The Core Curriculum

For more than 100 years, the Core Curriculum has been the defining element of a Columbia College education. It’s a communal learning experience that cultivates community-wide discourse and deliberate contemplation around seminal works, contemporary issues and humanity’s most enduring questions.

Discover how the Core's transformative shared experience helps to shape an intellectual community that spans disciplines and generations.

Intellectually expansive. Personally transformative.

One of the distinctive features of the Core is that it is designed to transcend disciplines. It introduces cornerstone ideas and theories from across literature, philosophy, history, science and the arts, inviting your curiosity, reflection and critique, in conversation with others.

In most Core classes, you’ll engage with primary works that contain some of the most significant thoughts, images and sounds created, from Homer to Toni Morrison, Plato to Gandhi, Raphael to Andy Warhol, and the composers of Gregorian Chants to Kaija Saariaho. 

As you collectively explore what these works mean to you as an individual, you’ll grapple with the joys and challenges of what it means to be human.

Common syllabus; uncommon experience. 

Studying the same works in small, discussion-style seminars, our students are taught to investigate new ideas and perspectives. It’s a learning environment where you’ll be challenged to engage meaningfully with friends and classmates who hold different opinions. 

When you do, you’ll become part of an intimate intellectual community that spans disciplines and interests and fosters deep, enduring friendships. Together, you’ll learn to adapt and respond to new information and revelations that can—and often will—alter and expand your worldview.



maximum students in a Core Curriculum seminar



years of literary and philosophical development covered in Literature Humanities



scientific habits of mind taught in Frontiers of Science



years since the Core Curriculum was established

Lessons for a lifetime.

Ultimately, the Core will help you develop intellectual tools and habits of mind you’ll use long after you leave college, enabling you to solve multidimensional problems and find answers to profound questions that might at times seem unanswerable. You’ll carry these lessons with you into the world, where you’ll join a greater conversation that binds Columbia’s present students to its past and future generations. 

It’s a timeless dialogue, and an approach to thinking and living that seeks to elevate society for all—and is more vital now than ever before.