Columbia College | Columbia Engineering

Home / Questions & Answers – SEAS Columbia 101 Webinars (July 2014) / Questions & Answers – SEAS Columbia 101 Webinars (July 2014)

Questions & Answers – SEAS Columbia 101 Webinars (July 2014)

Questions & Answers -- SEAS Columbia 101 Webinars (July 2014)

Q: In what cases do SEAS students have to take both Chemistry and Physics labs?

A: Students majoring in either Chemical Engineering or Materials Science must complete both Chemistry and Physics labs. Also, pre-med students must complete both a Chemistry and a Physics lab, though Physics Lab 1291-1292 is an option for fulfilling pre-med requirements (but not for fulfilling ChemE or Material Science major requirements).

Q: Can we submit our preference for Art of Engineering or University Writing?
A: No, you will be pre-assigned by the Core Office either to University Writing or Art of Engineering.

Q: What happens if you place into an upper level Physics/Chemistry but you want to take a lower level class?
A: You can choose to take the other (lower) level.

Q: How does a professional-level course compare to the regular courses?
A: A professional-level course gives you an overview of the major to which it is connected.

Q: Is the Physics 1600 track obligatory or recommended for any particular major?
A: 1600 track is not obligatory for any particular major.

Q: My AP credit covers the CS major intro-level CS course; does that fulfill my CS requirement for the first two years? I'm trying to keep my option open between Biomed and CS major, but they have different CS-intro course requirements, so if the CS-major course is fulfilled with AP, I would take the Biomed CS-intro requirement.
A: A 4 or 5 score on AP Computer Science exempts you from COMS W1004, the intro CS course in Java, but not the Python course, ENGI 1006 (required for CS) or COMS W1005 the Matlab course (required for BME).

Q: Can a student do more than one semester abroad?
A: It is possible with extreme planning and agreement from your chosen department with your advising dean, Dean Leora Brovman in SEAS and the Office of Global Programs. Summers are also available to use to study abroad as well. Here's a link to a guide regarding SEAS study abroad:

Q: Do NSOP placement exam results come out before registration?
A: Yes, you will receive your placement results in time for registration during NSOP week.

Q: Do you recommend taking P.E. freshman year or is it better to wait until sophomore, junior or senior year?
A: You can take P.E. at any time in your four years. Each P.E. course is worth 1 credit, and is taken as pass/fail. You must complete at least two P.E. classes to graduate.

Q: One of the newsletters recommended signing up for Guidebook NSOP App, but there does not seem to be a fall 2014 page. Any advice here?
A: The Guidebook NSOP app will be available when we get closer to the actual start of NSOP.

Q: What is Pass/Fail?
A: Pass/Fail is a grading option for non-tech electives, an alternative to a letter grade. When you are evaluated by the instructor at the end of the course, you receive either a P (pass) or F (fail) only, rather than a letter grade (A, B, C etc.). A grade of D or higher is required to earn a P on your transcript. Please note that the specifics of the Pass/Fail policy in SEAS differ greatly from the policy in Columbia College, so do not get confused about the rules by taking with CC students. If you have any questions, speak with your Advising Dean. SEAS students cannot “uncover” their P to reveal a letter grade on their transcripts, unlike CC students.

Anything other than non-tech electives taken by SEAS students will not count toward any graduation requirements except in the case of P.E. or Dance (where two P/F credits are required to graduate). In addition, there is a cap of 6 non-tech elective credits that can be taken P/F and counted toward your non-tech elective requirement (of 9-11 credits total). Again, if you have any questions, please speak with your advising dean.

Q: What if your intended major has changed since you applied?
A: You will be assigned to an Advising Dean based on what you stated on your application to Columbia as your likeliest major. If the requirements for a given major change between when you applied to Columbia and when you declare your major—in the fall of sophomore year—the requirements in effect at the time of major declaration are the ones that will be in force.

Q: When and where should we purchase textbooks?
A: The answer depends on the classes in question and how certain you are that you’ll be taking them. If you know for sure that you’ll take a given class, you can buy the textbooks right away. If you are less certain, you might not want to buy the books until you decide whether to remain in the class—not least because you might not always be able to return books you purchase (be sure to check the bookstore policy when you buy books). Professors will tell you where you can buy books for their classes; usually, you can find the books in the Barnes & Noble in the basement of Lerner Hall and/or at Book Culture on 112th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam).

Q: Do I need to officially change my intended major?
A: SEAS students don't declare their majors until the fall of their sophomore year. So, technically since you haven't officially declared a major, you do not need to change it when you come to campus in the fall.

Q: Are all placement exams mandatory?
A: No, but in some cases the placement exam is required if you wish to take a different level than the standard level (for instance, this is true for Chemistry).

Q: What is the significance of the Pass/Fail period? I read somewhere that the Pass/Fail period ENDS.
A: You have a limited time (around the 10th week of classes) in which you can select the pass-fail option for a course at the beginning of each semester. Within that period, you can switch between choosing P/F and a letter grade. After the deadline, you can no longer make that change. SEAS students can take up to 6 credits of non-technical courses pass/fail and the courses will still count toward their non-tech requirements. Courses must be at the 3000-level or higher. Students should check that the department offering the course allows courses in their department to be taken pass/fail. Students cannot take any Core classes or language instruction classes pass/fail. Only one class per semester may be taken pass/fail. (This restriction does not include courses that are only offered pass/fail, such as P.E.). The course grade cannot be “uncovered.” Courses taken pass/fail cannot count toward a minor. All courses taken for a minor have to be taken for a letter grade. You should consult with your Advising Dean when considering this grading option because it is not allowed for many courses.

Q: Do we have the option to choose Calculus as a letter grade or Pass/fail?
A: All courses that are required for the degree (besides some non-technical electives) must be taken for a letter grade. So you can pass/fail some non-tech electives or courses that you don't need for your degree.

Q: Is it frowned upon to retake Calculus 2 if you received a 5 on the BC Calc AP exam?
A: Your AP score determines which level of Calculus you should begin with at Columbia. The Math department webpage here provides details of where you should start:

If you earned a 5 on the BC Calc AP exam and opt to begin with Calc 2, you will receive no more than 3 credits (rather than 6) for your score, assuming you earn a C or higher in Calc 2. If you start in Calc 3 instead and earn a C or higher, you can receive 6 credits.

Q: Can I start in Calculus 3 but decide to drop down to Calc 2?
A: Yes, but you must first discuss doing so with the instructor and your Advising Dean. Ideally, you should make this switch in the first few weeks of the semester.

Q: If we start with Calculus 2 initially, is it possible to move up to Calculus 3 if we find Calculus 2 too simple?
A: Yes, but you must first discuss doing so with the instructor and your Advising Dean.

Q: Do the P.E. credits count toward the 6 capped points of pass/fail?
A: No, P.E. is not included in that 6-credit maximum.

Q: How do IB scores translate to credit?
A: Scores of 6 or 7 on Higher Level IB exams can yield transfer credit (in subjects offered at Columbia), subject to an overall max of 16 such credits (including any credit for AP scores).

Q: AP Environmental Science doesn’t count for anything, right?
A: Correct. Columbia does not give credit for AP Environmental Science.

Q: What if you choose not to take credits even though you get a score of 7 in your Higher Level IB subjects?
A: You can choose not to receive the credit for your IB scores. You can discuss this with your Advising Dean who will post these credits to your record.

Q: When do placement exams occur? Do you have to take a placement exam AND submit AP scores to skip into a higher-level course?
A: Placement exams are given during NSOP. You must submit the AP scores in order to receive credit, and some subjects require placement exams at Columbia regardless of your AP score (for instance, Chemistry—if you wish to place into anything other than Chem 1403).

Q: How difficult is it to minor in something in the college?
A: Minors require 15 credits or more to complete. For a non-engineering minor, it may be possible to double-count some credit with the general non-tech requirements. And for engineering minors, it is often possible to double-count tech electives for your major. Planning is key regarding course choices for majors and minors.

Q: If you make a varsity sports team, does that count for one P.E. credit?
A: Yes, as long as you register for the corresponding PHED 1005 section. You will earn 1 point per season, up to a maximum of 4 points that can count toward your 128 required points for graduation.

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 (Sept-May)
3:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m.