Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

The Application Process


Campus Resources

What is the program cost?

Program costs can be found on the Tuition & Fees webpage.

Do you offer financial aid?

Individual applications for financial aid are not accepted for this program. To learn about outside opportunities for financial assistance, we advise students to speak with their school's guidance counselor for information on how to search for financial aid and scholarship opportunities from outside sources and organizations.

Please note, for summer 2020, a limited number of need-based scholarships are available to residents of New York City who participate as commuters in our Summer Immersion (3-Week)Program. Additional information about that particular program can be found here.

Is the program offered to dependents of Columbia University employees at a reduced cost?

Yes, dependents of eligible, full-time, active Columbia University officers are eligible to receive a tuition reduction. A 50% reduction will be applied toward the 1-Week Immersion program tuition.

When completing their online application, applicants will have the opportunity to report their dependent status. Once an offer of admission is accepted, High School Program administration will work directly with Human Resources to verify parent/guardian employment status. Once verified, the reduced cost will be applied directly to the student's account.

For additional information, please email

Will participating in this program help me get into Columbia College?

Like any extracurricular activity, participation in this program can help you to present yourself as an interesting candidate. Additionally, the instructor-written evaluations that you receive upon completion of the program can potentially be used as college recommendations.

Where are classes held?

Classes are held on Columbia University’s tranquil, 36-acre main campus in Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Is there a dress code?

There is no dress code for the Summer Program for High School Students. We recommend that students wear cool, comfortable clothing.

How much do books and course materials cost?

The cost of books and materials varies from class to class. Students should budget approximately $50 for course materials.

How much homework do teachers assign?

The amount of homework varies from one class to another. In most cases, students should expect no more than two hours of homework per night.

Do I need to add money to my student Flex/Dining Dollars account?

No. Students should not add money to Flex or Dining accounts. All students receive a meal plan for the duration of the program. Please note that money added to Flex and Dining accounts cannot be refunded.

Can I be a commuter student if I don't live in New York City?

Yes. All admitted commuter students must provide documentation as part of the enrollment process that they will live at a residence that includes direct adult supervision in the form of family members or family friends who will live in the same residence. Students must attest that they will not take unsupervised housing in the form of hotel rooms, Airbnb rentals, hostels or other such accommodation.

What are you looking for in an applicant?

The admissions committee looks for academically exceptional students who are interested in attending the program because they have a passion for learning and wish to enrich their knowledge of the particular field for which they are applying.

Admission to the program is competitive, but there are no minimum achievement requirements (such as a particular GPA) for admission. Application materials should establish that the student has the necessary academic background and level of ability, motivation, and maturity necessary for the curricular option for which he or she is applying. Students must provide sufficient evidence to satisfy prerequisites that may be listed in the program description.

May I still be in the program if I am already a senior in high school?

Yes, you still qualify for participation in the program.

For recommendation letter #1, may I submit a letter from a teacher who knows me well instead of from my principal, headmaster, or guidance counselor?

No. No substitutions are accepted for letter #1. Most principals, headmasters, and guidance counselors check with the student’s teachers before writing recommendations. The perspective of an administrator is valuable in making admissions decisions.

What if my PSAT, SAT, or ACT scores are low?

We do not ask for these scores as part of the application. If they are available, we will consider them, particularly in the case of students applying to study science or math.

I took the program last year. Must I reapply?

You should submit a new application form, the Community Standards Consent Form, a letter from an instructor, and an up-to-date high school transcript. You do not need to submit a personal essay, the application fee, or a recommendation from a guidance counselor or principal. Creative writing applicants should follow the directions for submitting required writing samples. When applying online, you should follow the application instructions for past participants.

May I apply to Session I, Session II, and Session III?

Yes, you may apply to take courses in multiple sessions. Make certain that you indicate clearly your interest in multiple sessions on your application form.

May I take more than one curricular option?

You may take only one curricular option per session.

When will I be notified of an admissions decision?

It normally takes three to five weeks to receive a decision after all application materials have been received.

Should I expect additional mailings after receiving my admissions letter?

You will receive instructional emails after submitting your enrollment form and committing to attend the program, but no mailings will be sent via postal mail.

I am homeschooled, who is eligible to submit recommendation letters on my behalf?

In place of the guidance counselor recommendation, applicants can request a recommendation from a supervisor, coach, instructor, etc. The individual can be from a workplace, volunteering center, or extracurricular activity.

The academic recommendation can come from the student's primary instructor. If the instructor is a parent or legal guardian, their email address must match the email address provided in the parent information section of the application.

How many classes can I take?

Each student chooses just one curricular option in any given 3-week or 1-week session. Some curricular options consist of two or more related classes (see individual class descriptions).

Participants also have the option of attending, in addition to the classes within their curricular option, various special lectures and co-curricular programs during the midday break and after class (see the Student Life page).

Do I have to take all of the classes that make up my chosen curricular option?


When do classes meet?

Most curricular options meet for two hours each morning and two hours every afternoon, Monday through Friday, but there are exceptions; see individual course pages for specific meeting times. Students are normally given a ten-minute break halfway through each class meeting.

The hours between the morning and afternoon meetings are devoted to lunch, relaxation, and various co- and extracurricular activities.

How demanding are the classes?

Classes are taught essentially at the level of Columbia College courses. They are intended for bright, high-achieving high school students who are proficient in English and want to work hard, be challenged, and think independently.

That said, students are not expected to master all the concepts to which they are exposed; they are evaluated on the basis of how much effort they put in and how much progress they make, not on whether they have understood all the material.

Further, the Summer Immersion Programs, while academically rigorous, are also intended to be an opportunity for participants to enjoy the summer, make new friends, explore New York City, and get a taste of independence. The academic component, while key, is not meant to be so all-consuming as to prevent students from accomplishing these other valuable goals.

What is the program’s approach to teaching and learning?

Classes are experiential and collaborative. While course teachers do provide substantive instruction, students learn largely by engaging directly with the subject matter through activities such as class discussions, labs, debates, simulations, workshops, studios, assigned readings, and individual and group projects. Participants are expected to participate actively in class and may be required to prepare in-class presentations.

Whenever possible, we try to take advantage of the resources of New York City and Columbia University by means of field trips, guest speakers, and use of University facilities. See individual course descriptions for details.

Students are encouraged to think independently, critically, and creatively. Instructors guide them in learning how to do so. Even more important than the particular knowledge participants gain in any of these classes is the ability to think with both open-mindedness and precision about complex and challenging material. We believe that this skill will be essential to them not only in their academic careers but also in their lives as world citizens and future leaders.

What is the attendance policy?

Because learning in our courses is so much based on what goes on in the classroom and because the sessions are so short in duration, it is important that students attend all or virtually all class sessions. A student who misses multiple class sessions may not receive a Statement of Completion, even if those absences are excused. Unexcused absences can lead to dismissal from the program. Attendance is carefully monitored, and in most cases we will contact the parents when a student misses class.

How much homework is assigned?

While much of the required work is done in class with instructor guidance, students should expect, on average, an hour or two of homework per night.

How much do books and course materials cost?

Students should budget approximately $50 for books and course materials. Some curricular options may require additional materials.

Detailed information regarding course-specific materials can be found on the Tuition and Fees pages:

Tuition & Fees

Who teaches the classes?

Classes are taught by scholars and practitioners who are experts in their fields, have a passion and demonstrated aptitude for teaching, and have undergone background checks and University Protection of Minors training.

Teacher biographies appear at the bottom of each course page, though please note that (a) not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course, (b) students cannot request particular teachers or sections, and (c) we occasionally have to make staffing changes because of availability issues.

Are the classes for academic credit?

Courses in the Summer Immersion Programs do not carry college credit. Upon successful completion, participants receive, in addition to evaluation letters, Columbia University Statements of Completion.

Students seeking to earn college credit may be interested in our College Edge program, in which they can take actual undergraduate classes alongside college students.

How are students evaluated?

Grades are not assigned. Rather, upon successful completion of the program, students receive an official Columbia University Statement of Completion and written evaluations from their instructors. Instructors comment candidly and constructively on students’ performance, as demonstrated by their in-class participation and submitted work. Students are evaluated on the basis the effort they put in, their progress over the duration of the class, and their potential for future work in the pertinent field and in college.

Do students have access to campus facilities?

Students in the Summer Program have access to Columbia University’s classrooms, laboratories, on-campus cafés, libraries, computer labs, and student activities center. Students do not have library borrowing privileges.

Will I have access to a computer? Should I bring a laptop? Is the campus wireless?

Students have access to computer clusters and laboratories throughout the campus. These facilities range from informational kiosks to high-end workstations to walk-in consulting centers.

Most of the campus is wireless.

Are there accommodations for students with disabilities?

The University provides a full range of services and accommodations to assist students with disabilities. Upon acceptance into the program, students seeking assistance should contact the Disability Services Office. Only students who identify their disabilities well in advance can be assured of accommodation upon their arrival on campus.

Residential students requiring special accommodations should also e-mail the Office of Admissions at

Is there an ATM on campus?

There are Santander Bank ATMs on campus in Lerner Student Center. They accept all major ATM cards. ATMs for many other major American banks can be found along Broadway, within a few blocks of the campus.

Are there practice rooms for musicians and dancers?

There are a number of pianos on campus that can be used by students on an informal basis. Private practice rooms are not available to students in the Summer Program.