Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to be able to work while going to class?

Columbia holds classes from early in the morning until late at night. This allows students to hold on-campus jobs, pursue internships in the city and adjust their schedules to make the most of their academic and extracurricular experience. Many students, moreover, have no classes on Fridays, so many use Fridays as an opportunity to pursue internships and other commitments. The Center for Career Education also provides students with opportunities for employment on and off campus.

What academic requirements are necessary for graduating from Columbia College?

All students in Columbia College must complete either a major or a concentration as described in the departmental sections of the school bulletin. Moreover, students must complete the entirety of the Core Curriculum, and in total earn 124 points, approximately 40 classes.

When do students take Core courses?

Students will primarily take Core courses in their first two years, but only in the first year will students be pre-registered for specific Core courses.

Columbia College: students will be pre-registered for Literature Humanities and University Writing. Most students will elect to take Contemporary Civilization in their sophomore year and then have the choice of when to complete the remaining Core courses. In general the Core will make up roughly one third of the courses a student will take in the College.

Columbia Engineering: students will be pre-registered for The Art of Engineering, University Writing and Principles of Economics. Most students will complete most of their technical Core courses in their first two years to better prepare them for specific majors. Students will complete the remaining humanities requirements throughout their tenure at Columbia. In general the Core will make up roughly one fourth of the courses a student will take in the Engineering School.

Are there any tutors available?

Tutoring for all subjects is available for students through Academic Success Programs.

Does Columbia grant credit for college courses and credits earned during high school?

No. Entering first-year students are not granted credit for college courses taken before graduation from secondary school. However, a maximum of six credits may be awarded for college courses taken after graduation from high school and prior to matriculation at Columbia. For more specific information, please consult the bulletin of Columbia College or The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Does Columbia grant placement, advanced standing or credit for standardized examinations?

Yes. Some placement, advanced standing or credit may be granted for nationally or internationally standardized examinations. Columbia will grant a maximum of 16 credits toward the bachelor’s degree. For more specific information, please consult the bulletin of Columbia College or The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Are there advisors for specific departmental majors?

Yes. All departments will assign faculty advisors to every student committing to either a major or concentration in that department.

What are the advising and support services on campus?

All Columbia undergraduates will have a single all-purpose advisor from the Center for Student Advising for all four years.

What are the courses of the Core Curriculum for Columbia College students?

Is Columbia on a semester or quarter system?

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering run on a semester system.

Is there a maximum number of students admitted from a particular country, region or school?

No. Columbia seeks to enroll students with unique achievements and talents as well as diverse economic, social and geographic backgrounds. We do not have any quotas for any particular population (i.e., race, ethnicity, religion, state, etc.). Applicants are compared to all other applicants, both regionally and globally.

Find out more by visiting What Does Columbia Look For?

May students rejected from Columbia appeal their admission decision?

No. If your application to Columbia is denied, that decision is final. There is no appeal process for admission decisions, and applicants are not reconsidered for admission. Every application receives a review from members of the professional admissions staff. As we do feel confident that our decisions, however difficult, are commitments that we make only after the care and deliberation that all our candidates deserve, we must say once again that we cannot accept any requests for reconsideration of these decisions.

What does it mean if I am “deferred” from the Early Decision applicant pool?

A small number of Early Decision applicants receive notification that we are deferring a final admission decision until April. Their applications will be reviewed and evaluated again among the Regular Decision applicant pool. Those Early Decision candidates whose applications are deferred to Regular Decision and who subsequently are offered admission in April are not then bound by any commitment to enroll at Columbia.

Will Columbia ever rescind an offer of admission?

If a candidate is offered admission, Columbia reserves the right to withdraw that offer of admission if:

  1. The candidate shows a significant drop in academic performance or fails to graduate.
  2. The candidate has misrepresented himself or herself in the application process.
  3. We learn that candidate has engaged in behavior prior to matriculation that indicates a serious lack of judgment or integrity.
  4. The candidate is holding both a place at Columbia and a place in the first-year class of a college other than Columbia after the May 1 deadline.

Columbia further reserves the right to require the applicant to provide additional information (and/or authorization for the release of information) about any such matter.

Will my chances for admission be affected if I apply for financial aid?

All applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or students granted refugee visas by the United States are read in a need-blind manner, no matter where they attend school or where they reside. The term “need-blind” means financial need has no bearing on the admissions decision. All other applicants are evaluated in a need-aware manner, which means that the admissions committee takes into consideration how much financial aid a student requires when rendering an admissions decision. Columbia admits a large number of foreign students who receive a substantial amount of financial aid.

Columbia is committed to meeting the full need of all applicants admitted as first-year students for all four years of study, regardless of citizenship.

As a foreign student, you should determine what amount you feel you and your family could afford to pay each year for four years of study. If you conclude that you and your family will be unable to assume the estimated total cost of attendance, you should apply for financial aid at the same time you apply for admission. If you are traveling to Columbia from another country, you will also want to consider travel expenses. If you do not apply for financial aid at the time of applying, you cannot be considered for financial aid in the future unless there has been a drastic and unforeseeable change in your family’s circumstances.

The Office of Financial Aid & Educational Financing website has information for foreign students interested in applying Early Decision and Regular Decision.

Are my chances for admission to a Columbia graduate school greater if I attend Columbia as an undergraduate?

Not necessarily. Columbia’s graduate schools make admissions decisions independent of those decisions made for admission to Columbia College or to Columbia Engineering; students who graduate from Columbia’s undergraduate programs are not given any automatic preference at the graduate schools.

However, many Columbia graduates do choose to continue their professional education at Columbia. In 2008, 14 Columbia undergraduates matriculated at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, the largest undergraduate cohort in the school’s entering class. At Columbia Law School, 50 students matriculated, which was also the largest cohort of students in the entering class.

Are admissions requirements different for home-schooled students?

Home-schooled students receive the same evaluation as other Columbia applicants – every application receives the careful attention of several members of the professional admissions staff, and decisions are made only after review by a committee of these officers. 

Home-schooled students should follow our Required Standardized Testing policy for the necessary tests. If you take both the ACT and any SAT Subject Tests, we encourage you to submit those Subject Test scores. We also recommend that if you have a specific area of academic interest, you submit Subject Test scores in that area of interest, if available. Your scores can assist the Admissions Committee in evaluating content knowledge and mastery in individual disciplines.

I have already graduated from high school. How may I apply to Columbia?

The answer depends on a number of factors, so pay careful attention to the distinctions below. You should also consult the instructions in the application itself. If you still are unsure of your status, please contact us by phone.

The distinctions below apply to all candidates as specified, regardless of citizenship or visa status or need for financial aid. If you are enrolled at a college or university overseas that follows a U.S.-style curriculum (e.g., the American University of Paris), then you should follow the same policy as a student at a college or university in the U.S.

Prospective Columbia Engineering Applicants

A gap in your schooling, whether for military service or any other reason, does not affect your admissions status as delineated in these distinctions.

  1. If you have not already spent a full academic year or more in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia Engineering as a first-year student.
  2. If you have already spent a full academic year or more in a university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to SEAS as a transfer student.
  3. If you have spent more than two full academic years in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia Engineering as an undergraduate at all.
  4. If you have spent a full academic year or less in a university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you must still apply to Columbia Engineering as a first-year student.
  5. If you have spent more than a full academic year in a university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia Engineering as an undergraduate at all.

Prospective Columbia College Applicants

I. If you have had no interruptions in your schooling of more than one academic year in total, or if the interruption in your schooling has been for the minimum length of your country’s mandatory military service:

  1. 1. If you have not already spent a full academic year or more in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia College as a first-year student.
  2. If you have already spent a full academic year or more in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia College as a transfer student.
  3. If you have spent more than two full academic years in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia College as an undergraduate at all. (See paragraph II.)
  4. If you have already spent a full academic year or less in a college/university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia College as a first-year student.
  5. If you have already spent more than a full academic year in a college/university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia College as an undergraduate at all. (See paragraph II.)

II. If you have had any interruptions in your schooling of more than one academic year, or if you have been referred here by item I.3 or I.5 above, then you are strongly advised to apply instead to Columbia University’s School of General Studies, Columbia’s college for nontraditional students who want to earn a degree while attending full- or part-time. Nontraditional students have had a break of one year or more in their educational paths or have compelling personal or professional reasons for completing their bachelor’s degrees part time. Students in the School of General Studies take the same courses with the same faculty and undertake the same majors as all other undergraduates at Columbia.

By visiting the General Studies website, you will find information on applying either as a first-year student or as a transfer. Financial aid is available to all candidates who qualify.

If the foregoing criteria apply to you, you may still apply to Columbia College if you insist, but you should be aware that you are doing so at a great disadvantage and that your acceptance is extremely unlikely.

What are your secondary/high school course requirements for admission?

Columbia College

The College has no explicit number of unit requirements for admission, but applicants must present evidence that they are prepared for college work in the humanities, mathematics, social sciences, foreign languages and natural sciences. Accordingly, the College strongly recommends the following preparation:

  • Four years of English literature and composition
  • Three to four years of mathematics
  • Three to four years of history and social studies
  • Three to four years of one foreign language (ancient or modern)
  • Three to four years of laboratory science

Students who plan to become scientists, engineers, physicians or dentists should be as solidly grounded in mathematics and the sciences as their high school schedules and curricula have permitted. The study of mathematics, at least through pre-calculus, is strongly advised wherever possible.

Modifying the preparatory program just outlined - by taking more work in some subjects and less in others - is not only acceptable but may be desirable in individual cases. The vast majority of successful applicants to the College have taken five academic courses per term for all four years of secondary/high school.

Columbia Engineering

The School of Engineering and Applied Science prescribes no standardized course of study for secondary school students applying for first-year admission. The School does, however, strongly recommend the following academic preparation:

  • Four years of mathematics (preferably through calculus)
  • One year of physics
  • One year of chemistry
  • Four years of English
  • Two to three years of a foreign language
  • Three to four years of history and social studies

What criteria are used for admissions decisions?

The Columbia University first-year class of College and Engineering students is chosen from a large and diverse group of applicants. In the process of selection, the Committee on Admissions asks questions about 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, 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.

How can I register to receive more information about Columbia?

Students may fill out an information request form. By providing your electronic and home contact information, you will receive e-mail and print information throughout the year.

Does Columbia have quotas for a particular region or school?

No. Columbia seeks to enroll students with unique achievements and talents as well as diverse economic, social and geographic backgrounds. We do not have any quotas for any particular population (i.e., race, ethnicity, religion, state, etc.). Applicants are compared to all other applicants, both regionally and globally.

Does Columbia have a waitlist?

Columbia places extremely compelling candidates on a waitlist to be considered for admission if spots in the entering class become available. Every year, the number of spots that become available is different.

We do not rank our waiting list, and all candidates are re-considered for admission if spaces do become available. We encourage students to submit an additional one-page statement expressing interest in the waitlist, but do not encourage the submission of additional letters of recommendation.

How large are Columbia's classes?

80% of undergraduate classes taught at Columbia have fewer than 20 students. Since Columbia’s Core classes are small seminar classes and since more advanced courses are meant to allow direct connection with faculty, few courses at Columbia are larger than 20 students. Those classes generally are either popular introductory lectures or upper-level classes in especially great demand.

What is the student-faculty ratio?

The student to faculty ratio is 6 to 1. The ratio in some of the physical science departments in the College is as low as 2 to 1.

What services does Columbia offer physically and learning disabled students?

Columbia offers a wide variety of assistance for physically and learning disabled students. For more detailed information, visit the Office of Disability Services.

Does Columbia offer study abroad programs?

Columbia operates programs in Beijing, Berlin, Kyoto, Paris, Shanghai and Venice. Columbia also sponsors special programs with Oxford and Cambridge and in Paris at Sciences Po and at Ecole Polytechnique. The Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U) allows Columbia College students the opportunity to fulfill in part the Core’s science requirement and participate in field ecology abroad. The Office of Global Programs assists Columbia students in studying or interning abroad at nearly 200 approved programs in both developed and developing parts of the world.

In addition, Columbia offers students the chance to study for one semester at Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, D.C., or at Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia.

What is the Core Curriculum?

The Core Curriculum is the cornerstone of a Columbia education. Central to the intellectual mission of the Core is the goal of providing all Columbia students, regardless of their major or concentration, with wide-ranging perspectives on significant ideas and achievements in literature, philosophy, history, music, art and science.

The hallmark of the Core is its commitment to the critical examination of challenging ideas in the context of small and intensive classes. At its center stands Contemporary Civilization (“CC”), a course founded in 1919 which over the span of two semesters surveys the history of moral and political thought from Plato to the present. This course is required of all Columbia College sophomores. Masterpieces of European Literature and Philosophy, commonly know as Literature Humanities (“Lit Hum”), similarly surveys, over two semesters, some of the most influential works in all of Western literature and is required of all first-year students .

Over the years the Core has grown and expanded to include the study of scienceartmusicwriting and an in-depth understanding of creative works outside of the Western canon. These courses maintain the tradition of the Core in which the pursuit of better questions is presumed to be every bit as important as the pursuit of better answers. The small size of Core Curriculum classes provides students with the opportunity to develop early on in their Columbia careers close relationships with faculty and to participate with them in a shared process of intellectual inquiry.

The skills and habits honed by the Core-observation, analysis, imaginative comparison, argument, respect for others’ ideas, nuances and differences-provide a rigorous preparation for life as an intelligent and engaged citizen in today’s complex and changing world.

What accelerated programs with Columbia graduate schools are offered to undergraduates?

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering allow talented juniors to consider several accelerated or joint degree options including programs with Columbia Law School, The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Sciences Po in France, and The Juilliard School.

For detailed information on programs for each school, please visit Columbia College Areas of Study or Columbia Engineering Areas of Study.

What is the Combined Plan Program?

Columbia offers a five-year plan in which you can attend Columbia College for three years and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science for two additional years, graduating with both the B.A. and B.S. degrees. If you are interested in the Combined Plan Program (sometimes known as “3-2”), you should apply to Columbia College.

Another five-year program allows you to complete your four-year B.S. program in The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and then, with an additional year of study in Columbia College, to earn the B.A. degree as well. If you are interested in the “4-1” Program, you should apply to The School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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