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Our Path Forward

During this unusual year, we’ll keep you updated on news and decisions being made that affect our community during our remote environment. For more details, view our Frequently Asked Questions.



The 20202021 academic year is structured in a three-term format, which allows schools and students to take advantage of coursework into the summer of 2021. Most students will fulfill a majority of their coursework during the fall and spring; however, the summer provides an additional opportunity for students to distribute credits throughout three terms or earn additional credits during that time.

Faculty are actively engaged to ensure the richest academic experience possible, in keeping with Columbia's standards of excellence. This will be a continuing priority throughout the duration of the academic year.

Academic Calendar

The dates for the terms are as follows:

  • Fall term (September 8December 23)

  • Spring term (January 11April 26)

  • Summer term (Summer A: May 3June 18, Summer B: June 28Aug. 16)

  • Commencement scheduled for the last week of April

Students should visit the online Directory of Classes and Vergil approximately a week prior to course registration to view class offerings for spring term, which will open December 1 through December 11 (with seniors beginning their registration on December 1; juniors beginning on December 2; sophomores beginning on December 3, and first year students beginning on December 4). Academic departments and programs have also posted their curriculum plan for the 2020-2021 academic year on their websites. The University Registrar has announced that registration for Spring 2021 will begin on December 1, 2020.

Remote Learning

For spring term, classes will continue primarily online although faculty will have the option to select the most appropriate mode of instruction for their course. Faculty are also reflecting on helpful feedback from the recent Academic Experience survey, in order to enhance the spring experience. Details about spring courses and modes of instruction will be finalized as soon as we are able.

Faculty recognize that many students may be studying in time zones that are different from New York City and they will continue to consider effective use of asynchronous materials so that all students can access course content in flexible ways.

Students can learn more about the synchronous and asynchronous elements of a course by looking at the course’s syllabus when it is posted on CourseWorks and also by attending the first class session.

The University has created a resource site for students that offers strategies and tips for a successful experience in online courses. Students are also encouraged to talk with the instructor of each of their courses about the different ways in which you can participate effectively in online class meetings and assignments.


Students who enroll for the academic year must be registered for a minimum of 12 credits in both the fall and spring terms, with a maximum of 18 credits. This constitutes full-time status and will also ensure successful progression towards completion of students’ degree requirements.

For students enrolled full-time in fall and spring, summer (A and B) courses will be offered at no

additional tuition cost up to a maximum of 40 credits for the academic year. Academic departments and programs have adjusted their curricular offerings across these three terms to allow students greater flexibility in fulfilling their requirements and making progress to their degrees.Most undergraduate courses in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 will be 14-week courses (including the reading and exam periods).

  • Some departments and programs will also be offering 7-week “immersive” courses, which will cover a semester’s worth of material in a compressed time period, involving more classroom and homework hours.

As stated above, students who are enrolled full-time in both fall and spring terms may take summer courses at no additional tuition cost and earn an additional maximum of 16 points of credit for summer coursework, with a total limit of 40 credits for the year. They can earn a maximum of 8 points of credit in a single summer session (whether in Summer A or Summer B, or through courses that may span Summer A and B), as long as their total credits for the academic year do not surpass 40 points.

  • Many undergraduate courses taught in the summer will be 7-week “immersive” courses, while some undergraduate courses may also be 14-week courses that will span Summer A and Summer B.

The Core

The two year-long Core courses — Contemporary Civilization and Literature Humanities — will each continue to be offered in the usual fall-then-spring sequence.

  • Students taking Literature Humanities will be automatically placed into the same section of the course for the spring semester.

  • First-year students who are in University Writing this fall will be automatically registered for Frontiers of Science in the spring. Students who are in Frontiers of Science this fall will need to register themselves for University Writing in the spring.

  • Students taking Contemporary Civilization will be automatically placed into the same section of the course for the spring semester.

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.

Academic Support Services

Every student should take full advantage of their assigned adviser, from the Berick Center for Student Advising (CSA). CSA advisers are dedicated advocates that help their students navigate the world of virtual studies, including providing guidance on course selection, advising on academic policy, discussing academic interests and much more. The Berick Center for Student Advising has developed supplemental tips for online learning. Students should check the CSA website for updates about the upcoming academic year or to make a virtual appointment with their adviser.

Leaves of Absence

Continuing students must consult with their adviser in the CSA for any questions regarding taking either a voluntary medical leave of absence or a voluntary personal leave of absence.

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.

Campus Life


Until a proven vaccine is developed, Columbia must continue to maintain a de-densified campus as we have seen the significant impact that physical distancing has had on the spread of the virus. We know all students and families are invested in residential life as a key component of the college experience. Unfortunately, the pandemic’s trajectory around the country is concerning enough that we must continue to limit the number of students we are able to house on campus. For spring term, we have prioritized seniors and students with exceptional circumstances that require them to be on campus. Students already approved for full-year housing through the fall exception process are still approved for spring term. Eligible students will receive more information about housing for spring directly from their schools.

Student programs and services are continuing virtually and continue to develop new and creative ways to uphold and sustain our bonds and community spirit.

Housing and Dining Summary

To adhere to physical distancing requirements, a limited number of students will be invited to be in residence halls this spring and will be assigned to single rooms. Students will only be given swipe access into their assigned residence hall and will not have access to other halls. In addition, students living on-campus will not be permitted to sign-in or host guests, including Columbia students living in another residence hall, Columbia students living off-campus or family members.

Columbia Dining will continue to be open, with appropriate health and safety considerations. Meal plans remain available. Food service will be take-out only to start the year.

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

Considerations for Residential Living

Students invited and approved to be in residence must adhere to health protocols and agree to the Columbia Community Health Compact, required for anyone living on or visiting campus.

Students who enroll full time throughout the 2020-2021 academic year but do not live on campus maintain guaranteed housing for the next academic year they enroll.

Social Engagement/Events

Student programs and services continue to be offered virtually, and we will work closely with students to develop new and creative ways to uphold and sustain our bonds and community spirit.

Undergraduate Student Life is interested in hearing your ideas for spring programs or activities.


All student academic- or work-related travel, domestic or international, is suspended.

Students living on campus are urged to postpone personal travel except in the case of personal or family emergencies. In these situations, students must submit a Travel Form prior to departing campus. Student travel outside of New York and its five border states may be limited; ability to return to quarantine housing on campus will be subject to availability and approval is not guaranteed.

Columbia faculty, staff, and students are required to follow local, state, and federal travel restrictions, and should consult with CDC guidance. Read about the Updated New York State Travel Guidance to learn more about how travel to and from New York will affect testing and quarantine requirements.

Health and Wellbeing


For individuals on Columbia’s campus, there are restrictions and protocols that affect daily life across campus and in residence halls. These will be in the spirit of maintaining the individual health and safety of every member of our community. Students, faculty and staff on campus are required to sign the Columbia Community Health Compact before their arrival, to agree to adopt and uphold responsibilities and agreements, to collectively navigate the year with a shared commitment to protect and support one another’s health, safety and well-being.

As the pandemic evolves, decisions about health and safety will be continuously updated, including who can be on campus, limitations on interactions and gatherings and much more.


Columbia will uphold and enforce the Columbia Community Health Compact for any Columbia affiliate who interacts with campus, including the limited number of students who will live in Columbia Housing as well as any students who may access campus while living elsewhere.

To provide an additional layer of safety to the ongoing public health and preventive efforts, Columbia University is supporting a SARS-CoV-2 testing program. This includes an initial gateway test and ongoing surveillance testing, described below.

You must complete a symptom self-check before getting a COVID-19 diagnostic test on the Columbia campuses.

The goal of SARS-CoV-2 testing for individuals accessing campus is to estimate the prevalence of infection among those individuals. Initial gateway testing helps us compare the prevalence among those newly returning to campus to overall prevalence in NYC, and ongoing surveillance testing helps us to continually evaluate prevalence on campus. We continue to evaluate and adjust the testing strategy.

It is important to keep in mind that public health measures to prevent spread of the virus such as face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene and other non-pharmaceutical interventions have been shown to be effective in prevention of transmission of the virus, from both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. These actions are the most important preventive measures our community can take.

Note: COVID-19 testing at these locations is only available to test Columbia faculty, staff and students who have been notified that they need an initial COVID-19 gateway test or a follow-up surveillance test as part of the University’s ongoing testing strategy. These sites are NOT for testing of individuals with symptoms, for “voluntary” testing outside of those enrolled in the voluntary testing pilot program, for family members or for any other reason outside of the required Columbia University Test and Trace Program. Please visit the New York City Health and Hospitals website for additional testing resources.

Tests done at any other location will NOT fulfill the campus testing requirement.

There is no cost to students for this testing.

Physical (Social) Distancing

This guidance addresses questions related to the University’s Enhanced Health and Safety Policy on face covering, physical distance, and related issues that went into effect on June 22, 2020 and will continue to evolve as we near the fall.

Eating or drinking:

When you remove your face covering to eat or drink, you must be at least 6 feet (2 arms’ length) from others.

  • Being side by side at that distance is fine, but try to avoid being directly across from someone else.
  • If you smoke, this same rule applies—and only in outdoor areas on campus where smoking is permitted.

Passing someone in a narrow hallway/stairwell or other narrow space:

Keep as much space as you can, wear your face covering and keep moving.

Riding an elevator:

Elevator capacity will be limited. Follow the instructions on the sign nearby whatever elevator you plan to use. If the elevator permits more than one person at a time and you’re in the elevator with someone else, stay as far apart as the space allows, and keep your face covering on. Everyone will know that this is about keeping our community safe. And if you are able, take the stairs instead.

Using the restroom:

Keep your face covering on.

  • Restroom signs will show how many people can use the restroom at one time. This occupancy limit will be based on restroom size to ensure at least 6 feet distance between individuals.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly (20 seconds, with soap) afterward to reduce the potential transmission of the virus. If there is someone already at the sink, wait until they have left the restroom to use the sink yourself.
  • In certain shared facilities, Columbia Facilities and Operations/CUIMC Facilities Management and Campus Services will have easy-to-use cleaning materials for you to wipe your sink area.


Keep your face covering on, both inside and outdoors. We understand it can get hot – if you need to pull your face covering down for a moment to wipe off your face, be sure you’re more than 6 feet from others.

Sitting or walking outside on campus with someone:

Keep your face covering on and keep six feet between you. Even if you’re with a roommate, partner or family member, keep your face covering on and keep at least six feet from other individuals or groups.

Alone in a private office:

Keep your face covering on unless you are alone in an enclosed office with the door closed.

Hanging out/studying/organizing/working on a project with friends or colleagues:

Keep your face covering on and stay 6 feet (2 arms’ length) apart.

Getting around campus and NYC:

Keep your face covering on. It’s important for your health and the health of others [if applicable: and it’s required by NY law in public places whenever you cannot keep 6 feet apart]. Avoid crowds and remember to use hand sanitizer too.

Self-monitoring, Testing And Contact Tracing

Any students, faculty and staff arriving on campus will have an initial “gateway” SARS-CoV-2 test. Such testing has been in place for individuals returning to campus as of June 22, 2020 and will continue for all returning affiliates throughout the summer and fall.

All undergraduate students living on campus will also receive a SARS-CoV-2 test on a weekly basis. The frequency of the testing will be re-evaluated over time in view of the status of the epidemic in New York City and the campus.

Detailed information on Columbia’s Test and Trace program and symptom self-checking can be found on the COVID-19 resource website.

Facilities Management and Cleaning

Cleaning and Disinfecting information is provided on the University’s COVID-19 resource website.

Campus Monitoring of COVID-19

The University now offers a COVID-19 Testing Surveillance dashboard with updated statistics on testing across the Morningside campus.

New York City has also implemented a COVID-19 Tracing App, which can be downloaded on your mobile phone.

Cost and Financial Aid

Cost of Attendance in 2020-2021

The cost of attendance is set by the University and approved by the Board of Trustees and includes tuition, room and board and other mandatory fees.

Tuition and Mandatory Fees

We have continued to hear from our students and families regarding their financial difficulties during this pandemic. We recognize how challenging this time is for many in our community. In response, Columbia will absorb the previously communicated 2% tuition increase, bringing the 2020-2021 undergraduate tuition rate flat to last year's value.

Undergraduate tuition has been set at $60,098 less $1,178 for a final 2020-2021 undergraduate tuition rate of $58,920 which is flat to last year’s value.

Undergraduate tuition and fees for 2020-2021 has been set at $61,671 for the full academic year.

Room and Board

For students approved for full-year Columbia residential housing (for both fall and spring terms) due to special circumstances Room and Board charges for 2020-2021 will be $15,130 for first-year students. This covers on-campus living charges for the fall and spring semesters. Upper class rates will vary based on meal plans selected.

Special COVID-related Support

In recognition of challenges that students and families may be facing during this pandemic, Columbia College is offering the following additional support in the upcoming year:

Off-campus Living Allowance

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.

Waiver of Fall 2020 Employment Expectation

Fall 2020: Similar to the summer earning grants we provided this summer, Columbia College has waived all student employment expectations for the fall semester, in recognition that students will not have the typical on- or off-campus work opportunities available.

Change in Family Circumstances

Columbia College continues to be committed to providing need-based aid to our students. We recognize that during this pandemic family circumstances may change. As always, our Financial Aid Office will work with each family to evaluate changes in circumstances and potentially adjust financial aid awards.

All financial aid questions should be directed to the Financial Aid and Educational Financing office at or make a virtual appointment.


Fall 2020 Semester

Labor DayMonday, September 7
Classes BeginTuesday, September 8
Exams for Immersive CoursesTuesday, October 20-Friday, October 23
No ClassesMonday, November 2
Election Day, University HolidayTuesday, November 3
No ClassesWednesday, November 25-Friday, November 27
Thanksgiving, University HolidayThursday, November 26
Last Day of ClassesMonday, December 14
Reading and Exam DaysTuesday, December 15-Wednesday, December 23
End of SemesterWednesday, December 23

Spring 2021 Semester

Classes BeginMonday, January 11
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, University HolidayMonday, January 18
Exams for Immersive CoursesTuesday, February 23-Friday, February 26
Spring BreakMonday, March 1-Friday, March 5
Classes ResumeMonday, March 8
Last Day of ClassesThursday, April 15
Reading and Exam DaysFriday, April 16-Friday, April 26
Semester EndsMonday, April 26
Commencement WeekTuesday, April 27-Friday, April 30

Summer 2021 Semester A&B

Classes BeginMonday, May 3
Memorial Day, University HolidayMonday, May 31
Reading and Exam DaysTuesday, June 15-Friday, June 18
BreakMonday, June 21-Friday, June 25
Classes ResumeMonday, June 28
Last Day of ClassesFriday, August 6
Reading and Exam DaysMonday, August 9-Monday, August 16
Semester EndsMonday, August 16

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