The University comprises undergraduate (first) degree schools, graduate (postgraduate) degree schools, non-degree programs, and the American Language Program, Columbia's internationally recognized program for the study of English as a second language.
Each Columbia school or program has a separate admissions office, admissions application, and bulletin. It is important to determine the degree to be studied and the school in which the program is offered. Some subjects (mainly liberal arts and sciences) are offered in more than one school. The degree received or the emphasis of the major focus of studies differs depending on the school in which the student is registered. The information that follows briefly describes Columbia's program offerings and degree structure. Detailed information on the application process for international students, including links to the testing services offering required admission examinations, is available in Application Overview for International Students. Specific school application information and useful references or bulletins are linked to the school or program names.
A bachelor's degree earned in the United States usually takes a minimum of four years. Degrees are earned by taking a combination of required courses which meet liberal arts distribution requirements (humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences), a required number of courses in the major field of study (called a "major"in the United States), and the balance of courses as electives. Each course taken is assigned a value called "points" (also called "credits" or "units"). To earn a bachelor's degree, one must earn a minimum of 124 points (usually more) and, at the same time, meet the distribution and major requirements. Advisement on course selection is available in each school at the time of registration.
Undergraduate studies are offered in three divisions of the University. Each division offers a distinct program of studies. The divisions that offer the undergraduate (B.A. or B.S.) degree are:
1. Columbia College (CC) - Study of the liberal arts and sciences leading to the B.A. degree traditionally, but not exclusively, for students just out of secondary school, usually between the ages of 17 and 22. With an enrollment of approximately 4,000, Columbia College is the smallest college in the Ivy League.2. Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) - Offers the B.S. degree in engineering and applied science fields.
3. School of General Studies (GS) - Offers the B.A. or B.S. degree to students who have had a break of a year or more in their education since high school.