Frequently Asked Questions

Applying

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.

How can I get a paper application for transfer admissions?

Paper applications are not available. Transfers must apply online using The Common Application.

I am unsure of my application status. How do I know if I should apply as freshman or as a transfer?

If you have received your high (secondary) school diploma and will have completed one or more full year of college courses, you must apply as a transfer student. If you are applying to Columbia College and have taken a break of more than one full year from college, you should submit an application to the School of General Studies. Applicants to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science should proceed with this transfer application regardless of any break in schooling.

I have already earned a Bachelors degree (or its equivalent). Am I eligible to apply to Columbia if I would like to earn a second degree?

You are not eligible to apply to Columbia College. Instead, you must apply to the School of General Studies. Applicants to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science should proceed with your application.

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 application to Columbia, although the information when available may be helpful in assessing a student’s academic achievements. 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.

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. 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.

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 Students 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 ordinarily 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?

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. In general, we recommend the submission of a supplementary recommendation only if the writer has worked with you in a research or college course capacity. Any supplementary recommendations should not be completed on the Teacher Report forms, but instead on personal stationary.  

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, 2014
Regular Decision: January 1, 2015
Transfer Admission: March 1, 2015
Visiting Student Program: November 1, 2014 (for spring admission); March 15, 2015 (for fall admission).
Combined Plan Program: February 15, 2015

Online applications must be submitted electronically by these deadlines.

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. Applicants may be contacted for a telephone or in-person interview by a member of the Opportunity Programs and Undergraduate Services (OPUS) staff.

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 and NOP

HEOP/NOP 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$21,257
2 household members$28.694
3 household members$36,131
4 household members$43,568
5 household members$51,005
6 household members$58,442
7 household members$65,879 plus $7,437 for each additional family member thereafter

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

What is your 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 and Engineering

If you have been involved in scientific research and you are interested in studying engineering or the sciences at Columbia, you are welcome to provide a 1-2 page scientific abstract or a letter of recommendation from your research mentor for our review as a supplement to your application. You may upload your abstract in the Writing Supplement of the Common 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.

Creative and Performing Arts

Please follow the directions below depending on your area of interest:

Musical Performance

Please note that musical supplements are not a required part of our admissions process.

Students who do wish to submit electronic samples of their musical work should indicate their interest to submit an art supplement through the Common Application. In Columbia’s member-specific questions, please indicate your interest to submit an arts supplement.

Audio materials will be accepted as .mp3 files. Composition scores may be submitted as .pdf files. A processing fee of $5 will be required at the time of submission. SlideRoom fee waivers are automatically provided for all applicants receiving a Common Application fee waiver. 

Students submitting a music supplement should select two works contrasting in period and tempo. Students will choose from one of three possible types of submissions:

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

We require that you 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.

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

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

Columbia College candidates applying to the Columbia-Juilliard Exchange should still submit materials for Columbia faculty to assess their talent and potential.

Visual Arts

Please note that visual arts supplements are not a required part of our admissions process.

Students who do wish to submit electronic samples of their artistic work should indicate their interest to submit an art supplement through the Common Application. In Columbia’s member-specific questions, please indicate your interest to submit an arts supplement.

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 the admissions process. 

A processing fee of $10 will be required at the time of submission. SlideRoom fee waivers are automatically provided for all applicants receiving a Common Application fee waiver. 

Architecture, Creative Writing, Dance, Drama and Theatre Arts and Film Studies

Applicants should not create a SlideRoom profile through the Common Application. You may upload your resume in the Writing Supplement of the Common Application.Students are welcome to submit professional resumes that list artistic achievement. Please refrain from sending CDs, DVDs or hard copies of any materials, as they will not be reviewed. However, if samples of your work can be viewed online, please clearly indicate the relevant links in the Additional Information section of the Common Application.

Finally, please be advised that while we welcome the submission of such credentials, we can provide no guarantee that all materials will be reviewed or evaluated, as they are not required for the admission process.

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.

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 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, 2015. 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 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.

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.

Can I get an interview in my country?

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.

Should I ever “rush” my test scores to Columbia?

No! Please do not utilize the “rush” service in sending your test scores to Columbia. Doing so does not speed up the processing of your test scores. We obtain all testing via secure websites to which we are provided access by the appropriate testing agency.

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