Academic Requirements

In order to graduate from Columbia College with a Bachelor of Arts degree, all students must successfully complete the following:

  • 124 points of academic credit
  • all the Core Curriculum courses and requirements
  • one major or concentration

Points and Credit

Every student must complete 124 points of academic credit. The last two terms must be taken while enrolled in the College for study on this campus or on one of the Columbia-sponsored international programs.

Courses may not be repeated for credit. All courses taken multiple times appear on the student’s official transcript, but only the grade received in a course taken for the first time is awarded credit, unless it is a grade of F. If a student has received credit for a course and then takes the course again for some reason, the second course registration cannot be counted toward the 12-point minimum required for full-time status in any given semester. Credit cannot be earned for courses taken in subjects and at the same level for which Advanced Standing credit (AP, IB, GCE, etc.) has been granted. For more information, see Academic RegulationsPlacement and Advanced Standing.

Students also cannot receive credit for previous courses in which the content has been substantially duplicated, at Columbia or elsewhere. For example, credit cannot be earned for two first-term calculus courses, even if one is more theoretical in approach than the other; similarly, credit cannot be earned for two comparable terms of a science or foreign language even if one has a Barnard course number and the other a Columbia course number. In some courses, only partial credit may be counted toward the degree. Courses not listed in this Bulletin must be approved by the appropriate person or committee in the Berick Center for Student Advising, since such courses might not bear College credit (e.g., MATH UN1003 College Algebra and Analytic Geometry). Students who have questions about whether degree credit may be earned in a course should consult with their advising dean in the Berick Center for Student Advising.

The Core Curriculum

The following required courses constitute the Columbia College Core Curriculum. They include general education requirements in major disciplines and, except for Physical Education, must be taken for a letter grade (i.e., the Pass/D/Fail option may not be applied):

Literature Humanities
HUMA CC1001
 - HUMA CC1002
Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy
and Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy
Frontiers of Science
SCNC CC1000Frontiers of Science
University Writing
ENGL CC1010University Writing
Contemporary Civilization
COCI CC1101
 - COCI CC1102
Introduction To Contemporary Civilization in the West
and Introduction To Contemporary Civilization In the West
Art Humanities
HUMA UN1121Masterpieces of Western Art
Music Humanities
HUMA UN1123Masterpieces of Western Music
Science Requirement
Two terms from the list of approved courses
Global Core Requirement
Two terms from the list of approved courses
Foreign Language Requirement
Four terms or the equivalent
Physical Education
Two terms and a swimming test

Students are required to complete Literature HumanitiesUniversity Writing, and Frontiers of Science in the first year. Failure to complete these courses in the first year will result in the student being placed on academic probation.

Additionally, the College expects students to complete Contemporary Civilization in their sophomore year, and Art Humanities and Music Humanities by the end of junior year. For pedagogical reasons, the College considers Literature Humanities to be a pre-requisite for Contemporary Civilization; therefore, all Columbia College students must complete Literature Humanities before taking Contemporary Civilization. (Columbia Engineering students have been given an exception to this rule because of the structure of their curriculum.)

Courses in fulfillment of the Core Curriculum must be taken in Columbia College, with the exception of the Foreign Language requirement, which, in some instances and as determined by the relevant academic department at Columbia, may be satisfied at Barnard College. In general, students must fulfill the Global Core and Science Requirements with courses noted on the list of approved courses and may not petition for other courses taught at Columbia or Barnard to fulfill either requirement. Students may be able to petition appropriate committees for courses taken elsewhere to count towards the Global Core Requirement, after first meeting with their advising dean in the Berick Center for Student Advising.

The Departmental Major or Concentration

All students must complete either a major or a concentration as described in the departmental sections of this Bulletin. The purpose of the major or concentration requirement is to give each student the experience of doing sustained and advanced work, typically including individual research, in a field of special interest. A major consists of intensive study in one department involving the satisfaction of a variety of requirements; a concentration demands fewer departmental course points or requirements than a major.

Whether the student chooses a major or concentration depends on their particular aims and needs, as well as on the offerings of the particular department in which they plan to work. It should be emphasized that this requirement is not designed to produce professionally trained specialists, nor is it assumed that students will ultimately pursue employment in work related to the subject in which they are majoring or concentrating. It is, however, assumed that the intensive study in an academic department, together with the successful completion of the Core Curriculum and the remaining degree requirements, will afford students an education and the requisite skills that will serve them well throughout their professional and personal lives.

The faculty members of each academic department determine the requirements for a major or concentration. It is the students' responsibility to ensure that they complete the major or concentration requirements that are in effect as of their sophomore year. Each department has one or more directors of undergraduate studies (DUS) to whom questions regarding the major or concentration should be directed.

All courses used to meet the requirements of a major or concentration, including related courses, must be taken for a letter grade—i.e., the Pass/D/Fail option may not be used for such courses. Some academic departments allow an exception to this policy, allowing the first one-term course taken by the student in his or her eventual major to be taken for a mark of "Pass." Students should check with the relevant academic department for both the minimum and maximum points allowed for a major and/or concentration, as well as for any restrictions on courses in which a student earns a grade of D or a mark of "Pass."

Some majors and concentrations require that certain introductory courses be completed before the start of the junior year. Students should carefully read the requirements for their proposed major or concentration and direct questions to the relevant director of undergraduate studies (DUS).

In the first and sophomore years, students should confer with faculty members in the department, advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising, and advisers in the Center for Career Education while considering their choice of major or concentration. All students declare a major and/or concentration in their fourth term. Information about the process for declaring a major or concentration is sent to students in the spring of the sophomore year by the Berick Center for Student Advising.

Interdisciplinary and Interdepartmental Majors and Concentrations

Interdisciplinary and interdepartmental majors and concentrations combine coursework in two or more areas of study. Interdisciplinary majors and concentrations are linked to the interdisciplinary programs (see Departments of Instruction).

Independent majors or concentrations are not permitted for Columbia College students at this time.

Special Concentrations

In certain cases, a program of study has been designated a “special concentration.” While a special concentration may require a similar number of courses or points of credit as a departmental concentration does, a "special concentration" does not fulfill a degree requirement. Therefore, a special concentration can only be pursued as a second program of study, in addition to a major or concentration. 

Double Majors/Concentrations

Most Columbia College students graduate with a single program of study — i.e., one major or one concentration. It is possible to declare a maximum of two programs of study — i.e., two majors, two concentrations, a major and a concentration, a major and a special concentration, or a concentration and a special concentration.  

Students must complete their degree requirements within eight terms (including the terms that transfer students spent at other institutions), and students will not be awarded additional semesters for the purposes of completing an additional major or concentration.

If a student decides to pursue two programs of study, they may not both be owned by the same offering unit (department, institute, or center). For example, a student may not declare programs in Russian Language and Culture and in Slavic Studies, both of which are owned by the Department of Slavic Languages; similarly, a student may not declare programs in Mathematics and in Applied Mathematics, both of which are owned by the Department of Mathematics. All joint majors (e.g., Economics-Political Science) will be considered as owned by both offering units, so that a student may not, for example, major in both Political Science and Economics-Political Science.

If a student chooses to declare two programs of study, the student can, in certain situations, apply a single course to both programs (“double-counting”). There are three conditions under which students may apply a single course to two programs, and depending on the two programs declared, some or all of these conditions may apply:

1.       If two programs both require the same coursework to teach fundamental skills needed for the field, those courses may be applied to both programs. The Committee on Instruction has defined that coursework as the following:

(1) elementary and intermediate foreign language courses;

(2) the calculus sequence (I through IV, or Honors A and B);

(3) introductory courses in Statistics (STAT UN1101 or 1201);

(4) the introductory course in computer programming (COMS W1004).

If faculty members feel that other courses should be included in this category, those courses would need to be approved for such purpose by the Committee on Instruction.

2.      In addition to double-counting any fundamental courses enumerated above, a student pursuing two programs of study may apply a maximum of two classes to both programs, if applicable. Offering departments, institutes, or centers may choose to restrict the double-counting of particular courses, and such restrictions cannot be appealed.

3.      In addition to those courses that can be double-counted as noted above, a maximum of two courses taken in the Core Curriculum can also be counted toward the requirements of a program of study (major, concentration, special concentration), if applicable. Offering departments, institutes, or centers may choose to restrict the double-counting of courses taken in the Core Curriculum, and such restrictions cannot be appealed.

Requirements for Transfer Students

Columbia College offers transfer students the opportunity to experience a wide-ranging liberal arts education that includes its Core Curriculum and a broad range of majors and concentrations. To graduate from Columbia College, all transfer students must successfully complete the following:

  • 124 points in academic credit;
  • all Core Curriculum courses and requirements;
  • one major or concentration.

Upon admission to Columbia College, transfer students should familiarize themselves with the regulations pertaining to their special status (see Academic Regulations—Regulations for Transfer Students).

Planning an Academic Program

When planning their program, all students are expected to consult with their advising dean in the Berick Center for Student Advising as well as with their departmental advisers. Advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising serve as the primary advisers for all general graduation requirements and monitor students’ progress toward completing the Core Curriculum. Directors of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), and other faculty representatives of the academic departments, serve as the primary advisers for completing the requirements for majors concentrations, and/or special concentrations.

The Berick Center for Student Advising, located in 403 Lerner, is the first stop for students to discuss their advising needs as they create and reflect on their program of study at Columbia. Productive advising is built on a true partnership in which the student and the adviser work together. The spirit of an ideal advising partnership is one of mutual engagement, responsiveness, and dedication. Regular advising conversations—the fundamental building blocks of the partnership—enable an adviser to serve as a knowledgeable resource, reliable guide, and a source for referrals, so that students may make the most of all the opportunities available to them inside and outside the classroom during their time at the College. Students can make appointments with their advising dean using the online Comprehensive Advising Management System.

Though students are assigned an advising dean, students may make appointments with any of the advisers in the Berick Center for Student Advising. Students who wish to change advisers permanently should not hesitate to make an appointment with Andrew Plaa, dean of advising, to have a new advising dean assigned to them.

To ensure successful planning, students should familiarize themselves with all academic opportunities in which they are interested. In particular, students should note that some majors and concentrations require that certain introductory courses be completed before the start of the junior year. Similarly, study abroad, professional programs, and graduate schools have a range of requirements that must be successfully completed at prescribed times during the undergraduate career. Specifically, students considering a major in the sciences should, in their first two years, focus on required introductory science courses in addition to Core requirements. Students considering a major in the humanities and social sciences should, in their first two years, take a combination of Core requirements and introductory level courses in the department(s) in which they are interested in majoring. Under no circumstances will students be granted more than 8 semesters to complete an additional concentration or major.

In addition, all students should:

  1. become thoroughly familiar with the requirements for the degree and with the College regulations, including deadlines;
  2. plan to complete University Writing (ENGL CC1010), Frontiers of Science (SCNC CC1000), Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy I & II (HUMA CC1001-HUMA CC1002), as well as Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West (COCI CC1101 -COCI CC1102) by the end of the sophomore year;
  3. choose a major or concentration in their fourth term. Students will either declare their major online or submit a paper form to the Berick Center for Student Advising, 403 Lerner. Some majors and concentrations require departmental review, and students can only declare these majors after receiving approval by the department. A major or concentration may be changed at any time as long as the requisite departmental approval is received, the requirements have been or can be fulfilled, and the student can still graduate by the end of their eighth semester. If a different major or concentration is decided upon, a new form must be filed with the advising dean in the Berick Center for Student Advising.

Advising for First-Year Students

In the summer, each incoming student receives the Academic Planning Guide for New Students, which is designed to assist incoming students in planning and creating their academic programs. Incoming students should read the Academic Planning Guide for New Students prior to their first advising appointment. Students will receive information by email about opportunities to connect with their advising deans in the summer.

Each first-year student is preregistered for Literature Humanities as well as for Frontiers of Science or University Writing. (First-year students are pre-registered for either Frontiers of Science or University Writing in the fall term and take the other course in the spring term.)

All incoming students are expected to meet with their advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising during the summer (in person or by phone/internet), during the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP), and/or in the first two weeks of the term (Change-of-Program period) in order to discuss their fall course selections, their transition to college, their short- and long-term goals, and to learn about other advising resources and offices available to them at Columbia.

Students are expected to stay in touch regularly with their  advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising throughout their time at Columbia.

Supervised Independent Study

Supervised individual work on a special topic is available to qualified students as an alternative or as a supplement to courses and seminars in the field of specialization. Students must develop a plan of study with a faculty adviser and then obtain the approval of the department. Progress reports are submitted as required. From one to six points of credit may be awarded for this work; the exact number of points is to be determined in consultation with the department.

Approval depends on the quality of the proposal, the student’s qualifications, and the availability of an appropriate faculty adviser.