International Student Programs and Services

What is the Core Curriculum and why is it necessary?

The Core Curriculum is Columbia’s long-established program in the liberal arts. The Core consists of a set of required courses in literature, history, writing, music, art, philosophy, science, language, and cultural studies that are required of students in both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering. For College students, Core classes comprise between one third to one half of their total courses and for Engineers it is approximately one fourth.

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Can international students go on a term abroad?

Yes. Study abroad opportunities are available for a semester, full academic year, or summer to all Columbia undergraduates. The staff of the Office of Global Programs helps students learn more about these opportunities. As an internationally-minded office, the staff is well-equipped to discuss cross-cultural issues and the benefits of enhancing students' international experiences.

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What can I do to improve my English skills?

Living in a location where the language spoken is not your first or even second language can be a difficult part of adjusting to Columbia. It is useful to keep in mind that in the English speaking world, terms and phrases vary widely, so in a sense, everyone is getting used to Columbia’s language and academic rhetoric. One option for first year students looking to improve their English skills is a section of University Writing designed for English Language Learners (non-native speakers).

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Who needs to complete the language requirement at Columbia?

Columbia University teaches nearly 50 languages to the advanced level and over 170 languages are spoken in New York City, which makes your time at Columbia a fascinating way to connect language with culture and community. Study of a foreign language is required for Columbia College students and may be satisfied in different ways. Students who completed secondary school in a language other than English are not required to take an additional foreign language or an achievement test.

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Do I get credit for the advanced work I did in High School?

CC and SEAS may grant up to 16 credits earned from Advanced Placement (AP), General Certificate of Education Advanced Level Examinations (A levels), the International Baccalaureate Examination (IB), and other national systems. Credit is typically awarded after the first year. A complete description of policies, credits, and/or exemptions can be found in the College and Engineering bulletins.

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What is OPT (Optional Practical Training)?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 student status that allows students to gain experience in their field of study by applying for off-campus work authorization. Students in F-1 status are eligible for 12 months of OPT per educational degree level. OPT may be granted and used before graduation (pre-completion OPT ) for part-time work during the school year or full time work during vacation periods.

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Can I open a bank account? What do I need to set up an account?

Yes, you can open a bank account and many students choose to do so to help manage money and pay for certain items. International students do not need a Social Security number or a letter from the ISSO or any other university office to open a bank account. You do need your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, and letter of admission to Columbia. Other items that could be helpful if you have them are your Columbia ID, a lease or housing contract with your name on it, and, if you have a bank account at home, a statement from your home country with your name and address printed on it.

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Where can I get a letter confirming my address or student status?

Should you need to provide a letter confirming your address, you may contact the Hartley Hospitality Desk to request one. If you need to prove your student status at Columbia, you may request Academic Certification from the University Registrar.

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What are the policies I have to follow in the residence halls?

Undergraduate students who live in the residence halls are subject to the policies outlined in the Guide to Living. These policies, which range from the Cable Television and Cooking policies to the Alcohol and Other Drug policy, are put in place to ensure a residential community that is engaging and safe for all its members

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Lots of students leave campus during the holidays. What are my options as an international student?

While many students choose to leave campus during academic breaks (U.S. Election Day, Thanksgiving, Winter Break and Spring Break), the residence halls remain open to their residents and you may stay on campus from move-in to the end of Spring semester. Although campus will generally be quieter during these times, administrative offices are open and operational and students (international and domestic) do stay on campus.

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