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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Applying

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.

Are admissions requirements different for home-schooled students?

Home-schooled students receive the same evaluation as other Columbia applicants – every application receives the careful attention of several members of the professional admissions staff, and decisions are made only after review by a committee of these officers. 

Home-schooled students should follow our Required Standardized Testing policy for the necessary tests. If you elect to take any SAT Subject Tests, we encourage you to submit those Subject Test scores. We also recommend that if you have a specific area of academic interest, you submit Subject Test scores in that area of interest, if available. Your scores can assist the Admissions Committee in evaluating content knowledge and mastery in individual disciplines.

 

How do I submit my Essay for the Coalition Application?

Columbia requires that applicants using the Coalition Application submit an essay, using the prompts and information found on their website. Students may upload their essay in the “Uploads” section found at the conclusion of the Columbia-specific questions to the Coalition Application. Please note that while the prompts and instructions can be reviewed at any time, the section to upload your completed essay is not accessible until the other Columbia-specific questions have been completed.

Does Columbia work with third-party agents?

Columbia University does not work with any admissions agent who expects compensation from a college or university. 

Columbia’s Undergraduate Admissions is pleased to work directly with applicants and their families, with their school officials, and with a variety of government and non-profit community-based organizations in the United States and abroad.  While we respect the work of independent educational consultants, we of course expect them to adhere to the highest standards of professional ethics

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.

I attend a college/university outside of the United States and Canada. How do I know if it is “U.S.-style?”

A college is considered to be "U.S.-style" if courses are offered in similar terms to U.S. colleges (i.e. quarters, semesters, etc.), you will receive a grade for each course in each term, and you will also receive an English-language transcript. If your school is not U.S.-style, as defined above, you must apply as a first-year student, by the appropriate Early Decision or Regular Decision deadline.

May I submit supplementary recommendations?

We welcome an additional letter of recommendation if the writer has worked with you in a researcher or college course capacity. Any supplementary recommendations should not be completed on the Teacher Report forms, but instead submitted directly to our office. The Committee discourages the submission of additional recommendations, as admissions decisions will be based primarily on the required recommendations from your high school teachers and secondary school/guidance counselor.

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.

What is my Coalition ID and where do I find it?

The Coalition Account ID is the identifying number that is unique to your Profile in the Coalition Application, and should be used when submitting any documents to our office. It is found both on the “Personal Information” page of the Profile as well as under “Account Settings.”

My country has mandatory military or other national service. How does that affect the timing of my application to Columbia?

It is your choice whether to apply during your final year of secondary school or during your obligatory service, but keep in mind that first-year students may enter Columbia only in September. You may prefer to apply to Columbia while you are still in secondary school and you have your counselors and teachers near at hand when you are arranging for transcripts, recommendations and other credentials to be submitted; if you are admitted, then we will grant a deferment of your entry to Columbia so that you may perform your mandatory service. On the other hand, you may wish to apply during your time of service in case it brings you additional self-awareness and life experiences that you feel may make your candidacy more compelling.

If you apply to Columbia during your final year of secondary school and are not admitted, then you may apply again during your obligatory service. That is permitted only if you are not holding a place at another college or university anywhere in the world.

 

Does Columbia accept international transfer students?

To apply as a transfer, you must be enrolled in a "U.S.-style" college or university. A college or university is considered U.S.-style if:

  • courses are offered term by term (quarters, semesters, etc.);
  • a grade is given for each course in each term;
  • your college/university can provide an English-language transcript showing those courses and those grades.

If your school is not U.S.-style as defined above, you must apply as a first-year student, by the appropriate Early Decision or Regular Decision deadline, and only in your first year of study; if you have begun your second year of study or beyond, you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia as an undergraduate at all. Should you be admitted to Columbia and accept our offer, your post-secondary work cannot be considered for credit and you acknowledge that credit may not be received for any or all coursework taken at the previous college/university

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.

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.

When are Mid-Year Reports due?

Please have your school submit the Mid-Year Report as soon as first quarter or first trimester grades are available if you are an Early Decision candidate; for Regular Decision candidates, as soon as first semester or second trimester grades are available. We will accept the documents either electronically or in paper form via postal mail or fax.

We request that Mid-Year Report/senior grades are submitted by February 1, or as soon as they are available. If you have completed high/secondary school at the time of application, it is not necessary to send in new documents.

We do not track Mid-Year Reports/senior grades through the online tracking system.

 

I am unsure of my application status. How do I know if I should apply as freshman or as a transfer?

If you have received your high (secondary) school diploma and will have completed one or more full year of college courses, you must apply as a transfer student. If you are applying to Columbia College and have taken a break of more than one full year from college, you should submit an application to the School of General Studies. Applicants to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science should proceed with this transfer application regardless of any break in schooling.

If I am rejected under the Early Decision Program, may I apply under the Regular Decision Program?

No. If you apply under the Early Decision Program and are denied admission, you may not reapply to Columbia College, Columbia Engineering or the School of General Studies again that year.

I am interested in the arts at Columbia. Can I send in a portfolio or sample of my work?

Please see our Supplementary Materials page for information on submitting creative supplements.

Will Columbia ever rescind an offer of admission?

If a candidate is offered admission, Columbia reserves the right to withdraw that offer of admission if:

  1. The candidate shows a significant drop in academic performance or fails to graduate.
  2. The candidate has misrepresented himself or herself in the application process.
  3. We learn that the candidate has engaged in behavior prior to matriculation that indicates a serious lack of judgment or integrity.
  4. The candidate is holding both a place at Columbia and a place in the first-year class of a college other than Columbia after the May 1 deadline.

Columbia further reserves the right to require the applicant to provide additional information (and/or authorization for the release of information) about any such matter.

I have already graduated from high school. How may I apply to Columbia?

The answer depends on a number of factors, so pay careful attention to the distinctions below. You should also consult the instructions in the application itself. If you still are unsure of your status, please contact us by phone.

The distinctions below apply to all candidates as specified, regardless of citizenship or visa status or need for financial aid. If you are enrolled at a college or university overseas that follows a U.S.-style curriculum (e.g., the American University of Paris), then you should follow the same policy as a student at a college or university in the U.S.

Prospective Columbia Engineering Applicants

A gap in your schooling, whether for military service or any other reason, does not affect your admissions status as delineated in these distinctions.

  1. If you have not already spent a full academic year or more in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia Engineering as a first-year student.
  2. If you have already spent a full academic year or more in a university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to SEAS as a transfer student.
  3. If you have spent more than two full academic years in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia Engineering as an undergraduate at all.
  4. If you have spent a full academic year or less in a university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you must still apply to Columbia Engineering as a first-year student.
  5. If you have spent more than a full academic year in a university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia Engineering as an undergraduate at all.

Prospective Columbia College Applicants

I. If you have had no interruptions in your schooling of more than one academic year in total, or if the interruption in your schooling has been for the minimum length of your country’s mandatory military service:

  1. If you have not already spent a full academic year or more in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia College as a first-year student.
  2. If you have already spent a full academic year or more in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia College as a transfer student.
  3. If you have spent more than two full academic years in a college/university in the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia College as an undergraduate at all. (See paragraph II.)
  4. If you have already spent a full academic year or less in a college/university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you must apply to Columbia College as a first-year student.
  5. If you have already spent more than a full academic year in a college/university outside the U.S. or Canada, then you are no longer eligible to apply to Columbia College as an undergraduate at all. (See paragraph II.)

II. If you have had any interruptions in your schooling of more than one academic year, or if you have been referred here by item I.3 or I.5 above, then you are strongly advised to apply instead to Columbia University’s School of General Studies, 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.

By visiting the General Studies website, you will find information on applying either as a first-year student or as a transfer. Financial aid is available to all candidates who qualify.

If the foregoing criteria apply to you, you may still apply to Columbia College if you insist, but you should be aware that you are doing so at a great disadvantage and that your acceptance is extremely unlikely.

 

What is Columbia's policy on the submission of supplementary materials (i.e. musical recording, artistic portfolio, science abstract, etc.)?

Architecture, Creative Writing, Dance, Drama and Theatre Arts, Film, Maker, Music and Visual Arts supplements can be submitted through SlideRoom, an online platform that allows applicants to send digital materials to the admissions office. Please see our Supplementary Materials page for information regarding the submission of these materials.

 

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.

Combined Plan

May I reapply to the Combined Plan program?

Yes. You will need to resubmit a new application with an updated transcript and materials. Please note that students reapplying will be considered in a competitive and holistic review process.

Will any advanced credits I earned in high school (e.g., AP or IB courses) transfer?

Please speak with your liaison. If the course appears on your home institution’s transcript and if your liaison approves by noting this in the recommendation letter, we will accept credit taken at other institutions. Official transcripts from all institutions attended are required. Please note that additional information on your school’s credit policies may be required as part of your application.

Can foreign/international Combined Plan applicants get financial aid?

Financial aid is available for foreign students, but it is limited. Columbia does not guarantee that it will cover 100% of a foreign student’s demonstrated financial need. A “foreign” student is one who has neither U.S. citizenship nor U.S. permanent resident status.

I’m planning to visit Columbia. Are there any Combined Plan specific things I can do?

In addition to a general information session and campus tour, you may be interested in our Engineering tour. Spaces are limited, so we encourage you to RSVP.

If you have any specific questions regarding the Combined Plan program, you may speak to an admissions officer available during your visit, or you may e-mail us at combinedplan@columbia.edu.

What are your admissions statistics for the Combined Plan Program?

We do not release any admissions statistics for the Combined Plan Program. There are no quotas, as each application is reviewed individually. There are approximately 275 students currently on campus as part of the program.

Why can’t I apply to the Financial Engineering major?

Financial Engineering is a concentration in the Industrial Engineering & Operations Research department that requires an application after at least one semester of study at Columbia. Entrance in this program is very competitive.

Students interested in the Financial Engineering track should consider Operations Research, Engineering Management Systems or Industrial Engineering as fields of study.

 

If I am a Combined Plan student, can I pursue an internship while I am at Columbia?

Yes! Combined Plan students have access to the Center for Career Education, which assists students with finding appropriate internship opportunities and preparing for postgraduate careers.

How many Combined Plan students are at Columbia?

We have a total of approximately 150 students in the two years of the Combined Plan.

I received a B- in a required prerequisite class. Do I still qualify for guaranteed admission?

For students who began at an affiliate school in fall 2011 or later, the minimum grade for each pre-engineering prerequisite course must be a B (3.0) on the first attempt. As a B- is less than a B on a 4.0 scale, receiving a B- or less would preclude a student from guaranteed admission, and would put the student in our competitive review process. Students who began at an affiliate school prior to fall 2011, there are no minimum grade requirements for guaranteed admission.

Which classes count towards Columbia’s prerequisite courses?

Please speak with the liaison at your school in order to determine which classes fulfill Columbia pre-engineering and major course requirements. Our Pre-Curriculum Course Descriptions describe the topics covered through our prerequisite courses, which may help you guide you and your school liaison.

Can I apply to the Combined Plan program if I have not fulfilled all of the requirements for guaranteed admission?

Yes. Your application materials will be reviewed by the Combined Plan Admissions Committee.

How many classes will I take in a typical Columbia Engineering semester?

Depending on the course of study, Combined Plan students will take five or six classes per semester (including laboratory supplements to classes).

Will I get the same financial aid package from Columbia as I received from my affiliate school?

As Columbia awards only need-based financial aid, your aid package may change. Please see the financial aid section on our website for more information.

Do you offer fee waivers for the Combined Plan application?

Yes. Please obtain documents demonstrating eligibility from your Financial Aid office and contact the Combined Plan program by email.

What kind of housing do Combined Plan students receive?

Combined Plan students are guaranteed housing in their first year.

While Columbia will do its best to accommodate students’ requests to live on campus after the first year, there is no guarantee that Combined Plan students will be offered a room on campus beyond the first year. Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) assists Columbia students and affiliates in their search for housing in non-Columbia owned buildings in the metropolitan area. OCHA maintains a website and regular office hours to provide advice, resources and an online database of available housing.

 

Will I be able to take non-technical liberal arts electives at Columbia?

Depending on your department and schedule, you may be able to take non-technical elective courses.

Do you offer a Combined Plan program for the M.S. in Engineering degree?

For all information about the graduate study of engineering at Columbia, please contact the Office of Graduate Student Services at seasgradmit@columbia.edu.

What if a prerequisite class is not offered at my affiliate school?

Please speak with the liaison at your school to determine how the prerequisite class may be taken. Depending on the course, you may be able to take the class at another institution or through independent study.

Will any courses I’ve taken elsewhere (at non-affiliate institutions and/or study abroad programs) fulfill Columbia's prerequisite courses?

Please speak with the liaison at your school, who should be familiar with your school’s policies. If the course appears on your home institution's transcript and if your liaison approves by noting this in his/her recommendation letter, we will accept credit taken at other institutions as fulfillment of the prerequisite course. Official transcripts from all institutions attended are required. Please note that additional information about your school's credit policies may be required as part of your application.

Do I have to take physical education classes?

No. Combined Plan students are exempt from the Columbia Physical Education requirement.

What courses are used to calculate my GPA?

Your pre-engineering GPA includes all of the science and mathematics prerequisite Foundation Courses and Major-Specific Courses, as listed in our Curriculum Guide. Your overall GPA includes all courses you have completed towards your home institution's degree, up through the spring semester of application.

What assistance is available to help Combined Plan students with their post-Columbia plans?

Combined Plan students have full access to The Center for Career Education, Preprofessional Advising, and Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, which provide individual advising, programming and rich resources to help students explore and prepare for internships and jobs, graduate school and fellowship programs. Graduating student survey results demonstrate that Columbia engineering students are equipped to pursue a variety of paths upon graduation.

Should I apply to the Combined Plan after three years or after four?

You should speak with the liaison at your school, who can advise you on an appropriate course of study and/or other institutional requirements that may determine when you will apply. While most students apply in their third year, you may apply in your fourth year and still be considered for guaranteed admission. Students may apply only up to one year after they have graduated.

Financial Aid

Do you cover 100% of demonstrated financial need for transfers?

All transfer applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or students granted refugee visas by the United States are read in a need-blind manner. Foreign students applying for aid must understand that such aid is awarded on an extremely limited basis. Columbia meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for admitted transfer students, and Columbia does not give any scholarships for academic, athletic or artistic merit.

Please visit the Financial Aid website for more information on financial aid for transfer students, including all required forms.

I hold DACA status. What types of financial aid can I receive?

Columbia is committed to covering 100% of the demonstrated financial need of all students admitted as first-years or transfer students pursuing their first degree, regardless of citizenship status. Undocumented students, regardless of DACA status, are not eligible to receive federal and state financial aid, so we cover their need entirely from Columbia funding.

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

Yes, under certain circumstances. A student who is a US citizen or permanent resident and whose family experiences a change in circumstances may apply for financial aid at any time. For example, a family may suffer a job loss or illness, or a younger sibling may begin attending college. Please note, however, that not every change in circumstances may qualify a family for institutional aid. It is a good idea to include a letter describing your family’s change in circumstances with any new financial aid application.

Please note: foreign students and combined plan students who were admitted without institutional financial aid are not guaranteed institutional financial aid even if there is a change in circumstances.

Does Columbia provide fee waivers for the CSS Profile?

The CSS Profile service provides fee waivers to qualifying domestic first-time, first-year students from families with low incomes and limited assets. 

Eligibility for fee waivers is automatically assessed at the time you submit the CSS Profile, and the waiver covers the costs of the registration fee for up to eight school reports.  Please contact the College Board with any additional questions regarding CSS Profile fee waivers.

Columbia does not offer additional fee waivers to domestic students.

If you have additional questions regarding the financial aid process, please contact Financial Aid and Educational Financing at ugrad-finaid@columbia.edu or 212-854-3711.