Frequently Asked Questions

Housing and Dining

How does Columbia accommodate students with food allergies?

Columbia Dining is committed to making dining halls safe places to eat. As such, Columba Dining has taken the following measures for some common allergies:

Nuts: John Jay Dining Hall and Ferris Booth Commons have removed nuts from all recipes, but they have also created special “nut zones” for peanut butter, nut-containing muffins and nuts to be used as toppings. A special set of utensils and dishes are used as these stations.

Identification System: Both printed menus and those that appear online are coded with certain allergen identification tags. For instance, a “GF” symbol next to an item means the item is gluten-free. Vegetarian and Vegan options are also labeled.

Special Staff Training: Columbia Dining culinary staff have been trained to prevent cross-contamination and are educated on various food allergies and food sensitivities. A Registered Dietitian offers individualized assistance for students with food allergies, food sensitivities or any other food concerns, and on-site managers can answer questions. 

Are Halal dining options available for students?

Yes, John Jay Dining Hall offers a Halal meal plan option. A delicious variety of traditionally prepared meats, such as Mediterranean fish, roasted lemon chicken and curried beef, is offered and the vegetables served are all vegan and gluten-free products. Columbia Dining receives most of the food on the Halal menu from Midamar.

Are Kosher dining options available for students?

Yes. There are two Kosher Dining Plans available:

1. Columbia University Kosher Dining Plan

Students may elect to participate in the Kosher Dining Plan for an additional 10% fee. This allows access to a restricted kosher area within John Jay Dining Hall that serves a full array of kosher items (Freshko sandwiches, salads and snacks).

2. Barnard College Kosher Dining Plan

The Barnard College Kosher Dining Plan provides 3 kosher meals a day, 7 days a week. High quality food, including freshly-made pizza and a great salad bar, is conveniently located in Barnard’s main dining facility, Hewitt Hall. Both Barnard and Columbia students can enjoy their meals in comfort with the rest of the student population. The Kosher dining plan is strictly supervised k’halakhah by the Columbia/Barnard Hillel Rabbi. Additionally, the Barnard Kosher Dining Plan provides a homey atmosphere for Shabbat, Yom Tov and other festive occasions. For more information, please contact Barnard Dining Services.

Is housing guaranteed for students at Columbia?

Yes, students are guaranteed housing for up to 8 terms during their time at Columbia. Over 95% of undergraduate students and 100% of the Class of 2016 live on campus.

Where do transfer students live?

All transfer students are housed with their class in upperclass residence halls. Assignment is based on seniority and building preference with applications processed on a rolling basis. Students are notified by e-mail when rooms are assigned.

Are students required to be on a Dining Plan?

All first-year students are required to be on a Dining Plan, but enrollment after the first year is optional. 

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.

How many students live on campus?

Columbia undergraduate students are guaranteed housing for all four years. Nearly all undergraduates live on campus all four years.

Are transfers required to live on campus?

Transfers are not required to live on campus.

Is housing guaranteed for transfer students?

As a transfer, you will be guaranteed housing during your time at Columbia, unless you choose to move off-campus at any time, at which point the housing guarantee is forfeited.

Where is Morningside Heights?

Morningside Heights is a residential neighborhood located on the west side of the island of Manhattan. It is approximately a ten-minute walk from the northwestern tip of Central Park and another ten-minute walk to the heart of Historic Harlem. Columbia is located on the #1 subway line and various bus routes. On the #1 train students can get to Times Square in approximately 20 minutes, go uptown to Columbia’s Medical Center in 15 minutes, and get to Columbia’s Baker Field Athletic Complex at the northern tip of Manhattan in 25 minutes.

What kind of meal plans does Columbia offer?

All first-year students are required to be on a meal plan that they will select over the summer before their arrival. In all succeeding years they may choose to continue a meal plan or utilize the various grocery stores and restaurants in the neighborhood. Meal plans at Columbia consist of a varying number of meals at John Jay Dining Hall, Ferris Booth Commons, JJ’s Place, or Barnard College’s Hewitt Dining Hall, and dining dollars that can be used at any of Columbia’s 13 different on-campus dining locations.

How do I get Dining Dollars and Flex dollars?

Dining dollars and Flex Dollars can be purchased at the beginning of the term when paying the yearly bill and can be added to the account throughout the year.

What housing options are available for first-years?

First-year students have four distinct housing options, all located on the main quad of Columbia within minutes of every academic building and with easy access to Butler Library, Columbia’s main library, and Alfred Lerner Hall, the student center. John Jay Hall and Carman Hall are the only first-year exclusive living options. Hartley and Wallach Halls, collectively the Living and Learning Center, house students from all four classes. Furnald Hall houses first-year students and sophomores. New students are placed in one of the four options based on the preferences they submit in their housing applications.

How is housing selected for upperclassmen?

Students will enter into a lottery system in order to select their future housing; they may choose to group with friends and live in one of Columbia’s suites, or they may decide to enter into the lottery alone and live in one of Columbia’s many singles. Over 70% of all undergraduate rooms at Columbia are singles.

Can I seek off-campus housing?

Housing at Columbia offers a wide variety of living opportunities-from corridor style to apartment style living, from residence halls in the middle of the main quad to those on quiet side streets only five minutes walk to the center of campus. The University-wide Office of Off-Campus Housing Assistance supports all affiliates in seeking non-Columbia owned properties.

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.

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.