Frequently Asked Questions

Parents and Families

What is Joint Travel?

Joint Travel refers to information sessions offered in conjunction with other universities. These give students the opportunity to hear from multiple universities so they can form a better understanding of which school represent the best fit for their intellectual and personal goals. Currently, Columbia participates in joint travel with Brown University, Cornell University, Rice University and the University of Chicago; this travel group is known as Exploring Educational Excellence. We will also be traveling this fall with Barnard College, Fordham University, The Juilliard School and New York University for the Arts Capital of the World Tour.

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.

When are tours and information sessions offered?

Tours and information sessions are offered throughout the year on a varying schedule. For the majority of the year, information sessions that are approximately one-hour long begin at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and are followed by the general tour at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Please consult the Visit section of this site for specific information on the day that you choose to visit.

What is the percentage of students who live on campus?

Columbia undergraduate students are guaranteed housing for all four years. Nearly all undergraduates live on campus all four years and first-year students are required to live on campus.

Are students required to live on campus?

Columbia is first and foremost a residential college; first-year students are required to live on campus. Upper-class students may choose to live off campus if they wish, but nearly all of the student body chooses to reside on campus all four years.

How safe is the campus and neighborhood?

Although Morningside Heights is consistently named one of the safest precincts in New York City, the Department of Public Safety further ensures the security of Columbia’s campus and its students. Columbia students have direct access to the public transportation, which eliminates walking far distances to travel between campus and other locations. Should you feel unsafe in the neighborhood, you can ask the merchant at businesses featuring the Red Lion sticker in their windows to phone Columbia Public Safety or the police and wait for security personnel to respond.

What role do parents and families play in the Columbia community?

We believe that college is a time when young adults begin to separate from their parents, assume greater responsibility for their decisions and actions, and seek to rely more on institutional support systems. This philosophy, however, does not preclude our belief that familial support systems are extremely important for students, and that parents and families can and should be involved in their student’s education.

How then can you be involved in your student’s Columbia experience while allowing for his or her development? Here are just a few ways:

Listen

Hear what your students have to say. While respecting their newfound autonomy, check in with them every once in a while to see how they’re doing. Don’t assume you know what it’s like for them; remember that the college experience has changed since you were their age!

Learn

Find out more about Columbia. Learn about the school’s history, constituents, leadership, and mission. Check the Columbia website for the latest news on events happening on and off campus. Consult the Family Handbook to learn more about the various resources available to your student.

Help

Help your student take advantage of these resources by directing them to the appropriate office. Remember, we expect students to take responsibility for their own actions and consult these resources themselves, so don’t call on their behalf. Rather, suggest they seek out various resources and follow up with them. Remember that they value your advice, even if they don’t always say so! Network—Get to know other parents and alumni living in your area. Network with other parents, alumni, and administrators. Attend a College Day, Dean’s Day, panel discussion, or other event.

Volunteer

Get involved through the Office of Parent and Family Programs. Welcome new families to campus, help staff a registration table, or sit on a panel at a Summer Advising Session. Volunteering is a great way to get to know other parents and a great way to give back to Columbia.

For more information, please visit the Family Handbook or the Office of Parent and Family Programs.

How can I afford to send my child to Columbia?

We know that choosing the right college involves a variety of factors, and the cost of the institution and how you will finance your student’s education are extremely important considerations. A student should never decide not to apply to Columbia because they think the cost exceeds their family’s ability to pay. Need-based aid makes it possible for everyone to afford a Columbia education.

Columbia reviews each admitted student’s family’s financial circumstances, determines your financial need, and awards aid to meet a family’s full demonstrated financial need. For many families, Columbia can be as affordable, if not more affordable, than a state-college or university education.

We make every effort to help meet students’ financial needs. In our quest to make Columbia affordable for all students, especially those from low-income and middle-income families, the University implemented the following financial aid enhancements for all incoming and continuing students:

  • Columbia eliminated loans for all students receiving financial aid packages, whatever their family income, and replaced them with University grants.
  • In an effort to further assist low-income families, parents with calculated total incomes below $60,000 (and typical assets) are not expected to contribute any of their income or assets to tuition, room, board and mandatory fees.
  • Families with calculated incomes between $60,000 and $100,000 (and typical assets) have a significantly reduced parent contribution.
  • To support students pursuing study abroad, research, internships and community service opportunities, Columbia offers the opportunity to apply for additional funding and exemptions from academic year and summer work expectations.

These enhancements build on previous financial aid initiatives and a long standing commitment to make Columbia affordable for all admitted students as illustrated by the following facts:

  • Columbia meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need for all students admitted as first years who applied for financial aid, including foreign students, and we continue to meet your 100% of your demonstrated financial need for all four years of study.
  • Columbia has the highest proportion of undergraduates receiving federal Pell Grants in the Ivy League and among the nation’s most elite private research institutions.
  • About half of Columbia undergraduates receive some sort of financial assistance.
  • Last year, Columbia committed over $122 million of its resources for grant aid to undergraduate students.
  • In 2007 alumnus John Kluge, CC’37, pledged $400 million to Columbia, all designated for financial aid. This marks the largest pledge ever devoted exclusively to student aid to any single institution of higher education in the United States.

Does Columbia have ROTC?

Columbia welcomes students who receive ROTC scholarships. Since Columbia does not presently offer ROTC courses on its campus, students with Army scholarships may enroll in ROTC courses at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice or Fordham University. Students with Air Force scholarships may enroll in ROTC courses at Manhattan College, and students with Navy scholarships may enroll in ROTC courses at the State University of New York-Maritime. Students receive transcripts from these institutions which certify the completion of their ROTC participation.

As of April 25, 2011, Columbia announced that it would officially recognize Naval ROTC. More information about that announcement can be found on the Columbia College website.

Prospective applicants can download the Naval ROTC national scholarship application.

If you have further questions about NROTC, you can contact the Accessions Officer at the NROTC Office via phone at (718) 409-7240 or email at NROTC@SUNYMaritime.edu.

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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.