Frequently Asked Questions

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May I take the SAT Subject Test in my native language?

Although not required, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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, 2016
Regular Decision: January 1, 2017
Transfer Admission: March 1, 2017
Visiting Student Program: October 15, 2016 (for spring admission); March 15, 2017 (for fall admission).
Combined Plan Program: February 15, 2017

Online applications must be submitted electronically by 11:59 p.m. (your local time), the day of the deadline.

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, but applicants may be contacted for an interview.

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/NOP

HEOP 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$21,590
2 household members$29,101
3 household members$36,612
4 household members$44,123
5 household members$51,634
6 household members$59,145
7 household members$66,656 plus $7,511 for each additional family member thereafter

The primary criterion for admission to NOP is academic; there is no residency requirment and Columbia may select applicants for admission to NOP whose income levels exceed the HEOP criteria.

Although many of our NOP students demonstrate significant financial need, Columbia financial aid is determined on a case by case basis and we meet the full demonstrated financial need of all applicants admitted as first-year students. There are no academic, athletic or talent-based institutional scholarships at Columbia as all of our institutional financial aid is need-based.

Students can estimate their eligibility for need-based financial aid by using the Net Price Calculator.

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

What is Columbia's 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

Students who wish to submit supplements in these fields should indicate their intention to submit a supplement on their application. On the Common Application, please indicate your intention to submit an arts supplement in Columbia’s member questions; you will then be provided a link to begin your supplement.

Music

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.

We ask that students select two works contrasting in period and tempo, and 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 students 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 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 submit materials so that Columbia faculty may assess their talent and potential.

Visual Arts

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.

Dance

Videos of dance accomplishments will be accepted as .m4v, .mov, .mp4, .wmv, .flv, .asf, .mpeg, .mpg or .mkv file, no more than 250MB and between four and six minutes in length. We require that students also list their name, title of the piece, choreographer, composer/music title, and place and date of performance. Students should also submit a professional resume listing their dance achievements in addition to a video.

Live auditions are not part of the admissions process, but auditions for various dance troupes are held for enrolled students at the start of each academic year.

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, Drama and Theatre Arts and Film

Applicants may upload professional resumes that list artistic achievement in the Columbia Writing Supplement to the Common Application. There is no need to create a SlideRoom profile. 

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).

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 or the Coalition 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.

Applicants from China

Columbia recommends that applicants attending high school in China schedule admissions interviews with InitialView or Vericant. Interviews must be scheduled, completed and submitted to Columbia by November 15 for Early Decision or January 15 for Regular Decision. Given the ratio of applicants to alumni interviewers in China, the interview with InitialView or Vericant will take the place of an alumni interview for most candidates. Please contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions directly should InitialView or Vericant fees present a hardship for you and your family. Both InitialView and Vericant also offer fee waivers.

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 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.

Any documents that are part of your application file and not in English, such as transcripts or recommendations, need to be officially translated into English and submitted along with the original documents.

For more information, please visit the International Student Admission page.

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 or Coalition 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.

Applicants from China

Columbia recommends that applicants attending high school in China schedule admissions interviews with InitialView or Vericant. Interviews must be scheduled, completed and submitted to Columbia by November 15 for Early Decision or January 15 for Regular Decision. Given the ratio of applicants to alumni interviewers in China, the interview with InitialView or Vericant will take the place of an alumni interview for most candidates. Please contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions directly should InitialView or Vericant fees present a hardship for you and your family. Both InitialView and Vericant also offer fee waivers.

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.

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.

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