Frequently Asked Questions

Classes

Can undergraduates take classes at Columbia’s graduate and professional schools?

Yes. Columbia undergraduates may generally take up to four classes toward their degree in most of the graduate and professional schools at Columbia, with the exception of those at Columbia Law School and the Columbia Medical Center. Special restrictions may apply.

How are classes selected?

First-year students register during orientation week of their first semester.

In subsequent years students are assigned a registration time; this registration time gives seniority to upper class students, and times are distributed by lottery within each class year. Students then can participate in on-line registration for courses.

For more particulars about the registration process, consult the academic bulletins for the College and the Engineering School.

How large are Core classes?

Though celebrated for their content, these courses are equally important for their small class format. The hallmark courses in the Core (Literature HumanitiesContemporary CivilizationArt Humanities and Music Humanities) are taught in seminars of approximately 22 students; these courses ensure that education at Columbia begins with an emphasis on every student’s active intellectual engagement.

How many courses do Columbia students take per semester?

Columbia students usually take an average of 16 points (generally five classes) per semester. Students must be registered full-time and therefore must take at least 12 points per semester.

How often do professors teach courses?

Professors lead every departmental level course at Columbia. In the Core Curriculum, full-time professors teach the vast majority of the courses with select advanced graduate students leading some sections.

Is Columbia on a semester or quarter system?

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering run on a semester system.

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.