FAQ for Admitted and Incoming Students

As the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all facing unprecedented circumstances. In our Office of Admissions, the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and the communities with which we interact are our top priority. We have spent months thinking carefully about all aspects of our Master of Social Work program and adjustments that will need to be made for this fall semester. To give you a clearer idea of what to expect, we have compiled these FAQs. You’ll also want to be sure to read Dean Begg’s latest announcement about Fall 2020 coursework.

Are you an Advanced Standing Student? See also: FAQ for Incoming ADVANCED STANDING Students


How will orientation work this year?

All orientation programming will be held online:

  • Advanced Standing Orientation is scheduled for July 21, July 23, July 27 and July 30. Advanced Standing students will be scheduled for the Professional Development and Self Awareness program (PDSA) on July 21 and July 23 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. EST. Orientation Day 1 will take place July 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST. Orientation Day 2 will occur on July 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST.
  • Fall Orientation for all entering students will take place Monday, August 31, through Friday, September 4, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST) each day.

When will I find out more details?

The Office of Student Services will contact students with additional program information. Please feel free to contact them with any questions at sw-studentservices@columbia.edu.


What will courses look like this fall?

All courses will be taught by the same outstanding faculty as before, and are being developed for primarily remote delivery with a few courses offered in-person. The number of in-person courses will be determined at a later date with health and safety as our first priority. Please note: Whether you are enrolled in the Residential Campus or the Online Campus, you may choose to take all of your classes remotely this fall.

I’ve never taken classes online before. Will you offer any trainings for students?

Yes; we plan to offer support/trainings for students in how to engage in remote learning, as needed.

If I’m enrolled in the residential campus, but I can’t reside in New York City this fall, would you advise that I enroll in the Online Campus for the fall semester?

No, residential students who are unable to move to New York City may remain in the residential program, taking all their courses and pursuing field education remotely. Note: International students should refer to the INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS section below.

What platform will be used if I am learning online?

Residential Campus courses will be offered primarily through Zoom, while Online Campus courses will be offered primarily through Adobe Connect.

Is there a difference in quality between online and residential classes?

Interactivity, engagement, and quality of the instruction are the same whether you are learning online or in a traditional classroom setting. At the Columbia School of Social Work, we have the benefit of an established Online Campus and considerable in-house expertise. Many of our faculty have already taught online and engaged in a robust training program that embraces best practices in interactive and effective online teaching. We also have taken the step of assigning every faculty member additional technical support staff for online courses, in preparation for the fall semester.

When is registration? When will the Schedule of Courses be available?

Registration for entering students started on June 29, 2020, and will continue through July 31, 2020, to 9:30 p.m. ET. The Directory of Classes and registration information can be found at this link. Please contact our Office of Student Services (sw-studentservices@columbia.edu) with any questions.

When can I schedule waiver exams?

Entering students may take waiver exams to satisfy the requirements for the following courses: Research Methods, Social Welfare Policy, and Statistics. The Office of Student Services will provide information about the waiver exams to be offered in July and August, including dates the exams will be offered and the process for registering for the exams.

What is your Statistics Waiver policy?

All CSSW students must satisfy the Statistics requirement. There are three ways to do so: passing the zero-credit Introduction to Statistics course; passing a waiver examination that exempts students from the intro course; or providing proof of successful completion of an approved Statistics course with a grade of B or greater within the past four years. More information about the Statistics Waiver options and exams will be provided by the Office of Student Services.


What will field placements look like in the fall?

We are currently working with our field partners to develop a flexible suite of field placement options, so that placements can be completely virtual when necessary but can also shift to in-person activities whenever safe. We have identified a number of the new opportunities that will enable our students to learn how to engage clients remotely, through telehealth or other digital technologies. Please note: As in the past, field assignments for incoming fall students will be expected to continue for one year, whether remote or in person.

If my field placement involves telehealth, will I receive instruction in how to provide such services?

Yes; student placements providing telehealth will receive appropriate training.

What if I live in a state that is reopening/has reopened? Can I begin my field placement in-person if the agency allows it?

As the fall approaches, we will continue to assess whether students might engage with their agencies in person for at least part of the time. Health and safety will be the primary guiding principles.


What are my options for coursework and field at CSSW in fall 2020?

  • All field placements for new and continuing students are anchored in the United States.
  • New international students residing in the New York area:
    • will take the HBSE-A course (T660A) via hybrid format, meeting in-person every other week and on Zoom when not meeting in-person.
    • will be able to engage in Field (Two-Year Program students only).
  • New international students residing outside the United States:
    • will be offered a number of options including part-time study, a modified 5-term International Students Program, the 16-month Program and options for deferral.
    • will not be able to begin Field in fall 2020.
  • New international students residing in the United States AND who are transfer students from other US institutions AND who are classified as “transfer” in SEVIS:
    • will be able to engage in coursework remotely.
    • will have the opportunity to engage in Field this fall (Two-Year Program students only).
  • Continuing international students residing anywhere in the United States or outside the United States:
    • may engage in coursework remotely.
    • will be placed in field assignments in the U.S. regardless of their physical location.


    What will financial support/financial aid look like during these difficult times?

    Our Office of Financial Aid is working with all incoming students to help them create plans for covering direct and indirect expenses associated with attending CSSW. We recommend students begin applying for loans in July for the 2020-2021 academic year in order to leave enough time for processing and adjustments prior to the beginning of the term. If you have any questions about your financial aid package, please get in touch with the Office of Financial Aid at swfinaid@columbia.edu.

    My financial situation has changed because of COVID-19. Can I make an appeal for more aid?

    Absolutely. The School will continue to review COVID-19 related appeals for emergency funds and tuition support. We encourage you to contact the Financial Aid team for guidance and help by email at swfinaid@columbia.edu.

    I have been awarded Federal Work-Study. How will this work in the fall?

    Remote opportunities continue to be available for students receiving funding for Federal Work-Study positions. We encourage students to look for jobs throughout the university and not just at CSSW, in order to give themselves the greatest number of remote opportunities. Work-study positions that require in-person work will remain closed until the university has determined it is safe for students to work in person again.

    Will I have the option of working as a research assistant to a CSSW faculty member for my work study, if the program is remote?

    If your admissions package included Federal Work Study, it should still be possible to seek research opportunities with CSSW faculty. Many of these positions will allow students to work remotely. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid (swfinaid@columbia.edu) for more information about FWS opportunities.

    Will I still be able to apply for on-campus employment if course work is remote delivery?

    Yes; you may seek on-campus employment. Many opportunities will allow students to work remotely.


    Will Columbia provide housing, or assistance locating housing, if I do choose to move to New York City?

    The School is not in the position to offer housing to all students, but we do provide housing guidance and/or resource referrals. For more information, please see https://housing.columbia.edu/.

    Can you give me some tips on finding housing off-campus at an affordable cost?

    Columbia’s Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) office assists Columbia students and affiliates in their search for rental housing in the metropolitan area. Office staff manage a database known as the Housing Registry which includes available rooms and apartments in non-Columbia-owned buildings as well as sublets of units in Columbia-managed housing. We encourage you to register here.


    Do you allow admitted students to postpone their enrollment?

    As in years past, students admitted to CSSW may request to defer their matriculation for one year. Students contemplating deferring are encouraged to reach out to a member of the Admissions team to discuss options.

    Are there any special considerations in place regarding deferrals during the COVID-19 epidemic?

    Reflecting the special conditions posed by the pandemic, we are developing some “partial deferral” options for various programs:

    • Students admitted to the Two-Year, Extended, Reduced Residency, and Advanced Standing programs will be able to take all online courses during the Fall 2020 semester (barring any obstacles due to visa issues for our international students – see above).
    • Students admitted to the Two-Year program may consider deferring to January 2021 and enrolling in the 16-Month Program. Note: All Extended and Reduced Residency students also have the option to defer to January 2021.
    • International students admitted to the Five-Term International program may be able to also defer to January 2021. More information on this last option will be forthcoming.