Frequently Asked Questions

What is Columbia looking for when evaluating students for admission? What are the criteria for admission?

The Columbia University first-year class of 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. 

Are SAT/ACT scores required for transfer applicants?

Columbia has extended its test-optional policy for both first-year and transfer applicants to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering for fall of 2022.

Will you accept online English Proficiency exams?

We will accept online results from the TOEFL and IELTS examinations while they remain in place in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  We also continue to accept the Duolingo English Test.  However, please note that there are a variety of ways to meet our English Language Proficiency requirement and you can find additional details here. 

Does Columbia grant academic credit for international exams such as the British Advanced Examinations or other internationally standardized examinations?

Yes. Some placement, advanced standing or credit may be granted for nationally or internationally standardized examinations, including but not limited to International Baccalaureate and British Advanced Level and Pre-U Examinations. Credit is determined and approved by a student’s academic adviser from the Berick Center for Student Advising after a student is enrolled at Columbia. 

More information on international student admission can be found here. Specific questions about advanced standing should be directed to a student’s academic adviser once a student has matriculated.

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 secondary school preparation:

  • Four years of English literature and composition
  • Four years of mathematics - unless you have already completed what is available at your school
  • Three to four years of history and/or social studies
  • Three to four years of laboratory science
  • Three to four years of one foreign language (ancient or modern) - taken during high school

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. However, the Engineering curriculum is heavily driven by physics and calculus, so the school strongly advises these courses within the following recommended academic preparation:

  • Four years of mathematics (through calculus) - unless you have already completed what is available at your school
  • Four years of laboratory science, including one year of chemistry and one year of physics (preferably in the last two years of secondary school)
  • Four years of English literature and composition
  • Three to four years of history and/or social studies
  • Two to three years of a foreign language (ancient or modern) - taken during high school

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.

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

How can I get more information about Columbia?

We encourage you to browse our website for lots of helpful information on campus life, academic life, applying, the admission process, required standardized exams, financial aid, visiting Columbia, events, international students, diversity, parents and families, guidance counseling, alumni, frequently asked questions, requesting information and more!

Students interested in receiving additional information from Columbia may fill out our inquiry form.

Can I provide updates or corrections to my application after I have submitted it?

Any additions or corrections to the application must be submitted in writing either through the application status page or via email to Please include the student's identifying information: name and high school/secondary school; Columbia ID number (C00...); and date of birth.

How do I track the status of my application?

Admissions online document tracking is only available during certain times in the admissions process. 

If, at that time, you discover that any items are listed as "not received/processed," please have the school submit a duplicate copy of this missing information to us via email at as soon as possible. Emailed materials will take up to one week for processing. You will have time to submit the missing credentials before decisions are released without being penalized.

According to our Application Instructions, we will consider a file complete with only one Teacher Evaluation on file.

We do not track Midyear Reports/senior grades or additional materials.

Are fee waivers available for first-year applicants?

Information regarding fee waivers can be found on our website. 

Application fee waivers can be requested through the Common Application or Coalition Application by selecting the indicator of financial need that most closely matches your circumstances. While supporting documentation from a school official or other third party is welcome, it is not required. Columbia will grant all fee waiver requests automatically.

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 is Columbia’s policy on admissions interviews?

Volunteer members of Columbia’s Alumni Representative Committee, in addition to select Student Interviewers, conduct interviews on behalf of Undergraduate Admissions. You will be contacted directly if an interview is available in the same area as your high school. Because we have a finite number of volunteers to interview many thousands of candidates, we are unable to grant interviews to all of our applicants and cannot guarantee that an interview will be available in any given area. Candidates who are not offered an interview are not at any disadvantage in the admissions process. 

Interviews are not available for transfer candidates.

More information on interview policies and procedures can be found on our website