Frequently Asked Questions

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May I apply to both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering?

No. Applicants to Columbia must choose either Columbia College or Columbia Engineering.

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. 

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.

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.

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 or higher on the Critical Reading or Writing sections of the SAT, or a 29 or higher on the English or Reading sections of the ACT, 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.

What is the Visiting Student Program?

Columbia welcomes college students who wish to spend all or part of an academic year taking classes at Columbia. This program has been designed as an opportunity for students to broaden their college experience and is intended as a supplement to the undergraduate program at their home institution. Students in the Visiting Student Program are not permitted to apply for transfer admission.

While we will try our best to accommodate students who wish to live on campus, we are not able to guarantee Visiting Student Program students campus housing. Admitted students will be notified at the time of admission if we are able to offer campus housing.

Students may enter in either January or September and may spend one or two consecutive semesters at Columbia. All Visiting Students must be in good academic and disciplinary standing at their home colleges. Application deadlines are March 15 for September entrance and October 15 for January entrance. No financial aid is available to visiting students, but they are welcome to use financial aid from their home institutions.

What majors are offered in Columbia College?

There are 59 Departments of Instruction offering more than 80 different Areas of Study for students in Columbia College. A complete listing of majors and concentrations offered by Columbia College is available under Columbia College Programs of Study.

What athletics are offered at Columbia?

Columbia University competes at the NCAA Division I level (Division I-AA for football) as a member of the Ivy League. Columbia sponsors varsity teams in 31 intercollegiate sports in addition to many intercollegiate club and intramural teams as well. For more detailed information, please visit the Columbia Athletics website.

Does Columbia have ROTC?

Columbia has an agreement with the Navy to offer a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program. As part of the NYC NROTC program, Columbia students complete their training at the SUNY Maritime campus, participating in Naval Science classes, military training and physical training. Graduates serve in the Navy or Marine Corps as officers and receive tuition and fees from the Navy during their time at Columbia.

Candidates interested in this program should apply both for the NROTC National Scholarship and for admission to Columbia simultaneously, taking note of NROTC entrance requirements. More information on the NROTC program can be found on the official NROTC website ( and questions may directed to  or (718) 409-7242.

Columbia also offers students the opportunity to participate in Army and Air Force ROTC programs through cross-town affiliations with other programs. More information can be found on the Columbia ROTC website.

How can I start a club?

Clubs are organized by five governing boards-the Activities Board at Columbia, the Club Sports Governing Board, Community Impact, the Intergreek Council and the Student Governing Board. Each governing board oversees a particular set of organizations and has specific guidelines for prospective groups. Student life fees fund the over 450 clubs and organizations at Columbia. Check out the various governing boards in order to learn how to start up a new group that will offer something distinctive to the campus community.

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.

Can I minor in the Engineering School?

Yes. The Engineering school offers both engineering and liberal arts minors for students.

Does Columbia allow students to double (or triple) major?

Yes. Students are allowed to take on more than one major. Doing so, however, is likely to require additional coursework and may not be possible in four years.

Does Columbia offer pre-professional majors?

Columbia College does not offer any specific pre-professional majors, such as “pre-med” or “pre-law.” However, many students at Columbia aspire to professional fields and take courses, perform research and intern in order to better understand their anticipated careers. For undergraduates who hope to apply to medical school, law school or other professional schools, the Office of Pre-Professional Advising will assist students in applying and work with them throughout the application process.

What academic requirements are necessary for graduating from Columbia Engineering?

All students in Columbia Engineering must complete a major area of study as described in the departmental section of the school bulletin. Students must complete the Core Curriculum as specified for the Engineering school and in total earn 128 points, approximately 40 classes.

What is the difference between a major and a concentration?

The purpose of the major or concentration requirement is to give each student the experience of doing sustained and advanced work, including individual research, in a field of special interest. A major consists of intensive study in one department involving the satisfaction of a variety of requirements; a concentration demands fewer departmental course points or requirements than a major.