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. If you are interested in receiving more information about Columbia, we invite you to join our email list.

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Academics and Student Life

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 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.

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.

 

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 Tutoring and Translation Agency.

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 background 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) - 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.

 

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.

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.

Are students required to live on campus?

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.

 

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.

Can I seek off-campus housing?

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.

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.

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 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.

 

Applying

The SAT is not available in my country. May I still apply without this exam?

If you live in a country in which the SAT is not available, you are not required to take the exam in order to apply for admission.

How competitive is admission to Columbia?

Admission to both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering is broad-based but highly selective, and the Committee is only able to offer admission to only a small fraction of all applicants.

A profile of the current first-year class is available on the Admissions Statistics webpage.

Admission for transfer students is also highly selective. Over the past decade, the Committee has admitted between 5% and 10% of transfer applicants each year.

 

Does Columbia allow students to start in the spring semester?

No, for most candidates. We do not accept applications for January/spring enrollment from First-Year, Transfer or Combined Plan Program candidates. Only Visiting Student Program candidates may apply for January/spring enrollment.

May students rejected from Columbia appeal their admission decision?

No. If your application to Columbia is denied, that decision is final. There is no appeal process for admission decisions, and applicants are not reconsidered for admission. Every application receives a review from members of the professional admissions staff. Are satmake only after the care and deliberation that all our candidates deserve, we must say once again that we cannot accept any requests for reconsideration of these decisions.

Does Columbia admit students who have not completed high school?

Prior to enrollment, students admitted to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering must submit documentation of completion of their high/secondary school requirements, which includes the final high school transcript with date of graduation. If applicable, International Baccalaureate, GCE Advanced Level or nationally recognized high school graduation examination results must also be provided. Transcripts should be sent directly from the high/secondary school. Alternatively, a GED or TASC credential with a passing score may be submitted.

May I apply Early Decision if I am interested in the Columbia-Juilliard Program?

Yes, first-year candidates admitted to Columbia College under Early Decision may keep their candidacy open for the Program. However, successful Early Decision candidates must withdraw their Bachelor of Music candidacy to Juilliard along with candidacy to all other institutions as part of the Early Decision binding agreement.

Does Columbia give preference in the admission process to applicants whose parents attended Columbia?

We are always pleased to receive applications from students whose family members have graduated from Columbia. When an applicant is extremely competitive and compares favorably with other similarly talented candidates, being the daughter or son of a Columbia University graduate (from any Columbia school or college) may be a slight advantage in the admission process. This advantage may especially apply for "legacy" candidates.

Please note: applicants are considered to be "legacies" of Columbia only if they are the children of Columbia College or Columbia Engineering graduates.

 

What is Columbia looking for when evaluating students for admission? What are the criteria for admission?

The Columbia University first-year class of College and Engineering students is chosen from a large and diverse group of applicants. Columbia employs a holistic approach in assessing candidates in order to judge which students are the best matches for Columbia's unique educational experience.

In the process of selection, the Committee on Admissions considers each applicant's academic potential, intellectual strength and ability to think independently. The Committee also considers the general attitudes and character of the applicant, special abilities and interests, maturity, motivation, curiosity and whether he or she is likely to make productive use of the four years at Columbia. In its final selection, Columbia seeks diversity of personalities, achievements and talents, and of economic, social, ethnic, cultural, religious, racial and geographic backgrounds.

 

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. However, because we have a finite number of alumni and current student volunteers to interview the many thousands of candidates, we are unable to grant interviews to all of our applicants and can provide absolutely no guarantee that an interview will be available in any given area. Please note that interviews will be offered only in the area where your high school is located; if you have finished high school and no longer live in the vicinity, an interview will not be available to you. 

After you submit the Common Application or the Coalition Application, your name and contact information are provided to the interviewers in your area; if an interviewer is able to meet with you, you will be contacted directly by e-mail or by phone. Interviews are not offered on campus. Some applicants may be offered interviews via phone or video chat if an interviewer is not able to meet in person – please know that all types of interviews have equal weight in the interview process.

Candidates who are not offered an interview are not at any disadvantage in the admissions process. Because the actual assignment of interviews is not conducted by Undergraduate Admissions, we respectfully ask that you do not call or write to inquire about receiving an interview. You will be contacted directly if an interview is available in the same area as your high school.

Interviews are not available for transfer candidates.

More information on interviews can be found on our website

International Interviews

As noted above, Columbia interviews applicants domestically and internationally through the Alumni Representative Committee. 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. Please contact Undergraduate Admissions directly should InitialView or Vericant fees present a hardship for you and your family. 

 

Is there a maximum number of students admitted from a particular country, region or school?

No. Columbia seeks to enroll students with unique achievements and talents as well as diverse economic, social and geographic backgrounds. We do not have any quotas for any particular population (i.e., race, ethnicity, religion, state, etc.). Applicants are compared to all other applicants, both regionally and globally.

Find out more by visiting What Does Columbia Look For?

Do I need to take the SAT Subject Tests for admission to Columbia?

No, the SAT Subject Test is not required, but Columbia will accept scores from the exams if you choose to submit them. You will not be at a disadvantage should you choose not to take the tests or submit the scores to Columbia.

 

Will Columbia have access to the virtual locker contents from the Coalition platform?

Columbia will not have access to the contents of a student’s virtual Locker, including both official documents and media. Students who are applying to Columbia using the Coalition Application will need to indicate which official documents (such as transcripts or recommendation letters) that are stored in the locker should be sent to Columbia as part of the review process. Columbia accepts supplementary materials as outlined on our website

 

What steps do I need to take after being admitted to Columbia in order to receive the appropriate documentation?

There are steps that both Columbia and the student are responsible for in order to receive an F-1 entry visa to the United States.

Columbia University will:

  • Upon acceptance provide you with an Application for Visa Certificate (AVC), otherwise known as Form I-20
  • Issue an authentic I-20 after AVC has been approved.

The student must:

  • Hold a current passport valid at least six months into the future at all times
  • Officially register with Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Pay the $100.00 USD fee and print the receipt
  • Make a visa appointment at a United States Consulate. Bring your official letter of acceptance, any financial aid award letter and funds validation letter from your bank, Columbia issued I-20, SEVIS receipt and a passport sized photo.
  • Review the visa once issued to check for correctness. Make sure you have the original copy of the I-20 for entry to the U.S.

Please visit the International Students and Scholars Office immigration website for more information.

 

When do application decisions become available?

The Columbia community is committed to environmental responsibility; in keeping with this commitment, we will provide some admissions decisions only online, not via regular mail. Applicants will receive specific instructions as to how to check their decisions online before decisions are released.

Admission decisions for first-year candidates who apply Early Decision are typically available on or before December 15.

Admission decisions for first-year candidates who apply Regular Decision are typically available on or before April 15.

Admission decisions for transfer candidates are typically available on or before the end of May.

Admissions decisions for Combined Plan Program candidates are available in the spring.

Admissions decisions for Visiting Student Program candidates are available 4-6 weeks after complete application submission, as this is a rolling admissions program.

 

What are the final test dates that can be used for the application?

Early Decision candidates

The November test date is the latest acceptable test date on which scores may reach us in time. More information about Early Decision.

Regular Decision candidates

Scores for February tests can be provided in time for consideration. Testing taken after February cannot be considered.

If you wish to provide updated scores after you have applied, you can submit your scores on your Columbia application status page. The page will only be available after you have submitted your application.

 

Should I send my AP/IB test results to Columbia?

AP and IB test results are not necessary for the application to Columbia, although the information when available may be helpful in assessing a student's academic achievements. You may report your results on your Common Application or Coalition Application, or send us a copy of your score report(s).

Students who seek to gain credit for AP or IB results should know that credit is granted only after a student is enrolled at Columbia and at the discretion of individual departments.

 

Does Columbia have quotas for a particular region or school?

No. Columbia seeks to enroll students with unique achievements and talents as well as diverse economic, social and geographic backgrounds. We do not have any quotas for any particular population (i.e., race, ethnicity, religion, state, etc.). Applicants are compared to all other applicants, both regionally and globally.

Does Columbia prefer the ACT over the SAT or vice versa?

You may take either the ACT or SAT. Columbia does not view one more favorably than the other. If you take both tests, we will look at the highest score of the two. Refer to our standardized test policy for more information.

What is the virtual locker for the Coalition Application?

The Locker offers a private space for students to collect and organize materials throughout their high school journey. Whether collecting thoughts on college options or storing classwork or personal writing, students can confidentially save documents that may be useful later in their college search or application. Students can maintain a record of their interests and activities, collect letters of support from instructors, coaches, or supervisors. More information about the Locker can be found on the Coalition’s website.

How can I get a paper application for transfer admissions?

Paper applications are not available. Transfers must apply online using The Coalition Application. We do not accept the Common Application for transfer candidates.

 

Should I ever “rush” my test scores to Columbia?

No! Please do not utilize the "rush" service in sending your test scores to Columbia. Doing so does not speed up the processing of your test scores. We encourage you to self-report your scores directly on testing section of your Common Application or Coalition Application. Refer to our standardized test policy for more information.

Does Columbia have a waitlist?

Columbia places extremely compelling candidates on a waitlist to be considered for admission if spots in the entering class become available. Every year, the number of spots that become available is different.

We do not rank our waiting list, and all candidates are re-considered for admission if spaces do become available. We encourage students to submit an additional one-page statement expressing interest in the waitlist, but do not encourage the submission of additional letters of recommendation.

 

Can I be released from my Early Decision contract because of my financial aid package?

It is extremely rare for a family to ask to be released from the Early Decision commitment for financial reasons. If a family determines after discussion with Financial Aid & Educational Financing that they cannot afford to finance a Columbia education, the admitted candidate can be released from the Early Decision agreement. The family must speak with a financial aid officer before the release is granted. Ultimately, it is the family's decision whether or not they feel capable of accepting the need-based Columbia financial aid award.

Those who do opt out of their Early Decision contract are released to pursue other colleges and universities; the admission offer at Columbia University is then cancelled. A candidate who declines Columbia's Early Decision offer will not be allowed to reconsider Columbia's financial aid estimate in the spring Regular Decision cycle and will not be able to reinstate the original offer of admission.

How do I apply to Columbia using the Coalition Application?

Students can start Columbia’s application as part of the Coalition Application by searching for Columbia University in the “Colleges” tab and selecting “Start Application.” Please note that several sections of the Profile must be completed before the Columbia-specific questions may be started; any sections not yet completed will be highlighted in yellow. Some sections of the Profile are not required, as Columbia will review this information through supporting materials, such as the official transcript(s).

Columbia’s short answer questions can be found at the conclusion of the Columbia section of the Coalition Application.

Please note that the Columbia-specific questions must be completed in sequential order. More instructions regarding the Columbia-specific section of the Coalition Application can be found at the start of this section.

 

What is the process for being selected through the Higher Education Opportunity Program or the National Opportunity Program?

The Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) was established by the New York State Legislature in 1969 to assist eligible residents in obtaining higher education at New York private institutions. The National Opportunity Program was created by Columbia in 1986 to provide the same kind of academic and financial support to students from all over the United States. Selection for the HEOP/NOP programs at Columbia involves meeting both academic and economic guidelines.

There are no additional application forms for HEOP/NOP; all eligible applicants to Columbia will be considered for these programs, but applicants may be contacted for an interview.

In order to be eligible for HEOP, applicants must:

  • Reside in New York State and be high school graduates.
  • Demonstrate (through academic records) a need for HEOP support services.
  • Meet economic eligibility criteria set by the New York State Education Department.

Economic documentation for HEOP/NOP

HEOP Economic Eligibility: Household income can be at or below the amounts listed for the number of family members, with the exception of the "single head of household" instruction.

Size of Household

Amount

1 household member

$21,590

2 household members

$29,101

3 household members

$36,612

4 household members

$44,123

5 household members

$51,634

6 household members

$59,145

7 household members

$66,656 plus $7,511 for each additional family member thereafter

The primary criterion for admission to NOP is academic; there is no residency requirement and Columbia may select applicants for admission to NOP whose income levels exceed the HEOP criteria.

Although many of our NOP students demonstrate significant financial need, Columbia financial aid is determined on a case by case basis and we meet the full demonstrated financial need of all applicants admitted as first-year students. There are no academic, athletic or talent-based institutional scholarships at Columbia as all of our institutional financial aid is need-based.

Students can estimate their eligibility for need-based financial aid by using the Net Price Calculator.

Please contact the Academic Success Program at 212-854-3514 or asp@columbia.edu with further questions or concerns.

 

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 What Does Columbia Look For for more information about how our office reviews applications and distinguishes candidates.

Please visit the International Student Admissions webpage for more information.

If I am accepted, may I defer for a year?

Yes. A candidate who has been offered first-year admission may ask to defer enrollment for a year to work, travel, complete mandatory military service or pursue a special opportunity. A first-year student may not defer admission in order to enroll full-time at another college or university. A second year of deferral may be granted upon request. Students must request a deferral in writing by May 15 after submitting their first-year response form and deposit. Transfer students are not permitted to defer their admission. Visiting Students are permitted to defer their admission to a future term through the submission of the Visiting Student response form.

 

Does Columbia allow early admission for high school juniors?

Early admission is occasionally granted to students of special promise who are completing the junior year of secondary/high school and who meet the following requirements:

  1. an outstanding academic record
  2. the physical, intellectual and emotional maturity to handle the rigorous program at Columbia
  3. the graduation requirements of their secondary/high schools.

Applicants for early admission should follow the normal procedure in applying, but should indicate they are applying for early admission under the "Additional Information" section of the Common Application or Coalition Application.

 

How are supporting documents (transcripts and teacher recommendations) submitted as part of my Coalition Application?

To get official documents (transcript and recommendation letters) into your Locker, you will need to add the appropriate person as a contact (such as a guidance counselor or teacher). Once they are added as a contact, you can request the appropriate document.

In the "Official Documents" section, you may use the “Attach” feature to add these documents to your application so that they will be submitted to Columbia along with your application.

You can still submit your application even if your official documents are still in progress and not yet completed. Once your application has been submitted, you may cancel, change or resend requests directly from the "Official Documents" section.

 

I have completed academic research during high school. How can I share this information in my application?

If you have completed research with a faculty member or mentor in science, engineering or other academic disciplines (e.g., humanities, social sciences or languages), you are welcome to provide a one or two page abstract as a supplement to your application. You may upload your abstract in the Columbia-specific questions to the Common Application or in the Uploads page of the Coalition Application.

If you are submitting an abstract, you will also be asked to answer a few short questions on the duration of your research involvement, your specific role in and contributions to the research project, and contact information of your research mentor. This will help us better understand your specific research experience beyond what you may have already included in your other application materials.

We also welcome a letter of recommendation from your research mentor, who can send the letter via email to ugrad-confirm@columbia.edu, via fax to 212-854-3393, or via mail to Undergraduate Admissions.

 

Will my financial aid package be any different if I apply for admission under the Early Decision Program?

No. Some families may think that their chances for financial aid might be worse when applying early, or that they should not ask for financial aid in the Early Decision process. Please be reassured that both Early and Regular Decision processes are need-blind and that financial aid packages are not any more or less comprehensive in the Early Decision process. Columbia College and The Fu Foundation of Engineering and Applied Science award need-based financial aid to all admitted first-year students.

We know Early Decision candidates have made Columbia their first choice, and we make every effort to help these families finance a Columbia education. If, after receiving the estimated Early Decision financial aid offer, an admitted student's family has concerns about meeting the expected family contribution, we encourage the family to contact Financial Aid & Educational Financing and speak with one of our counselors.

I am interested in your HEOP program. As a transfer, am I eligible for the program?

In order to be eligible for the Higher Education Opportunity Program as a transfer, you must currently be enrolled at a similar program in New York State.

Is there a preference for the Common Application or the Coalition Application?

The Admissions Committee will apply the same holistic review process to evaluate candidates regardless of whether they submit the Coalition Application or the Common Application; there is no preference for one over the other. Please be aware that students must submit only one complete application, using either the Common Application or the Coalition Application.

Either the Common Application or the Coalition Application must be submitted by Columbia’s Early Decision deadline of November 1 or Regular Decision deadline of January 1.

 

Is there a minimum test score, class rank or GPA required for admission to Columbia?

No. Columbia does not have a "cut-off" GPA or test score for applicants. For detailed information on the statistics of the most recent entering class, go to the Admissions Statistics page.