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Undergraduate Student Life

Proposal & Application Process



In order to service as a Project Leader and submit preliminary and final proposals, you must currently be a CC, CE, BC, or GS undergraduate at the time of your submission.

Each team must have two Project Leaders.

Students who are studying abroad in the fall semester may apply as a co-Project Leader for spring and summer projects as long as there is one Project Leader located at Columbia’s Morningside Heights Campus.

Proposal Process

  1. Student Engagement staff reviews all Preliminary Proposals. After all proposals are reviewed, they are returned with comments and suggestions to each potential project leader.
  2. Those who have submitted a proposal 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 and/or team based. 
  3. Once all final proposals are submitted, the Student Engagement staff may request an interview to seek further information. 
  4. Student Engagement will determine which projects receive support.  
  5. Student Engagement notifies those who have been accepted with financial support, or accepted without financial support, or rejected. 


View the ABP Final Proposal Sample.pdf.

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

  • Where you want to serve, either domestically or internationally

  • What type of service you can provide

  • 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

  • Team budget

  • Preparation plans

  • Information about your sponsor organization

  • Other information that may help the ABP Board 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 committee what they want to accomplish and how. The final proposal is a document that demands very specific information that shows the ABP committee that the group submitting the proposal has prepared properly and done the necessary research and planning that a quality alternative break project takes.

How will the proposals be evaluated?

I. Preliminary Proposals

Preliminary proposals are evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • 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 will be assessed on how you address the who, what, where, when, why, how, and how much of your project. Your project will be evaluated on the following components:

  • 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 th team be and what role will each member play?
  • If it is an individual project, can it be done alone?
  • Does the sponsor organization on the ground in the community fit well as a partner on teh project?
  • What community, what challenge and why you and/or your team are integral to improving the community?
  • What are the travel plans, lodging, local transportation, and other travel logistics?
  • What 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's your reflection plan?
  • Do you and/or your team have the leadership capital and commitment to see the project through?

Alternative Break Program


515 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: 212-854-1371

Fax: 212-854-6972

9:00 a.m.–5:00p.m.