Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

The Application Process

Financial Aid


Campus Resources

The Residential Program

What is the program cost?

Program costs can be found on the Tuition & Fees - Residential and Tuition & Fees - Commuter webpages.

Do you offer financial aid?

For Summer 2020, a limited number of need-based scholarships are available to residents of New York City. Awards of $2,909 will be offered to students participating as commuters in the Summer Immersion New York City 3-Week program. Scholarships are not available to students joining our residential program or our New York City 1-Week program.

Upon meeting the minimum program and residence qualifications, applicants will have the ability to submit a formal financial aid application via the online application portal. Students who do not meet the minimum qualifications will not have access to the financial aid application. For additional information, including required financial documentation, visit the financial aid section of this page.

Can I participate in the Summer Immersion and College Edge programs this summer?

Qualified applicants are welcome to apply to both our Summer Immersion and College Edge Programs. However, students are only allowed to participate in one of the two programs over the summer.

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 a strong candidate, but does not guarantee admission into Columbia College.

Upon successful participation of the program, students can submit their instructor-written evaluations as supplements to their college applications.

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. Residential students might also want to bring one nice outfit for activities such as trips to the theater.

How much do books and course materials cost?

For most curricular options, students should budget approximately $50 for expenses such as text books and field trip-related costs. Some courses also require laptops or equipment that should be purchased before the start of class; these requirements are listed toward the bottom of the pertinent course pages.

Do I need spending money?

Students who commute should bring some money for lunch ($7–$15) if they do not bring a lunch with them. Residential students are expected to cover expenses such as weekend meals, personal items, and transportation and admission fees for optional activities around the city. We recommend that residential students have access to a minimum of $900.

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.

Are there places to dine on campus for commuter students?

Yes, commuter students can dine on campus at our dinning center. Meals range from $10 to $20 and students are expected to pay per meal upon entrance. We also have many restaurant on and around campus.

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 Residential students receive a meal plan for the duration of the program. Commuter students are better served by using cash or card. 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. The required information will be requested via email in the weeks before the student's arrival.

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 do still qualify for our Junior-Senior Division.

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.

Is admission preferential toward housing or commuter students?

Whether you are applying for residential or commuter status has no effect on the admissions decision. However, we are at times unable to accept applicants who require housing because we run out of space in the dormitories. We recommend that applicants requiring housing apply as early as possible.

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 need not 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 and Session II?

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

May I take more than one curricular option?

You may take only one curricular option per session. Please note that some curricular options include more than one course.

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. Bills and academic packets (Certification of Participation and evaluation letter) 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.

Who is eligible to apply for financial aid?

Students must have permanent residency in New York City (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, or Queens) and attend the program as a commuter student.

If an applicant meets the minimum program and residency qualifications, they are eligible to submit a formal financial aid application via the online application portal. Students who do not meet the minimum qualifications will not have access to the financial aid application.

Applicants that receive this need-based award may not combine it with additional financial aid granted through the School of Professional Studies (SPS) or a partner organization. Dependents of a Columbia University employee who are eligible for the Columbia University officer cost reduction do not qualify for this need-based scholarship.

How much financial aid can an applicant receive?

If granted aid, an award of $2,909 will be applied directly to the cost of the program. Please note, financial aid is only available to students participating as commuters in the 3-Week Summer Immersion program. The award cannot be transferred to any other programs.

If admitted, participants will be required to submit a nonrefundable deposit of $1,000 to confirm their enrollment in the program and secure their awarded aid. For additional details regarding commuter program costs, please refer to the Tuition & Fees portion of our website.

What documentation must be submitted with the financial aid application?

All applications require formal documentation of their parent(s)/legal guardian(s) most recent tax return and W-2. Documentation for all parent(s)/legal guardian(s), regardless of marital status, is required. Both the custodial and non-custodial parent/legal guardian must submit the required materials. If either individual has remarried, the income from the new family unit must be reported in full. When reviewing for aid, information submitted from all parties will be considered.

Applicants will also be required to answer additional supplementary questions related to income and household information.

Applications will be considered incomplete if required information is not received.

Are financial aid awards subject to income tax?

Scholarship awards may be subject to income tax. If awarded aid, please consult with the IRS or your tax advisor to determine the taxability of your scholarship and how such amounts may affect the amount for your education tax credit or deduction. Award recipients will receive Form 1098-T, which will include a tuition statement, including any scholarships received from the University. For additional information on these issues, please reference IRS Notice 97-60: Consumer Guidance on Education Tax incentives and IRS Publication 970: Tax Benefits for Higher Education. These documents, as well as copies of IRS Forms 8863 and 8917, can be obtained on the IRS website, or by calling the IRS 1-900-829-1040.

When will I receive my financial aid decision?

Upon admission to the program, applicants will receive a decision regarding their financial aid application. After reviewing the decision, applicants will have fifteen days to confirm their enrollment in the program and secure their awarded aid.

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 commuter tuition and a 25% reduction toward residential 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 tuition will be applied directly to the student's account.

For additional information, please email

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 < a href="/highschool/summer-immersion/new-york-city-3-week/courses">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, use of the gym, 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 Certification of Participation, 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?

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

Tuition & Fees - Residential
Tuition & Fees - Commuter

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 participation, participants receive, in addition to evaluation letters, Columbia University Certifications of Participation.

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 participation of the program, students receive an official Columbia University Certification of Participation 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, fitness center, and student activities center. Students do not have library borrowing privileges. Only residential students have access to the dormitories.

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 dorms also have their own computer labs.

Most of the campus, including the dormitories, is wireless. Each dorm room is also equipped with an Ethernet jack to connect to the internet (students will need to bring or purchase their own Ethernet cords; some of the dorm rooms will require especially long cords).

Residential students will not be able to work in the labs after curfew, so they may find it useful to bring laptops.

Some courses require students to bring laptops to class. Please see the individual course description pages for laptop requirements for your curricular option.

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 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.

If I am under 16, may I live in the dormitories?

Students who are 16 years old by the start of the program qualify automatically for residential status.

Students who will be 15 years old by the start of the program may reside in the dormitories only with special permission. The student's parents or guardians should submit a note to attesting to his or her exceptional maturity. Younger students are housed with the other students in the program and are assumed to be at the maturity level of 16- and 17-year-olds.

The residential option is not available for students who are not yet 15 by the beginning of the program.

If I live in New York or the surrounding area, may I live in the dormitory?


If I am late for residential check-in, where do I go?

Go to the front desk of Hartley Hall. There will be someone there to assist you.

May I check into the dormitory before the check-in dates or check-out after the check-out dates?

It is not possible to check in early or check out late. It is possible for a student to leave the night before check-out; the student would follow the standard overnight sign-out procedure. Please note that residential students leaving early would be missing the end-of-program dance.

Are the dormitories air conditioned?

Some of the dormitories are not centrally air conditioned. Where there is no central air conditioning, bedrooms have window air conditioner units, included in the housing fee.

Is there a curfew in the dormitories?

Yes. During the week students must be in their suites, or on their designated floors, by 11 p.m. and on the weekend by 12 midnight, unless they are participating in a supervised activity. Curfew is strictly observed and students who do not abide by the curfew will be dismissed from the program.

How much supervision is provided?

Live-in resident advisors provide round-the-clock supervision. Scheduled group activities are not mandatory, but students are asked to account for their whereabouts after 7:00 p.m. by means of sign-out procedures.

Is there security in the dormitories?

Yes, there is a guard on duty 24 hours per day. No one is allowed entry to the dormitory without a proper Columbia ID card or clearance. In dorms with suite housing, suite doors are kept locked at all times. In the corridor-style dorms, bedroom doors are kept locked. Students are issued suite keys and room keys upon checking in.

Non-residential Summer Program students are not allowed into the dorms. Parents/guardians are allowed into the dorms only during check-in and check-out, when they are helping the students move.

What is the schedule for the dining hall?

Meals for residential students are served three times a day, Monday through Friday, according to the following schedule:
Breakfast: 7:30 - 9:30 a.m.
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Dinner: 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Meals are not served on weekends; students may purchase food or dine at a reasonable rate in one of the neighborhood restaurants.

Are there vegetarian and vegan meal options?

The Columbia meal plan consists of a wide variety of food that is served cafeteria style and includes vegetarian and vegan options.

Are there halal and kosher meal plans?

Kosher and halal meal plans are available. Upon acceptance to the program, residential students are given the opportunity to select a kosher or halal meal plan.

May I be away from the dormitory overnight?

Parents must submit written permission to the Pre-College Program Office in order for a student to be away overnight. The permission note must include the dates and times that a student will be away as well as the location and phone number of where he or she will be staying. Permission notes must be submitted at least 24 hours prior to departure.

Are there telephones in the rooms?

Though dorm rooms do not come equipped with phones, each floor has a hall phone that can make outgoing calls in the New York City area; the hall phone cannot receive calls.

What kinds of activities are available in the evenings and on weekends?

All students are welcome to participate in evening and weekend community outreach activities, special interest clubs and seminars, cultural activities, and a talent show. Commuter students can also participate in weekend community outreach activities.

Optional evening and weekend activities for residential students include both on-campus social and athletic events and off-campus supervised trips to various recreational and cultural events in and around New York City, including museums, Broadway and Off-Broadway theater, films, Central Park, concerts, and the beach.

Several activities are offered every weekday evening and every weekend day.

Students are expected to cover expenses such as admission fees, food, and transportation.

Please note that only residential students are permitted to participate in evening and weekend activities.

Click here for additional information.

Who are the resident advisors?

The resident advisors are trained undergraduate and graduate students who represent universities all over the United States and have demonstrated a strong interest in working with secondary school students. They complete an intensive two-week training program before the arrival of the students. In addition to supervising the residential students in the dormitories, they lead extracurricular activities, serve as teaching assistants, and staff the High School Program Office. They do not take classes or hold other jobs while working in our program; rather, they are focused exclusively on looking after the students. The ratio of residential students to RAs is approximately 10 to 1.

Will there be sheets, towels, pillows, and toilet paper supplied?

Yes, all of these items will be supplied. Students may want to bring coat hangers and a desk lamp.

Will there be someone to meet us at the airport?

No, transportation to and from airports is up to the student. Taxis from any of the three local airports cost between forty and sixty dollars.

Where should people send mail or packages for current residential students?

Programs for High School Students
212D Lewisohn Hall
2970 Broadway, Mail Code 4119
New York, NY 10027-6902

For fastest delivery times, it is best to send mail via UPS or FedEx. Letters and packages sent via the U.S. Postal Service can take several extra days to get through the Columbia mail system. As a general rule, anything sent after the mid-point of either three-week session should be sent by overnight mail.