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Columbia University School of General Studies

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The Columbia University School of General Studies (GS) is a highly selective liberal arts college and one of three official undergraduate colleges at Columbia University, situated on the university's main campus in Morningside Heights, New York City.[2] GS is known primarily for its traditional B.A. degree program for non-traditional students (those who have had an academic break of one year or more, or are pursuing dual-degrees). GS students make up almost 30% of the Columbia undergraduate population.

Columbia University
School of General Studies
Columbia University School of General Studies logo.png
Motto Lux in Tenebris Lucet[1]
Motto in English
The light that shines in the darkness
Type Private
Established 1947
Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch
Students 2,394
Address 408 Lewisohn Hall
New York, New York
, U.S.
Campus Morningside Heights Campus,
urban, 36 acres (0.15 km2; 0.056 sq mi)
Affiliations Juilliard School, Sciences Po, City University of Hong Kong, Trinity College Dublin, and Albert A. List College (Jewish Theological Seminary of America)
Columbia University School of General Studies logo.svg

GS is an Ivy League college that offers dual-degree programs with multiple leading universities around the world.[3][4] It offers dual degree programs with Sciences Po in France, the City University of Hong Kong, Trinity College Dublin (University of Dublin) in Ireland, and List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary.[3] It also offers dual degree programs with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of International and Public Affairs. GS is the historical home to dual-degree programs at Columbia University,[4] and the Post-baccalaureate Premedical Program.

GS is fully integrated into the traditional undergraduate curriculum at Columbia and shares the same courses, Core Curriculum, faculty, and degree as Columbia College.[5][6]

Numerous GS students have gone on to win prestigious fellowships, including the Rhodes Scholarship, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and the Fulbright Scholarship. Since 2010 (and until 2017-2018), GS has been the only undergraduate college at Columbia to produce any Rhodes Scholars.[7] Notable alumni include Nobel Prize winners Simon Kuznets and Baruj Benacerraf, as well as Isaac Asimov, J.D. Salinger, Amelia Earhart, and Princess Firyal of Jordan.



Lewisohn Hall at Columbia University, home to the School of General Studies

Predecessor InstitutionsEdit

GS's evolutionary ancestor is the now-defunct, all-male Seth Low Junior College, which was established in Downtown Brooklyn in 1928 to help alleviate the flood of Jewish applicants to Columbia College. The entrance requirements for Seth Low Junior College were reportedly the same as those enforced in Columbia College.[8] Following completion of the two-year program, graduates could complete their undergraduate degrees at the University's professional schools, such as the School of Law, Business School, or School of Engineering and Applied Science (all of which conferred terminal bachelor's degrees at the time) or earn B.S. degrees in the liberal arts as University Undergraduates.[9]

Seth Low Junior College was closed in 1938 due to the adverse economic effects of the Great Depression and concomitant popularity of the tuition-free Brooklyn College in 1930. Henceforth, its remaining students were absorbed into the Morningside Heights campus as students in the University Undergraduate program in University Extension, which was established by Nicholas Murray Butler in 1904. University Extension was responsible for the founding of three schools at Columbia: the School of General Studies, School of Business, and the School of Dental and Oral Surgery (now the College of Dental Medicine). The School of Continuing Education (now the School of Professional Studies) was later established to reprise University Extension's former role.[10][11][12]

The Establishment of the School of General StudiesEdit

With an influx of students attending the University on the GI Bill following the resolution of World War II, in December 1946, the University Undergraduate program was reorganized as an official undergraduate college for "qualified students who, because of employment or for other reasons, are unable to attend other schools of the University." Columbia University pioneered the use of the term "General Studies" when naming the college, adapting the medieval term for universities, "Studium Generale."[13][14][15] Thus, the School of General Studies bears no semblance to general studies or extension studies programs at other universities in the United States. In December 1968, the University Council permitted GS to grant the B.A. degree instead of the B.S. degree, making it only one of two colleges at Columbia offering the B.A. degree.[16]

Merging of Columbia College and General Studies FacultiesEdit

In 1991, the Columbia College (CC), School of General Studies (GS), and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) faculties were merged into the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, which resulted in the complete academic integration between the School of General Studies and Columbia College.[17][18] As a result, both GS and CC students receive B.A. degrees conferred by the Trustees of Columbia University through the Faculty of Art & Sciences,[18] and GS is recognized as one of the two official liberal arts colleges at Columbia University, along with Columbia College.


GS students make up almost 30% of the Columbia undergraduate population and have been known to consistently earn the highest average GPAs among undergraduates at Columbia University.[19][20][21]. Approximately 20% of GS students are part-time students who have significant, full-time work commitments in addition to their academic responsibilities (which is also the case for some full-time students).[22] Since 2010 (and until 2017), GS has been the only undergraduate college at Columbia University to produce any Rhodes Scholars.[23][24][25][26]

The School of General Studies confers the degree of Bachelor of Arts in more than 70 majors.[1] All GS students are required to complete the Core Curriculum, which includes University Writing, Literature/Humanities, Contemporary Civilization/Social Science, Art Humanities, Music Humanities, Global Core, Quantitative Reasoning, Science, and Foreign Language.[27]

In addition to its bachelor's degree program, the School of General Studies offers combined undergraduate/graduate degree programs with Columbia's Schools of Law, Business, Dental Medicine, Social Work, International and Public Affairs, Teachers College, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as undergraduate dual-degree programs with the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and the French University Sciences Po.[28]


Admission to Columbia GS is highly selective and "extremely competitive."[29] The SAT score range (25th-75th percentiles) for admitted students is 1330–1530 out of 1600 on the new SAT (680-770 on Reading and Writing, and 650-760 on Math). The average GPA of admitted students is 3.9/4.0.[30]

Admission requires an online application, official high school (or GED) transcripts, SAT or ACT test scores within the past eight years or a score on the General Studies Admissions Examination,[31] an essay of 1,500-2,000 words, and two recommendation letters.[32] Interviews are conducted in person and over phone.


Prospective Columbia undergraduates who have had a break of a year or more in their education, have already completed an undergraduate degree (and intend to pursue studies in a different discipline), or are pursuing dual undergraduate degrees are considered non-traditional and eligible to apply to GS. Applicants in extenuating circumstances which preclude them from attending Columbia College full-time are also eligible.[33][34] GS students have the option to attend part- or full-time.[35]

Dual Degree ProgramsEdit

Dual BA with Sciences PoEdit

The Dual BA Program is a unique and highly selective program in which undergraduate students earn two Bachelor of Arts degrees in four years from both Columbia University and Sciences Po, one of the most prestigious universities in France and Europe.[36] This program is geared towards traditionally-aged applicants in high school, and is one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the nation.[37]

Students spend two years at one of three Sciences Po campuses in France (Le Havre, Menton, or Reims), each of which is devoted to a particular region of the world. At Sciences Po, undergraduates can pursue majors in political science, economics, law, finance, history, among others. After two years at Sciences Po, students matriculate at Columbia University, where they complete the Core Curriculum and one of over 70 majors offered at Columbia. Graduates of the program are guaranteed admission to a Sciences Po graduate program.[37]

Joint Bachelor's Degree with City University of Hong KongEdit

This highly selective program is open to top-ranked undergraduates enrolled at the City University of Hong Kong and allows graduates to receive two bachelor's degrees from CUHK and Columbia in four years. Undergraduates spend their first two years at CUHK and their final two years at Columbia, where they complete the Core Curriculum and choose one of 70 majors offered at Columbia.[38][39]

Joint Bachelor's Degree with Trinity College DublinEdit

The Joint Bachelor's Degree Program with Trinity College Dublin is a unique and highly selective program in which undergraduate students earn two Bachelor of Arts degrees in four years from both Columbia University and Trinity College Dublin (University of Dublin), an ancient university modeled after the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. Trinity College Dublin is the oldest university in Ireland and is widely considered to be its most prestigious institution. This program is geared towards traditionally-aged applicants in high school.[40]

Combined Plan with the School of Engineering and Applied ScienceEdit

GS students are eligible for guaranteed admission to the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) through the Columbia Combined Plan program, under the condition that they complete the necessary pre-engineering courses. Students in the program receive a B.A. in a liberal arts discipline from GS and a B.S. in an engineering discipline from SEAS. Students may apply for the Combined Plan program in their junior (3-2 program) or senior (4-2) year of undergraduate study.[41]

Notable alumniEdit

An asterisk (*) indicates an alumnus who did not graduate.



Literature and artsEdit

Technology and entrepreneurshipEdit



Film and entertainmentEdit






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  7. ^ "The Road to the Rhodes". Columbia Spectator. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
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  9. ^ Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York ... – Robert A. McCaughey – Google Books. 2003. ISBN 9780231130080. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
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  12. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 2 June 1942 — Columbia Spectator". 1942-06-02. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  13. ^ History of the School of General Studies
  14. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 10 December 1946 — Columbia Spectator". 1946-12-10. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  15. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 6 December 1946 — Columbia Spectator". 1946-12-06. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  16. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 19 December 1968 — Columbia Spectator". 1968-12-19. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
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  27. ^ "The Core | General Studies". Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  28. ^ "Columbia University School of General Studies". 2013-09-22. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
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  35. ^ "Program Overview | General Studies". Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
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External linksEdit