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Looking Ahead

What's New?

During this unusual year, we’ll keep you updated on news, updates and decisions being made that affect our community during our remote environment.

This page will be regularly updated as the year progresses. For more details about this term, view our Frequently Asked Questions.

Updated October 13

Academic Life


The next 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 8- December 23)
  • Spring term (January 11- April 26)
  • Summer term (Summer A: May 3- June 18, Summer B: June 28- Aug. 16)
  • Commencement scheduled for the last week of April

The online Directory of Classes and Vergil show the 14-week and 7-week courses that will be offered in Fall 2020. Academic departments and programs have also posted information for the 2020-2021 academic year on their websites.

Remote Learning

All Fall 2020 classes are being taught online. Courses for undergraduate students that were planned as hybrid or in-person courses will be changed to fully online courses.

Decisions about Spring 2021 and Summer 2021 courses will be finalized as public health guidance develops over the coming months.

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.

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).

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 by attending the first class session.


Students who enroll for the academic year must be registered for a minimum of 12 credits in the fall and in the spring. 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. Students may enroll in up to 40 credits over the fall/spring/summer (A and B) terms. 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. This expanded three-term structure then gives students flexibility to either spread their full set of courses over three terms and/or to pursue additional courses towards a concentration and explore wider interests across the academic year.

To be considered full-time, students enrolled in Fall 2020 will be expected to enroll in a minimum of 12 points of credit and can enroll in a maximum of 18 points of credit. These full-time credit requirements will also apply to the spring term.

  • 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. 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, which will cover a semester’s worth of material in a compressed time period, therefore requiring more classroom and homework hours.

  • 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.

  • First-year students will be assigned to the following Core courses in fall and/or spring: Literature Humanities, Frontiers of Science and University Writing.

  • Rising sophomores who have already registered for Contemporary Civilization will remain enrolled in their chosen fall sections.

Most of the one-term Core courses — Art Humanities, Frontiers of Science, and Music Humanities — will now 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

The main hub of academic support offered to students is the Berick Center for Student Advising (CSA). CSA advisers are here to help students navigate the world of virtual studies. Given the remote nature of that fall, here are some supplemental tips for online learning. Advisers are checking in regularly with their student advisees once the school year commences, to offer support and discuss strategies for success. Please check the CSA website for updates about the upcoming academic year.

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 were unable to invite undergraduates back to campus for fall term, with limited exceptions for students with special circumstances who were previously approved for full year housing. We will know more about whether we can have students in residence in spring over the coming months.

Student programs and services are continuing virtually and we will work closely with students 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 are in residence halls this year and are 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 who were approved for full-year housing due to special circumstances must adhere to health protocols and agree to the Columbia Community Health Compact, required for anyone living on campus.

Columbia will continue to monitor public health guidelines and the pandemic’s global trajectory to determine whether we can bring students into Columbia Housing in the spring. More news will be shared about this in the coming months.

Students who enroll in the 2020-2021 academic year but do not live on campus will still maintain guaranteed housing for the next academic year.

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.


The Ivy League presidents have determined that there will be no athletic competitions through the fall term. Fall sport student-athletes will not use a season of Ivy League or NCAA eligibility in the fall, whether or not they enroll. Students who wish to pursue competition during a fifth-year will need to work with the University to determine their options beyond the current anticipated graduation date.


The University has extended the suspension of all international Columbia-related travel for all affiliates until further notice. 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.

Health and Well-being


For individuals on Columbia’s campus, there are new restrictions and protocols that will 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.

New Protocols

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.

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

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 can be found 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.

Mandatory Vaccination for 2020-2021 Flu Season

The flu vaccine is mandatory for students coming onto campus this academic year (and must be obtained before October 30, 2020 or prior to arriving on campus), and strongly recommended for all other members of the Columbia community. 

You can book an appointment on the Patient Portal. Appointments will take place in Lerner Hall.

Students on the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan can get a flu vaccine at their local pharmacy or primary care provider. There is no co-payment, unless you request a high-dose flu vaccine. 

Remember to upload your documentation to Patient Portal by Friday, October 30. 

For more details on this process, please visit Columbia Health’s flu website.

Cost of Attendance 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

Students who were planning to live in residence but must now remain off-campus will have their financial aid award recalculated to reflect their revised costs. This will include removing Room and Meal Plan costs as well as travel allocations for those who will no longer be on-campus. These changes will include an off-campus living allowance of $4,000 per semester to help with living and technology expenses related to remote learning.

For students who applied and were approved for full-year housing (for both fall and spring terms) due to special circumstances and will be provided with Columbia Housing in Fall 2020: Room and Board 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 (212) 854-3711 or


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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