Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress


Undergraduate students are required to complete the School’s degree requirements and graduate in eight academic terms. Full-time undergraduate registration is defined as at least 12 semester credits per term. However, in order to complete the degree, students must be averaging 16 points per term. Students may not register for point loads greater than 21 points per term without approval from the Committee on Academic Standing.

To be eligible to receive the Bachelor of Science degree, a student must complete the courses prescribed in a faculty-approved major/program (or faculty-authorized substitutions) and achieve a minimum cumulative gradepoint average (GPA) of 2.0. Although the minimum number of academic credits is 128 for the B.S. degree, some programs of the School require a greater number of credits in order to complete all the requirements. Undergraduate engineering degrees are awarded only to students who have completed at least 60 points of coursework at Columbia. No credit is earned for duplicate courses or for courses that are taken pass/fail and the final grade is a P, with the exception of two non-technical electives at the 3000-level or above, as noted below.

Undergraduates in the programs accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, (Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Earth and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering) satisfy ABET requirements by taking the courses in prescribed programs, which have been designed by the departments so as to meet the ABET criteria.


Students are expected to attend their classes and laboratory periods. Instructors may consider attendance in assessing a student’s performance and may require a certain level of attendance for passing a course.


Graduate students are required to complete the School’s degree requirements as outlined in The Graduate Programs. Full-time graduate registration is defined as at least 12 credits per term. A typical course load is 12-15 credits per term, not including the last term.

Degree requirements for master’s degrees must be completed within five years; those for the doctoral degrees must be completed within seven years. A graduate student who has matriculated in an M.S. program is expected to (1) maintain a cumulative GPA above the minimum requirement and (2) make normal progress towards completion of their degree requirements.

A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 or the minimum GPA required by the academic department, whichever is higher, (in all courses taken as a degree candidate) is required for the M.S. degree. A minimum GPA of 3.0 or the minimum GPA required by the academic department, whichever is higher, is required for the Doctor of Engineering Science (Eng.Sc.D.) and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees.

Normal progress towards the degree, to ensure completion of the degree within the necessary timeframe, necessitates that students earn final grades sufficient to count towards the degree in their attempted credits for the semester.

Graduate students who do not meet the minimum cumulative GPA of the school and the department or are not making sufficient progress towards their degree requirements will be placed on academic probation. During the probation period students must meet with their department to discuss and develop an academic plan. If the student does not meet the academic benchmarks required by their department after the term in which they have been placed on probation, then they may be asked to leave the School permanently. 

Changes in Registration

An undergraduate student who wishes to drop or add courses or to make other changes in their program of study after the change of program period must obtain the approval of their CSA adviser. A student who wishes to drop or add a course in their major must also obtain department approval. The deadline for making program changes in each term is shown in the Academic Calendar. Note that the drop-date for Columbia Core courses is the second week of the semester. After these dates, undergraduate students must petition their Committee on Academic Standing; graduate students must petition the Office of Engineering Student Affairs. For individual courses dropped after the end of the Change of Program period, there will be no tuition refund. Failure to attend a class will be indicated by a permanent unofficial withdrawal (UW) on the transcript.

In cases that have been referred for disciplinary action through the Dean’s Discipline process, undergraduate students may not drop from the course in question without a successful petition to the Committee on Academic Standing. Graduate students should contact the Office of Engineering Student Affairs.

Transfer Credits

Undergraduate students may obtain academic credit toward the B.S. degree by completing coursework at other accredited institutions. Normally, this credit is earned during the summer. To count as credit toward the degree, a course taken elsewhere must have an equivalent at Columbia and the student must achieve a grade of at least B. The institution must be an accredited four-year college. To transfer credit, a student must obtain prior approval from their CSA adviser and the department before taking such courses. A course description and syllabus should be furnished as a part of the approval process. Courses taken before the receipt of the high school diploma may not be credited toward the B.S. degree. A maximum of 6 credits may be credited toward the degree for college courses taken following the receipt of a high school diploma and initial enrollment.

On campus MS students can request Advanced Standing for graduate level coursework completed at Columbia University and not used towards a prior degree or certificate program. On campus master degree students are not eligible for transfer credits.

Students possessing a conferred M.S. degree upon entry into a Ph.D. program may be awarded 2 residence units toward their Ph.D., as well as 30 points of advanced standing toward their Ph.D. or Eng.Sc.D. with approval from the academic department and the Office of Engineering Student Affairs.


Midterm examinations: Instructors generally schedule these in late October and mid-March.

Final examinations: These are given at the end of each term. The Master University Examination Schedule is available online and is confirmed by November 1 for the fall term and April 1 for the spring term. This schedule is sent to all academic departments and is available for viewing on the Columbia website. Students should consult with their instructors for any changes to the exam schedule. Examinations will not be rescheduled to accommodate travel plans.

Note: If a student has three final examinations scheduled during one calendar day, as certified by the Registrar, an arrangement may be made with one of the student’s instructors to take that examination at another, mutually convenient time during the final examination period. This refers to a calendar day, not a 24-hour time period. Undergraduate students unable to make suitable arrangements on their own should contact their adviser. Graduate students should contact the Office of Engineering Student Affairs.

Transcripts and Certifications

Information on obtaining University transcripts and certifications can be found on the Registrar's website.

Report of Grades

Grades can then be viewed by using the Vergil feature located on the Student Services home page. If you need an official printed report, you must request a transcript (please see Transcripts and Certifications above).

All graduate students must have a current mailing address on file with the Registrar’s Office.

Transcript Notations

The grading system is as follows: A, excellent; B, good; C, satisfactory; D, poor but passing; F, failure (a final grade not subject to re-examination). Occasionally, P (Pass) is the only passing option available. The grade-point average is computed on the basis of the following index: A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0. Designations of + or – (used only with A, B, C) are equivalent to 0.33 (i.e., B+=3.33; B–=2.67). Grades of P, INC, UW, and MU will not be included in the computation of the grade-point average.

R (registration credit; no qualitative grade earned): not accepted for degree credit in any program. R credit is not available to undergraduate students for academic classes. In some divisions of the University, the instructor may stipulate conditions for the grade and report a failure if those conditions are not satisfied. The R notation will be given only to those students who indicate, upon registration and to the instructor, their intention to take the course for R, or who, with the approval of the instructor, file written notice of change of intention with the registrar not later than the last day for change of program. Students wishing to change to R credit after this date are required to submit the written approval from the course instructor to the Office of Engineering Student Affairs (ESA) and the ESA Office will submit it to the registrar. The request to change to R credit must be made by the last day to change a course grading option. A course that has been taken for R credit may not be repeated later for examination credit, and cannot be uncovered under any circumstances. The mark of R does not count toward degree requirements for graduate students. 

UW (unofficial withdrawal): given to students who discontinue attendance in a course but are still officially registered for it, or who fail to take a final examination without an authorized excuse.

IN (incomplete): granted only in the case of incapacitating illness as certified by the Health Services at Columbia, serious family emergency, or circumstances of comparable gravity. Undergraduate students request an IN by filling out a petition for an incomplete with their CSA adviser prior to the final exam for the course in the semester of enrollment. The deadline is the last day of class in the semester of enrollment. Students requesting an IN must gain permission from both the Committee on Academic Standing (CAS) and the instructor. Graduate students should contact their instructor. If granted an IN, students must complete the required work within a period of time stipulated by the instructor but not to exceed one year. After a year, the IN will be automatically changed into an F or contingency grade. The contingency grade is the grade that the student would earn if they completed no further work in the course, with any missing assignments counted as an F or zero.

YC (year course): a mark given at the end of the first term of a course in which the full year of work must be completed before a qualitative grade is assigned. The grade given at the end of the second term is the grade for the entire course.

CP (credit pending): given only in graduate research courses in which student research projects regularly extend beyond the end of the term. Upon completion, a final qualitative grade is then assigned and credit allowed. The mark of CP implies satisfactory progress.

MU (make-up examination): given to a student who has failed the final examination in a course but who has been granted the privilege of taking a second examination in an effort to improve their final grade. The privilege is granted only when there is a wide discrepancy between the quality of the student’s work during the term and his or her performance on the final examination, and when, in the instructor’s judgment, the reasons justify a make-up examination. A student may be granted the mark of MU in only two courses in one term, or, alternatively, in three or more courses in one term if their total point value is not more than 7 credits. The student must remove MU by taking a special examination administered as soon as the instructor can schedule it.

P/F (pass/fail): Undergraduates may select to take only one course that is offered for a letter grade pass/fail each semester. In general, courses taken pass/fail do not count toward degree requirements including the 128-point requirement. There are two exceptions to this rule. Physical Education classes do count toward the 128-point requirement, even though students do not receive letter grades for the class. Additionally, undergraduate students may take up to two courses of the 9-11 nontechnical elective credit on a P/F basis. These courses must be at the 3000-level or higher and must be courses that can be taken P/F by students attending Columbia College (e.g., instruction classes in foreign language and core curriculum classes are not eligible to be taken pass/fail). These 3000-level non-tech elective classes may not count towards a minor if the grade remains a P.  Students do have the option of uncovering the letter grade of these two elective 3000 non-tech classes by the end of the change of program period of the following semester after the course has been completed. Any other course that is taken P/F cannot be uncovered by an undergraduate student.  For these classes, the undergraduate will have to petition the Committee on Academic Standing to uncover the letter grade. Please note that physical education classes are the only courses taught solely on a P/F basis that may apply toward the 128 credits for the degree.

For graduate students, courses taken for the P/F option do not count towards the credits necessary for a student’s degree requirements.  The request to change to a P/F grade must be made by the last day to change a course grading option. After that day, there is no uncovering for a letter grade. Additionally, the grading option cannot be changed after a final grade has been assigned.

W (official withdrawal): a mark given to students who are granted a leave of absence after the drop deadline for the semester. The grade of W, meaning “official withdrawal,” will be recorded as the official grade for the course in lieu of a letter grade. The grade of W will zero out the credits for the class so the student’s GPA will not be affected.

Name Changes

Columbia University recognizes that some students prefer to identify themselves by a First Name and/or Middle Name, other than their Legal Name. For this reason, beginning in the Spring 2016 semester, the University has enabled students to use a "Preferred Name" where possible in the course of University business and education.

Under Columbia's Preferred Name policy, any student may choose to identify a Preferred First and/or Middle Name in addition to the Legal Name. Students may request this service via a link on SSOL. The student's Preferred Name may be used in many University contexts, including SSOL, class rosters, CourseWorks, Canvas, and on ID Cards. For some other records the University is legally required to use a student's Legal Name. However, whenever reasonably possible, a student's "Preferred Name" will be used. Please see the Registrar's website for further details.

Students may change their name of record by submitting a name change affidavit to the Student Service Center. Affidavits are available from this office or online at the Registrar's website.