Academic Requirements

In order to graduate from Columbia College and earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, all students must successfully complete:

  • 124 points of academic credit
  • The Core Curriculum
  • 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.

Normally, one course may not be taken to fulfill more than one requirement for the degree. However, a course that satisfies the Global Core, Science, or Foreign Language requirements may be double counted in order to satisfy the requirements for one major or concentration.

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 factored into the GPA. A course that is repeated 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 (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; 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 advising dean, 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:

Literature Humanities
 - 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 CC1102
Introduction To Contemporary Civilization in the West
and Introduction To Contemporary Civilization In the West
Art Humanities
HUMA C1121Masterpieces 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.  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, may be satisfied at Barnard College. Other exceptions to this rule are granted only with the approval of the Berick Center for Student Advising's Committee on Academic Standing, except for the Global Core and the Science requirements, for which students must petition the appropriate faculty committee and must first meet with their advising dean in the Berick Center for Student Advising. Students who wish to satisfy degree requirements with courses taken at other universities in the summer must meet with their advising dean in the Berick Center for Student Advising in order to discuss the process for receiving advance approval from the dean of 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, 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, shall 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, may not be taken for a grade of Pass/D/Fail, except the first such one-term course taken by the student in his or her eventual major, unless otherwise specified by the department. Students should check 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.

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.

Normally, courses for a major or concentration, including related courses, may not be used to satisfy the course requirements for a second major or concentration. Rare exceptions to this may be made only by the faculty Committee on Instruction (COI), based on what it regards to be intellectually compelling grounds. Students wishing to request a waiver of this policy are required to submit a petition to the COI through the Office of the Dean of Academic Planning and Administration, in 202 Hamilton.

Double Majors/Concentrations

All students attempting to complete double majors, double concentrations, or a combination of a major and a concentration should keep in mind that they must complete separate sets of required and related courses for each field. A single course may not count twice for more than one major or concentration.

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

Interdisciplinary and Interdepartmental Majors and Concentrations

Interdisciplinary and interdepartmental majors and concentrations combine course work in two or more areas of study. Interdisciplinary majors and concentrations are linked to the interdisciplinary programs (see Departments of Instruction). Interdepartmental majors and concentrations are linked to two or more departments (see Departments of Instruction). There are no independent majors or concentrations permitted at this time.

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:

  • Earn at least 124 points in academic credit
  • Complete the Core Curriculum
  • Complete 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 a Program

All students are expected to consult with their advising deans in the Berick Center for Student Advising and with departmental advisers, who will assist them in selecting appropriate courses and planning their programs. Advising deans serve as the primary adviser for all academic planning, other than that for the major or concentration. Directors of undergraduate studies (DUS), and other faculty representatives of the academic departments, serve as the primary advisers for major and concentration program planning.

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 resource of knowledge and a source of referrals so that students may plan and prepare, in the broadest sense, over the course of their years at Columbia. 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 immediately.

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 sciences 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 departments in which they are interested in majoring. Under no circumstances will students be granted more 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 must submit the completed major declaration form online or 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.)

Each incoming student is expected to meet with their advising dean in the Berick Center for Student Advising during the summer, 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 help build their own community of advisers throughout their time at Columbia. Students should continue to meet with their advising deans as they finalize their program in the first two weeks of the term. Students are expected to follow-up with their advising dean at the Berick Center for Student Advising throughout their years 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.

Ordinarily, only seniors are allowed to register for independent study, although other students may be admitted at the discretion of the departmental representative. Acceptance depends on the quality of the proposal, the student’s qualifications, and the availability of an appropriate faculty adviser.