International Students

All newly-admitted international students must complete additional steps prior to matriculating, which include completing the Certificate of Eligibility, and in some cases sitting for the American Language Program Essay Exam.

Postbac Premed Program international students are also required to be enrolled full-time throughout their tenure in the Postbac Premed Program.

Consult the website for Columbia’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) for information about making the transition to Columbia. ISSO offers many services for international students including pre-admission counseling, immigration-related and document services, International Orientation, social and cultural activities, and a program for the spouses of students.

Who Should Take the Exam
Columbia University students must be fully proficient with written and spoken English. Upon review of your application and as a condition of your admission, you are required to take the Columbia University Online American Language Program (ALP) Essay Exam.  It is important to note the following:

  • You should take the exam as soon as possible.
  • You are allowed to take the exam, even if you have yet to decide whether or not you will attend Columbia. 
  • You will not be allowed to meet with an Academic Advisor until you have a result from the ALP exam.
  • You are encouraged to attend an Academic Planning Session as soon as possible, regardless of the status of your ALP exam.
  • You are only allowed to take the exam once every 6 months

The need to take the Online ALP Essay Exam is determined by the Admissions Committee at the time of acceptance and your enrollment at Columbia University is contingent upon taking the exam. Any questions related to this requirement should be directed to the GS Office of Admissions; please do not contact the American Language Program or the Dean of Students Office directly.   

No exceptions will be granted to the requirement; this includes but is not limited to the fact that you may have taken the TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, SAT, GSAE, Online GS Admissions Exam, or ACT exams prior to admission. Coursework completed at any other university or college also cannot be considered as an exception from the need to take the exam.

Exam Description
The Online ALP Essay Exam will be administered online and is designed to measure a test-taker's ability in writing; no speaking portion is included. Students will have 120 minutes to write an essay in response to a short reading prompt.

Exam Results
The Online ALP Essay Exam results will be emailed to students and to their respective department ten business days after the exam date. Results will be used by a student’s academic advisor to determine the appropriate academic plan for the first semester. Students will be required to take additional English language courses if their score on the examination is below level 10. A score below level 8 will require a deferral of the offer of admission to facilitate further, full-time, English language study. All students who earn a level 8 or 9 on the Online ALP Essay Exam are required to take additional coursework through ALP.

More information about scores and score appeals may be found on the American Language Program website which may be accessed at

If you are currently enrolled in the American Language Program, you will be excluded from taking the online test. Please do not register to take the online exam.

If you have previously taken the ALP Essay Exam or will take the Qualifying Exam as a student in the American Language Program, please contact [email protected] and have them forward your results to the School of General Studies Office of Admissions.

Disability Accommodations
Applicants seeking exam-related accommodations for the ALP Essay Exam 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.


Monday, July 5, 2024 from 9:15 - 11:15 a.m.


Columbia University School of General Studies
Office of Admissions and Educational Financing
[email protected]

What should I do before arriving?
Before arriving, students should review the Getting Started section of the International Student and Scholars Office website (ISSO). It provides information regarding entry to the U.S. and initial weeks at Columbia. Questions regarding student status and visas should be directed to the ISSO.

I arrive several days before the semester commences. Where can I stay?
If you are interested in obtaining University Housing, you are advised to complete the online housing application as soon as possible (login information is included in your acceptance packet). Please ensure that your selected housing date corresponds to your anticipated arrival date. Students arriving before the specified arrival dates will be required to find temporary accommodation in the area.

For more information on housing, consult the GS Housing page and the University Apartment Housing website.


Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office
524 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10027
Telephone: (212) 854-3587
Fax: (212) 854-3966
[email protected]

The Guide for International Students has been created to assist international students in navigating Columbia University. Please continue to review this resource as you move through your academic career here at Columbia. The guide will answer many common questions posed by international students while also providing information about the purpose and scope of a wide range of on-campus resources.

Guide for International Students