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Our Path Forward: FAQs for 2020-2021

The following FAQs have been updated with new information about summer term.

For more information regarding the required twice-weekly testing for undergraduates accessing campus, please refer to our testing website.

Summer 2021


If I enroll in less than 6 credits, am I eligible for summer housing?

Students who take less than 6 credits will not be eligible for priority housing. However, if space permits, Columbia Housing may be able to offer summer housing to students who are not registered full-time and/or have an on-campus job or research opportunity. Students interested in signing up for a waitlist should complete the Summer Housing Waitlist Form. If space becomes available, students will be contacted at a later date.

If I enroll for 6 credits this summer, I will exceed the 40 credit cap. Does this mean that I will not be eligible for summer housing?

Students who enroll in more than 40 credits total should still complete the Summer Housing form and provide details of their academic or personal circumstances.

I am currently living on campus in the spring term. If I am approved for summer housing, will I be required to move?

Yes. Students currently living on campus during the spring term who are approved for summer housing will be assigned a new room for summer term. Students will not remain in their current room assignment.

I am participating in a Columbia-sponsored scholars program that provides summer housing. Should I apply for summer housing?

Scholars should also complete the Summer Housing Request Form, noting their engagement in a scholars program. Scholar program status will be confirmed prior to summer housing approval.

I have secured an on-campus job or research opportunity. Can I apply for summer housing?

Priority housing will be for students who are enrolled full-time in summer courses. Columbia Housing may be able to offer summer housing to students who are not registered full-time and/or have an on-campus job or research opportunity. Students interested in signing up for a waitlist should complete the Summer Housing Waitlist Form. If space becomes available, students will be contacted at a later date.

If I plan to do an internship in New York City, can I apply for summer housing if there is space?

Due to public health guidelines that require density limits for on-campus housing, we are not able to provide housing for students who are not engaged in courses or an on-campus opportunity this summer.

I do not have guaranteed housing but would like to enroll in summer courses. Can I apply for summer housing if there is space?

Unfortunately, due to the public health guidelines that require density limits for on-campus housing, summer housing this year will only be open to students with guaranteed housing status.

What will be the move-in and move-out dates for Summer A and Summer B enrollees who are approved for summer housing?

Dates for summer housing can be found on Columbia Housing’s website.

If I enroll full-time in Summer A with 6 credits, can I stay in summer housing even if I do not enroll in Summer B?

No, students may only live in on-campus housing for the duration of their enrollment in summer coursework

How much will summer housing cost?

Rates for summer housing can be found on Columbia Housing’s website.

Financial Aid

If I enroll for less than 6 credits, will I be eligible for summer financial aid?

As in Fall and Spring terms, Columbia University grants are only available for eligible students who are enrolled full-time. Full-time status in the summer requires at least 6 credits per summer session.

Will there be any financial support for students on aid who enroll in summer courses but are not living on campus?

For students eligible for aid who are enrolled full-time (at least 6 credits) but living off-campus, there will be an opportunity to apply for a special grant to support expenses during this unique summer. More information will be provided soon.

For students who qualify for financial aid, what will summer financial aid cover?

For students who are eligible for financial aid, living on-campus and are enrolled full-time (at least 6 credits), your on-campus housing and dining costs will be included in your cost of attendance which will be used to determine your financial aid award. More details will be shared directly from the Financial Aid office shortly.

Will there be any summer earnings grant or waiver?

Columbia is assessing the possibility of offering a special grant process to address summer work expectations. A decision will be announced soon.


Can students elect to take a voluntary 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.

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 is the academic calendar for this year?

The 2020-2021 academic calendar can be viewed on the Columbia College bulletin.

What will the academic experience be like in the spring term?

While most classes for undergraduates will continue in a fully online format, faculty have the option to select the format that best suits their course. More information on course format will be shared as soon as it is available. In addition, student feedback from the recent academic survey is being reviewed in order to help to enhance the spring academic experience.

When will course registration for spring term take place?

To incorporate more information from the continued planning for spring, course registration 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). Students will receive detailed information from the University Registrar about upcoming registration dates and students are encouraged to check SSOL for their registration appointments and the full schedule of registration.

How will I “shop” for spring term courses when all or most of my courses will be online?

For spring term, the change-of-program or “shopping period” will be conducted online again. If a course is open for “shopping,” the course’s CourseWorks site (linked to the course information page on Vergil) will be accessible to any student with a Columbia uni. Once logged into the CourseWorks site, students will be able to enter the “Zoom Class Sessions” area of the site to access the Zoom links to class meetings. This access will end at the end of the change-of-program period, and students will have access only to CourseWorks sites of courses in which they are officially registered.

Not every course will be open to all students for “shopping” through CourseWorks; if students enter a CourseWorks site from Vergil and can access only the “Syllabus” section of the site, then the course is not open for unrestricted “shopping.” Some faculty may choose to allow only students on the official waitlist for the course to “shop”; in these cases, faculty will email the students on the waitlist and provide the Zoom links to class meetings.

As always, if students have specific questions about courses that are not open for unrestricted “shopping,” they can contact the instructor and/or the Director of Undergraduate Studies of the relevant department or program.

Can undergraduates still enroll in graduate-level courses that are hybrid or in-person?

If graduate-level courses at the 4000-level or higher are planned to be taught through an in-person or hybrid mode of instruction, undergraduates enrolled in the course who are in residence on campus or in commuting distance of campus may participate in the in-person elements of the course, as directed by the course faculty.

Will there be spring study abroad?

Due to continuing travel restrictions, many spring study abroad programs will be suspended. The Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement (UGE) continues to innovate on ways to provide global experiences to students, through its broad network across the globe. Students interested in exploring these opportunities should reach out directly to speak to an adviser in UGE.

Will classes be recorded for students in other time zones?

Faculty are sensitive to the concerns of students who may be studying in time zones that are quite distant from New York City, and they are considering the use of asynchronous materials so that students can access course content at different times of day. Faculty will make individual decisions about the ways that they will deliver their classes (for example, some faculty will record class meetings or lectures, while others may not — the decision is that of the individual faculty member). You 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 by attending the first class session. (Information will be shared next week on the online process for the “shopping period” at the beginning of the semester.) You should also talk with your advisers about any concerns you have about your schedule of classes and your access to course meetings and materials.

Will I be able to participate in research on campus?

Effective September 1, 2020, Columbia undergraduates may participate in in-person laboratory activities on campus, in accordance with the following general principles:

  1. Undergraduates may spend time in a research laboratory pursuant to plans that are developed by principal investigators (PIs) and approved by their school, department or institute as part of its overall research ramp-up effort.

  2. Undergraduates must complete the Safe Research at Columbia training, and must comply with the University’s COVID-19 Public Health Protocols and any requirements that have been put in place in the relevant laboratory and school, department or institute, including following scheduling assignments, physical distancing, wearing a face covering, and other critical requirements.

  3. As is always the case, undergraduates must also complete any trainings required by the specific type of research being conducted, including, e.g., any required Environmental Health and Safety trainings.

How will University Commencement and Columbia College Class Day be handled this year?

While both the University and College continue to explore options for holding in-person ceremonies this spring, these events are highly dependent on significant alterations in public health guidance regarding size and social distancing for gatherings. As of November 10, 2020, NY State gatherings are currently limited to 50 capacity.

How can I participate effectively in online courses?

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

Students should consider whether they have the necessary technology to participate effectively in online courses. Students should have access to a computer with a camera, and with a laptop sized screen (on which they can see participants in a Zoom session as well as view presentations and access the chat function) and on which they can download required PDF files and other required course materials. Please note that a smartphone alone will not provide the adequate capability needed to engage fully in your online courses. It is recommended you view the syllabi of the courses that you plan to take to see what requirements your instructors may have.

Please note that his technology does not have to be at the highest and most expensive end of the spectrum; there are many low-cost laptops as well that can provide these capabilities. If you are worried about the cost of the technology required to engage successfully in your online classes, please let your adviser know right away.

What will students have access to in the summer term?

Summer term is an official part of the 2020-2021 academic year, but it is still optional for students (i.e., students are not required to enroll in Summer 2021) and the policies that usually apply to summer terms in any year — which are different from those policies that apply to Fall and Spring semesters — will apply this year as well. While students can take as few summer credits as they like, students can earn a maximum of 8 points of credit in Summer A and a maximum of 8 points of credit in Summer B, for a maximum of 16 points of summer credit in Summer.

Students enrolled in fall and spring terms, may enroll in summer term coursework at Columbia for tuition-free credits for the amount of credits that bring the student to 40 points of credit for the academic year. For example, if a student completes 13 credits in fall and 16 credits in spring, that student would be eligible to take up to 11 credits of summer coursework tuition-free to reach the 40 credits covered in the year’s tuition. Students may exceed 40 credits for the year through Summer coursework, but will be charged tuition for each point of credit beyond the year’s maximum total of 40 points.

These policies for summer term apply to seniors who are graduating in 2021, as well as to continuing students. There will be three degree conferral dates for seniors graduating in 2021, depending on their intent to take coursework in Summer 2021: May 2021, June 2021 or October 2021.

  • Students who apply for the May 2021 conferral date and complete all requirements by the end of spring term are not eligible for summer term courses.

  • Students who apply for the June 2021 conferral date are eligible for courses in Summer A only, whether or not they have completed all degree requirements by the end of spring term. They must complete all degree requirements by the end of Summer A.

  • Students who apply for the October 2021 conferral date are eligible for Summer A and Summer B and Summer (full) courses, whether or not they have completed all degree requirements by the end of Spring 2021 or by the end of Summer A. They must complete all degree requirements by the end of Summer B.

  • Graduating students who are international students will have special considerations due to their F-1 visa status, and they should consult their advising deans about opportunities for summer study.

  • Seniors are subject to all others policies regarding Summer coursework noted above.


How will financial aid differ for spring term based on living on campus or being remote?

Students who remain remote in the spring term will not see a change in their financial aid. If a student was remote for the fall and will be on campus for the spring, their costs and aid will be adjusted accordingly. For most students going from remote to on-campus housing this will mean that your net amount due on the e-bill for the spring term will be roughly $4,000 more than the fall. If a student was on-campus for the fall and will be remote for the spring, their costs and aid will also be adjusted accordingly. Most students going from on-campus housing to remote for the spring will see a net reduction of roughly $4,000 for the amount due on the e-bill for the spring term.

How do I know if I have a Work-Study allocation?

Review your most recent Financial Aid eligibility letter. If it doesn’t list Federal Work-Study, you can reach out to the Financial Aid and Educational Financing office to see if you can be awarded Federal Work-Study by emailing

Can I appeal to get a federal Work-Study allocation?

Eligibility requirements for Federal Work-Study are set by the U.S. Department of Education. However, you can reach out to the Financial Aid and Educational Financing office at to see if there may be a possibility of becoming eligible.

If I accept a Columbia casual student job will that impact my financial aid grant?

No, any earnings from casual employment do not affect your financial aid package.

My family’s financial situation has changed. Can I still apply for financial aid?

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.


Who is eligible to live on campus for spring term?

Seniors will be prioritized to live in the residence halls, recognizing that their final term on campus is a particularly meaningful one. Students with new special circumstances will also be invited to apply in the exception process, regardless of class year. Should space allow, a limited number of juniors may also be accommodated. Students currently living on campus as well as students who previously reported special circumstances and were approved for full-year housing (but deferred to spring) will retain approval for spring housing. These students do not need to complete the Spring 2021 Housing Request form, and Columbia Housing will communicate with these populations directly.

For students invited to live in campus housing for the spring term, what will be the housing conditions they can expect?

Life on campus will be different than in prior years so it is important for students to understand the new conditions, designed to minimize transmission of COVID-19, ensuring the health and safety of the Columbia community. There will be limited opportunity for students to gather, students will only have access to their own residence halls with no guests, and not all facilities are open at this time. Columbia Dining is still open, offering limited meal options.

I’m an international student, how does this affect my housing?

International students will be subject to the same housing request process required of domestic students and, unless a senior or a student who is otherwise approved to live on campus due to personal circumstances, will be unable to be in residence this spring.

I was approved to live on campus the entire year due to personal circumstances, will that change?

Students approved to live on campus for the full academic year due to personal circumstances are still approved for spring housing and do not need to take any action unless they wish to cancel their spring housing. Students who no longer wish to be on campus will work directly with Columbia Housing to end their housing contract.


What type of dining services will remain in place for students approved to remain on campus?

Columbia Dining will continue to be open, with appropriate health and safety considerations. Dining plans remain available.

Campus Access and Services

Will students have any access to campus facilities?

Six libraries are now open. Library spaces are available to students and faculty by reservation only. Seats in the study space must be reserved in advance, and students must follow all Covid-related health protocols. Books and other library materials that are available to check out will be available through the Libraries’ “pick-up service.” Library Status Updates are available on the Libraries website.

Dodge Fitness Center will remain closed until further notice.

Currently, Lerner Hall closes at 6:30 p.m. on weeknights and is closed on weekends. Decisions have yet to be made about the spring term.

Where can I go for in-person support for undergraduate programs and services?

College or Engineering students who are on or near campus can visit the undergraduate student hub for time-sensitive, in-person support. You can stop by 403 Lerner Hall, Monday to Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Can students who are living off-campus nearby still enter campus?

All students who plan to access campus, whether living in campus residence halls or off campus, must complete all training and testing and must abide by public health protocols relative to the COVID-19 response of the University, which are outlined on the University’s COVID-19 Resource Guide for the Columbia Community. Only students who have met these requirements will have swipe access to campus facilities.

Buildings will be secured (i.e., locked) and available only by swipe access. Access to residential halls by students will be limited only to the residence hall to which a student is assigned to live. Students should have swipe access to the other buildings on campus that they can typically enter during the year, although some buildings may have limited hours in the spring term.

Many Paw Print stations will be open to students and will employ contactless stations; when students swipe their ID/badge at the station, all print jobs associated with their unis will then automatically be sent to a printer.

Will students on Columbia Health Insurance have the same coverage even while remote?

For the 2020-2021 academic year (August 15, 2020 - August 14, 2021), Columbia University is offering The Columbia Plan to meet students’ health-related needs beyond the on-campus services offered by Columbia Health. The Columbia Plan includes benefits for medical and mental health conditions including but not limited to chiropractic care, prescriptions, travel abroad benefits and more. The Columbia Plan is a worldwide plan providing access to coverage throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Health and Safety Protocols

Is the Columbia Community Health Compact still in effect for spring term?

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

Have the health and testing protocols changed for the limited students who will be in residence or for those off-campus who may access campus on occasion?

Columbia will continue to conduct symptom attestation for those accessing campus and testing plans for those in residence will continue as recently communicated.

Students living on or accessing campus are required to get tested twice a week. Failure to comply may result in loss of access to campus housing. Please visit our testing website for more detailed information.

If I am approved for housing under the limited conditions, will I still need to quarantine upon moving into my assigned residence hall room?

As of November 4, 2020, any students arriving from a location outside of the five NY border states will now require a period of quarantine after reentering the state as well as testing both before and after their return, per the new guidelines for travelers.

Detailed information on the quarantine process can be found on the COVID-19 website.