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Our Path Forward: FAQs for Fall 2020

What's New?

This page will be regularly updated as we near the opening of the fall semester. For more information about the fall semester, view Our Path Forward.

Updated Friday, August 7

Updated Section: Residential Life

Updated Wednesday, July 22

Updated Section: Cost of Attendance

Updated week of Monday, July 13

Updated Friday, July 10


How will we know what courses will be offered in fall, spring and summer? When and where will that information be available?

By Monday, August 3, students will be able to see in the online Directory of Classes and in Vergil not only the 14-week and 7-week courses that will be offered in Fall 2020, but also the modality of delivery (online, in person or hybrid) and the class schedule. Academic departments and programs have also posted information for the 2020-2021 academic year on their websites. A list of department websites can be found through Academic Programming and Planning 2020-2021.

Now that there are changes to the academic offerings for the year, will there be changes to registration for Fall 2020 courses?

If you are a returning student and you previously registered for Fall 2020 courses that will still be offered as planned, your registration status will remain the same; there is no need to re-register for the courses. If you are a returning student and courses for which you had registered have been canceled or moved to a later semester, you will have the opportunity to register for other courses during the upcoming registration periods. All returning students can make adjustments to their Fall academic programs during the upcoming registration periods of August 3-7 and August 10-14. All first-year students will be pre-registered for the Fall in Literature Humanities and either Frontiers of Science or University Writing in mid-August, and will be able to make adjustments to these pre-enrollments and to register in additional courses during the week before the semester begins, after talking with their academic advisers.

When will Core Curriculum courses be offered?

  • Literature Humanities, designed to be taken by all first-year students at the same time, and Contemporary Civilization, designed to be taken by all sophomore students at the same time will each be offered in the usual Fall-then-Spring sequence.
  • Most of the one-term Core courses -- Art Humanities, Frontiers of Science, and Music Humanities -- will be offered in fall, spring and summer. Students will still be expected to take University Writing in either Fall or Spring since it is an important foundational course for all other coursework students will take and therefore should not be delayed.
  • More information about Core Curriculum courses can be found on the Center for the Core Curriculum website.

Will classes be taught in person or online?

Some classes will be taught entirely online, some classes will be taught in person, or some classes will be taught in a hybrid form of the two. A small number of courses will be held entirely in person.

Last spring, Columbia made an abrupt transition to the online environment in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, and faculty and students engaged in an intense learning curve to teach and to learn online. For the Fall semester, faculty have had more time to prepare, and they are currently engaging in discussion, training and workshops to enhance the way that they structure their courses and engage with students online. We are looking forward to a rich academic experience this year across the curriculum. Faculty and departments will share more details about course structures at the beginning of the semester.

Please note: College students who will be enrolled but living away from campus should be aware of the University’s guidance for students regarding online courses: if students will be enrolled in online courses while living in a different time zone, they should plan to register for courses whose class meetings are held at a time when the students can attend synchronously (i.e., live attendance is expected).

Given the rapid changes to public health guidance and to related guidelines on campus classrooms, decisions are still being made about course modalities (i.e., whether courses will be offered online, in person, or in a hybrid form), so course information in the online Directory of Classes and in Vergil will continue to be updated until the beginning of the upcoming registration period beginning on August 3, and changes may continue during the month of August. We will continue to update you about any new developments as we learn them.

If I am not living on campus, will I have the same academic experience as my classmates who are on campus?

We are committed to ensuring that our students have the same access to the educational opportunities that Columba offers, whether they are on campus or remote. In hybrid courses, students who are studying remotely will engage online synchronously with students who are in the classroom, and all students will have access to asynchronous course materials regardless of their location or time zone. As we learn more about where students will be when they are enrolled in classes, we will make sure that their needs are accommodated to the greatest extent possible.

If I am living off-campus but am local and am able, can I commute to campus to attend courses I enroll in that are hybrid or live?

Yes, students who live locally and can commute to campus will be eligible to participate in classes that have a live component.

What are 7-week “immersive courses”? When and why should I consider taking these types of courses?

In addition to the typical 14-week long courses, some departments and programs will also offer 7-week “immersive” courses, which will cover a semester’s worth of material in a compressed time period and will meet for twice as many hours per week, allowing more contact between faculty and students and more sustained focus on the class content. Students are encouraged to talk with their advisers in the Berick Center for Student Advising about how they might fit immersive courses into their semester schedule, if they are interested.

How will I meet with faculty and advisors?

Faculty will share information at the beginning of the term about their office hours (e.g., when they will be held each week, whether they will be held online or in-person when possible) and other ways to interact. Students can continue to meet with their advisers in the Berick Center for Student Advising, using the online appointment system.

What if I decide I would like to take a leave of absence?

What if I decide I would like to take a leave of absence?

Continuing students must consult with their adviser in the Berick Center for Student Advising for any questions regarding taking either a voluntary medical leave of absence or a voluntary personal leave of absence. Prior to matriculation, all incoming students must consult with Admissions about delaying their attendance.

We know a concern of students considering taking a voluntary personal leave of absence is whether or not they can secure housing upon their return. While Columbia cannot guarantee housing for students who take a voluntary leave of absence, we have historically been able to accommodate most students who need housing upon their return. We will continue to make every effort to secure housing for students returning from a voluntary leave, but this process would occur, as it does now, after first assigning all students with guaranteed housing status. It’s important to note that if we see a significant increase in students interested in taking a leave due to COVID-19, we would likely experience greater housing and enrollment constraints in subsequent semesters and years.

Students who take a voluntary leave of absence before the start of a semester would continue to be eligible for financial support upon their return, subject to the standard review of their financial aid application materials. Students who initiate their leave after a semester begins may require some adjustment to their aid and should reach out to Financial Aid when they plan their return to campus. We encourage any student with questions about this process to be in touch with Financial Aid to discuss their individual circumstances.

What will the grading policy be this year?

Students will receive evaluative grades (ranging from A+ to F), except for courses that are offered only on a pass/fail basis. The standard policies for utilizing the pass/d/fail option will be in place as well. Students with questions about these policies should contact their advisers in the Berick Center for Student Advising.

Will undergraduates be able to do research in the fall if they are on campus?

We are hopeful that students will be able to enter labs again to conduct research this fall, contingent on the ongoing health and safety guidelines from New York City and State.


How can I find out more about the University’s health and safety protocols, including testing, requirements and more?

Visit the Columbia University Covid-19 website which will be continually updated with the latest Public Health protocols being enforced on campus as we near the start of next year’s academic year.

Will the flu vaccine still be offered this year?

In light of the continuing pandemic and the coming flu season the University has elected to make flu vaccines mandatory for students in the 2020-2021 academic year. Below please find initial information to help implement this critical public health requirement.

Residential Students

Undergraduate students are required to receive the vaccine. Shortly after the start of the fall term Columbia Health will be providing no-cost flu vaccines*. More details on this process are forthcoming.

Non-Residential Students

Students not living in Columbia buildings but coming to campus are required to receive the flu vaccine no later than October 30, 2020 or within 3 business days of arrival if on or after November 1. 2020. We will be offering carefully planned opportunities to facilitate vaccination* while also ensuring proper physical distancing and other critical public health measures. More details on this process are forthcoming. For students enrolled in clinical programs at CUIMC, there is no change to the flu vaccine requirement.

*Vaccines are at no cost when provided by Columbia Health (Morningside) or Student Health Service (CUIMC). Columbia will not reimburse students that receive vaccines elsewhere.


In line with the existing University immunization compliance processes students that fail to comply with the requirement are subject to deregistration from courses, removal of ability to access campus buildings and facilities, and loss of housing in Columbia buildings.

Medical & Religious Exemptions

Students with existing medical and religious immunization exemptions will not need to take any further actions. New requests must be received at least 14 calendar days before the student will arrive on campus. All exemptions are considered but approval is not guaranteed.

Where can I find more information related to Public Health guidance that Columbia is utilizing in its planning?

Visit the interim Public Health guidance page on Columbia’s Covid-19 website.


Will traditional residential life activities and programs exist?

Residential life staff will offer programs and activities; however, they will look different than in previous years. Opportunities to connect virtually will exist whether a student is on or off-campus. Additionally, in-person programs will be adjusted for physical distancing and adjusted room capacities.

If I am living off-campus, may I visit friends who are approved to be in residence during some part of this upcoming year?

Due to the distancing protocols, students who are not in residence are unable to enter in and visit friends in residence as access will be restricted.

Where can I find more information about how residential living will work this year, including the experience, dining, move-in and more?

For comprehensive FAQs about housing, residence life, facilities and more, visit Columbia Housing and Columbia Dining for more information.

For information about the move-in process, please visit our "Move-in and Quarantine Protocol for Fall 2020" page.


What changes are being made to the tuition rate?

The rate increase for tuition is 2%.

Why are tuition costs going up?

Tuition has increased due to greater costs associated with supporting students, including instruction and technology support as we teach in multiple modalities. To adhere to public health guidelines, there will also be additional cleaning and facilities enhancements to mitigate risk in our current health environment.

This year, tuition will allow for Columbia College students to enroll in three terms (fall, spring and summer) while only paying for two (fall and spring), which may allow students to further advance in their degree progress. The maximum credits have been increased this academic year to up to 40 credits earned.

Columbia University does not typically recoup the full cost of educating a student from Tuition, Room and Board, and other associated fees. Fundraising and other revenue sources cover the difference between what a student pays and the actual cost of attendance but given the current economic and health environment, we anticipate significant challenges in fundraising activities and generating other revenues.

Columbia College remains committed to meeting demonstrated financial need. Even in these challenging times, we have increased our commitment to support students with the greatest financial need. This includes the waivers for the student contribution and term time work expectation as well as planning for an increased demand for financial aid this academic year.

Will there be an adjustment in room & board cost given the shorter time period on campus, i.e., fewer weeks in the first semester?

Housing and Dining costs will be adjusted for the shorter time period on campus. Housing rates for students in the residence halls can be found on the Columbia Housing website. Students on a Columbia Dining Meal Plan for the fall term will pay the full Meal Plan cost for the fall term and will be issued a refund based on your move-out date. More information on this can be found on the Columbia Dining website

Will I receive more financial aid given costs have gone up?

When the cost of attendance increases, financial aid eligibility increases as well - along with aid awarded. The Financial Aid and Educational Financing office is preparing financial aid award letters that reflect the costs of tuition, housing, and other allowances taking into account whether or not you will be living on- or off-campus and for which portion of the academic year. In calculating financial aid awards for students living off-campus, Columbia College will include an off-campus living allowance of $4,000 per semester to help with living and technology expenses related to remote learning.

When will I receive my financial aid eligibility letter?

The first round of eligibility letters for current students will be emailed by the end of July, now that the Cost of Attendance for the 2020-2021 academic year has been finalized.

Can I update my financial aid application if a parent has lost a job or my family’s circumstances have changed due to the coronavirus outbreak?

If your family’s financial situation has changed significantly from what was originally reported in your application materials, please follow the steps below:

  • If you have already received your eligibility letter for 2020-2021, please submit a financial aid appeal. Instructions for financial aid appeal are available.

  • If you have not received your eligibility letter for 2020-2021, you can submit your financial aid appeal after you receive your initial eligibility letter.

Will fees be adjusted based on whether I am on campus or not?

Certain fees may be adjusted based on the availability of specific campus activities or operations, and the location of a student (on-campus or off-campus). This includes the Student Life fee. More details will be provided after course registration and housing confirmations are finalized.

What if I change my mind about my housing options, will my financial aid be adjusted?

Your financial aid award will be adjusted according to whether you live on-campus or off-campus. If your housing plans change before the start of either semester (fall or spring), contact the Financial Aid and Educational Financing office to discuss an adjustment to your Cost of Attendance and its impact on your financial aid award.

If I am not on campus, how will my financial aid work for housing and dining?

When calculating financial aid awards for students living off-campus, Columbia College will take into account an off-campus living allowance of $4,000 per semester to help with living and technology expenses related to remote learning.

If I would like to take classes next summer, what will it cost?

There will be no additional tuition charge for enrolling in classes in Summer 2021 if you attended full-time in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. Full-time status requires enrollment in a minimum of 12 points of credits per term. The maximum credit hours for each term (fall, spring and summer) is 18 points of credit and the maximum for the academic year will be 40 points of credit.

If I take courses in the summer, do I have to pay for housing?

Housing for summer term is an additional expense. The application for summer housing will be available next spring. Summer courses will also be available online, and therefore can be taken from whatever location you are in.

How would financial aid work for 3 semesters?

For the fall and spring semesters, financial aid will work similar to how it has in the past. For the Summer Session, students will be able to apply for Federal Pell Grants, Federal Loans and Private Loans. Since tuition will not be charged, a student's cost of attendance and limit on financial aid for the summer will include housing, meals, books & supplies, transportation and personal expenses. The exact amount for these numbers should be determined in March. Students will not be able to receive Columbia Institutional Grants for these expenses in the Summer Session. Students interested in applying for Federal Aid for the Summer Session will need to complete all application requirements (FAFSA, CSS Profile and

What happens if I have to leave campus residence before the term is over because of the pandemic?

If the University decides at any point in time (e.g. due to public health guidance) that it is necessary to depart campus mid-semester, your financial aid award will be modified to prorate the charges for housing and dining, as well as certain other on-campus fees to the overall cost of attendance. This is similar to what occurred in Spring 2020 and students with financial aid would instead receive prorated off-campus support. For those living off-campus, the living allowance would remain unchanged.

What happens to my financial aid if I need to take a leave of absence in the middle of the term?

It is vital that students direct all financial aid questions to the Financial Aid and Educational Financing office at (212) 854-3711 or as there are significant implications to taking a leave mid-term.

Learn more about withdrawals.

I am considering taking a voluntary leave of absence. Does this affect my financial aid for the future?

Taking a voluntary leave may impact financial aid eligibility. If you take a voluntary leave before the start of the term, there is no impact to your financial aid. However, If you take a voluntary leave after the start of the semester, that semester may count towards your eight semesters of financial aid eligibility. As each student’s financial situation is unique you should contact the Financial Aid and Educational Financing office when considering taking a leave of absence.

How will the College support students who may face challenges meeting their student contributions this year?

Similar to the summer earning grants we provided this summer, Columbia College will offer the opportunity for students on financial aid to apply for a waiver for the term-time student work expectation for Fall 2020. More information will be provided at the beginning of the academic year. This process will replace the Fall Work Exemption Program.

How can I find out more about a campus job this upcoming year? Can I take a job if I am remote?

There are two types of positions students may secure while enrolled: federal work-study or casual employment. Both types of positions are on-campus work; however they are funded by different sources. Eligibility for federal work-study is determined by the FAFSA. The financial aid award will indicate whether a student is eligible for federal work-study. Federal work study jobs are posted online.

Students not eligible for federal work-study can obtain campus jobs, but would search for them in the casual-employment section. Casual employment campus jobs are posted on the LionSHARE portal.

Students are paid directly; their earnings are not applied toward the bill. Information on the requirements for student job paperwork as well as payroll is available online.

You should check with the department listing the job as to whether or not a remote work arrangement is possible.


If I am not on campus, will I miss out?

Life on campus will be very different this year. Students in residence will have access to limited facilities and space, though even this may continue to fluctuate. Many aspects of the student experience are being developed to live in a virtual mode so that all students can have access to these programs and opportunities, whether on or off-campus.

What kinds of events can student groups and clubs plan?

Venues may be limited due the physical distancing requirements. As a result, student clubs and organizations will be encouraged and in some cases, required to host programs and club engagement virtually. Students will be able to meet outside, weather permitting, with appropriate physical distancing.

Will Dodge Fitness center or other physical fitness facilities be available to me?

Columbia Athletics hopes to be able to open the Dodge Fitness Center to the campus community for physical education, recreation and wellness, but will not be able to finalize plans until the plans for varsity sports are finalized. The announcement from the Ivy League about the plan for varsity athletics is expected later this week.


How will on-campus recruiting work this year? What internship opportunities will be available to me? How do I conduct my job search if I’m not on campus?

Employer engagement and career counseling is planned to take place virtually this fall. Students can expect career fairs and other usual recruiting events, all delivered virtually. As in prior years, on-campus interviews will all be virtually scheduled through LionSHARE. Internships and other employer opportunities will be posted in LionSHARE, and career counseling continues to be available via Zoom. Students should update their LionSHARE profiles to receive up to date information directly from the Center for Career Education (CCE). They can also review CCE's COVID Updates and FAQs. Students are encouraged to bookmark CCE's weekly round-up for career news, events and opportunities.

Given the global pandemic, can I still study abroad?

Columbia has suspended all Fall 2020 study abroad participation and programming in light of the suspension of all Columbia-related travel until further notice. Meanwhile the Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement (UGE) is exploring ways to provide engaging global learning experiences for students throughout the 2020-21 academic year.

UGE continues to plan for the return of Spring 2021 study abroad, in case the travel ban is lifted and it is determined that it is safe to resume program operations abroad.

Will there be virtual opportunities to engage in global experiences?

The Global Columbia Collaboratory is a virtual exchange that will allow students from around the world to connect around a central theme and work toward addressing global challenges. Select projects will be funded to help turn plans into reality and make a difference in the world.

How can I learn more about studying abroad and other global learning opportunities that may become available in the future?

  • Check the UGE website to learn about eligibility, program options, and how to get started.
  • Attend a Study Abroad First Steps session to speak with a UGE advisor.
  • Contact a peer advisor to speak to an upperclassman who has studied abroad.

What other virtual connections can students make to build their network and community?

The Columbia College Alumni Association (CCAA) will be offering an expanded array of virtual community-building opportunities. The Odyssey Mentoring Program connects students with alumni mentors in a variety of ways. Students can search the Odyssey community for alumni who have opted-in to mentor, in order to pursue individual mentoring connections or to sign up for virtual events and programs. Students can participate in casual chats that bring together 5-7 students and an alum for informal conversation, or more formal programs with successful alumni who share their journeys through and beyond Columbia, as well as industry leaders who speak to students about their professional experiences.

Students can continue to also enjoy virtual connections with alumni through shared interests, such as student clubs and activities, performing arts groups and athletics. Students not on campus will also have opportunities to connect with regional alumni clubs in the United States and around the world.

Will there be travel restrictions for those who are living or working on campus?

Mindful of the University’s service mission and of its need to safeguard against the COVID-19 threat, the University has determined to extend the suspension of all international Columbia-related Travel for all affiliates until further notice. For CUIMC and Morningside faculty and staff domestic Columbia-related Travel is permitted only if video participation is not available. For students, domestic Columbia-related Travel continues to be suspended. Additionally, all Columbia affiliates are strongly urged to postpone any non-essential personal travel abroad, and to follow state guidance for personal domestic travel.

Consistent with CDC guidance, Columbia University advises all affiliates who have returned from ANY international travel, stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing. Follow the self-isolation guidance found on the Columbia Preparedness COVID-19 FAQs.


I’m an international student, and I have questions about my student visa.

The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) is a resource for all of our international students. At this time, the ISSO COVID-19 and Fall 2020 Hub is especially useful, and includes FAQs and links to recordings of recent webinars they held for both newly-admitted and continuing students.

I’m an international student on an F-1 visa. Am I required to live on-campus?

No, you are not required to live on campus, but are advised to live in proximity to campus so can attend the in-person components of your hybrid program.

If I am taking courses in-person, can I also register for classes offered only in an on-line manner?

Yes, you may take more than one class or three credit hours online (the usual maximum for F-1 visa students taking in-person classes).


How will the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP) work? Will the first-year class have a Convocation ceremony?

Due to concerns about large gatherings, New Student Orientation (NSOP) will be held virtually this year and has been enhanced with an eight-week series of orientation programs and communications to help our new students prepare for Columbia. Webinars and other programs will begin mid-July and will be communicated to new students through Countdown to Columbia communications.

Convocation will also be held virtually for the first-year class and their families. The date and details will be shared with students and their families as they are finalized.

When will I receive more information about my advisor?

First-year and new transfer students will hear about their advisor assignments by mid-July.

Who will help me determine what type and how many classes to take?

All first-year and new transfer students will be contacted directly about their assigned advisors in the Berick Center for Student Advising. They can discuss any questions they have regarding courses of interest, class schedule and when and why they should take an "immersive" course.

Has Columbia’s deferral deadline changed?

The deadline to defer your enrollment has passed and we are not accepting any additional deferral requests. If your decision to enroll has changed, you will need to cancel your enrollment and reapply for admission to next year’s class by the 2020-2021 application deadlines. We are unable to hold your place at Columbia for next year’s class. Please contact Joanna May, Associate Dean & Director of Undergraduate Admissions, should you choose to withdraw. International students who have visa and travel concerns should contact Whitney Green, Director of International Recruitment.

View "Returning to Campus: Fall 2020" details