Frequently Asked Questions

Academics and Student Life

How often do professors teach courses?

Professors lead every departmental level course at Columbia. In the Core Curriculum, full-time professors teach the vast majority of the courses with select advanced graduate students leading some sections.

Does Columbia grant placement, advanced standing or credit for standardized examinations?

Yes. Some placement, advanced standing or credit may be granted for nationally or internationally standardized examinations. Columbia will grant a maximum of 16 credits toward the bachelor's degree. For more specific information, please consult the bulletin of Columbia College or The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Is Columbia on a semester or quarter system?

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering run on a semester system.

Are there advisors for specific departmental majors?

Yes. All departments will assign faculty advisors to every student committing to either a major or concentration in that department.

How large are Columbia's classes?

80% of undergraduate classes taught at Columbia have fewer than 20 students. Since Columbia's Core classes are small seminar classes and since more advanced courses are meant to allow direct connection with faculty, few courses at Columbia are larger than 20 students. Those classes generally are either popular introductory lectures or upper-level classes in especially great demand.

What are the advising and support services on campus?

All Columbia undergraduates will have a single all-purpose adviser from the Berick Center for Student Advising for all four years.

What is the student-faculty ratio?

The student to faculty ratio is 6 to 1. The ratio in some of the physical science departments in the College is as low as 2 to 1.

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.

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