Preparing for Columbia

How to prepare before you apply, upon acceptance, and when you arrive at Columbia.


  1. Before You Apply: Core Qualifications and Materials
  2. Upon Acceptance
  3. Visiting the U.S. to Secure Your Housing
  4. Arriving in the U.S. for Classes

1. Before You Apply: Core Qualifications and Materials

These are important requirements and materials common to most of our programs. Programs may have additional requirements; please review the Apply page of the program you are interested in.

Core Required Qualifications

Educational level

Applicants to our master’s programs and most of our certificate programs require a bachelor’s degree. (The certificates in Business, Critical Issues in International Relations, Graduate Foundations, Human Rights, and UN Studies are open to undergraduate juniors and seniors.) Applicants to our Summer Sessions are generally current undergraduate students in sophomore, junior, or senior year or visiting graduate students. We also welcome recent graduates. Applicants to special topics courses, such as Business Edge and Business Practice, must be rising undergraduate juniors, or seniors (entering their third or fourth years of a four-year college degree program).

age requirement

The American Language Program (ALP) is open to students who are 17 years old or older. The Summer Programs for High School Students are open to students ages 14 to 18.

english proficiency

Our master’s programs and postbaccalaureate studies programs require students whose native language is not English to verify English proficiency by submitting an official test score. A minimum score of TOEFL iBT 100 (600 paper based) or or IELTS 7 is required. For many of our non-degree programs, we also accept test scores from the Pearson Test of English-Academic (PTE-A) and the Cambridge group of tests

Business Plus is designed for students with a minimum TOEFL score of 80, a minimum SPS/ALP level of 7, or a minimum IELTS score of 6.5.

For ALP’s semester-long Intensive Program, students must be able to speak, understand and read simple English sentences.

For ALP’s Advanced Academic Preparation program students must submit a minimum TOEFL score of 72 (iBT) with minimum sub-score of 18 in each of writing and speaking, or 5.0 IELTS. Students who are currently enrolled in the ALP program and want to take Advanced Academic Preparation must have reached ALP level 6 to be considered for admission.

Core Required Materials

Application fee

Most programs require a nonrefundable application fee in U.S. currency.


Most programs require transcripts from all post-secondary institutions located outside the U.S. and Canada to be evaluated by World Education Services, Inc. (WES), a third-party verification agency.


Our master’s and certificate programs require a résumé in U.S. business format.

Statement of academic purpose

Our master’s and certificate programs, Fall and Spring Visiting Students Program, and specialized offerings such as Business Edge and Business Practice require a statement of purpose. For more information about tailoring your Statement of Academic Purpose for the specific program, check that program’s Apply page.

gre test results

Some of our master’s programs and our Actuarial Science certificate program require submission of official scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. The GRE General Test is available at about 700 test centers in more than 160 countries. In most regions of the world, an online test is available year-round. To determine whether a master’s program requires GRE test results, check that program’s Apply page.



2. Upon Acceptance

If you are accepted, these next steps will prepare you to obtain your visa, University ID, and Columbia email account.

Before registering for courses, you must comply with New York state immunization requirements and provide the Columbia Health Immunization Compliance Office with documentation of your decision on meningococcal meningitis vaccination and immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).

After receiving your acceptance letter, international students must obtain an I-20 form to apply for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. Students should contact the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) at least three months before the first day of class to request an I-20.

Check the admissions requirements for your program of interest to determine visa eligibility; some programs are structured as part-time programs and therefore are ineligible for an F-1 visa. Prospective students may apply for an F-1 student visa up to 90 days before the beginning of the term, but may not enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start of classes. Citizens of Canada do not need visas to enter the U.S., but they do need to request F-1 status at the border.

You must pay a tuition deposit in order to activate your University Network ID (UNI). Please allow five days for your UNI to be activated after paying your deposit.

Your University Network ID, or UNI (pronounced YOU-nee), consists of your initials followed by a random number. It is automatically assigned after you are admitted and have paid any required deposit fees. Allow five business days for your UNI to be created before you attempt to activate it. Your UNI gives you access to restricted library information on the web, student grades, billing, and registration information.

Your CUID gives you access to libraries and secure locations throughout campus. We recommend you submit your ID photo in advance of arriving on campus. You can use your CUID to purchase services at campus cafés and the University bookstore, to get free admittance to many museums in New York City, and to receive discounts on purchases in many local stores.

  1. Comply with Immunization/Vaccination Requirements
  2. Apply for an F-1 Visa with an I-20 Form
  3. Pay Your Deposit
  4. Activate your University Network ID (UNI)
  5. Submit your Columbia University ID (CUID) Photo

3. Visiting the U.S. to Secure Your Housing

If you are interested in off-campus housing, we recommend you visit the space in person prior to renting. Consider visiting New York City one month before the start of classes and consult the Columbia University Travel Portal, which includes a list of hotels that offer a discounted rate to Columbia students.

For rental options, we recommend browsing Columbia’s Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA), which features listings of off-campus rooms and apartments, guides to New York City neighborhoods, resources on how to find housing, and general information about renting.

In the U.S., it is customary to pay at least one month’s rent and a security deposit—usually equivalent to one month’s rent—to the landlord at the time you agree to rent the apartment. It will be important that you have those funds immediately available in cash or personal check, or money order to secure your housing. When renting a room or an apartment, you should always ask the landlord for a written lease that details all relevant charges, such as your security deposit and rent. Also note that if you are using a real estate broker, they may also charge one month’s rent as a fee. Ask many questions to ensure that you know all the costs.

For shorter-term off-campus housing, consider Columbia University’s Office of Work/Life’s list of temporary, short-term, and less-expensive accommodations. Graduate students may also wish to consider applying for residence at International House, a community of more than 700 students from more than 100 countries.


For Summer High School Students and ALP Students, on-campus housing is available and can be secured in advance of arrival to the U.S. Summer Programs For High School Students: New York City students who are at least 16 years old and full-time American Language Program students who are at least 18 years old may stay in Columbia residence halls. Based on availability.



4. Arriving in the U.S. for Classes

Registration for each term occurs within designated periods during which you will be assigned specific registration appointment times. Your appointment times will be available on Student Services Online about two weeks prior to the registration period.

Columbia’s International Student Orientation is your first opportunity to experience life at Columbia as a student. It will help you to feel at home in New York, become familiar with the academic and co-curricular opportunities, learn about campus traditions, understand how to access campus resources and support services, and meet the Columbia community.

After you arrive in the U.S., starting two business days after you have registered for classes, you can pick up your ID at 203 Kent Hall, which is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and closed holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Columbia does not mail paper bills for tuition and fees. These charges are billed electronically at the beginning of each term, usually two to three weeks after registration. When your statement is generated, you and any individuals authorized to view your statements will be notified by email, so that you can log-in and pay online.

  1. Register for Classes
  2. Participate in New Student Orientation
  3. Pick Up your CUID
  4. Check your Email for your Bill