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Peer Adviser Posts

November 17, 2015

Should I Pass/D/Fail This Class?
by Tiffany Tuedor, SEAS '17

We’re more than half way through the semester, which means that an important deadline for CC students is coming up: the P/D/F deadline. Don’t forget that Thursday, November 19,is the LAST day in the semester to change your grading option to P/D/F. This is a good checkpoint in the semester to reflect on how you’re doing in your classes and how well you’ve been handling your workload. How have you been doing on your homework assignments, papers, and midterms? If there’s a class that has been a bit more difficult than planned or has added significantly to your workload and it qualifies for the P/D/F option, this is your chance to fix that.

Pass/D/Fail allows students to explore and take certain classes without the pressure of receiving a letter grade. Especially if you’re a first-year student, this option is great if you are still undecided on your major. You can even P/D/F the first one-term course in your intended major and have it count towards the major/concentration requirements, unless specified by the department. Keep in mind that you can still uncover the P/D/F and get a letter grade for the class within two weeks into the new semester if you end up doing well in the course.

A couple technical things to remember: you can only Pass/D/Fail one course per semester, so choose wisely. This is not including classes that are only given on a pass/fail basis, like a gym class. All Core classes, like Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization, Music Humanities, and Art Humanities, must receive a letter grade. Any grade that is C- or above will show up as a “P” on your transcript, but if your final grade is a D or lower, the letter grade will appear on your transcript; in other words, even though a “pass” will not count towards your GPA, a D or a “Fail” will. So even if you decide to choose the P/D/F option, still pay attention to your grades in the course.

To actually Pass/D/Fail a class, you can fill out a Registration Adjustment Form and bring it to the Center for Student Advising (CSA) in 403 Lerner. If you’re still considering the option, definitely drop by the CSA and talk your academic adviser. Additionally, talk to your major/concentration department to review specific requirements to make sure you’re on the same page.

If you realize that you need a letter grade for a class you’re not doing well in, it’s not too late! You still have a couple of options. You can talk to your professors and TAs, get a tutor, set up an appointment with your academic adviser, or talk to the Peer Advisers to learn about better ways to manage your work. We as PAs will be here to help answer any questions on Monday (11/16) and Tuesday (11/17) afternoon.

See you soon!



by Zach Ho, SEAS '17

It’s that time of the semester again: the SEAS drop deadline. This coming Thursday (Nov. 19th) is the last day to take the following actions:

  • DROP a Class (SEAS)
  • Register for R credit.
  • Change a regular course to a Pass/D/Fail course or a Pass/D/Fail course to a regular course.
  • Withdraw from an individual course and receive a notation of “W” on the transcript in place of a letter grade.

Here’s the link to the CSA’s calendar for other important dates:

Here’s a quick thought about thinks to consider if you’re thinking about dropping a class:

Sequence: Some classes in SEAS (like COMS 1004) are foundational for classes to come. These sequences are important to keep in mind because these classes can prerequisites for other classes in your prospective major. If you don’t know whether or not a class is a prerequisite, you can check on the Columbia Directory of Classes, or you can meet with your CSA advisor.

Reasons: Why are you dropping the course? You need to consider if the class is worth retaking later if you need to, or if you are able to power through it even if you are struggling. If timing is the biggest issue for a class (taking a class at the same time as another difficult class for you) and you think you can do better in the class at a different time, it might be worth dropping and picking up later. However, if the class is just difficult, you might want to take a step back and talk to your friends in the class or others who have taken the class to get some tips for finishing the semester strong.

No matter what you decide, make sure that you run it past your CSA advisor so they can catch anything you may have missed and plan for next semester before registration.

You can make an appointment here.

November 10, 2015

Spring Forward into Registration
by Nina Mandracchia CC '18

It’s that time of year again! Spring registration is upon us, with the starting date being November 18th (next Wednesday).  Nearly all of us have scheduled before, but it can still slip our minds in the midst of midterms, classes, etc.  In order to make registration not quite as daunting, here are some simple tips.

  1. Use Vergil
    Vergil is a fantastic resource that lets you create and see your schedule with times, professors, and course descriptions.  You can even push your courses to SSOL directly from the schedule you have planned out there!

  2. Get on top of changing any Core sections
    Sometimes Core class timing that was perfect first semester just doesn’t work out in the second because of athletics, other class availability, etc.  If you need to change Lit Hum or CC, then try to get a buddy ASAP. This can be done through Courses @ CU, a Facebook group, or just getting someone you know.  Having a buddy takes some of the stress of switching away so try to do that if you can.

  3. Ask upperclassmen
    One of the most valuable yet underused resources is upperclassmen or your peers.  Ask friends or friends of friends what classes they have taken and if they would recommend the professor or class or both.  Sources similar to CULPA can be a good start, but be sure to keep in mind that most people are on there are like Yelp reviewers.  They either had an amazing experience or a horrible one, nothing in between.  So if you can find someone who you know, especially someone who is a similar student as you, then ask them and that can give you a better reflection of the class.

  4. Meet with your advisor
    Your advisor is there for a reason!  They have experience and the ability to answer questions that you might spend hours looking for online.  Advisors can also help keep you on track as far as major, number of credits, etc.  Don’t let anything slip through the cracks! Your advisor is there to help you with that.

    While the all caps may portray an opposite message, stressing yourself out is just going to make this process more tedious.  There will be time to take classes that you might not get next semester (unless you are a senior).  So don’t let this be something that you are thinking about constantly because you still have this semester to finish!

Finally, I want to say congratulations to the seniors! This is your last registration and I hope everything goes well for you.  As for the rest of you, I hope these tips helped and you get all the classes you want, but don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. 

October 27, 2015

6 Things You Can Do During Your Fall Break “Staycation” 
by Jessica Geddes CC '16

A lot of students from Columbia, including myself, don’t go home for fall break. Either it’s too expensive, or just not worth it since Thanksgiving Break is coming up soon. Here are some ideas if you are staying in The City:
1. Are you feeling inspired by Jonah Reider’s Pith restaurant in Hogan? Well, now is the perfect time to learn to cook! The dining halls will be closed and the dorms will be pretty quiet, so you can take advantage of this to try out a few recipes, or try out a few cooking tutorials from Youtube. 
2. Experience FALL by going on a quick day trip from the City! Whether it’s hiking, apple picking, or just enjoying the fall foliage, this can be a time to relax and unwind in the middle of midterm season. Check out this website for some good spots:
3. Take advantage of your Columbia ID and head to the Met, MoMA, and more. When is the last time you checked out the Columbia Arts Initiative website? Find a few discounted events that sound cool and get out there! 
4. Explore the city during your staycation. If you thought you would be venturing outside of the Columbia bubble a lot more than you have been, now’s your time to actually do that. Take a long stroll in Central Park, cross the Brooklyn Bridge, head to Smorgasborg, or enjoy the rides at Coney Island before they stop operating at the end of October. 
5. Get ahead in school and in life. It may not sound fun, but working on projects and papers during break will save you stress later on. You can also do a little fall cleaning and de-clutter the piles of clothes and papers in your dorm room. If you are really amitious, you can take this time to apply to jobs and even set short-term and long-term goals for yourself and then work towards making those happen. 
6. Do some good! As we start approaching the holiday season, now is the perfect time to help others. Check out for volunteer opportunities around the city.  

October 13, 2015

Getting through Midterms
by Nina Mandracchia CC'18

Happy fall everyone!  First of all, congratulations to football on their first win of the season! Now that we’re all done celebrating, it’s time to face the dreaded midterm season.   There are some tips that we’ve all heard before such as start studying early (aka don’t cram), get plenty of sleep, etc.

However, I think the number one tip that most of us ignore is to remember to take breaks.  This is seriously helpful! While spending all day in Butler may be convenient, it may not be the best.  Take a break and go for a run (seriously exercise can be really helpful and stress relieving!), call your mom, go get some food and then come back to studying.  Don’t feel as if you are wasting time because it is better to take a break and come back refreshed and ready to go than being tired and distracted for hours while chugging coffee. 

Another thing that may help is to set a routine!  My Psych professor (shout out to Professor Ochsner!) told us that studies have shown that you should study how you are going to take the test if you want to do well. For example, study at the same time of day as you would be taking the test, eat the same meal before, even wear the same clothes (if you want).  This can be helpful as it sets a routine, boosts your confidence, and should help you do well.

There are also tests like take home midterms and papers that aren’t a strict classroom setting. If you have one of those, congratulations! Most other students are extremely jealous.  But just because it is a take home does not mean you should be unprepared.  Instead, make sure that you are following the tips above, and also put the same amount of effort in as you would with any test.

All the CSA Peer advisers and I wish all of you the best of luck with your midterms! Remember to take breaks, set a routine, and give yourself plenty of time to study.  But really, you should be most sure to remember that midterms should not stress you out too much; they are not the end of the world!

October 6, 2015

To Drop or Not to Drop - CC Drop Deadline Next Week!
by Katie Kester CC'16

It’s the beginning of October, and we’re a few weeks in the semester.  All of our classes and activities are starting to gear up to full speed.   Now is a good time to ask yourself – am I taking on too much?  Will I be able to successfully manage all of these classes or is there somewhere I should cut back?

Next Tuesday, October 13 is the last day for students in CC to drop a class.  Students in SEAS can drop a class up until November 14.

A Few Reasons You Might Be Thinking About Dropping a Class:

  1. Too Busy this Semester! – You would love to take this class, but you just have too many other commitments.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this point in the semester, look to see if there is a way to free up your schedule.  Work tends to build up, especially towards the end of the semester.  Put all of the dates of exams and papers on your calendar to get a sense of how busy you’ll be. You might also want to consider cutting back on your involvement in clubs and other organizations if life is feeling too hectic.
  2. Feeling Behind – Maybe the material is a bit harder than you expected or you’re falling behind in terms of work.  If you still really want to take this class, I would encourage you to meet with your professor or TA.  It will be much easier to catch up now than a month from now. They can also give you a sense of what the material and workload will be like later in the semester.  Make sure to use resources like help rooms and office hours.  If possible, consider using the first test or paper to gauge your knowledge of the material before deciding to drop the class.  You might know the material better than you thought you did!
  3. Not What I Expected – Trust your instinctsIf you don’t like the class so far and you don’t need it to fulfill any requirements, there’s no point in taking the class. It’s better to drop this class now than being stuck with this class for the rest of the semester. If you’re using this class to fill a requirement (i.e. global core/science requirement), look to see if there is another way you can fulfill this requirement another semester.

If you are unsure whether or not you should drop a class, talk to your adviser. Definitely talk to your adviser if dropping this class might be a problem for completing your major or your other curricular goals.

Finally, How Do You Drop a Class?

For most classes, you can drop the class through SSOL.  For more information, you can look at the Post-Change of Program Period Student Quick Guide.

If you are not able to complete the request using SSOL, you can fill out a Registration Adjustment Form and bring it to the Center for Student Advising in 403 Lerner.


September 29, 2015

Life After Study Abroad: 6 Things to Consider
by Jessica Geddes CC'16

Whether, like me, you have returned from Study Abroad and are dealing with re-entry firsthand, or you are considering studying abroad in the future, here are some thoughts on what it’s like returning to Columbia after your travels.  

  1. After studying abroad, you may find that your sense of wanderlust has returned home with you. Don’t fret, because New York City is the perfect place to continue the adventure! After coming back, I’ve found myself being able to see New York City and Columbia University with fresh eyes, and find so much more joy in everyday life here. After spending a semester abroad balancing academics and sightseeing, I am eager to visit new neighborhoods and try new things in the city that I’ve called home the past few years. 
  2. Studying abroad can help you make academic realizations. I know Pre-Meds who have gone abroad and decided to completely change course and quit the Pre-Med track in favor of something in the Humanities. For me, I actually had the opposite experience. I didn’t take any science classes abroad, and I actually missed them! When I returned for the summer, I was ready to fully commit myself to my Pre-Med studies. I also took for the MCAT the summer after my return, and I felt that having the semester abroad actually helped with preparation, because I didn’t feel too burnt out from Spring Finals; instead, I was able to dive right in as soon as I got home. 
  3. The question of “Is it worth it?” will disappear. Before, and even during, my semester abroad, I was often stressed out with planning. Being a Pre-Med Biology major with a concentration in History, I really had to plan out every semester in order to make study abroad possible for me. More than once, I walked out of a meeting with an academic advisor asking myself if it was all going to be worth it, and during my semester abroad it was frustrating trying to work out campus housing from thousands of miles away. But, all these doubts and worries are now a distant memory. 
  4. Everyone will ask how your semester abroad was, but they don’t really want to hear EVERYTHING. I have found it helpful to have a few good anecdotes ready for those moments, and I try to limit my stories in other situations, to avoid being “that” person. Reflecting on your study abroad experience and picking out the important stuff can also be helpful in job interviews, classes, extracurriculars, etc, if you can apply what you’ve learned and the skills you’ve gained while abroad. Of course, everyone has a different experience, but many people find that they’ve become more confidence and mature while studying abroad, and these new attributes can benefit you for years to come. 
  5. Not everyone finds the readjustment period easy, even if you’ve had all of winter or summer break to adjust to life back in the States. This is okay! If you are finding the re-entry process stressful or overwhelming, there are several steps you can take. One is to talk to a friend who has also studied abroad, whether it’s a friend from Columbia or a friend from another school who was part of your study abroad program. Another good option is to go to the Office of Global Programs and meet with one of the Study Abroad Advisors! They always love chatting with students about their experience. 
  6. Your study abroad experience doesn’t have to be over. If you want to stay involved, you can volunteer at the Study Abroad Fair here at Columbia or even plan a trip back to your host country after graduation. If you want to continue the language, find a book in that language and read it for pleasure (crazy I know!) or try an app like Duolingo. Another option is to get off campus and go to a neighborhood like Spanish Harlem or Chinatown to converse in the language…you are you are in NYC after all- take advantage of it!
Thanks for reading and happy Study Abroad to all! 

September 22, 2015

How Healthy Are You?
by Dylan Cooper CC'18

Can you believe it? We’re already about a month deep into our classes, and it feels like the semester is whizzing by. If your schedule at all resembles mine, you’ll know that problem sets are beginning to pile on, labs and weekly quizzes are underway, and midterms are quietly creeping around the corner. Now seems like the perfect time to do a brief wellness check to assure yourself that you’re taking care of the most important thing on this campus – YOU.

Ask yourself these basic 5 questions:

  1. Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep deprivation can lead to a plethora of problems, such as increased risk of fatal diseases, loss of sex drive, and premature aging. Plus, no one wants to be that guy falling asleep in the middle of your Core class seminar. You know what they say: “When sleep is sound, health and happiness abound!”
  2. Are you eating healthy? Check out Columbia’s Guide for Healthier Eating, Barnard’s Well Woman, or reach out to the registered dietitian on campus, Christina Lee, by phone at 212-854-3353, to find a dietary plan that works for you!
  3. Are you feeling stressed out? That’s totally okay! Be sure to know the many resources Columbia has to offer to cope with overwhelming stress and other mental health issues. Ask Alice! is open from 9am-5pm on weekdays, and students are encouraged to call Nightline (212-854-7777) to anonymously and confidentially talk about any problem, large or small, from 10pm-3am. Also, one of the best moves you’ll make at Columbia is following the Stressbusters on Facebook to know how to fully take advantage of Melt Away Mondays, Wind Down Wednesdays, and all they have to offer. See here for a more comprehensive list of mental health resources.
  4. Are you exercising enough? You don’t need to lift, bro, or run a marathon to stay in shape! Grab a buddy and go on a breezy Morningside jog while the weather is still nice, or begin a routine on your own to boost energy and feel better about your body.
  5. Are you happy? A Columbia education may be challenging, but it should not be strictly all work and no play. Speak to friends about which activities they’re involved in, consider signing up for an intramural league before you miss the registration deadline, and don't forget to explore the City. And most importantly, speak to your Peer Advisers! We’re always down for new friends!

Peer Advisers' Tips for First-Years

  1. Professors are friendly- office hours are a good thing.
  2. No one expects you to figure everything out as soon as you get here.
  3. It’s not a competition on who can sleep the least or stress out the most.
  4. You’re not going to be a New Yorker in a day- it’s okay if you get off on the wrong subway stop.
  5. Find your library- try different study spaces.
  6. Student rush tickets and the TIC are good deals.
  7. College is just as much about figure out who you are, what you care about, and what makes you happy as it is about grades or anything else.
  8. Self-advocacy is essential here; use your voice to speak up about what you need.
  9. Everyone is here because they are extraordinary in some way; don’t let little things prevent you from seeing how remarkable your peers are.

Requesting a Tutor

If you are struggling in a course this term, you should make an appointment to speak with your CSA advisor about the resources available. You can also check out our Academic Support page to learn more. 

James H. and Christine Turk Berick Center for Student Advising


403 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: (212) 854-6378

Fax: (212) 854-2458

Office Hours
9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Walk-in Hours
3:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m.