Frequently Asked Questions

Is testing required for QuestBridge applicants?

Yes. Applicants can choose to take either the SAT and two Subject Tests or the ACT Plus Writing.

If you are applying to Columbia Engineering and wish to submit the SATs, you must take subject tests in Math and either Physics, Biology or Chemistry. You may also choose to take the ACT Assessment Plus Writing instead. The last acceptable SAT test date for students applying through the Match process is October 11. The last acceptable ACT test date for students applying through the Match Process is October 25. Regular Decision applicants must take the SAT no later than January and the ACT no later than February.

You must be sure to request that your scores be reported directly to Columbia every time you take a standardized test. The appropriate code for the SAT is 2116 (Columbia College or Columbia Engineering) or for the ACT, 2717.

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.

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.

Will any courses I’ve taken elsewhere (at non-affiliate institutions and/or study abroad programs) fulfill Columbia's prerequisite courses?

Please speak with the liaison at your school, who should be familiar with your school’s policies. If the course appears on your home institution’s transcript and if your liaison approves by noting this in his/her recommendation letter, we will accept credit taken at other institutions as fulfillment of the prerequisite course. Official transcripts from all institutions attended are required. Please note that additional information about your school’s credit policies may be required as part of your application.

Will any advanced credits I earned in high school (e.g., AP or IB courses) transfer?

If your institution has awarded you any college credits for work done in high school, Columbia will accept this credit. Please speak with your liaison to determine whether these credits fulfill Columbia prerequisite courses. The liaison must note this awarding of credit in his/her letter as part of your application and the courses must appear on your transcript.

Why can’t I apply to the Financial Engineering major?

Financial Engineering is a concentration in Operations Research that requires an application after one semester of study at Columbia. Entrance in this program is very competitive.


Students interested in the Financial Engineering track should consider Operations Research, Engineering Management Systems or Industrial Engineering as fields of study.

Which classes count towards Columbia’s prerequisite courses?

Please speak with the liaison at your school in order to determine which classes fulfill Columbia pre-engineering and major course requirements. Our Pre-Curriculum Course Descriptions describe the topics covered through our prerequisite courses, which may help you guide you and your school liaison.

When are financial aid forms due?

Forms should be completed as soon as possible, and no later than March 1, 2014.

What kind of housing do Combined Plan students receive?

Combined Plan students are guaranteed housing in their first year.

While Columbia will do its best to accommodate students’ requests to live on campus after the first year, there is no guarantee that Combined Plan students will be offered a room on campus beyond the first year. Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) assists Columbia students and affiliates in their search for housing in non-Columbia owned buildings in the metropolitan area. OCHA maintains a website and regular office hours to provide advice, resources and an online database of available housing.

What if a prerequisite class is not offered at my affiliate school?

Please speak with the liaison at your school to determine how the prerequisite class may be taken. Depending on the course, you may be able to take the class at another institution or through independent study.

What courses are used to calculate my GPA?

Your pre-engineering GPA includes all of the science and mathematics prerequisite Foundation Courses and Major-Specific Courses, as listed in our Curriculum Guide. Your overall GPA includes all courses you have completed towards your home institution’s degree, up through the spring semester of application.

What assistance is available to help Combined Plan students with their post-Columbia plans?

Combined Plan students have full access to The Center for Career Education, the Office of Preprofessional Advising, and the Office of Fellowships, which provide individual advising, programming and rich resources to help students explore and prepare for internships and jobs, graduate school and fellowship programs. Graduating student survey results demonstrate that Columbia engineering students are equipped to pursue a variety of paths upon graduation.

Should I apply after three years or after four?

You should speak with the liaison at your school, who can advise you on an appropriate course of study and/or other institutional requirements that may determine when you will apply. While most students apply in their third year, you may apply in your fourth year and still be considered for guaranteed admission. Students may apply only up to one year after they have graduated.

Will I be able to take non-technical liberal arts electives at Columbia?

Depending on your department and schedule, you may be able to take non-technical elective courses.

Will I get the same financial aid package from Columbia as I received from my affiliate school?

As Columbia awards only need-based financial aid, your aid package may change. Please see the financial aid section on our website for more information.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

Does Columbia have fraternities and sororities?

Yes. Approximately 10-15% of undergraduate students are affiliated with fraternities or sororities. Over 25 chapters exist on campus, and many are housed in the brownstones and row houses that line 113th and 114th Streets.

Can Dining Dollars be used off campus?

No, but Columbia students can have a Flex Account, which allows them to make dollar-for-dollar food purchases at a number of off-campus eateries, including Chipotle, the Heights Grill, and Whole Foods Market. Students can also use their Flex Account at all on-campus locations, including the campus bookstore, as well as off-campus drugstores and shops. Please visit the Accepted Flex Locations for a full list of partcipating businesses.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.

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