How to Apply

Undergraduate applicants are admitted to the School of General Studies as matriculated degree candidates. Students may enroll either full- or part-time and may change their status from semester to semester. 

Undergraduate applicants are only eligible for admission if they have taken a break of a year or more in their educational paths or have a compelling personal or professional reason to attend Columbia as a part-time student.

Application Overview

The School of General Studies (GS) is the undergraduate college at Columbia University created specifically for students pursuing a nontraditional path to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree. GS is also the college at Columbia for students seeking to complete a second BA degree. GS students take the same courses, are taught by the same faculty, and earn the same degree as all other Columbia undergraduates.

Applicants may not simultaneously apply to the School of General Studies and to any other undergraduate division of Columbia University—Columbia College (CC) or Columbia Engineering (SEAS)—nor are candidates eligible to apply to the School of General Studies if in the last three years they applied to any of these divisions and were not accepted.

Applicants who have previously been denied three times from the School of General Studies are not eligible to reapply to the School of General Studies until three years have passed since the time of their most recent application.

Notice of Non-Discrimination

The admissions policies of the School of General Studies adhere to the Columbia University Non-Discrimination Policy. 

Full Non-Discrimination Statement and Policy

Update for Spring 2024 Applicants

In response to the impacts of COVID-19, there have been some modifications to our application policies to better accommodate students wishing to apply to the School of General Studies for Spring 2024. Please see below for an important update to the application process:

  • High School Transcripts will not be required from students who have completed at least 30 semester credits of courses at a college or university. Please note, that if you are admitted to GS you will still be required to submit your high school records before enrolling in classes.

For more details on the application requirements for undergraduate students at GS, please see below.

How to Apply

The following items are required to review an application for admission to GS as an undergraduate degree candidate. Please note that unofficial documents are accepted as part of the application process, and can be used to make an admissions decision. If offered admission, in order to enroll you will be required to submit official* documents.

Note: Documents not written in English must be accompanied by certified translations.

  • A submitted online application.
  • High school transcripts, secondary school records, or GED/TASC test results.***
    • High school transcripts, secondary school records, or GED/TASC test results are required from any student with less than 30 earned college course credits.

      • Applicants with a GED or TASC and two or more years of high school are required to submit their high school transcripts.

    • Please note: All students admitted to the School of General Studies are required to submit official transcripts from high school as well as documentation of high school graduation prior to enrollment.
  • Transcripts from all colleges or universities attended or currently attending (unofficial transcripts are permissible for the review process and can be submitted via the application form).
  • Test Score(s)
    • It is optional for applicants to submit an SAT, ACT, or the Online GS Admissions Exam to be evaluated for admissions.  Applicants choosing to apply without an exam on record will be reviewed holistically without any impairment to the candidate’s potential to be admitted to GS. The admissions process is a multi-layered review that highly contextualizes an applicant’s candidacy within their life experiences. For students who choose to submit ACT or SAT test results, we will continue to accept self-reported scores and only require official testing for enrolling students. If you desire to take the Online GS Admissions Exam, please take appropriate steps as outlined in the application form. *Please note that non-native English speakers should refer to our English proficiency testing requirements, which remain in effect.
      • The SAT code number for GS is 2095 and the ACT code number is 2716. Students may choose to take the Online General Studies Admissions Examination at a cost of $50.
    • If your native or predominant spoken language is not English, and the primary language of instruction in your high school or secondary education was not English:

      • You must demonstrate proficiency in English by submitting official scores from TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test. On your application for admission, you must indicate which exam you intend to submit.

      • The TOEFL or IELTS must be taken within two years of application to the School of General Studies. To be eligible to apply for admission, GS requires a score of 100 on the internet-based TOEFL (or 600 or better on the paper version), a score of 7.0 on the IELTS, or a score of 120 on Duolingo. Applicants should arrange to have recent test scores sent to the GS Office of Admissions directly from the testing service. The Educational Testing Service (ETS), the organization that administers the TOEFL, code for GS is 2095.

      • Students enrolled in Columbia’s American Language Program (ALP) who have achieved a minimum level of 8 should forward their placement information to the GS Office of Admissions, as it can be used to satisfy the test score requirement. If admitted to GS, you will still be required to continue coursework with ALP until you achieve level 10. Applicants who have earned one or more of the following subsection scores may submit their test results to fulfill the standardized test requirement:

        • 650 or higher on either the Critical Reasoning or Writing sections of the SAT before March 2016

        • 700 or higher on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing section of the redesigned SAT (beginning in March 2016)

        • 29 or higher on the English or Reading sections of the ACT

  • One typed, double-spaced essay of approximately 1,500-2,000 words (see below)
    • Tell us about your educational history, work experience, present situation, and plans for the future. Please make sure to reflect on why you consider yourself a nontraditional student and have chosen to pursue your education at the School of General Studies of Columbia University. Successful essays should identify and describe specific elements of the program, academic or otherwise, that meet your needs as a nontraditional student. The admissions committee is particularly interested in situations in your life from which you have learned and grown. This may include past academic experiences, professional accomplishments, or turning points and transformative events: new beginnings and personal achievements, but also events that may have affected your education, such as health and family challenges, personal obstacles or even issues with the justice system. Our expectation is that your reflection on your experiences will demonstrate your potential to add a unique perspective to the Columbia classroom.
  • Two letters of recommendation from academic and/or professional sources
    • Letters should be requested and submitted via the application portal
  • Submission of a nonrefundable $80 application fee or submission of an Application Fee Waiver
    • Upon submission of the application, your Application Status page will allow you to submit an online payment or to choose to submit a fee waiver request. ***
  • CSS Profile from the College Board**

Note: Applicants must submit all materials directly, not through an agent or third-party vendor. In addition, the applicant will be required to attest to the accuracy and authenticity of all information and documents submitted to Columbia. If you have any questions about this requirement please contact us at [email protected].

Failure to submit complete, accurate, and authentic application documents consistent with these instructions may result in the denial or revocation of degree. Applicants may be required to assist admissions staff and faculty involved in admissions reviews in the verification of all documents and statements made in documents submitted by students as part of the application review process.

*Official documents are those that arrive directly from the institution, testing service, or recommender electronically. If electronic documents are not available from your high school, we will accept mailed copies of the transcripts sent directly to the GS Office of Admissions from the issuing agency. Paper transcripts may not be delivered or forwarded by a student. If electronic documents are not available from your college or university, please contact the GS Office of Admissions for further instruction.

**Submitting the CSS Profile  is required for any applicant seeking financial aid,. Please consult the Office of Educational Financing page for additional information on applying for financial aid at the School of General Studies.

***Please see Update for Spring 2024 Applicants section above.

Important Contact Information

Office of Admissions and Educational Financing
Columbia University School of General Studies
408 Lewisohn Hall, MC 4101
2970 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
(212) 854-2772
[email protected]

Tracking Your Application

If you have already applied to Columbia University School of General Studies, you may check the status of your application online.

Online GS Admissions Exam

Undergraduate applicants have an option to take the Online GS Admissions Exam, but it is not required. This exam is intended for applicants whose native language is English or whose primary language of instruction throughout secondary education was English.

Students whose native or predominant spoken language is not English—and whose primary language of instruction in high school or secondary education was not English—must submit a score report from one of the following options: Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Duolingo English Test. 

When to Take the Exam

After submitting an application for admission, applicants will see a link to pay the online exam fee of $50. Upon receipt of payment, the Office of Admissions will process the fee and send the applicant an email with the subject of Remote Voucher Notification, which will include information about registering for an online exam at the time of the applicant’s choice. Please note that the Office of Admissions requires seven business days to process the exam payment and issue a voucher.

Note: Students may only take this exam once per application term.

Disability Accommodations

Applicants seeking exam-related accommodations for the Online GSAE must register with Disability Services

Disability Services reviews accommodation requests and determines an applicant's eligibility for accommodations on the exam. The review process takes approximately three weeks, and does not begin until a student's completed registration form and disability documentation are received. If an applicant does not allow for at least three weeks to complete the review process, the implementation of any approved accommodations cannot be guaranteed.

Exam Sections

The Online GS Admissions Exam (with sections derived from the College Board’s Next-Generation Accuplacer) is designed to test an applicant's skills in reading, critical thinking, and writing. Please note that there is no math section on this exam. 

Next-Generation Reading

Assesses the test taker's ability to derive meaning from a range of texts and to determine the meaning of words and phrases in short and extended contexts. Passages on the test cover a range of content areas, writing modes, and complexities. Both single and paired passages are included. Four broad knowledge and skills categories are assessed:

  • Information and Ideas
  • Rhetoric
  • Synthesis
  • Vocabulary

Next-Generation Writing

Evaluates a test taker's ability to revise and edit multi-paragraph text. Questions cover two broad knowledge and skills categories, each containing three subcategories:

Expression of Ideas

  • Development
  • Organization
  • Effective language use

Standard English Conventions

  • Sentence structure
  • Usage
  • Punctuation

The final portion of the exam is a written essay. Please note that unlike the previous sections, which do not have a time limit, the essay section is timed and limited to one hour.

Practice Questions

Practice questions for the Reading and Writing sections of the examination may be found on the Next-Generation Accuplacer website.


Please note that test-takers will not receive a score report, as the exam is for internal use only.

Payment Policies

There is a cost of $50 for applicants to take the Online GS Admissions Exam. Applicants should be aware of the following policies regarding online payment.

Refund/Cancellation Policy

No refunds will be given for cancellations.

Privacy Policy

The School of General Studies keeps all student registration and payment transaction information confidential. This information will not be distributed to third-party entities.

Fall Admission

Application Open: December 1 
Priority Early Action Deadline
*: January 15
Early Action Deadline*: March 1
Regular Decision Deadline: May 15

*International candidates in need of an F1 Student Visa are encouraged to apply for the Early Action Deadline.


Spring Admission

Application Open: August 1
Priority Early Action Deadline*: September 1
Early Action Deadline*: October 1
Regular Decision Deadline: November 1

*International Candidates in need of an F1 Student Visa are encouraged to apply for the Early Action Deadline.

Admissions Decisions

Each admissions term has three corresponding application deadlines: Priority Early Action, Early Action and Regular Decision. Decisions will be released on a rolling basis approximately six to eight weeks after the close of each deadline, therefore early submission is encouraged. All applications received after the final deadline will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Send application materials to:

Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
Columbia University School of General Studies
408 Lewisohn Hall, MC 4101
2970 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

A completed application includes:

  • Application for Admission
  • Autobiographical essay of 1,500-2,000 words
  • Required Academic Transcripts
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Application fee or fee waiver request
  • Photograph (recommended, but not required)
  • CSS Profile—Prospective students should apply for apply for financial aid when applying for admission. Applying for financial aid does not, in any way, affect our admission decision. The CSS Profile must be submitted on the College Board Website.

Note: Phone interviews, although not generally required, are sometimes necessary to complete the review of applications, and in such cases are requested by members of the Admissions Committee. 

Enrollment Checklist for Admitted Students Planning to Enroll:

  • Official* high school transcripts, secondary school records, or GED/TASC test results. Applicants with a GED or TASC and two or more years of high school must submit their high school transcripts.
  • Official* transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, or currently attending, if applicable. This includes institutions where the applicant might not have obtained any eligible transfer credit.
  • For those who choose to self report the following test scores: Official* test scores from the SAT Reasoning Test (SAT), American College Testing Program (ACT), or the Online GS Admissions Examination. The ETS code number for the School of General Studies of Columbia University is 2095. The ACT code number for General Studies is 2716. 
  • For those who were required to submit exam results from the Duolingo English Test, TOEFL, or IELTS, an official score report will be required. If submitting a TOEFL or IELTS score report, the exam must have been taken within two years of applying.

*Official transcripts and test scores are those that arrive electronically directly from the school or testing service.

Note: Documents not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation.

Prospective Student Appointments

The Office of Admissions dedicates time for prospective students to speak directly with an admissions representative. Topics that might be discussed during these appointments include:

  • Academic records
  • Eligibility 
  • Major and the Core Curriculum
  • Transfer credit
  • Admitted student questions regarding the enrollment process

Appointment Procedures

An appointment is recommended for students who cannot attend an information session, or have attended an information session and have specific questions, to more directly discuss the opportunities offered at the School of General Studies and the application process.

Appointments are 20-30 minutes in length and may be conducted over the phone or in person.

Appointment Availability

Students who seek admissions advising appointments should note that appointments are only listed if they are available. If none are listed, please check back for additional availability.

Make an Appointment

Note: Prospective students who previously applied to the School of General Studies should not electronically schedule an appointment, and should instead contact the Office of Admissions at 212-854-2772.