Fall Updates for Students

Academic Life

Undergraduate degree programs are being adapted to take advantage of the announced three-term format: Fall/Spring/Summer (A and B) to offer new flexibility in individual schedules.

Students may enroll in a full course schedule during the fall and spring; the expanded calendar offers additional flexibility to spread courses over the three terms and/or take additional courses over the arc of three terms. Each SEAS department will be offering courses across Fall/Spring/Summer A to enable flexibility for all majors to take advantage of the expanded academic calendar. Indeed, every major will add classes to Summer A while also providing course offerings during Fall and Spring. Furthermore, Summer B will offer a selection of SEAS courses of broad interest.

Fall and Spring

Students who reside on campus are required to take a full course load. Whether on campus or remote, we expect that all students will take a minimum of 12 credits in the Fall and 12 credits in the Spring (satisfying full-time status requirements), enabling them to stay on track for completion of degree requirements.


We will be offering courses in Summer A for every major and we encourage students to consider taking two immersive seven-week courses in the Summer A period—whether on campus or remote. The three-term alternative offers the advantage of spreading courses out over three terms.

Students may choose to complete normal schedules over the Fall and Spring, and either leave the Summer free for other opportunities or use the Summer to expand their course portfolio. If interested, students may choose to enroll in as many as 40 credits over Fall/Spring/Summer (A and B) and use the expanded academic calendar to pursue a minor or other interest.

Seniors who desire to complete their degree requirements by the end of Spring term will be able to do so. Summer A completes by June 18 which enables a full July and August summer internship, field, or research opportunity.

In-person and online classes and labs

For students on campus, classrooms will accommodate in-person attendance of 50 persons or fewer. Physical spaces are being reconfigured and adapted to abide by important public health social distancing mandates and other requirements (including traffic flow in surrounding areas). Any student living in the greater New York area who wishes to attend on-campus classes may do so, in accordance with University protocols and Public Health guidelines. Note: all SEAS classes will be able to accommodate students in a fully remote mode, even classes that can meet in person.

Most courses will be taught in a “HyFlex” format to take advantage of in-person instruction with the expectation that some proportion of students will be learning off-campus and some will be remote online. The HyFlex model allows for smaller groups of students to rotate joining class in person, while other classmates join remotely. Classrooms are being further enhanced with HyFlex technology that incorporates new video and audio technologies to enable simultaneous in-person and remote attendance and engagement. In addition to this synchronous remote mode, we will also offer asynchronous attendance of lectures to accommodate students in different time zones or other challenges. While large lectures will necessarily be in remote or HyFlex mode, recitations and office hours will provide opportunities for in-person engagements.

Laboratory-based classes and projects

Columbia Engineering will offer laboratory classes in person where possible and in keeping with social distancing and other public health mandates. If needed, the School will offer multiple sections for some lab courses. We are also developing ways to accommodate students in remote mode, including development and deployment of experiment kits for some classes.

International Students

The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) is a wonderful resource for all of our international students, and has helpful information for new students.

Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please reach out to Associate Provost David Austell, or Associate Director Samantha Lu. For up to date and important information for all international students please visit the ISSO website.

ISSO has planned additional webinars for you in the coming days and weeks. All times are Eastern Daylight Time:

  • Thursday, July 16, 7:30 AM: Webinar for new/incoming students
  • Thursday, July 16, 9:00 AM: Webinar for continuing/returning students
  • Monday, July 20, 12:00 PM: Webinar for new/incoming students
  • Monday, July 20, 2:00 PM: Webinar for continuing/returning students

Academic Support

Returning Students: Advisers from the James H. and Christine Turk Berick Center for Student Advising (CSA) are here to help students navigate their college experience both in and outside of the classroom. Given that most classes will be taught entirely or partially online, we have compiled these tips for online learning. Advisers will be checking in regularly with their student advisees once the school year commences, to offer support and discuss strategies for success. Throughout the summer, students can also make an appointment with their CSA adviser. Please also check the CSA website for updates about the upcoming academic year.

New Students: In the coming days you will receive an email informing you of your adviser assignment; your CSA adviser will reach out by email soon thereafter to invite you to schedule an appointment to discuss any questions you have. You may also reach out to csa@columbia.edu if you have an immediate question.

Campus Life

Programs, activities, and services across undergraduate student life will continue, however, they will look different than in previous years. Opportunities will be offered to connect virtually, whether on or off-campus, with creative new programs under development. In person programs, activities and services will be adjusted for physical distancing and adjusted room capacities.

Co-curricular research and innovation projects

We will continue to provide research experiences for undergraduates; many students have been engaged in virtual experiences this summer and we anticipate enabling in-person experiences as we come back to campus.

SEAS will continue to offer Design Challenges, as well as small projects and research experiences that focus on the intersection of engineering and applied science with the pressing issues of our time—from Pandemics to Climate Change to Social Justice.

The Office of Undergraduate Global Engagement has also introduced the Columbia Global Collaboratory to further engage undergraduates across Columbia in complex global issues.

Housing and Dining

To adhere to physical distancing requirements, students approved to live in residence halls this upcoming year will be assigned to single rooms and spaced appropriately throughout residence halls. 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 be serving students on campus this year. Food service will be take-out only to start the year. Options will include hot and cold foods, as well as an enhanced selection of prepared grab-and-go items.

For comprehensive FAQs about housing, residence life, facilities and more, visit Columbia Housing and Columbia Dining for more information.


The Ivy League Presidents have determined that there will be no Athletics competition through the fall term. Practice, conditioning and other athletic training opportunities for enrolled student-athletes provided they are structured in accordance with each institution's procedures and applicable state regulations and will follow a phased approach. The Ivy League will issue additional guidance in the coming weeks. 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 their institutions in accordance with campus policy to determine their options beyond the current anticipated graduation date.

Club, intramural, fitness classes, and recreational athletics may be permitted if they can be conducted in accordance with state and institutional guidelines and appropriate social distancing. More information will be shared with the campus community when possible.


The University has determined to extend the suspension of all international Columbia-related travel for all affiliates until further notice. For CUIMC and Morningside faculty and staff domestic Columbia-related Travel is permitted only if video participation is not available. For students, domestic Columbia-related tTravel 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.

Consistent with CDC guidance, Columbia University advises all affiliates who have returned from ANY international travel, stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing.

Health and Well-Being

The University has introduced the Columbia Community Health Compact, a compact for all Columbians to agree to abide by the public health protocols as part of our culture and in the interest of the health and safety of everyone.

The university has established and is mandating a set of public health protocols that all faculty, students, and staff must follow in the interest of the health and safety of the entire community covering:

  • SARS-CoV-2 Diagnostic Testing
  • On-Line Return to Campus Training Module
  • Daily Symptom Checking
  • Subsequent Sample Testing
  • Face Coverings
  • Physical Distancing (6 feet whenever possible)
  • Hand Washing and Sanitizers
  • Expanded Cleaning Services and Practices in all spaces

See the Enhanced Health and Safety Policy.

These protocols are mandatory and will be updated regularly following any new updates in conditions and best practices. Students will also be expected to follow signage and guidance on use of campus spaces, stay in your residence hall room or your current residence if not feeling well, and follow workplace and shared-space hygiene (wipe workplace surfaces used frequently, including desk surfaces, keyboards, light switches, and shared equipment such as copiers, printers, A/V, etc.) with disinfectant sprays or wipes that the University will provide. Columbia staff will do frequent specialized cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout campus.

Physical 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 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

Information on self-monitoring can be found on the University’s COVID-19 resource website.

Facilities Management and Cleaning

Cleaning and Disinfecting information can be found on the University’s COVID-19 resource website.

Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid

Students who enroll for the academic year must enroll in 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 your degree requirements. Fall and Spring will have the normal tuition structure.

For undergraduate students enrolled full time in both Fall and Spring, Summer (A and B) courses will not incur tuition. Students may enroll in up to 40 credits over the Fall/Spring/Summer (A and B) terms.

Student financial aid packages will accommodate enrollment in courses over this expanded three term calendar. 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 minor and explore wider interests across the academic year.

Cost of Undergraduate 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: Undergraduate tuition and fees for 2020-2021 has been set at $31,440 per semester (Fall and Spring) or $62,880 for the full academic year.

To enhance the experience of attending Columbia in this unprecedented academic year, Columbia Engineering students who enroll in both fall and spring will also be able to take classes for a third term, Summer 2021, for up to a total credit limit of 40 credits at no additional tuition charge. Note that most Columbia Engineering students typically take 30, 33, or 36 credits in an academic year. Taking advantage of the summer term enables students to spread their coursework over three terms to further progress their degree and/or to take additional courses to explore other areas of interest.

Further note, in accordance with past academic policies, SEAS students may also continue to take up to 21 credits in each of the Fall and Spring semesters as an overload—a long-standing policy utilized by a small percentage of students.

  • Room and Board: 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. With housing occupancy limits for this academic year, students who are only living on-campus in the Fall or in the Spring will be charged the relevant semesterly rate. Summer housing will be available as usual at an additional cost.

Special COVID-related Support

In recognition of challenges that students and families may be facing during this pandemic, Columbia is offering the following additional support in the upcoming year:

  • Students Living Off-Campus: When calculating financial aid awards for students living off-campus, Columbia will include an off-campus living allowance of $4,000 per semester to help with living and technology expenses related to remote learning.
  • Waiver of Student Work Contribution - Fall 2020: Similar to the summer earning grants we provided this summer, Columbia Engineering will offer the opportunity for students on financial aid to apply for a waiver for the term-time student work expectation for Fall 2020. More information will be provided at the beginning of the academic year.
  • Change in Family Circumstances: Columbia Engineering 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 ugrad-finaid@columbia.edu

To learn more about Cost of Attendance go to our FAQs.


  • Fall: September 8 – December 23
  • Fall B: October 26 –December 23 for select upper level and graduate courses
  • Spring: January 11 – April 26
  • Summer A: May 3 – June 18
  • Summer B: June 28 – August 16

Helpful Links