The Residential Experience

An Immersive Learning Experience

“It's really been three weeks of absolute bliss, rigorous academic challenges, and meeting different like-minded people from all across the world, all the while living in the bustling city of New York on one of the most beautiful campuses in the world.”
– Susan L. | Surrey, Canada

The residential option combines rigorous coursework, cultural and social engagement, close supervision, and the opportunity to live in New York City on Columbia’s tranquil 36-acre enclosed campus.

Approximately 60% of program participants live on campus. The residential student community is over 60% international, with students hailing from 70 countries and 45 U.S. states.


Students choose one curricular option per session. Each curricular option comprises a variety of related components that provide an in-depth and interactive examination of a particular subject. Courses typically meet for approximately two hours each morning and two hours every afternoon, Monday through Friday. Some courses meet for more than four hours per day; see individual course pages.

Upon successful completion of the program, students receive a Columbia University Statement of Completion and evaluations written by their teachers; see program policies for further details.

Courses are taught by members of the Columbia University community, scholars devoted to the highest standards of research and teaching. Combining their efforts with those of trained and experienced course assistants, the teachers create a rich academic experience drawing on the wealth of educational resources at Columbia University and in New York City. Teacher biographical information is available at the bottom of each course description page.

General information about program academics can be found on our FAQ page.

Cultural & Social Engagement

Residential students have access to a wide array of cultural excursions into New York City, the ultimate cultural classroom. Cultural engagement activities are specially selected to expand students' awareness of the cultural and social diversity of New York City. A list of typical excursions can be found on the Activities and Events page.

On-campus evening and weekend community events typically include dance parties, movie and karaoke nights, a talent show, field games, special interest presentations, and cultural celebrations.

Co-curricular and recreational activities are also offered during the midday break between classes. These include college preparedness and student wellness programs, special lectures given by program instructors, community outreach and awareness projects, and special interest clubs.


Students who will be 16 years of age or older 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. A parent or legal guardian will be required to submit a note attesting to the student's exceptional maturity as part of the enrollment process. 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 will not yet be 15 by the beginning of the program.


The Program boasts an industry-leading 1 to 6.5 staff-to-student ratio. In addition to the dedicated Pre-College staff, the University features a professional campus Public Safety force.

Direct student supervision is provided by trained Resident Advisors, college and graduate students from over 65 U.S. universities who participate in Columbia’s Internship in Building Community. Resident Advisors are available to students around-the-clock, seven days a week. Additional professional student affairs and residential life staffers manage the residential staff on-site and provide experienced guidance in responding to student needs.

Resident Advisors look after the safety of the students with the utmost care. During residential orientation on check-in day, students are instructed in personal safety measures, how to navigate the city properly, and about our strict student sign-out and communication policies, as detailed in our Community Standards.

With such a strong ratio of staff to students, no student gets lost in the crowd. Resident Advisors and students get to know each other well, and students are able to readily access trusted mentors for guidance. All students are given the direct phone numbers of at least two Residential Life personnel and other emergency contacts, such as Public Safety.

Residential students may not leave the immediate campus without following our strict protocols and are responsible for maintaining regular and responsive contact with their Resident Advisor when away from campus. Students may not leave the immediate campus area without communicating their plans to their Resident Advisor and receiving their expressed permission.

Residence Halls & Campus Resources

Students are housed in academically-mixed University residence halls just minutes away from their classrooms. The dormitories are not only a home but also a community experience of cultural and intellectual discovery.

Campus resources include a student activities center, a physical fitness center, 25 libraries that hold over 9 million volumes, computer clusters and labs throughout the campus, on-campus cafés and lounges, and a student services office.


Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided for residential students from Monday through Friday. The meal plan consists of a wide variety of food served cafeteria style and includes vegetarian and vegan options.

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.

Columbia Dining Services can accommodate virtually any allergy-based restrictions. The dining hall is set up so as to accommodate most common food allergies; Dining Services will arrange special menus for students with more unusual or complicated restrictions. Students and parents with questions or concerns or who have special requirements are welcome to contact Bianca Tamburello, RD, Columbia’s Registered Dietitian, at or 212-854-3353.

Meal Times

Breakfast: 7:30–9:30 a.m.

Lunch: 11:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.

Dinner: 5:00–7:00 p.m.

Meals are not served on weekends. Students may purchase food in local shops or cafés, or dine at reasonably priced neighborhood restaurants.

Students should not add money to Columbia University Dining or Flex Dollar accounts. If a student sees a need for such accounts, we advise that they wait until they arrive on campus and learn how such accounts work before adding funds. Any amounts added should be minimal as the funds are not refundable and can easily be added to at anytime.