Frequently Asked Questions

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 standardized tests are required for first-year admission?

Information on standardized testing requirements is found on the Required Standardized Testing page.

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.

Does Columbia give preference in the admission process to applicants whose parents attended Columbia?

We are always pleased to receive applications from students whose family members have graduated from Columbia. When an applicant is extremely competitive and compares favorably with other similarly talented candidates, being the daughter or son of a Columbia University graduate (from any Columbia school or college) may be a slight advantage in the admission process. This advantage may especially apply for “legacy” candidates.

Please note: applicants are considered to be “legacies” of Columbia only if they are the children of Columbia College or Columbia Engineering graduates.

How competitive is admission to Columbia?

Admission to both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering is broad-based but highly selective, and the Committee is only able to offer admission to only a small fraction of all applicants.

A profile of the current first-year class is available on the Admissions Statistics webpage.

Admission for transfer students is also highly selective. Over the past decade, the Committee has admitted between 5% and 10% of transfer applicants each year.

Is there a minimum test score, class rank or GPA required for admission to Columbia?

No. Columbia does not have a “cut-off” GPA or test score for applicants. For detailed information on the statistics of the most recent entering class, go to the Admissions Statistics page.

If I am accepted, may I defer for a year?

Yes. A candidate who has been offered first-year admission may ask to defer enrollment for a year to work, travel, complete mandatory military service or pursue a special opportunity. A student may not defer admission in order to enroll full-time at another college or university. A second year of deferral may be granted upon request. Students must request a deferral in writing by May 15 after submitting their first-year response form and deposit. Transfer students are not permitted to defer their admission.

What is Columbia’s policy on admissions interviews?

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.

If I speak a language other than English, may I be exempt from the Foreign Language requirement in the Core Curriculum?

Yes, if you are fluent in another language, and you pass the placement exam on campus, you may be exempt from the foreign language requirement.

What do students do after Columbia?

Upon leaving Columbia students enter into a wide variety of fields and industries. Many eventually go back to school for graduate or professional study. Learn about some of Columbia’s alumni in our About Our Alumni page.

How many Columbia students go on to professional or graduate schools?

Many Columbia students decide to go to graduate or professional school either directly after graduation or after several years of work. Columbia graduates are very successful in gaining admission to professional schools.

In 2008, Columbia undergraduates matriculated at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (14), The Albert Einstein College of Medicine (8), Harvard Medical School (8), Yale Medical School (8), and Cornell’s Weill Medical College (5). Columbia undergraduates also matriculated at law schools including Columbia Law School (50), Harvard Law School (48), New York University Law School (44) and Yale Law School (12). Students who choose to apply to medicine and law schools work with the Office of Pre-professional Advising throughout the application process.

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. 

Can I apply to the Combined Plan program if I have not fulfilled all of the requirements for guaranteed admission?

Yes. Your application materials will be reviewed by the Combined Plan Admissions Committee.

If I am a Combined Plan student, can I pursue an internship while I am at Columbia?

Yes! Combined Plan students have access to the Center for Career Education, which assists students with finding appropriate internship opportunities and preparing for postgraduate careers.

Can foreign/international Combined Plan applicants get financial aid?

Financial aid is available for foreign students, but it is limited. Columbia does not guarantee that it will meet 100% of a foreign student’s demonstrated financial need. A “foreign” student is one who has neither U.S. citizenship nor U.S. permanent resident status.

Do I have to take physical education classes?

No. Combined Plan students are exempt from the Columbia Physical Education requirement.

Do you offer a Combined Plan program for the M.S. in Engineering degree?

For all information about the graduate study of engineering at Columbia, please contact the Office of Graduate Student Services at

Do you offer fee waivers for the Combined Plan application?

Yes. Please obtain documents demonstrating eligibility from your Financial Aid office and contact the Combined Plan program by e-mail.

How many classes will I take in a typical Columbia Engineering semester?

Depending on the course of study, Combined Plan students will take five or six classes per semester (including laboratory supplements to classes).

How many Combined Plan students are at Columbia?

We have a total of approximately 150 students in the two years of the Combined Plan.

I’m planning to visit Columbia. Are there any Combined Plan specific things I can do?

In addition to a general information session and campus tour, you may be interested in our Engineering tour. Spaces are limited, so we encourage you to RSVP.

If you have any specific questions regarding the Combined Plan program, you may speak to an admissions officer available during your visit, or you may e-mail us at

May I reapply to the Combined Plan program?

Yes. You will need to resubmit a new application along with an updated transcript and materials. Please note that students who entered the affiliate school in Fall 2011 or later may only qualify for guaranteed admission in their first application cycle; any subsequent applications will be reviewed in the competitive review process.

Can I apply if I do not attend an affiliate school?

Yes. You are permitted to apply, and your materials will be reviewed by the Combined Plan Admissions Committee. Please note that the requirements for guaranteed admission are used as guidelines in this review process,  as the process is most competitive. Since your school does not have an articulation agreement with Columbia, you are not eligible to apply under the guaranteed admissions program.

Are there quotas for the number of Combined Plan students admitted?

No. The Combined Plan Admissions Committee will review applications individually.

What student clubs and organizations exist on campus?

Columbia features over 500 religious, service, ethnic, artistic, political, activist, publication or hobby student organizations and clubs, as well as various forms of student government. We have developed a complete list of clubs and organizations.

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. The Internal Transfer Application is now available. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.