Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

We welcome an additional letter of recommendation if the writer has worked with you in a researcher or college course capacity. Any supplementary recommendations should not be completed on the Teacher Report forms, but instead submitted directly to our office. 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.

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


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 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, 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.

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.

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.