Academic Requirements

In order to graduate from Columbia College with a Bachelor of Arts degree, all students must successfully complete the following:

  • 124 points of academic credit,
  • an overall GPA of 2.0 or higher,
  • all the Core Curriculum courses and requirements, and
  • one major or concentration.

Points of Credit

Every student must complete 124 points of academic credit. The last two semesters must be taken while enrolled in the College for study on this campus or on one of the Columbia-sponsored international programs.

Courses may not be repeated for credit. If a student takes a course for a second time for some reason, both attempts will be reflected on the student’s transcript, but only the grade received for the first attempt will be awarded credit (unless the grade for the first attempt was an F), and be factored into the student’s overall GPA as measured by their degree audit. Credit cannot be earned for courses taken in subjects and at the same level for which Advanced Standing credit (AP, IB, GCE, etc.) has been granted. For more information, see Academic RegulationsPlacement and Advanced Standing.

Students also cannot receive credit for courses taken previously, at Columbia or elsewhere, in which the content has been substantially duplicated by more recent courses taken at Columbia. For example, credit cannot be earned for two first-term calculus courses, even if one is more theoretical in approach than the other; similarly, credit cannot be earned for two comparable terms of a science or foreign language even if one has a Barnard course number and the other a Columbia course number. In some courses, only partial credit may be counted toward the degree.

Courses not listed in this Bulletin as eligible for credit for Columbia College students must be approved by the appropriate person or committee in the Berick Center for Student Advising, since such courses might not bear College credit (e.g., MATH UN1003 College Algebra and Analytic Geometry). Students who have questions about whether degree credit may be earned in a course should consult with their advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising.

The Core Curriculum

The following required courses constitute the Columbia College Core Curriculum. They include general education requirements in major disciplines and, except for Physical Education, must be taken for a letter grade (i.e., the Pass/D/Fail option may not be applied):

Literature Humanities
HUMA CC1001
 - HUMA CC1002
Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy I
and Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy II
Frontiers of Science
SCNC CC1000Frontiers of Science
University Writing
ENGL CC1010University Writing
Contemporary Civilization
COCI CC1101
 - COCI CC1102
Introduction To Contemporary Civilization in the West I
and CONTEMP WESTRN CIVILIZATION II
Art Humanities
HUMA UN1121Masterpieces of Western Art
Music Humanities
HUMA UN1123Masterpieces of Western Music
Science Requirement
Two courses from the list of approved courses
Global Core Requirement
Two courses from the list of approved courses
Foreign Language Requirement
Four courses and the successful completion of the intermediate ll level in a single language or the equivalent
Physical Education
Two courses and a swimming test

Students are required to complete Literature HumanitiesUniversity Writing, and Frontiers of Science in the first year. Failure to complete these courses in the first year will result in the student being placed on academic probation.

Additionally, the College expects students to complete Contemporary Civilization in their sophomore year, and Art Humanities and Music Humanities by the end of junior year. For pedagogical reasons, the College considers Literature Humanities to be a pre-requisite for Contemporary Civilization; therefore, all Columbia College students must complete Literature Humanities before taking Contemporary Civilization. (Columbia Engineering students have been given an exception to this rule because of the structure of their curriculum.)

Courses in fulfillment of the Core Curriculum must be taken in Columbia College, with the exception of the Foreign Language Requirement, which, in some instances and as determined by the relevant academic department at Columbia, may be satisfied at Barnard College. In general, students must fulfill the Global Core and Science Requirements with courses noted on the list of approved courses and may not petition for other courses taught at Columbia or Barnard to fulfill either requirement. Students may be able to petition the Committee on the Global Core for courses taken at a study abroad program to count toward the Global Core Requirement, after first meeting with their advising dean in the Berick Center for Student Advising.

The Departmental Major or Concentration

All Columbia College students must complete either a major or a concentration as described in the departmental sections of this Bulletin. The purpose of the major or concentration requirement is to give each student the experience of doing sustained and advanced work, typically including individual research, in a field of special interest. A concentration consists of intensive study in one academic program achieved by fulfilling a series of requirements; a major typically provides even more depth through additional requirements and possibly a senior capstone experience such as a thesis.

Neither the concentration nor the major is designed to produce professionally trained specialists for one profession or another, and students often pursue a career that is not dependent on the specific content of a concentration or major. Rather, a Columbia College liberal arts education - through the breadth of the Core Curriculum and the depth of the concentration or major - will provide students with the knowledge and skills that will serve them well throughout their professional and personal lives. 

The choice of a concentration versus a major depends on the particular aims and needs of a student, as well as on the offerings of the particular department in which a student wishes to study. The faculty members of each academic department determine the requirements for a concentration or a major. It is the students' responsibility to ensure that they complete the concentration or major requirements that are in effect as of their sophomore year. Each department has one or more directors of undergraduate studies (DUS) to whom questions regarding the concentration or major should be directed.

All courses used to meet the requirements of a concentration or major, including related courses, must be taken for a letter grade—i.e., the Pass/D/Fail option may not be used for such courses. Some academic departments permit an exception to this policy, allowing the first one-term course taken by the student in his or her eventual major to be taken for a mark of "Pass." Students should check with the relevant academic department for both the minimum and maximum points allowed for a concentration or a major, as well as for any restrictions on courses in which a student earns a grade of D or a mark of "Pass."

Some concentrations and majors require that certain introductory courses be completed before the start of the junior year. Students should carefully read the requirements for their proposed concentration or major and direct questions to the relevant director of undergraduate studies (DUS).

In the first and sophomore years, students should confer with faculty members in the department, advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising, and advisers in the Center for Career Education while considering their choice of concentration or major. All students declare a concentration or major in their fourth term. Information about the process for declaring a concentration or major is sent to students in the spring of the sophomore year by the Berick Center for Student Advising.

Interdisciplinary and Interdepartmental Majors and Concentrations

Interdisciplinary and interdepartmental concentrations and majors combine coursework in two or more areas of study. Interdisciplinary concentrations and majors are linked to the interdisciplinary programs (see Departments of Instruction).

Independent majors or concentrations are not permitted for Columbia College students.

Special Concentrations

In certain cases, a program of study has been designated a “special concentration.” While a special concentration may require a similar number of courses or points of credit as a departmental concentration does, a "special concentration" does not fulfill a degree requirement. Therefore, a special concentration can only be pursued as a second program of study, in addition to a concentration or major. 

Double Concentrations/Majors

Most Columbia College students graduate with a single program of study — i.e., one concentration or major. It is possible to declare a maximum of two programs of study —e.g., two concentrations, two majors, a concentration and a major, a concentration and a special concentration, or a major and a special concentration.  

Students must complete their degree requirements within eight semesters (including the terms that transfer students spent at other institutions), and students will not be awarded additional semesters for the purposes of completing an additional concentration or major.

If a student decides to pursue two programs of study, they may not both be owned by the same offering unit (department, institute, or center). For example, a student may not declare programs in Russian Language and Culture and in Slavic Studies, both of which are owned by the Department of Slavic Languages; similarly, a student may not declare programs in Mathematics and in Applied Mathematics, both of which are owned by the Department of Mathematics. All joint majors (e.g., Economics-Political Science) will be considered as owned by both offering units, so that a student may not, for example, major in both Political Science and Economics-Political Science.

If a student chooses to declare two programs of study, the student can, in certain situations, apply a single course to both programs (“double-counting”). There are three conditions under which students may apply a single course to two programs, and depending on the two programs declared, some or all of these conditions may apply:

1.       If two programs both require the same coursework to teach fundamental skills needed for the field, those courses may be applied to both programs. The Committee on Instruction has defined that coursework as the following:

(1) elementary and intermediate foreign language courses;

(2) the calculus sequence (I through IV, or Honors A and B);

(3) introductory courses in Statistics (STAT UN1101 or 1201);

(4) the introductory course in computer programming (COMS W1004).

If faculty members feel that other courses should be included in this category, those courses would need to be approved for such purpose by the Committee on Instruction.

2.      In addition to double-counting any fundamental courses enumerated above, a student pursuing two programs of study may apply a maximum of two classes to both programs, if applicable. Offering departments, institutes, or centers may choose to restrict the double-counting of particular courses, and such restrictions cannot be appealed.

3.      In addition to those courses that can be double-counted as noted above, a maximum of two courses taken to fulfill the Global Core, Science or Foreign Language Requirements can also be counted toward the requirements of a program of study (major, concentration, special concentration), if applicable. Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization , Frontiers of Science, Art Humanities, Music Humanities, and University Writing may not be double-counted for any major, concentration or special concentration. Offering departments, institutes, or centers may choose to restrict the double-counting of courses taken to fulfill core requirements, and such restrictions cannot be appealed.

Supervised Independent Study

Supervised individual work on a special topic is available to qualified students as an alternative or as a supplement to courses and seminars in the field of specialization. Students must develop a plan of study with a faculty adviser and then obtain the approval of the department. Progress reports are submitted as required. From one to six points of credit may be awarded for this work; the exact number of points is to be determined in consultation with the department.

Approval depends on the quality of the proposal, the student’s qualifications, and the availability of an appropriate faculty adviser.

Requirements for Transfer Students

Columbia College offers transfer students the opportunity to experience a wide-ranging liberal arts education that includes its Core Curriculum and a broad range of majors and concentrations. To graduate from Columbia College, all transfer students must successfully complete the following:

  • 124 points in academic credit,
  • an overall GPA of 2.0 or higher,
  • all Core Curriculum courses and requirements, and
  • one major or concentration. 

Upon admission to Columbia College, transfer students should familiarize themselves with the regulations pertaining to their special status (see Academic Regulations—Regulations for Transfer Students).

Planning an Academic Program

When planning their academic program, all students are expected to consult with their advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising as well as with their departmental advisers. Advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising serve as the primary advisers for all general graduation requirements and monitor students’ progress toward completing the Core Curriculum. Directors of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), and other faculty representatives of the academic departments, serve as the primary advisers for completing the requirements for concentrations, majors, and/or special concentrations.

Advising deans in the James H. and Christine Turk Berick Center for Student Advising (CSA), located in 403 Lerner, guide and support undergraduates at Columbia College and Columbia Engineering as they navigate their academic and co-curricular lives at Columbia University. Students are assigned an advising dean in the summer before matriculation. Productive advising is built on a partnership in which the student and the adviser work together: the spirit of an ideal advising partnership is one of mutual engagement, responsiveness, and dedication. Regular advising conversations - the fundamental building blocks of the partnership - enable an adviser to serve as a knowledgeable resource, reliable guide, and a source for referrals, so that students may make the most of all the opportunities available to them inside and outside the classroom during their time at the College. Students can make appointments with their advising deans using the online appointment system.

While students have assigned advising deans, students may make appointments with any of the advisers in the Berick Center for Student Advising. Students who wish to change assigned advising deans are encouraged to make an appointment with Andrew Plaa, dean of advising, who can make new adviser assignments.

To ensure successful planning, students should familiarize themselves with the requirements of any academic programs in which they may be interested. In particular, students should note that some concentrations and majors require that certain introductory courses be completed before the start of the junior year. Similarly, study abroad, professional programs, and graduate schools have a range of requirements that must be successfully completed at prescribed times during the undergraduate career.

In particular, students considering a concentration or major in the sciences should focus on required introductory science courses in their first two years, in addition to Core requirements. Students considering a concentration or major in the humanities and social sciences should try to take, in their first two years, a combination of Core requirements and introductory level courses in the department(s) in which they are interested in majoring.

Under no circumstances will students be granted more than 8 semesters to complete an additional concentration or major.

In addition, all students should do the following:

  1. become thoroughly familiar with the requirements for the degree and with the College regulations, including deadlines;
  2. plan to complete University Writing (ENGL CC1010), Frontiers of Science (SCNC CC1000), Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy I & II (HUMA CC1001-HUMA CC1002) during the first year, as well as Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West (COCI CC1101 -COCI CC1102) by the end of the sophomore year; and
  3. choose a major or concentration in their fourth term.

Students will declare a concentration or major either through an online declaration process or by the submission of a paper declaration form to the Berick Center for Student Advising, 403 Lerner. Some concentrations and majors require departmental review, and students can only declare these concentrations or majors after receiving approval by the department. A concentration or major may be changed at any time as long as the requisite departmental approval is received, the requirements have been or can be fulfilled, and students can still graduate by the end of their eighth semester. If a change of concentration or major is decided upon, a new declaration form must be filed online or in hard copy with the advising dean in the Berick Center for Student Advising.

Advising for First-Year Students

In the summer, each incoming student receives the Academic Planning Guide for New Students, which is designed to assist incoming students in planning and creating their academic programs. Incoming students should read the Academic Planning Guide for New Students prior to their first advising appointment. Students will receive information by email about opportunities to connect with their advising deans in the summer.

Each first-year student is preregistered for Literature Humanities as well as for Frontiers of Science or University Writing. (First-year students are pre-registered for either Frontiers of Science or University Writing in the Fall term and take the other course in the Spring term.)

All incoming students are expected to meet with their advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising during the summer (in person or by phone/internet), during the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP), and/or in the first two weeks of the term (Change-of-Program period) in order to discuss their fall course selections, their transition to college, their short- and long-term goals, and to learn about other advising resources and offices available to them at Columbia.

Students are expected to stay in touch regularly with their  advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising throughout their time at Columbia.

Approval depends on the quality of the proposal, the student’s qualifications, and the availability of an appropriate faculty adviser.