First Year FAQ
Have questions about Financial Aid? Answers here
Have questions about Field Education? Answers here
Have questions about Registration? Answers here
Have questions about Advising? Answers here
Have questions about Minor/Dual Degree Programs? Answers here
What does the first year of the Two-Year Program consist of?
As a student in the Two-Year program, you spend two days a week in the classroom and three days a week in the field. In your first year, you receive a foundation in major social work practice methods, social work research, and psychological and social theory.
- Students may not be employed by their field education agency.
What types of financial aid are available?
Financial aid awards typically include a mix of institutional/merit scholarships, Federal Work-Study, federal loans, and other types of loans. NOTE: Those who have served in the military should find out if they are eligible for veterans educational benefits by completing the checklist linked from Columbia University’s Veteran Affairs site. Likewise, those who have completed a term of service with AmeriCorps should contact AmeriCorps directly to see if they are eligible for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.
Are there any scholarships I can apply for?
Each year the school offers several competitive scholarship awards that target students pursuing particular interest areas: go to detailed information.
Additionally, we encourage students to use such resources as FastWeb or CollegeNET to search various databases of scholarships for MSW students. Here are some of the main organizations that offer scholarships to master’s-level students:
How can I apply for financial aid?
Your first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the academic year in which you are enrolling. Once we receive your FAFSA data, we can begin the evaluation process for determining your financial aid award package.
When will I be notified about my package?
We usually begin processing financial aid packages between January and mid-February, and notification is sent out thereafter. You will receive a notification via email at the address, you supplied for your admission application.
What types of loans can I apply for?
All students who complete a FAFSA are eligible to receive the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan. Once you accept the loan, you must complete an entrance interview, sign a master promissory note, and fill out a loan request form. The funds will then be disbursed automatically to your student account at the beginning of each term. NOTE: The Department of Education charges a 1.068% origination fee on this loan, which will be deducted prior to the funds being disbursed.
In addition to the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you may choose to borrow either a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan or a private educational loan. The maximum amount you may borrow for either loan is listed under the Alternative Eligibility fund in your award letter.
The Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan is a fixed interest loan program that enables graduate students to borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education to help pay for their educational expenses. This loan, which is based on credit-worthiness, requires a separate entrance interview, master promissory note, and loan request form. For more information, go to Questions and Answers About Direct PLUS Loans for Graduate and Professional Students. If you are approved for a PLUS loan, the funds will be disbursed automatically to your student account at the beginning of the term. NOTE: The Department of Education charges a 4.272% origination fee on this loan, which will be deducted prior to the funds being disbursed.
What if I’m denied the Grad PLUS loan or a private loan?
If you are denied the Grad PLUS Loan, we strongly encourage you to request a copy of your credit report and clear up any delinquencies of 90 days or more, or challenge any discrepancies you find on that report. You should then appeal to the Department of Education, providing documentation that those discrepancies or issues have been resolved. In our experience, most students who do this succeed in having their initial denial overturned. A second option is to reapply for the Grad PLUS Loan with a credit-worthy co-signer or endorser. If all else fails, submit an Alternative Funding Appeal Form and supporting documentation to the firstname.lastname@example.org. This additional information will allow the financial aid office to calculate the assistance you still need and how much CSSW can cover.
What if I have additional questions on my financial aid package, scholarships, loans, or related matters?
For help with additional financial aid questions, please contact the Office of Financial Aid at:
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Telephone: 212-851-2293
By appointment: 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday. (After 5:00 p.m., appointments available by request.) Go to online appointment system.
Walk-in: Wednesdays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.)
How is my field placement determined?
Over the summer, the Advising Office, the Field Education Department, and the Office of Student Services work in coordination to create a class schedule that fits your program requirements, as well as any special needs or circumstances you have noted on your Registration Approval Form. Our Field Education Department, in arranging more than 400 Fall placements, strives to ensure the best possible match for each incoming student. Field Department staff study very carefully the information you have supplied on the Field Placement Form alongside the prior experience noted on your résumé. Your placement site is linked to your advisor assignment.
When will I be notified of my field placement?
You will receive your field placement assignment during orientation week. (You will be notified before orientation only if your placement requires special tests—e.g., fingerprinting or medical clearance.)
What will I be doing at my field placement?
You will be doing direct practice work with individuals, families, groups or a combination thereof. While gaining this hands-on experience, you will be learning and practicing skills including engagement, contracting, assessment, and termination. In some cases, there will be opportunities to learn intervention techniques. Please review the Field Education Manual to familiarize yourself with possible assignments, education plans, process recordings, and the learning objectives for your first-year placement.
Once I’ve received my field placement assignment, if I have questions about it, who can I talk to?
Please reach out to the appropriate associate director of field:
Associate Director of Field Education
Aging; Schools and School-Based Services
Contemporary Social Issues and World of Work
Ericka M. Echavarria
Aging and World of Work
Health, Mental Health
International, Immigrants and Refugees
New Jersey Students
Family, Youth & Children’s Services – Westchester, Rockland, Connecticut
What is my field instructor’s role?
Your field instructor (also sometimes referred to as your “task supervisor”) is the agency employee responsible for overseeing your training at your field placement. He or she is there to support your learning in the field, to answer questions you may have about interactions with clients and agency employees, and to help you develop direct practice skills. At the end of the term, your field instructor evaluates your work at the agency for your advisor and recommends whether you should receive a pass or fail grade. NOTE: Your advisor is the final arbiter of the grade you receive for field education. Under some circumstances, he or she may choose to override the recommendation of the agency field instructor.
How do I register for classes?
All student register for courses during their designated registration time via Student Services Online (SSOL), the University’s Web-based registration system. NOTE: Our Office of Student Services will provide a detailed how-to guide as well as reminders of the self-registration process prior to the registration periods.
What classes will I take in my first year?
For the first term, all Two-Year Program students are registered for:
- T660A Human Behavior and the Social Environment-A
- T6501 Social Work Research
- T6801 Social Welfare Policy
- T7100 Foundations of Social Work Practice
- T6010 Field Education.
In the second term, you are required to register for:
- T660B Human Behavior and the Social Environment-B
- T7102 Direct Practice II
- T7103 Advocacy in SW Practice
- T6010 Field Education.
Students in the Social Enterprise Administration (SEA) Management Fellows Program or Accelerated Policy Program have slightly different requirements in their first year. For more details, go to sample study plans for Two-Year Program students in our Student Handbook.
I’ve already taken some social work courses. How do I receive transfer credit?
The School will allow you to transfer a maximum of nine credits, of which no more than six can be for elective courses. You can receive credits for prior courses if they were taken at another accredited school of social work within the past five years and you earned at least a B. You are required to submit a form listing those courses for review. For more details, Transfer Credit Policy Statement.
Where can I find detailed course descriptions and course requirements for my classes?
By the time orientation week begins, all of your courses—including their requirements, syllabi, grading policies, and online readings—should be posted on CourseWorks.
How do I change my classes?
During the first two weeks of classes each term, there is an add/drop period when you can switch certain courses via the online registration system in Student Services Online, space permitting.
I would like to take classes at another Columbia graduate school. How do I do that?
You are able to enroll in classes at other Columbia University schools to count either as elective credits (related and pre-approved graduate-level courses only) or as “extra” courses that are covered under the School’s flat-rate billing program, which allows you to register for a maximum of 19.5 credits per term in the Fall and Spring. NOTE: Our flat-rate tuition plan does not cover classes taken at Teacher’s College, Jewish Theological Seminary, or Union Theological Seminary. If you choose to register for a course at one of those schools, you will be charged tuition in addition to your flat-rate cost.
As each Columbia graduate school has its own cross-registration policies and procedures, our Office of Student Services compiles a document every term with links to classes at other schools that are open to CUSSW students along with detailed instructions for registration, with links to necessary forms. This information is e-mailed to all students during the registration period and can also be found online.
Are my instructors evaluated? If so, where can I find copies of their evaluations?
Instructor evaluations are available in a binder in the Social Work Library (2nd floor) and the Student Union Office (4th floor). We would also encourage you to reach out to your second-year colleagues for feedback about instructors’ teaching styles, classroom expectations, and areas of specialization.
What if I have additional questions about class listings, course registration, or related matters?
For help with additional questions on registration-related matters, please contact the Office of Student Services and Enrollment at:
Telephone: 212-851-2436; 212-851-2367
Counseling by appointment: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday–Friday. (After 5:00 p.m., appointments available by request.) Go to online appointment system.
When will I find out who my advisor is?
Your advisor’s name and contact information will be viewable on Student Services Online by the end of orientation week. NOTE: If you have questions about your academic program, class scheduling or registration prior to orientation, please contact the Office of Student Services by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is my advisor’s role?
The Office of Advising assigns each Advisor to a cohort of approximately 20 students. The advisor is your primary resource of advising, both academic and field, and any life issues that may impact graduate school performance. You can expect mentorship from a seasoned practitioner, a visit to your field site, one-one-one meetings to discuss field and academic challenges and successes and email/phone contacted as needed. Over the academic year, you will attend monthly advising seminars with your cohort for professional social work practice development and to create a bonded supportive group of fellow students
When will I have Advising Seminars? Are they mandatory?
You will attend Advising Seminars once a month. The sessions are mandatory. Meeting dates will be emailed to all students, and also will be listed on the Academic Calendar.
What if my advisor is not available: is there someone else at the School I can speak to?
If you’re not able to reach your advisor, you should contact the Office of Advising. Email email@example.com.
What if I have additional questions about academic planning, field-related concerns, or personal issues that could affect my performance in field and class?
Minor/Dual Degree Programs
What minors do you offer, and how do I sign up?
The School offers four minors that allow you to supplement your studies:
- Law (**must be declared by end of orientation week**)
- International Social Welfare
- Public Policy and Administration
Declaration of minors can be done during your first year with the exception of Law, which must be declared by the end of orientation week. For more information about our minors, Student Handbook.
I am interested in finding out more about dual-degree programs.
Typically, a dual-degree program reduces the requirements for doing two full-time programs by approximately one academic year because fewer credits are needed for each of the two degrees. If you are interested in pursuing a dual degree with another Columbia graduate school, you must apply separately to the school in question during your first year at CSSW. You will also need to discuss your academic plan for completing requirements at both schools with the Manager of Enrollment and Student Services, Cheiku Camara (firstname.lastname@example.org). To update your student record once you have been accepted into the other school, please notify our Office of Student Services at email@example.com.
Which CSSW office should I contact if I have questions about minors or dual degrees?
If you have further questions about minors and dual degrees, please contact the Office of Student Services and Enrollment at:
Telephone: 212-851-2436; 212-851-2367
- By appointment: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday. (After 5:00 p.m., appointments available by request.) Go to online appointment system.
- Walk-in: Wednesdays, 10 a.m – 6 p.m.