Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Core differ for Columbia Engineering students?

Engineering students will take half of the humanities Core: they can elect to take either Literature Humanities or Contemporary Civilization or a Global Core course and either Art Humanities or Music Humanities. They must also complete University Writing and the Physical Education requirement. In this regard, all students at Columbia are fully integrated into the philosophy beyond the Core-critical thinking, debate, respect for ideas-and the unifying educational experience which is a hallmark of Columbia.

Columbia engineers will also take courses specifically designed to better prepare them for their lives as innovators and entrepreneurs. These technical courses will prepare students in the five major areas of technical inquiry: engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science. The level of inquiry will depend on an individual student's prospective major choices.

The technical Core courses consist of the following:

  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Design Fundamentals Using the Advanced Computer Technologies
  • Physics

Related FAQs

Which of the regional US Department of Education recognized accrediting agencies accredits Columbia College and Columbia Engineering?

Columbia University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, 267-284-5000.

How does Columbia accommodate students with food allergies?

Columbia Dining is committed to making dining halls safe places to eat. As such, Columba Dining has taken the following measures for some common allergies:

Nuts: John Jay Dining Hall and Ferris Booth Commons have removed nuts from all recipes, but they have also created special "nut zones" for peanut butter, nut-containing muffins and nuts to be used as toppings. A special set of utensils and dishes are used as these stations.

Identification System: Both printed menus and those that appear online are coded with certain allergen identification tags. For instance, a "GF" symbol next to an item means the item is gluten-free. Vegetarian and Vegan options are also labeled.

Special Staff Training: Columbia Dining culinary staff have been trained to prevent cross-contamination and are educated on various food allergies and food sensitivities. A Registered Dietitian offers individualized assistance for students with food allergies, food sensitivities or any other food concerns, and on-site managers can answer questions. 

Are Halal dining options available for students?

Yes, John Jay Dining Hall offers a Halal meal plan option. A delicious variety of traditionally prepared meats, such as Mediterranean fish, roasted lemon chicken and curried beef, is offered and the vegetables served are all vegan and gluten-free products. Columbia Dining receives most of the food on the Halal menu from Midamar.

Are Kosher dining options available for students?

Yes. There are two Kosher Dining Plans available:

1. Columbia University Kosher Dining Plan

Students may elect to participate in the Kosher Dining Plan for an additional 10% fee. This allows access to a restricted kosher area within John Jay Dining Hall that serves a full array of kosher items (Freshko sandwiches, salads and snacks).

2. Barnard College Kosher Dining Plan

The Barnard College Kosher Dining Plan provides 3 kosher meals a day, 7 days a week. High quality food, including freshly-made pizza and a great salad bar, is conveniently located in Barnard's main dining facility, Hewitt Hall. Both Barnard and Columbia students can enjoy their meals in comfort with the rest of the student population. The Kosher dining plan is strictly supervised k'halakhah by the Columbia/Barnard Hillel Rabbi. Additionally, the Barnard Kosher Dining Plan provides a homey atmosphere for Shabbat, Yom Tov and other festive occasions. For more information, please contact Barnard Dining Services.

Is housing guaranteed for students at Columbia?

Yes, students are guaranteed housing for up to 8 terms during their time at Columbia. Over 95% of undergraduate students and 100% of the Class of 2016 live on campus.

Where do transfer students live?

All transfer students are housed with their class in upperclass residence halls. Assignment is based on seniority and building preference with applications processed on a rolling basis. Students are notified by email when rooms are assigned.

Are students required to be on a Dining Plan?

All first-year students are required to be on a Dining Plan, but enrollment after the first year is optional. 

Where can students eat on campus?

Students can use their Dining Plan at John Jay Dining Hall, Ferris Booth Commons and JJ's Place. They may use Dining Dollars, Flex, cash or credit card at any of the on-campus dining locations. You can view the list of locations and hours of operation online.

Does Columbia provide support for students who have unpaid internships?

Columbia strongly believes that students should be able to follow their passions and experience jobs and opportunities that will lead them toward their professional goals. Columbia supports students with unpaid internships in two distinct ways. First, The Work Exemption Program (WEP) is part of the financial aid program for undergraduate students in Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. The program is designed to enable financial aid recipients to take advantage of such unpaid opportunities as internships, research projects, and community outreach, locally, nationally, and internationally. Students have the option of applying for exemption from the summer savings portion of their financial aid package or exemptions from Federal Work Study during the academic year. Secondly, all students at Columbia are encouraged to apply for the Alumni Internship Fund administered by the Center for Career Education (CCE). CCE also offers an array of alternative funding sources for students that may help fund a summer internship or fellowship.

What is the percentage of students who live on campus?

Columbia undergraduate students are guaranteed housing for all four years. Nearly all undergraduates live on campus all four years and first-year students are required to live on campus.

How many students live on campus?

Columbia undergraduate students are guaranteed housing for all four years. Nearly all undergraduates live on campus all four years.

What are the differences between Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Barnard College and the School of General Studies?

Columbia College is Columbia's traditional undergraduate liberal arts college, its founding in 1754 as King's College marks the birth of Columbia University.

Columbia Engineering is the University's engineering school, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Barnard College is a liberal arts college for women in partnership with Columbia University.

At Columbia College, Columbia Engineering and Barnard College, students usually come directly from high school and attend full-time.

The School of General Studies is 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.

All four colleges are located on the Morningside Heights campus in New York City.

Does Columbia have any special internship programs?

The Center for Career Education is constantly developing new internship programs in order to expand opportunities for students and respond to new interests.

One program specific to Columbia is the Columbia Arts Experience that connects undergraduates interested in career in the arts with internships in those fields.

The Columbia University Internship (CU In) Program offers undergraduate students high-quality internship experiences in a diverse array of industries in Los Angeles and San Francisco through alumni and employer partnerships.

Columbia Communities in Action (CCIA) provides selected students with a New York-based internship in the local community in order to gain the necessary skills and experience to make a difference in the community.

How many students attend Columbia?

Undergraduate enrollment is approximately 4,500 in Columbia College and 1,500 in The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

What is the percentage of students of color on campus?

Over 50% of our undergraduate student body identify themselves as students of color, and diversity has long been recognized as one of Columbia's hallmarks. Recently, Black Enterprise Magazine ranked Columbia as the top Ivy League university for African American students. Hispanic Magazine ranked Columbia as one of the top ten colleges in America for Latino/a students. The Office of Multicultural Affairs exists as a resource to respond to the needs of a diverse undergraduate student body and aims to promote an inclusive university climate and to prepare students to succeed in a heterogeneous and ever-changing society.

What is the female to male ratio at Columbia?

Columbia is approximately 51% male and 49% female between the two undergraduate schools.

Are transfers required to live on campus?

Transfers are not required to live on campus.

How do transfers get involved in campus life?

Transfers become fully-integrated members of the campus community. This begins during your first days at Columbia, through our New Student Orientation Program. In addition to the many clubs and organizations available to you, the Columbia University Transfer Alliance is also a resource to help new students acclimate to campus life.

Is housing guaranteed for transfer students?

As a transfer, you will be guaranteed housing during your time at Columbia, unless you choose to move off-campus at any time, at which point the housing guarantee is forfeited.

May I study abroad as a transfer?

Your ability to study abroad depends quite a bit on your class standing when you enter Columbia, and your remaining degree requirements. If you enter Columbia as a sophomore, the possibility of studying abroad is greater. If you enter Columbia as a junior, it is unlikely that you will be able to study abroad. Regardless of your class standing, this is a conversation you should have with your academic adviser as soon as possible.

What kind of visa or documentation do I need to study in the US?

Full time students must acquire an F-1 (student) entry visa.

Are international students eligible to work in the United States after graduation?

If you are in the United States on an F-1 Student visa you could be eligible to work in the US pending employment status. Please visit the US Citizen and Immigration website to become more familiar with your legal options.

How safe is the campus and neighborhood?

Although Morningside Heights is consistently named one of the safest precincts in New York City, the Department of Public Safety further ensures the security of Columbia's campus and its students. Columbia students have direct access to the public transportation, which eliminates walking far distances to travel between campus and other locations. Should you feel unsafe in the neighborhood, you can ask the merchant at businesses featuring the Red Lion sticker in their windows to phone Columbia Public Safety or the police and wait for security personnel to respond.

Where is Morningside Heights?

Morningside Heights is a residential neighborhood located on the west side of the island of Manhattan. It is approximately a ten-minute walk from the northwestern tip of Central Park and another ten-minute walk to the heart of Historic Harlem. Columbia is located on the #1 subway line and various bus routes. On the #1 train students can get to Times Square in approximately 20 minutes, go uptown to Columbia's Medical Center in 15 minutes, and get to Columbia's Baker Field Athletic Complex at the northern tip of Manhattan in 25 minutes.

How accessible is the subway?

The New York City Subway System, with 422 stations, is one of the most comprehensive subway systems in the world. It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Columbia's subway station is Columbia University-116 Street on the #1 subway line, located at 116th Street and Broadway, just a few steps from our main gate. (There are also several bus routes serving Morningside Heights.) The subway connects to all major train stations, and mass transit also connects to the three major airports. The transit fare is $2.75 per trip with various options for weekly and monthly Metrocards.

How does Columbia help students engage with New York City?

You are living in New York City! A subway ride away to all the culture and life of the city. Take advantage of everything that there is to offer, but don't forget your Columbia ID card. Flash your student ID card to gain free entry into dozens of museums and galleries thanks to the Arts Initiative. That same ID will get you discounted Broadway and movie tickets through Columbia's Ticket and Information Center (TIC). Then there is Columbia Urban New York which offers free tickets to plays, musicals, and various other events throughout the city through a lottery system. Students also find New York to be an incredible extended classroom. See a painting up close at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, listen to some of the world's greatest musicians at a small jazz club in the West Village and encounter dozens of cultures, thousands of ideas and millions of people, all in your future home.

How can I take advantage of everything I want to do in New York City on a student budget?

New York City has something for everyone, which is why it is so often rated as one of the best college towns in the nation. It is full of hidden treasures that offer an inexpensive and yet unique array of food, shopping and entertainment. Some of the most creative culinary experiences are intimate restaurants within a few blocks from campus. Websites such as NYC Visit's Go Local operates as a service for New Yorkers to get the most out of their city. There are also a variety of e-mail lists that help students gain free access to opportunities such as going to a major motion picture premiere. There are yearly bargains such as New York Restaurant Week, which gives students an inexpensive taste at some of the finest establishments in the city. Columbia helps students by providing discounted and free tickets to many events around the city through the CU ARTS Initiative.

What kind of meal plans does Columbia offer?

All first-year students are required to be on a meal plan that they will select over the summer before their arrival. In all succeeding years they may choose to continue a meal plan or utilize the various grocery stores and restaurants in the neighborhood. Meal plans at Columbia consist of a varying number of meals at John Jay Dining Hall, Ferris Booth Commons, JJ's Place, or Barnard College's Hewitt Dining Hall, and dining dollars that can be used at any of Columbia's 13 different on-campus dining locations.

What role do parents and families play in the Columbia community?

We believe that college is a time when young adults begin to separate from their parents, assume greater responsibility for their decisions and actions, and seek to rely more on institutional support systems. This philosophy, however, does not preclude our belief that familial support systems are extremely important for students, and that parents and families can and should be involved in their student’s education.

How then can you be involved in your student’s Columbia experience while allowing for his or her development? Here are just a few ways:

Listen

Hear what your students have to say. While respecting their newfound autonomy, check in with them every once in a while to see how they’re doing. Don’t assume you know what it’s like for them; remember that the college experience has changed since you were their age!

Learn

Find out more about Columbia. Learn about the school’s history, constituents, leadership, and mission. Check the Columbia website for the latest news on events happening on and off campus. Consult the Family Handbook to learn more about the various resources available to your student.

Help

Help your student take advantage of these resources by directing them to the appropriate office. Remember, we expect students to take responsibility for their own actions and consult these resources themselves, so don’t call on their behalf. Rather, suggest they seek out various resources and follow up with them. Remember that they value your advice, even if they don’t always say so! Network—Get to know other parents and alumni living in your area. Network with other parents, alumni, and administrators. Attend a College Day, Dean’s Day, panel discussion, or other event.

Volunteer

Get involved through the Office of Parent and Family Programs. Welcome new families to campus, help staff a registration table, or sit on a panel at a Summer Advising Session. Volunteering is a great way to get to know other parents and a great way to give back to Columbia.

For more information, please visit the Family Handbook or the Office of Parent and Family Programs.

Can Dining Dollars be used off campus?

No, but Columbia students can have a Flex Account, which allows them to make dollar-for-dollar food purchases at a number of off-campus eateries, including Chipotle, the Heights Grill, and Whole Foods Market. Students can also use their Flex Account at all on-campus locations, including the campus bookstore, as well as off-campus drugstores and shops. Please visit the Accepted Flex Locations for a full list of participating businesses.

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