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First Year Family FAQ

You've Got Questions. We've got answers.

Parent and Family Programs wants to help you and your family have a successful transition to Columbia! We will continue to update this page with Frequently Asked Questions to give you all the information you need. Contact us to have your question posted on this page.

Q:  My student has accepted Columbia's offer of admission. What do we do next?

A:  Congratulations and welcome to Columbia! After your student has secured his or her spot in the class, s/he should fill out the Housing and Dining application and register for a Summer Advising Session. International students should start the visa application process as soon as possible. The Housing Application must be completed by May 1, 2012.

Q:  What is Summer Advising? Should we attend?

A:  All Columbia College and Columbia Engineering students are encouraged to attend a Summer Advising session. All incoming first year students will actually register for classes during New Student Orientation Program (NSOP) in August, however, Summer Advising offers students and families the chance to learn more about the curriculum. The session is a great way to meet other Columbia students and families, get helpful information, and start prepping for the move to campus. For more information and to register for a session in one of the 22 Summer Advising cities, visit Summer Advising online.

Q:  How will I find out about all of the dates and deadlines?

A:  Over the summer, your student will receive an email newsletter from Columbia Student Affairs every other week with important information. This is a great time to discuss your expectations about information-sharing with your student. Develop a plan to share information about Columbia. Parent and Family Programs will also be in regular communication with you throughout the summer to make sure you have all the information you need to prepare for the fall semester and beyond!



Q:  When are housing assignments released? Can I send packages to my student's residence hall ahead of time?



A:  Fall 2012 housing assignments will be released by August 1, 2012. Included in this notification will be your student's Lerner Mailbox Assignment. All mail and packages are centrally received in Lerner. You may begin sending packages to your student's mailbox 2 weeks before move-in. To learn how to send mail and packages, visit Lerner Mail Services.


Q:  I have lots of questions about moving in. How does it work? Where do we go? When does my student move-in?


A:  First year student move-in is one of the most exciting days on our campus! Arrival for first year students is Monday, August 27th, 2012, with check-in taking place between 7:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Unless your student is participating in a special orientation program, such as Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (COÖP), Columbia Urban Experience (CUE), the International Pre-Orientation Program, or has received special permission from Housing, s/he may not move-in room before August 27th, 2012. International students and students from a number of distant states will receive an invitation to move in on Sunday, August 26th, 2012 from Columbia Housing during the summer. 

The Move-In Day experience is quite fun! As you approach campus from Broadway, our staff will greet you on the street and direct you to the appropriate move-in station, where you will be met by a group of Orientation Leaders (OLs) who will help you to unpack your car or taxi and get you checked in.

Q:  COÖP? CUE? ISOP? So many ackronyms - what do they all mean?

A:  At Columbia, we speak a language of our own - but don't worry, you'll pick it up quickly when you talk to your student and other Columbia families! To learn more about our pre-orientation programs, please visit Orientation online and remeber... applications go live on May 1! Space tends to fill-up quickly, so encourage your student to complete all necessary application materials in a timely manner.

Q:  We live far away and will not be able to pack everything. How easy is it to shop in New York City?

A:  Columbia has a special partnership with the Bed, Bath and Beyond in midtown Manhattan. We will run transportation to/from the store and will have special discounts available for Columbia families. In addition, most major stores have a presence in the area or will deliver to campus. A word of advice for families coming from warm weather climates... make sure your student buys winter clothes and accessories here in NYC! Our winter clothes are much warmer!

Q: What is Family Orientation and when does it happen?

A: To aid you and your family in learning more about the structure of Columbia and to help you meet the key administrators and staff with whom your student will work, Parent and Family Programs will host a 1-day Family Orientation on Monday, August 27. The day long event will conclude with our annual University Convocation Ceremony - a special event marking the start of the academic year and your student's academic tenure at Columbia. At the conclusion of Convocation, parents and students will say their goodbye as NSOP (New Student Orientation Program) will begin Monday evening, August 27, and continue through the start of classes. 

Q:  When do classes begin? What about breaks and holidays? Can I start making travel arrangements for my student?

A:  Classes begin on Tuesday, September 4, 2012. The Columbia University 2012-2013 Academic Calendar is available online but we've identified certain dates that may be of interest to parents and families:

  • Monday, November 5 and Tuesday, November 6 - Election Day Holiday (No Classes)
  • Thursday, November 22 and Friday, November 23 - Thanksgiving Recess (No Classes)
  • Monday, December 10 - Last Day of Fall 2012 Classes
  • Tuesday, December 11 - Thursday, December 13 - Study Days
  • Friday, December 14 - Friday, December 21 - Fall Final Examinations*
  • Saturday, December 22 - Winter Break Begins
  • Tuesday, January 22 - First Day of Spring 2013 Classes
  • Monday, March 18 - Friday, March 22 - Spring Break (No Classes)
  • Monday, May 6 - Last Day of Spring 2013 Classes
  • Tuesday, May 7 - Thursday, May 9 - Study Days
  • Friday, May 10 - Friday, May 17 - Spring Final Examinations*
  • Saturday, May 18 - Residence Halls Close at Noon for all students (except those with special permission)

    *Parent and Family Programs strongly recommends that you wait to make December and May travel plans until your student knows his/her final examination schedule, which is made available early in the semester.

Q:  When is Family Weekend? What happens at Family Weekend?

A:  Family Weekend 2012 will occur from Friday, October 19 - Sunday, October 21. For more information (and to check out the amazing Family Weekend 2011 schedule) visit Family Weekend online

Q:  My email address or contact information has changed - how do I update Columbia?

A:  When your student has activated his/her "UNI" - the offical Columbia ID - s/he will be able to log-in to SSOL (Student Services OnLine). SSOL is where students conduct all of their official university business, including course registration and student account details. Students will be able to update parent contact information directly in SSOL.

Q:  As a parent, do I get access to my student's grades and bills?

A:  Columbia University recognizes the special relationship that exists between students and parents. We also recognize the importance of treating our students like young adults. As such, we both empower and help them to make important academic, financial, and life decisions. We also expect our students to share information with and involve their parents or other stakeholders as needed. Develop a plan and set expectations with your student on how s/he will share important Columbia business like grades and student account information. Columbia will send this information directly to the student.

To aid in tuition and bill payments, your student may give you permission to be an "Authorized Payer", which provides updated student account information through email. For more information, visit Student Services online.

Staff from Columbia Student Affairs will always work with and involve parents in the event of a health or safety emergency or if there are concerns about a student's academic performance.

Family Engagement


609 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: (212) 854-2446

Fax: (212) 854-0470

Office Hours
9:00 a.m.5:00 p.m.