge that credit may not be received for any or all coursework taken at the previous college/university.

Are international students allowed to apply Early Decision?

Yes. However, even very competitive foreign candidates who are applying for financial aid and fall out of the “need-blind” category may be deferred to Regular Decision so the Admissions Committee can review the entire global applicant pool.

What kind of visa or documentation do I need to study in the US?

Full time students must acquire an F-1 (student) entry visa.

What steps do I need to take after being admitted to Columbia in order to receive the appropriate documentation?

There are steps that both Columbia and the student are responsible for in order to receive an F-1 entry visa to the United States.

Columbia University will:

  • Upon acceptance provide you with an Application for Visa Certificate (AVC), otherwise known as Form I-20
  • Issue an authentic I-20 after AVC has been approved.

The student must:

  • Hold a current passport valid at least six months into the future at all times
  • Officially register with Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Pay the $100.00 USD fee and print the receipt
  • Make a visa appointment at a United States Consulate. Bring your official letter of acceptance, any financial aid award letter and funds validation letter from your bank, Columbia issued I-20, SEVIS receipt and a passport sized photo.
  • Review the visa once issued to check for correctness. Make sure you have the original copy of the I-20 for entry to the U.S.

Please visit the International Students and Scholars Office immigration website for more information.

Are international students eligible to work in the United States after graduation?

If you are in the United States on an F-1 Student visa you could be eligible to work in the US pending employment status. Please visit the US Citizen and Immigration website to become more familiar with your legal options.

I attend a college/university outside of the United States and Canada. How do I know if it is “U.S.-style?”

A college is considered to be “U.S.-style” if courses are offered in similar terms to U.S. colleges (i.e. quarters, semesters, etc.), you will receive a grade for each course in each term, and you will also receive an English-language transcript. If your school is not U.S.-style, as defined above, you must apply as a first-year student, by the appropriate Early Decision or Regular Decision deadline.

Can I live on campus during school breaks?

Yes. Continuing students may stay on campus during shorter breaks and apply to stay on campus during summer break through the Columbia University Undergraduate Housing office.

Can students who are non-U.S. citizens get internships or jobs in New York City or on campus?

Students may work part time on campus. There are a number of University offices who hire international students, including the University Libraries and the Columbia University Tutoring and Translation Agency.

Students are also eligible to work part-time during the academic year and full-time during vacation periods for international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, etc. When a student is particularly interested in full-time employment, sectors with foreign offices, larger legal departments or greater financial options often yield the best results. When students with international background do find a job, it is often one that utilizes language skill, global knowledge, and so forth.

Practical training is employment in one’s field of study. Optional Practical Training (OPT) - OPT is defined as “employment related to one’s field of study.”

It offers you valuable opportunities to supplement your education through work experience in your field of study. For more specific information about volunteer or paid work as an undergraduate student at Columbia, please refer to  the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) as well as the Center for Career Education (CCE), which also maintains a database for searching for part-time jobs.

Where do students come from?

Students come from all 50 states and over 90 countries. The states sending the greatest number of students are New York, California, New Jersey, Florida and Connecticut. The highest sending international countries are South Korea, Canada, China, India and United Kingdom. Visit our Admissions Statistics page for more detail.

May I take the SAT Subject Test in my native language?

The SAT Subject Test in a foreign language is meant to demonstrate your achievement in a language that you have learned in school. You should recognize that if you have native fluency in a language, an SAT Subject Test can be put to better use by showcasing a different academic talent.

The SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject tests are not available in my country. May I still apply without these exams?

If you live in a country, such as the People’s Republic of China, in which SAT and SAT Subject Test exams are not available, you are not required to take the exams in order to apply for admission.

If I speak a language other than English, may I be exempt from the Foreign Language requirement in the Core Curriculum?

Yes, if you are fluent in another language, and you pass the placement exam on campus, you may be exempt from the foreign language requirement.

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.

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

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.

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.

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. If your home language is not English and if your primary language of instruction has not been English for at least five years, you are required to take an English proficiency examination. Both of the examinations listed here are given all over the world, several times a year; you must take the examination no later than December of the school year in which you are applying:

  1. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). You are urged to visit the TOEFL website as quickly as possible for more information on this examination. A minimum score of 100 (Internet-based test) or 600 (paper-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). You are urged to visit the IELTS website as quickly as possible 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.
  3. If you have a 650 on either the Critical Reading or Writing section of the SAT, you are exempt from taking an English proficiency examination.

Columbia does not accept the PTE Academic Test. 

Please see our Required Standardized Testing policies, and please note that these standardized tests are required in addition to any testing required for English language proficiency.