Columbia College | Columbia Engineering

Proposal Process

The ABP is proposal-driven and therefore differs from more traditional community service or spring break service trips. 

Students request ABP support for a civic-engagement project through a proposal process. 

Before you start developing a project for ABP consideration, make sure you are familiar with the proposal process, deadlines, and have a solid understanding of the types of civic engagement projects the ABP is looking for

Proposal Process

  1. As of fall 2017, both Preliminary and Final proposals will be webforms to be submitted through our website adhering to the criteria outlined below.  
  2. ABP staff (student and administration) review Preliminary Proposals. Proposals are then returned with comments and suggestions to each potential project leader.
  3. Potential project leaders are either invited to submit a Final Proposal, or rejected. Outright rejections are rare and most often occur because the idea is dramatically unrealistic or because the idea is not civic-engagement/service based. 
  4. Upom submitting a Final Proposal, in addition, project leaders will send ABP a letter or email from their community partner (organization or individual(s)) verifying they understand the outcomes and proposed dates for the project.
  5. ABP staff evaluates Final Proposals and determines which ones should receive support. The ABP may request an interview to seek further information.
  6. All those who have submitted a Final Proposal are notified of whether the ABP will support their project via email.  

What type of information is required in the proposals?

The Preliminary and Final Proposals will ask you to provide the following information:

  • Whether you are applying as an independent team of students or as a team sponsored by recognized student group
  • What community you wish to serve (city/area, but also sub-communities within, i.e. community partner)
  • What challenge you seek to address
  • What type of service(s) you can provide
  • How your team can be a part of a solution to a community challenge
  • Whether you have offered to help or have been invited to help by the community
  • How you and your team will take what you’ve learned through your civic engagement project and share those lessons with the Columbia community
  • Your travel itinerary
  • Project budget
  • Preparation plans
  • Safety concerns
  • Detailed information about your sponsor organization, including any agreements in place to help facilitate the project
  • Other information that may help the ABP fairly and accurately evaluate your team’s proposal

The Preliminary Proposal is designed to help foster ideas and to help those submitting the proposal to organize themselves as well as communicate to the ABP what they want to accomplish and how. The Final Proposal is a document that demands very specific information that shows the ABP that the group submitting the proposal has prepared properly and done the necessary research and planning needed to be safe and successful. 

How will the proposals be evaluated?

I. Preliminary Proposals

Preliminary Proposals will ask you to address the following criteria (in roughly on page):

  • Feasibility and safety of the proposed civic engagement project
  • What community you want to work with
  • What community challenge you want to address
  • Why you see yourself/team as integral to addressing that challenge in that community
  • Goals/outcomes of the civic engagement project – what does success look like or how will you know you succeed

Once Preliminary Proposals are submitted they will be evaluated by the ABP and may be moved forward to the next round of the proposal process or rejected. If a proposal is rejected before the final deadline, students may seek advice from the ABP on how to modify their preliminary proposal and resubmit. If the Preliminary Proposal is accepted, students are invited to submit a Final Proposal. 

II. Final Proposals

Final Proposals are much more thorough than the Preliminary proposal and will be evaluated based on the "who, what, where, when, why, how, and how much of your project", adressing the following components:

  • Is the project safe? What steps are the team and sponsor organization taking to ensure the safety of the team? 
  • Overall project feasibility - can it be done and can it be done the way you are envisioning it?
  • If it is a team project, how big should the team be and what role will each member play?
  • If it is an individual project, can it be done alone?
  • Does the community partner on the ground in the community fit well with the project?
  • What community, what challenge and why you and/or your team are integral to improving the community?
  • How do you know the community would welcome your work?
  • How do you plan on working with the community to develop the project? 
  • What are the travel plans, lodging, local transportation, and other travel logistics?
  • What is the budget and is it realistic; is it an amount that you and/or your team can fundraise?
  • What is your fundraising plan?
  • How will you evaluate your project; what are the outcomes?
  • What's your reflection plan?
  • Do you and/or your team have the leadership capital and commitment to see the project through?

View the ABP Final Proposal Sample.pdf.


In order to serve as a Project Leader and submit Preliminary and Final Proposals, you must currently be a CC, SEAS, BC, or GS undergraduate at the time of your submission. 

CU and CU affiliated graduate students may be on an ABP-supported team, but may not receive financial benefit from the ABP.

We encourage each team to have two Project Leaders.

At least one Project Leader needs to be on Columbia’s Morningside Heights Campus the semester leading up the trip. (Students who are studying abroad may apply as a co-Project Leader as long as there is one Project Leader located on campus in NYC.)

"Challenging Service"

Alternative Break Program


515 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: 212-854-1371

9:00 a.m.–5:00p.m.