Frequently Asked Questions

Academics and Student Life

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.

Does Columbia have fraternities and sororities?

Yes. Approximately 10-15% of undergraduate students are affiliated with fraternities or sororities. Over 25 chapters exist on campus, and many are housed in the brownstones and row houses that line 113th and 114th Streets.

How do I get Dining Dollars and Flex dollars?

Dining dollars and Flex Dollars can be purchased at the beginning of the term when paying the yearly bill and can be added to the account throughout the year.

What housing options are available for first-years?

First-year students have four distinct housing options, all located on the main quad of Columbia within minutes of every academic building and with easy access to Butler Library, Columbia's main library, and Alfred Lerner Hall, the student center. John Jay Hall and Carman Hall are the only first-year exclusive living options. Hartley and Wallach Halls, collectively the Living and Learning Center, house students from all four classes. Furnald Hall houses first-year students and sophomores. New students are placed in one of the four options based on the preferences they submit in their housing applications.

How is housing selected for upperclassmen?

Students will enter into a lottery system in order to select their future housing; they may choose to group with friends and live in one of Columbia's suites, or they may decide to enter into the lottery alone and live in one of Columbia's many singles. Over 70% of all undergraduate rooms at Columbia are singles.

If I speak a language other than English, may I be exempt from the Foreign Language requirement in the Core Curriculum?

Yes, if you are fluent in another language, and you pass the placement exam on campus, you may be exempt from the foreign language requirement.

What majors are offered in Columbia College?

There are 59 Departments of Instruction offering more than 80 different Areas of Study for students in Columbia College. A complete listing of majors and concentrations offered by Columbia College is available under Columbia College Programs of Study.

What athletics are offered at Columbia?

Columbia University competes at the NCAA Division I level (Division I-AA for football) as a member of the Ivy League. Columbia sponsors varsity teams in 31 intercollegiate sports in addition to many intercollegiate club and intramural teams as well. For more detailed information, please visit the Columbia Athletics website.

Does Columbia have ROTC?

Columbia has an agreement with the Navy to offer a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program. As part of the NYC NROTC program, Columbia students complete their training at the SUNY Maritime campus, participating in Naval Science classes, military training and physical training. Graduates serve in the Navy or Marine Corps as officers and receive tuition and fees from the Navy during their time at Columbia.

Candidates interested in this program should apply both for the NROTC National Scholarship and for admission to Columbia simultaneously, taking note of NROTC entrance requirements. More information on the NROTC program can be found on Columbia's website or the official NROTC website (www.nrotc.navy.mil) and questions may directed to nrotc@sunymaritime.edu  or (718) 409-7242.

Columbia also offers students the opportunity to participate in Army and Air Force ROTC programs through cross-town affiliations with other programs. More information can be found on the Columbia ROTC website.

How can I start a club?

Clubs are organized by five governing boards-the Activities Board at Columbia, the Club Sports Governing Board, Community Impact, the Intergreek Council and the Student Governing Board. Each governing board oversees a particular set of organizations and has specific guidelines for prospective groups. Student life fees fund the over 450 clubs and organizations at Columbia. Check out the various governing boards in order to learn how to start up a new group that will offer something distinctive to the campus community.

What student clubs and organizations exist on campus?

Columbia features over 500 religious, service, ethnic, artistic, political, activist, publication or hobby student organizations and clubs, as well as various forms of student government. We have developed a complete list of clubs and organizations.

How many students go on to top professional schools?

Columbia does not officially track this information, since many students may choose to apply to graduate or professional school many years after college and other students choose to go into careers where their undergraduate degree is sufficient.

Nevertheless, a large number of students and alumni benefit each year from the support of the Office of Pre-professional Advising and gain admission to preeminent graduate and professional schools around the country and all over the globe.

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.

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 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.

Can I minor in the Engineering School?

Yes. The Engineering school offers both engineering and liberal arts minors for students.

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

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.

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.

Does Columbia provide funding for research?

Yes. In many instances professors can offer undergraduates slots as paid research assistants. Columbia's SURF program provides funding for students over the summer if they wish to pursue research in biological and biomedical sciences.

Moreover, the Fellowships Office works with students to attain various fellowships and grants that can be used for research on- and off-campus.  Visit our Research page to learn more about opportunities for undergraduate research.

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.

Does Columbia provide support for students applying to major fellowships?

The Fellowships Office works with students at all levels in preparing for a variety of fellowship applications. In recent years, Columbia students have won more Fulbright grants than those of most other universities, in addition to many other prestigious fellowships and grants.

What academic requirements are necessary for graduating from Columbia Engineering?

All students in Columbia Engineering must complete a major area of study as described in the departmental section of the school bulletin. Students must complete the Core Curriculum as specified for the Engineering school and in total earn 128 points, approximately 40 classes.

How available are research opportunities?

Since Columbia is a major research institution distinguished across a wide variety of fields and subfields, research opportunities are plentiful for students who wish to begin research immediately.

Please review our Research page for some special programs for research at Columbia, a sampling of some student work and an introduction to Columbia's more than 200 different research institutes.

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.

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

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