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The Basics

To earn the Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College you must:

  • Complete the Columbia College Core Curriculum
  • Satisfy specific requirements for your major and/or concentration
  • Earn 124 points

You must register for at least 12 points per semester, and may not register for more than 18 points per semester.  You are expected to complete all requirements within 8 terms.

The Core Curriculum

The Core Curriculum has, since 1919, provided students with wide-ranging perspectives on significant ideas and achievements in literature, philosophy, history, music, art, and science.  The classes that comprise the Core Curriculum engage social, political, and philosophical ideas that have resonated across millennia and continue to challenge us today.  The skills and habits honed by the Core - analysis, argument, and respect for ideas, nuances, and differences - provide a rigorous preparation for life.

First-year students are required to complete Masterpieces of Western Literature and PhilosophyUniversity Writing, and Frontiers of Science.  Most students complete Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West in their second year.  Masterpieces of Western Art and Masterpieces of Western Music are usually completed by the third year of study.  Students plan the rest of their program according to their own academic goals: the College envisions that the Core will arc across all four years of study, introducing students to new disciplines and paralleling or converging with students' major fields.

Literature Humanities

Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy, popularly known as “Lit Hum,” offers students the opportunity to engage in intensive study and discussion of some of the most significant texts of Western culture. An interdepartmental staff of professorial and preceptorial faculty meets with groups of approximately twenty-two students four hours a week to discuss texts by, among others, Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Vergil, Augustine, Dante, Boccaccio, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Austen, Dostoyevsky, and Woolf, as well as Hebrew scripture and New Testament writings. The objective of the course is to consider particular conceptions of what it means to be human and to consider the place of such conceptions in the development of critical thought.

What is required

HUMA CC1001 and CC1002 (two semesters)

When

Fall and spring semester of first year

Can I test out? 

No.

Special Notes

All first-year students should be prepared to discuss the first six books of The Iliad on the first day of class, which meets during Orientation week. Every member of the class will be given a copy of The Iliad as a gift from the Columbia College Alumni Association.

University Writing

University Writing, with its focus on academic reading and writing, complements the other courses in the Core Curriculum by introducing students to the current intellectual life of the University. In their other courses, students learn to think critically and write independently about great works of the past. In University Writing, students develop these abilities by engaging a range of contemporary or near-contemporary texts from a variety of disciplines. Because several of the readings and assignments encourage students to enter into ongoing debates about the meaning of a liberal arts education and the function of a university, the course also helps students new to Columbia.

All first-year students must complete University Writing during the first year. Credit from Advanced Placement exams in English does not exempt students from this writing requirement.

What is Required

ENGL CC1010 (one semester)

When

This course must be taken in the first year. Half of the first-year class will take it in the fall, the other half in the spring.

Can I test out? 

No.

Special Notes

Any questions regarding this requirement may be addressed to the Undergraduate Writing Program.

Foreign Language

The key to every Columbia student’s liberal arts experience is a solid knowledge of at least one foreign language and culture. You may choose to acquire a new language or continue studying a language with which you already have some familiarity. Whether you plan simply to fulfill the Core foreign language requirement or to pursue a major in languages and literature, language acquisition through the foreign language requirement opens new worlds of knowledge and new ways of thinking.

If you wish to continue studying a language you began learning in secondary school, then you must take a placement exam offered by the respective foreign language department in order to determine your appropriate course level at Columbia. Times and locations for departmental placement exams are announced during New Student Orientation. Students who can place themselves in an appropriate level based on AP or SAT scores do not have to take a Columbia placement test.

All language instruction courses must be taken for a letter grade. 

Learn more about satisfying the foreign language requirement

What is Required

Proficiency at the intermediate level of a foreign language, typically Intermediate Level II. You can find a list of languages in the Columbia College Bulletin. (four semesters or the equivalent)

When

Recommended in the first year if you are beginning or continuing a language.

Can I test out? 

Yes. Exemption or placement level can be determined by AP scores, SAT II scores or departmental placement tests. See below. 

Science Requirement

The science component of the Core is designed to provide all students with an introduction to some of the most exciting developments in contemporary science while inculcating an appreciation for scientific habits of mind—basic quantitative reasoning skills essential for life as an informed citizen. This is accomplished through the Core course Frontiers of Science, followed by two semesters in specific disciplines that allow exploration of one or more sciences in greater depth.

What is Required

The science Core course, Frontiers of Science (SCNC1000), plus two one-semester courses from an approved course list. These courses may be taken in the same or in different departments. However, at least one course must be taken in Astronomy; Biological Sciences; Chemistry; Earth and Environmental Sciences; Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology; Physics; or Psychology. (three semesters)

When

Frontiers of Science in the first year. Additional courses any time.

Can I test out? 

No.

Special Notes

Students may not use Barnard College courses to fulfill the science requirement unless otherwise noted.

Additional Information

The following professors are available to answer the questions of students who are interested in the sciences, are considering a major or concentration in one of the following departments, have questions about courses offered in the sciences, or wonder where a degree in science can lead after graduation.

Astronomy
Prof. Frits Paerels
e-mail

Biology
Prof. Deborah Mowshowitz
e-mail

Chemistry
Prof. James Valentini
e-mail

Dr. Vesna Gasperov
e-mail

Computer Science
Prof. Adam Cannon
e-mail

Earth and Environmental Sciences
Prof. Walter Pitman
e-mail

Prof. Nicholas Christie-Blick
e-mail

Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology 
Prof. Matthew Palmer (Enviro Biol)
e-mail

Prof. Jill Shapiro (Evolutionary Biol)
e-mail

Mathematics
Prof. Robert Friedman
e-mail

Prof. Patrick Gallagher 
e-mail

Physics
Prof. Jeremy Dodd
e-mail

Contemporary Civilization

Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West—taught in sections of about twenty-two students by an interdepartmental staff—emphasizes critical inquiry and active participation in discussion and argument.

The central purpose of the course is to introduce students to a range of issues concerning all kinds of communities—political, social, moral, and religious—that human beings construct for themselves and the values that inform and define such communities. Among the readings currently required are the Bible, the Koran, and works by Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Machiavelli, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Smith, Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, DuBois, Freud, and Woolf.

What is Required

COCI CC1101-CC1102 (two semesters)

When

This two-semester sequence is normally ten in the sophomore year.

Can I test out? 

No.

Art Humanities

Through an analysis and discussion of selected works of painting, sculpture, and architecture central to the traditions of Western art, and field trips to museums and art galleries, Art Humanities provides students with a foundation in visual learning. Topics include the Parthenon, Amiens Cathedral, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bruegel, Rembrandt, Bernini, Goya, Monet, Picasso, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

What is required

HUMA UN1121 (one semester)

When

Before graduation.

Can I test out? 

No.

Art Humanities Office

826 Schermerhorn
212-854-4505

Music Humanities

Music Humanities

Through analysis and discussion, Music Humanities introduces students to representative musical works from the Middle Ages to the present. It also actively involves students in the process of critical listening, both in the classroom and at concerts. Though not a survey, this course is taught in a chronological format and includes masterpieces by Josquin des Prez, Monteverdi, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Verdi, Wagner, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington, among others.

What is Required

HUMA UN1123 (one semester)

When

Before graduation.

Can I test out? 

Yes. If you are exceptiuonally knowledgeable in this subject, you may earn exemption by passing an exam. The exam is offered on the first Friday of the fall semester and may be taken only once, at the beginning of a student's first semester at Columbia.  Consult the Music Humanities Office for more information.

Music Humanities Office

621 Dodge Hall
212-854-3825

Global Core

The Global Core requirement consists of courses that examine areas not the primary focus of Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization and that, like other Core courses, are broadly introductory, interdisciplinary, and temporally or spatially expansive. Courses in the Global Core are organized around a set of primary texts or artifacts, which may range from texts of literate traditions to media (e.g. film), ritual performances or oral sources, produced in the regions of the world in question. Global Core courses fall into two categories: those that focus on a specific culture or civilization, tracing its appearance and/or existence across a significant span of time and sometimes across more than one present-day country or region; and those that address several world settings or cultures comparatively (and may include Europe and the West), in terms of a common theme, a set of analytic questions, or interactions between different world regions.

What is Required

Two courses. Consult the Global Core List of Approved Courses(also available in the CSA and 208 Hamilton) for approved course options.

When

Recommended in sophomore and junior years.

Can I test out?

No.

Physical Education

Columbia’s Core curriculum includes a Physical Education component to emphasize the importance of intellectual and physical balance. The department offers a variety of activities in the areas of aquatics, fitness, martial arts, individual and dual “lifetime” sports, dance, team sports, and outdoor education.

What is Required

Two courses and a swim test. PHED CC1001-C1002 (two semesters, plus swim test)

When

Any time before graduation.

Can I test out? 

No.

Sepcial Notes

Students unable to complete the swim requirement due to physical restrictions should obtain a waiver from Health Services at Columbia before contacting the Physical Education Department. Students must take their first PE class at Columbia. The second course may be taken at either Barnard or Columbia.

Students who are members of an intercollegiate team and wish to receive physical education credit should register for the appropriate team section of Physical Education CC1005—Intercollegiate athletics.

Physical Education Office

336 Dodge Fitness Center
212-854-3439

James H. and Christine Turk Berick Center for Student Advising

Visit

403 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: (212) 854-6378

Fax: (212) 854-2458

Office Hours
Monday–Friday
9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Walk-in Hours (Sept-May)
Monday–Thursday
3:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m.