Student Life

What do FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) mean?

FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Under FERPA, when a student enters university in the U.S. at any age, all rights and responsibilities to privacy of educational records are transferred to the student. Educational records can include grades, financial aid records, disciplinary records, student account information, Dean’s Office files, and Residential Program files.

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Where can my son or daughter store personal belongings over the summer break?

While Columbia is unable to offer summer storage, there are several vendors in the area that students may use for a fee. Columbia has no affiliation with these companies, however more information can be found at Hudson and Manhattan Mini Storage. For other ideas on disposing of personal items, please read the Green Check Out tips.

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How do I help my son or daughter open a bank account?

While most U.S. banks require that your son or daughter open an account once in the United States, some international banks may allow an application to be started beforehand. Check with your local bank to see if this is possible or for recommended services. Once here, students may open a bank account. The International Student and Scholars Office (ISSO) has compiled a list of banks in the Columbia neighborhood.

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Does Columbia offer translation services for families? Is everything in English?

Most Columbia University publications and websites are available in English only. As our campus and the City of New York are global and multilingual environments, we provide translation services in emergency situations.
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Do I as a parent or relative need a support letter to obtain a visa to visit my student on campus?

No. A support letter is not required by the U.S. Consulates for visitor visa applications. As a visitor to the United States, it is important for you to be aware of visa requirements. Citizens of certain countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program may come to the United States without a visa if certain conditions are met. Other visitors will need a nonimmigrant visa. We encourage you to visit the U.S.

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Where can I stay when I am visiting campus? Can I just stay on campus?

We recommend you secure reservations off-campus. For a list of hotels that give a Columbia rate, please visit the Travel Portal and click on hotels on the left menu. Budget friendly options near campus include:

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How do I get to campus from the major New York City airports?

Columbia’s campus is accessible by public transportation as well as yellow taxi and car service. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) serves the New York Metro area by subway, bus, rail and bridges and tunnels and has a nice How to Ride the Subway guide.

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I would like to get an unpaid internship or volunteer off campus. What do I need to know?

Interning and volunteering offer opportunities to gain experience, build your skills, and strengthen your resume. For unpaid work on or off campus such as volunteering or an unpaid internship, you may start right away and do not need OPT. You must be sure the position is unpaid for anyone (i.e. not just you because you want to take the job as a volunteer). Start by using these tools:

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What do I need to consider regarding eligibility to undertake an internship or job?

As an international student, it is essential that you fully understand your eligibility to work in the location of the internship or job and the process to gain work authorization. Eligibility to work considerations include:

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