General Degree Requirements and Policies

Changes in Programs of Study               

Students who wish to drop courses or make other changes in their program should do so by utilizing Student Services Online (SSOL) during the add/drop period. The deadlines for making program changes are available fromt the Registrar, but they are generally at the end of the first week of classes.

For courses dropped after the add/drop period, no tuition adjustment will be made.  Failure to attend classes or notification submitted to the instructor does not constitute dropping a course and will result in a failing grade for that course. Withdrawal for the entire semester must be done in person through the Office of Student Affairs, 305 Dodge Hall.

Application for a Degree

Degrees are conferred three times a year, in October, February, and May. There is one Commencement in May for all conferrals.

The MFA / MA Degree                   

An application for an MFA degree should be filed with the Office of Student Affairs, 305 Dodge Hall. Degree applications deadlines are:

  • August 1 for October degrees
  • November 1 for February degrees
  • December 1 for May degrees

When degree application dates fall on a weekend or holiday, the deadline moves to the next business day. Students who do not meet degree application deadlines will be required reapply for the next conferral. Candidates who fail to graduate are required to reapply.

There is no charge for the initial diploma preparation. Questions about diplomas should be referred to the Division of Graduation, Degree Audit, and Diplomas at (212) 854-8319, the Registrar’s office at (212) 854-4400, or email [email protected].

Name Changes

Students may change their name of record while currently enrolled in the University. There is no charge for this service. After graduation and/or once their status as students is no longer current, students’ names become a permanent part of their historic academic record and can no longer be changed. Questions about name changes should be directed to the University Registrar’s Office, Columbia University, 1140 Amsterdam Avenue, 205 Kent Hall MC 9202, New York, NY 10027. Name changes must be made in person.

Transcripts and Certification

The amended Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 prohibits release of educational records without the written consent of the student (consult Columbia's essential policies for certain exceptions and further restrictions). Students may obtain an official transcript of their academic records at Columbia University by writing to: Office of the Registrar, Columbia University, 1150 Amsterdam Avenue, MC 9292, New York, NY 10027. Attention: Transcripts, including the following information with the request: current and former names; Social Security number; schools attended and dates of attendance; degree awarded and dates awarded; number of transcripts desired and complete address for each; current address and telephone number; and a signature authorizing release of the transcript. Transcripts may also be ordered in person: 205 Kent Hall (9 am–5 pm, Monday–Friday).

Currently enrolled students may order transcripts for themselves and to submit directly to colleges and universities via Student Services. There is no charge for issuing transcripts; however, all students pay a one-time transcript fee of $75 upon their first registration at the University. The normal processing time for transcripts is two to three business days. Allow several additional days for delivery to and from the University. Certifications of enrollment and degrees may be ordered via mail or in person as described above. When requesting a certification by mail, include the notation “Attention: Certifications” on your envelope. There is no charge for certifications.

Withholding of Diplomas, Certificates, and Transcripts

It is the policy of the University to withhold diplomas, certificates, and transcripts until all financial obligations have been met. Candidates for graduation are urged to pay their bills in full at least one month before graduation. In the event that a diploma, certificate, or transcript is withheld because of an unpaid bill, a student may be required to use a certified check, money order, or cash to release any of the aforementioned documents.

Key to Course Listings and Grades

Each course number consists of a capital letter followed by four digits and the semester designation.




Two consecutive numbers joined by a hyphen show that the course runs through both semesters, e.g., Film—R4013X-R4014Y. The first semester is prerequisite for the second unless otherwise noted.

Times and Places of Course Meetings

Meeting times and room assignments for all courses are announced by the program and listed in the Schedule of Classes. The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify courses of instruction or to change instructors at any time. Students may not drop or change courses without official approval; see “Changes in Programs of Study,” on the previous page.

General Policy on Course Requirements

The instructor will give all students a written syllabus for each course, which will also be available throughout the semester from the program’s Director of Academic Administration. Unless otherwise indicated by the course instructor on the written syllabus, the requirements to pass all courses in the School of the Arts are as follows:

  1. Mandatory attendance at all class meetings. Unexcused absences will put students in danger of failing the class.
  2. Written work, online participation, and workshop assignments completed as specified in the syllabus.

The instructor will notify in writing any student in obvious danger of failing the class.

Auditing a Class

As a general rule, the School of the Arts does not allow students to audit classes. Exceptions to this require the permission of the instructor and the concentration director or Chair.


The University grading system is described below. Degree candidates in the School of the Arts should note, however, that work is treated as a whole and individual grades are subordinate to the overall evaluation of a student’s development periodically conducted by the program. In determining whether a student will continue, the program is guided primarily by this evaluation. The grading system of the School of the Arts is P (pass), LP (low pass), and F (fail). Students who cross-register into other University programs or enroll in undergraduate (3000 level) courses will receive traditional letter grades (A through F) unless they designate Pass/Fail during registration (the option to take a course Pass/Fail is awarded at the sole discretion of the appropriate department). Honors grades are not given for F (General Studies), G (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences), and W (Interfaculty) courses.

The Mark of AB (Absent from the Final Examination)

The AB mark is granted by an instructor no later than the day of the final examination to  student whose attendance and progress have been satisfactory but who cannot be present for the final examination because of sickness or another extreme emergency. If the ABS is not removed within one year, it is automatically changed to an F.

The Mark of CP (Credit Pending)

The mark of CP is given only in graduate research courses in which student research projects regularly extend beyond the end of the semester. Upon completion of the project, a final qualitative grade is assigned and credit allowed.      

The Mark of IN (Incomplete)

The IN mark is given to a student who has satisfactorily met all the requirements of a course except for the completion of certain assigned papers or reports that the student has been compelled to postpone for reasons beyond his or her control which are satisfactory to the instructor. If the IN is not removed by the completion of the required work within one year, it is automatically changed to an F.           

The Mark of R (Registered for the Course; No Letter Grade Assigned)

Students registered for R credit are not required to take the final examination, prepare class assignments, or write papers. Under no circumstances will an R be accepted for degree credit in the School of the Arts.       

The Mark of UW (Unofficial Withdrawal)

The mark of UW is assigned to students whose names appear on the grade sheet but who have never attended or have discontinued attendance prior to the due date of substantive work.

The Mark of YC (Year Course)

YC is given at the end of the first semester 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 semester is the grade for the entire course.