FAQs

If you have come to this page, it's because you have questions that haven't been answered on other parts of our website. Find the answers to some of our most commonly asked questions, whether you want to know more about how Columbia students take advantage of the arts in New York City, what campus dining is like or which application type is right for you.

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Can international families apply for financial aid in future years if they do not apply the first year?

If you are an international student who is admitted without institutional financial aid, you cannot be guaranteed institutional financial aid even if there is a change in your family’s circumstances. Specifically, international students who are admitted with no request for Columbia financial aid may not change their status to apply for aid at any time during their four years at Columbia. An international student whose family experiences a severe and unforeseen change in circumstances may apply for financial aid at any time, and such requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

When are tours and information sessions offered?

Tours and information sessions are offered throughout the year on a varying schedule. For the majority of the year, information sessions that are approximately one-hour long begin at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and are followed by the general tour at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Please consult the Visit section of this site for specific information on the day that you choose to visit.

Where is the Visitors Center located? And is Undergraduate Admissions located?

The Visitors Center can be found at 213 Low Library. Guests should go to the Visitors Center for all questions regarding Columbia, including checking in for information sessions and campus tours.

Low Library is located in the center of campus, a magnificent domed building facing south toward College Walk-which is a continuation of 116th Street. The Visitors Center is immediately on your left as you enter the building.

Undergraduate Admissions is located at 212 Hamilton Hall. Hamilton Hall is on the southeast corner of College Walk at the heart of campus.

I am interested in speaking with a current student, is this possible?

Current student leaders in the Undergraduate, Multicultural, Global and Engineering Recruitment Committees welcome your questions. To speak with a student directly, please email ugrad-ask@columbia.edu.

I am interested in speaking with a faculty member, is this possible?

Undergraduate Admissions works closely with faculty and we collaborate for both admissions review and in outreach to admitted students. As prospective students, we encourage you to direct specific academic questions to Undergraduate Admissions at ugrad-ask@columbia.edu.

How do I arrange to sit in on a class?

Class listings and dates are available online and at the Visitor Center in 213 Low Library. No reservations are necessary. You may call the Visitor Center at 212-854-4900 to discuss your options if you have a specific date and area of study in mind. On the day that you wish to visit a class, you must go to the Visitor Center to pick up a class ticket.

I am interested in athletics at Columbia. How do I arrange a meeting with a coach?

Please visit the Columbia Athletics website, search for the sport you are interested in, and click on "Recruit" to complete the form that will be sent to the team's coaches.

What hotels do you recommend that are easily accessible to campus?

There are a number of hotels within easy access to campus. For addresses and phone numbers, see Visitor Information.

My family does not speak English. Does Columbia provide information in other languages?

Columbia provides self-guided walking tours in five other languages to accommodate families that do not speak English. Copies of these self-guided walking tours are available in the Visitor Center.

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.

 

Are there advisers for specific departmental majors?

Yes. After students declare their major, they will be matched with a faculty adviser within their chosen department to help them explore their intellectual interests and develop their academic schedule.

Does Columbia allow students to double 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. The full policies are available in the Columbia College Bulletin and the Columbia Engineering Bulletin.

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.

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.

 

How many courses do Columbia students take per semester?

Columbia students usually take an average of 16 points (generally five classes) per semester. Students must be registered full-time and therefore must take at least 12 points per semester.

 

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 Columbia College and the Engineering School.

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, Preprofessional Advising will assist students in applying and work with them throughout the application process.

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.

 

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.

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.

Does Columbia grant credit for college courses and credits earned during high school?

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

Will I have housing on campus for all four years?

Columbia undergraduate students are guaranteed housing for all four years. In fact, nearly all undergraduates live on campus, and first-year students are required to live on campus. Housing at Columbia offers a wide variety of living opportunities-from corridor style to apartment style living, from residence halls in the middle of the main quad to those on quiet side streets only five minutes walk to the center of campus.

Are students required to live on campus? Can I seek off-campus housing?

Columbia is first and foremost a residential college; first-year students are required to live on campus. Upper-class students may choose to live off campus if they wish, but nearly all of the student body chooses to reside on campus all four years, and housing is guaranteed for all four years. Housing at Columbia offers a wide variety of living opportunities-from corridor style to apartment style living, from residence halls in the middle of the main quad to those on quiet side streets only five minutes walk to the center of campus.

The University-wide Office of Off-Campus Housing Assistance supports all affiliates in seeking non-Columbia owned properties.

What's Morningside Heights like?

Morningside Heights is a dynamic residential neighborhood filled with restaurants, cafes, shops and hang-outs. It is steps from the Hudson River and bordered by Central Park, Morningside Park and Riverside Park; all the resources of New York City are a short bike, bus or subway ride away.

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 Columbia Arts Initiative.

Does Columbia have programs to help me make the most of my time in NYC?

From the Columbia Arts Initiative (think free museum access and tickets to Broadway shows) to the Center for Career Education (careers fairs, thousands of internship listings and more), Columbia provides countless ways for you to connect with the incredible city that we call home.

How accessible is the subway?

Columbia is located directly 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 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.

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 Disability Services.

Is it possible to be able to work while going to class?

Columbia holds classes from early in the morning until late at night. This allows students to hold on-campus jobs, pursue internships in the city and adjust their schedules to make the most of their academic and extracurricular experience. Many students, moreover, have no classes on Fridays, so many use Fridays as an opportunity to pursue internships and other commitments. The Center for Career Education also provides students with opportunities for employment on and off campus.

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.

Can students who are non-U.S. citizens get internships or jobs in New York City or on campus?

Students may work part time on campus. There are a number of University offices who hire international students, including the University Libraries and the Columbia University Visitors Center.

Students are also eligible to work part-time during the academic year and full-time during vacation periods for international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, etc. When a student is particularly interested in full-time employment, sectors with foreign offices, larger legal departments or greater financial options often yield the best results. When students with international backgrounds do find a job, it is often one that utilizes language skill, global knowledge and so forth.

Practical training is employment in one's field of study. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as “employment related to one’s field of study.” It offers you valuable opportunities to supplement your education through work experience in your field of study. For more specific information about volunteer or paid work as an undergraduate student at Columbia, please refer to  the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) as well as the Center for Career Education (CCE), which also maintains a database for searching for part-time jobs.

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.

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.

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@columbia.edu  or (212) 851-9960.

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.

Will I be able to stay an additional semester or year if I need to complete requirements for graduation?

Students are expected to graduate within eight semesters, including time spent at another college or university. Students are typically not permitted to extend their undergraduate studies unless they are enrolled in one of our Joint Degree programs (e.g. the Combined Plan).

May I study part-time?

You cannot study part-time in either Columbia College or Columbia Engineering. If you wish to study part-time, you must apply to the School of General Studies.

Are my chances for admission to a Columbia graduate school greater if I attend Columbia as an undergraduate?

Not necessarily. Columbia's graduate schools make admissions decisions independent of those decisions made for admission to Columbia College or to Columbia Engineering; students who graduate from Columbia's undergraduate programs are not given any automatic preference at the graduate schools. However, many Columbia graduates do choose to continue their professional education at Columbia.

Is there a different application for international students?

Columbia’s admissions application process is largely the same for all students regardless of their citizenship or country of residence. Please see our Application Instructions for more information on procedures and requirements, and Understanding the Process for more information about how our office reviews applications and distinguishes candidates.

Please visit International Applicants for more information.

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 if I don't have a guidance counselor?

Many students in countries outside the U.S. do not have guidance counselors. At U.S.-style secondary schools, guidance counselors are responsible for important parts of the application: submitting the Secondary School Report, the official school transcript, and the Mid-Year School Report. They also write a letter of recommendation for applicants. If you do not have a guidance counselor, these parts of the application can be filled by a principal or director of school, essentially a school official who is able to comment on your academic ability, extracurricular activities and personal qualities within the context of your entire school community.

I'm a U.S. citizen studying in a country outside the U.S. Am I considered an international applicant?

Applicants are considered within both the context of their secondary school and the context of their personal experiences, including where they have lived and their cultural background. The admissions committee recognizes that regardless of citizenship, living and/or attending school in a country outside the U.S. provides a student with the opportunity for an international experience. Applicants are not simply placed into international vs. non-international categories based on citizenship or place of schooling.

My native language is not English. Do I have to take an English proficiency exam?

In addition to the English Language Proficiency details below, 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:  

IELTS Indicator:  https://www.ieltsindicator.com/ 

TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition: https://www.ets.org/s/cv/toefl/at-home/

TOEFL IPT Plus for China: https://toefl.cn/family-itp.php

To be considered for admission to Columbia, you must be comfortable with rapid and idiomatic spoken English. There are several different ways to demonstrate that you are proficient in English on your application.

  1. Your home language is English.
  2. Your primary language of instruction at school has been English for the duration of your secondary school career.
  3. You earned one or more of the following subsection scores:
    1. 650 or higher on either the Critical Reasoning or Writing sections of the SAT before March 2016
    2. 700 or higher on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing section of the redesigned SAT (beginning in March 2016)
    3. 29 or higher on the English or Reading sections of the ACT

If you meet one or more of the above criteria, you have fulfilled Columbia’s English Language Proficiency requirement. If you do not, you will need to take one of the following English Language Proficiency exams.

  1. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Please visit www.toefl.org for more information on this examination. A minimum score of 105 (Internet-based test) is necessary for admission to Columbia. Your score must be reported directly to Columbia by the testing service, using report code 2116.
  2. IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Please visit www.ielts.org for more information on this examination. A minimum score of 7.5 is necessary for admission to Columbia. Your score must be reported directly to Columbia Undergraduate Admissions.
  3. DET (Duolingo English Test). Please visit https://englishtest.duolingo.com for more information on this examination. A minimum score of 125 is necessary for admission to Columbia. Your score must be reported directly to Columbia Undergraduate Admissions.

Columbia does not accept other English Language Proficiency exams at this time.

Please note that our Required Standardized Testing policies are in addition to any testing required for English language proficiency.

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. 

Can I get an interview in my country?

Volunteer members of Columbia’s Alumni Representative Committee (ARC) conduct interviews throughout the world from November through February every year 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. 

Students from China are recommended to send in their InitialView or Vericant interviews as well. Interviews should be scheduled, completed and submitted to Columbia by November 15 for Early Decision or January 15 for Regular Decision. The interview with InitialView or Vericant can take the place of an alumni interview for some candidates. 

Interviews are not available for transfer candidates.

More information on interviews can be found on our website.

Are international students allowed to apply Early Decision?

Yes. However, even very competitive foreign candidates who are applying for financial aid and fall out of the “need-blind” category may be deferred to Regular Decision so the Admissions Committee can review the entire global applicant pool.

As an undocumented student, can I apply to Columbia? Do I need to hold DACA status?

Yes, Columbia admits students without regard to citizenship status and meets 100% of demonstrated need for all first-year and transfer students pursuing their first degrees. Students do not need to hold DACA status to apply to Columbia. Additionally, for admissions purposes, undocumented students are evaluated in a need-blind manner, which means we evaluate admissions applications without regard to financial need.