This general application information will clarify aspects of the application process that are specific to international students. When you submit a formal application you will be required to submit the following documents in support of your application. While you are waiting for the formal application, you can be gathering these documents and taking the required admissions examinations so your application can be filed sooner. Bulletins will be sent with the application if it is the School policy to do so.

Detailed School Records - These should include all subjects taken and examinations attempted. These records may be called various things in other countries such as relevé des notes, mark sheets, student books, etc., but in the United States are referred to as "transcripts." All records should show dates of attendance, subjects studied, grades (marks or final assessment) received, hours spent in lecture per week, and degrees or diplomas awarded. Certified photocopies of official records in the native language must be submitted along with certified word for word translations (where appropriate). Foreign language records will not be processed without a translation; and, an English translation will not be accepted without the copy of the original. Course descriptions may be required where questions of advanced standing, transfer credit, or degree equivalence may arise, but are not required at the time of application.

Columbia University cannot accept responsibility for the safeguarding of original documents. Please do not send original diplomas or any records that cannot be replaced.

If the school you attended is no longer in existence or it is impossible for you to obtain official documents from any school you have attended, please have the Ministry of Education of your country furnish an official statement testifying to the impossibility of obtaining records. The Ministry should also supply Columbia with a list of courses ordinarily followed in that school or university.

First year bachelor's degree applicants - must supply academic records for the last four (4) years of secondary school, all national examination results (such as "0" levels, "A" levels, Baccalaureate, Abitur, International Baccalaureate, etc.), and a diploma showing proof of graduation, if available at the time of application.

Transfers - second or third year bachelor's degree applicants (students who have already attended a tertiary level institution and wish to complete their first degree or a second bachelor's degree at Columbia University) - must supply the records described in First year bachelor's degree applicants (above) plus year by year academic records of all tertiary level work showing dates of attendance, courses taken and final examination results, and diplomas received (if any).

Graduate (master's degree and doctoral degree) applicants - must supply records of all courses and examinations for all university or other tertiary level work completed plus proof of graduation, when available.

Admission Examination Results - Please consult the bulletin of the school to which you plan to apply for the specific test(s) required by that school. You should take these exams approximately nine to twelve months before the term in which you wish to enroll. The following addresses can be used for ordering applications for standardized tests:

 Dental Aptitude Test (DAT)  Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
  American Dental Association Association of American Medical Colleges
 Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)  Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT I)
 Educational Testing Service  Educational Testing Service
 Graduate Record Examination (GRE)  Subject Tests (SAT II)
 Educational Testing Service  Educational Testing Service
 Law School Admission Test (LSAT)  Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
 Law School Admission Council  Educational Testing Service

Proof of Proficiency in English - If your first language is not English or you received a bachelor's degree from a country where English is not the official language, you will be required to submit a current score (no more than two years old) of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The minimum TOEFL score expected of most departments of Columbia University is 600 (written) or 250 (computer version). You may obtain an application from your local U.S. Information Service counseling or binational center or by writing to Educational Testing Service, Test of English as a Foreign Language Bulletin, Princeton, NJ 08541-6154, U.S.A.

If you are in New York City at the time of making a formal application, you may take the Columbia University English Placement Test (EPT) instead of the TOEFL. Telephone (212) 854-3584 to make an appointment for the test and inform the appropriate admissions office at Columbia of the date when the test will be taken.

Depending on your TOEFL score, you may also be required to take the Columbia University English Placement Test (EPT) at the time of registration. If your EPT test results do not show satisfactory English proficiency, you will be required to study English full-time or along with a reduced academic program. Students whose proficiency in English is not strong should plan to spend more time in the United States than the minimum required for the degree, as the points earned for intensive English do not count as points toward a degree. In many cases, financial aid given by the School cannot be used to study courses in intensive English. (See section on American Language Program).

Statement of Purpose or Essay - The purpose of the essay is to give the admissions committee a clear picture of your background, desired study plan, and your ability to write correctly in English. The essay is to be written by you, in your own words. Each school has a different writing requirement which will be defined in the formal application.

Letters of Reference - These should be obtained from present or former teachers (in most instances) who are familiar with your academic background. Each school has its own form on which the letter is to be written and it is included in the formal application.

Application Fee - Each school at Columbia University requires a fee to be submitted for processing the application for admission. The exact amount varies from school to school. Most schools will not waive the application fee.

Certification of Finances - If you are admitted to Columbia University you will need, with certain exceptions, to contact the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) for the document (Form I-20) required in support of your application for a student visa. Part of the requirement to qualify for a student visa is proof of ability to finance one's education. Please consult the bulletin of the school to which you plan to apply for that school's documentation requirement when submitting your application. Although financial documentation may not be required at this time, it will be required to qualify for a Form I-20. If you will be receiving financial aid from Columbia University, you may be required to show funds to supplement an offer of financial aid from Columbia as not all offers of financial aid cover full expenses. Married students who plan to bring their families will be required to show funds available to support their dependents. (Also see next section on Financial Planning).

Financial Planning - Please review the chart showing the estimated annual cost of attending the various schools at Columbia University found in the Guide to Fees and Payments. The chart includes: costs for a single student for tuition, fees, living expenses and books for an academic year; however, it excludes travel to and from New York City. Additional expenses need be anticipated for dependents of married students. It is essential that students anticipate the full amount of their educational expenses and secure their source of funding for the first year and any required subsequent years of school. It would be prudent to expect expenses to increase at the rate of 4-8% per year.

International students are eligible to compete for financial assistance at Columbia University, although it is not offered by all schools (please consult the school's bulletin for availability and deadlines for application).

Information for the current academic year may be found at Student Financial Services. Costs are expected to increase 4-8% each year. Please consider carefully the TOTAL cost of your education in this country. You should be aware that further resources are necessary for additional years and that you cannot depend on the University or work in this country to meet your educational expenses.


AMERICAN LANGUAGE PROGRAM - Each applicant is urged to appraise accurately his or her ability to read, write, and speak in English. While one should study English in the home country, a student can reinforce and greatly refine his or her command of English for academic purposes by attending classes at Columbia University's American Language Program (ALP). The ALP, which dates back to 1911, is one of the oldest English as a Second Language Programs in the United States. Its mission is to promote the internationalization of the University by offering a carefully integrated sequence of courses to students, business and professional people, and international visitors who wish to improve their command of English. Applications to study English for academic purposes can be made directly to the ALP. It must be pointed out, however, that admission to the American Language Program in no way guarantees admission to any other division of Columbia University.

Students with a TOEFL score of less than 600 on the written exam or less than 250 on the computer exam should expect to study English either full-time or part-time at the ALP. Most departments require that students receive a score of 600 (written) or 250 (computer) to be considered for admission.

VISA AND DOCUMENT INFORMATION - To assist you in your planning, this overview of the Student visa focuses on matters of particular concern to incoming students. Also included is information of importance to Canadian citizens and nationals of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

Upon your admission to Columbia University, you will be provided with an Application for Visa Certificate (AVC). The Visa Certificate itself (Form I-20), which you will need to apply for an F-1 Student visa, will be issued to you upon satisfactory completion and submission of the AVC with appropriate documentation. If you are already in the United States, you will also complete the AVC to apply for a Visa Certificate to use in support of an application for change of nonimmigrant status or to follow the procedure for F-1 Student transfer. The AVC and supporting documentation will be sent to the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). Your accompanying spouse and children may apply for F-2 visas (dependents of F-1 visa holders), if funding to meet their additional expenses is documented.

There are two immigration-related terms which you will see frequently, entry visa and immigration status. Entry visa refers to the visa stamp in one's passport that permits one to enter the United States. This stamp is obtained at a U.S. Consulate. One's entry visa is used only for entries to the US and may expire during one's stay with no repercussions. Immigration status reflects the most recent notation on one's I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, commonly known as the I-94 Card. One's immigration status is generally the same as one's entry visa classification, e.g. F-1, B-2, J-1, etc. The I-94 Card one receives on entering the country is proof of immigration status (nonimmigrant classification) in the U.S. and also gives the length of time one is permitted to stay. On one's arrival in the U.S., the customs or immigration official retains the Arrival portion of the I-94, notes one's immigration status (nonimmigrant classification) on the Departure portion, and staples the I-94 (Departure) Card into one's passport, usually to the same page on which the entry visa is stamped.

F-1 Student Classification - Those who hold F-1 Student visas are normally admitted to the United States for Duration of Status (D/S) by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. government department responsible for administering regulations related to the stay of non - U.S. citizens. Under the terms of a Student visa one is required to pursue a full-time course of study during the academic year, September through May. For immigration purposes, Columbia University commonly defines full-time study as registration for 12 or more credits or one Residence Unit each semester.

Canadian Nationals - Canadians do not need entry visas to enter the U.S. Those wishing to enter the United States for purposes of studying should request F-1 status at the border and must always show the Form I-20 to the Immigration inspector. Otherwise, the student will be in Tourist (B-2) status and will not be allowed to register. Canadian students must have an I-94 Card to confirm current F-1 or J-1 status.

Visa Waiver Program Nationals - There are several countries whose citizens are not required to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. as a Tourist. Individuals admitted to the U.S. under this program have the code WT noted on the I-94 Card. Tourists in this status are never allowed to change status in the United States and are never allowed to extend their stay in the United States beyond the date on the I-94 Card. Do not enter under this status if you are entering the U.S. to be a student.

Last reviewed: 6 June 2008 Last modified: 6 June 2008
International Students and Scholars Office
Columbia University