Frequently Asked Questions

College

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.

I have already earned a Bachelors degree (or its equivalent). Am I eligible to apply to Columbia if I would like to earn a second degree?

You are not eligible to apply to Columbia College. Instead, you must apply to the School of General Studies. Applicants to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science should proceed with your application.

May I apply to both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering?

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

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. 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.

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.

Can undergraduates take classes at Columbia’s graduate and professional schools?

Yes. Columbia undergraduates may generally take up to four classes toward their degree in most of the graduate and professional schools at Columbia, with the exception of those at Columbia Law School and the Columbia Medical Center. Special restrictions may apply.

How are classes selected?

First-year students register during orientation week of their first semester.

In subsequent years students are assigned a registration time; this registration time gives seniority to upper class students, and times are distributed by lottery within each class year. Students then can participate in on-line registration for courses.

For more particulars about the registration process, consult the academic bulletins for the College and the Engineering School.

How large are Core classes?

Though celebrated for their content, these courses are equally important for their small class format. The hallmark courses in the Core (Literature HumanitiesContemporary CivilizationArt Humanities and Music Humanities) are taught in seminars of approximately 22 students; these courses ensure that education at Columbia begins with an emphasis on every student's active intellectual engagement.

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

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 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.

Can I minor in Columbia College?

No. Columbia College does not offer minors, but students may elect to complete a concentration which demands fewer requirements than a major. A concentration is alone sufficient for graduation.

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.