General Student FAQ

Regardless of the program you are pursuing at our School, questions may arise at some stage about evaluation methods, communications, the academic calendar, personal & health matters, issues & grievances, housing, and related topics. Here are some questions on such topics our students frequently ask. The information below applies to all students, whether you are earning your degree via the Online Campus or NYC-based campus.

Have questions about Communications? Answers here

Have questions about Calendar? Answers here

Have questions about Personal and Health Matters? Answers here

Have questions about Safety? Answers here

Have questions about Issues and Grievances? Answers here

Have questions about Housing? Answers here

Evaluation Methods

How am I evaluated in practicum?

Your practicum instructor will conduct a mid-term oral evaluation of how well your practicum work is progressing. In addition, he or she will submit a final report to your advisor, assessing your skills across a range of practice behaviors within larger competency areas. Your advisor makes the final determination of your grade. For more details on practicum evaluation policies and how to prepare, go to the Practicum Learning Manual.

I’m not satisfied with my practicum evaluation. Who can I talk to?

You should first speak to your practicum instructor about your concerns related to your evaluation. As a social work student, you should be able to raise questions in a respectful and professional manner, even if it feels uncomfortable. You can also discuss your concerns with your advisor, the staff of the Office of Advising, or the Assistant Dean of Practicum Learning. Please remember this is an educational experience that requires dialogue and critical thinking. If you have concerns, let us know; we are here to ensure that you can obtain the best education possible.

How am I evaluated in my classes?

Your instructor will indicate on their syllabus the method of evaluation for the course, as well as all course requirements.  If you are not clear about the grading policy, speak up at the beginning of the term and ask your instructor to explain it in more detail. Typical methods of evaluation at CSSW include exams, long papers, reading logs or notes, role plays, short papers, and quizzes.

I’m not satisfied with my grade in my course. Who can I talk to?

Before doing anything else, it is important to speak with your instructor. As a social work student, you should be able to raise questions in a respectful and professional manner, even if it feels uncomfortable. You can also discuss your concerns with your advisor, the staff of the Office of Advising, or the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs (go to administrative staff list).

My instructor has said that all required papers must be submitted to Turnitin. What is Turnitin and am I required to submit my papers through this program?

Turnitin is a Web-based learning tool to prevent and detect plagiarism. Many of the School’s instructors require that students submit their required papers to Turnitin. This is to protect the academic integrity of your work and also to ensure you possess the requisite academic citation skills. Once your paper is submitted, Turnitin will compare its content to content in three primary databases:

  • Current and extensively archived content publicly accessible on the Internet.
  • Commercial papers from books, newspapers and journals.
  • Any other student papers previously submitted to Turnitin.

Turnitin then produces an “originality” report that includes an indication of the proportion of your paper that has exactly matched content from another source. NOTE: Turnitin is available for all students to use prior to submitting your papers, even if your instructor hasn’t required it.

A problem has arisen and I am unable to finish my coursework for the semester. Can I take an incomplete?

Incompletes can only be granted under the circumstances where, owing to an illness or emergency, you cannot complete your final assignment. The extension period is normally no more than 10 days in length. NOTE: An Incomplete grade cannot be awarded if you still need to complete significant portions of classroom work that predate the end of the semester.

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How will I receive information from my instructors and advisors? How will I be notified of important events including registration and practicum issues at the school?

The school’s primary — and official! — mode of communication with you is via yourColumbia e-mail account. We strongly recommend that you check your Columbia e-maildaily so that you won’t miss key announcements about such things as registration, advising, Practicum Learning, upcoming events, class assignment updates, scholarship opportunities, job announcements, job fairs, graduation, and much more.

What if I prefer to have messages sent to my personal email?

It is easy to forward your Columbia e-mail to another account, such as Gmail, if that is your preference. To set up this feature, go to UNI mail forwarding. You can also set up your Columbia account on software such as Apple Mail, Outlook or Thunderbird. To do so, go to CUIT’s configuration instructions.  If you have a smartphone (e.g., Blackberry, I-Phone or Android), you can add your Columbia e-mail as a secondary account. Please contact your cell phone provider for configuration instructions.

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What are the dates for Winter Break and Spring Break? And how do I find out when practicum starts and when courses start?

You may review all school holidays, as well as start and end dates for classes and practicum, on the Academic Calendar.

I need to plan for graduation. How do I find out when it is?

Information on Columbia University Commencement and on the School of Social Work ceremony, which takes place later the same day—including ceremony time and location, ticket information and disability accommodations—is e-mailed to graduating students in March. To stay abreast of Columbia University Commencement information, go to the Commencement Week site.

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Personal and Health Matters

I’m religiously observant and cannot attend classes or practicum on religious holidays. What do I do?

Please notify your advisor, your instructors and your practicum instructor of the upcoming holiday(s) and note what day(s) you will not be able to attend classes and practicum. They can help you develop a plan for making up any missed work or days in practicum. It is the University Senate’s policy to give students who are absent because of their religious beliefs “an equivalent opportunity to register for classes or make up any examination, study, or work requirements.” You cannot be penalized for absence due to religious beliefs, and alternative means can be sought for satisfying your academic requirements.

What happens if I get sick or have a personal emergency and miss classes and practicum?

If you are unable to attend classes, please immediately notify your instructors and advisor. If you are unable to attend practicum, please immediately notify your practicum instructor and advisor. It is also extremely helpful if you notify the offices of Advising, Practicum Learning and Student Services so that we can reach out to your instructors and field placement as needed. You may e-mail us at, and

NOTE: You will be required to make up missed hours of practicum work.

I’m not feeling well. Where can I go for medical attention?

Basic medical services are provided on campus at Columbia Health, on the 3rd and 4th floors of John Jay Hall. You may make an appointment online, by phone (212-854-7426), or in person at the information desk on the third floor of John Jay Hall. If you have an emergency, we encourage you to call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. (If you live near campus, you should head to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Emergency Room, on 113th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, 212-523-3347.) Your Student Medical Insurance Plan covers emergency room visits.

For more details about your student medical insurance, go to Columbia’s Health Insurance page. NOTE: You will receive an Insurance ID card in the mail. If you need medical assistance off campus prior to receiving that card, you may download atemporary card (PDF: 1 page).

I’m feeling depressed and/or anxious, and I think I need counseling services. Who can I talk to?

Columbia Health’s Counseling and Psychological Services, located on the 8th floor of Lerner Hall, offers short-term individual counseling, couples counseling for you and your partner, student life support groups, medication consultation, and related services—all of which are covered by your Health Services Fee. To schedule an appointment, call 212-854-2878 or walk in to a Residence Hall Counseling office. For assistance after hours, call 212-854-9797 to speak to an on-call clinician or, in the case of an emergency, call 911 to find out where your nearest hospital is. (If you live near campus, you should head to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Emergency Room, on 113th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, 212-523-3347.)

I am currently taking prescription medication. Will my student medical insurance cover those prescriptions? And where do I get them filled?

Your Student Health Insurance Plan offers a prescription drug program through Aetna. To find your nearest pharmacy in the Aetna network, go to the Aetna Prescription Drug Program site.

I need to take a leave of absence. How does that work?

If you are in good academic standing, you may request a personal leave of absence for a maximum of one year. All leaves of absence, including those undertaken for medical reasons, must be requested and processed through the Office of Advising ( You will need to complete paperwork and discuss how this leave will affect your academic program and then map out a plan for resuming your studies once the leave ends. A Student Services staff member will process your leave and remove you from classes, if necessary. And if your leave of absence commences before the term ends, you should also arrange to meet with someone in the Office of Financial Aid, as it may require returning loan funds to the federal government. For more details on policy and procedures, go to the Student Handbook. NOTE: If you take a medical leave of absence, you will be required to submit documentation of medical clearance, ensuring you are able to attend classes and participate in practicum, before returning to campus

I have a disability. What services are available to me?

If you have a temporary or permanent disability, you must first register with Columbia University’s Disability Services. Disability Services staff will review your documentation and determine any reasonable accommodations and support services such as note-taking assistance, extended time on exams, and access to assistive technology, after which they will notify our Office of Student Services. (Accommodations are not applicable retroactively.) NOTE: Our instructors and Practicum Learning administrators are not able to grant disability accommodations. They are, however, obligated to ensure that you have received applicable Disability Services accommodations, with assistance from our Office of Student Services.

What resources does the School and the University offer for gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender students?

The School and the University have a number of organizations that support LGBTQ students on campus. These include the Queer Caucus at School of Social Work and various campus-wide groups such as Columbia Queer AllianceEveryone Allied Against HomophobiaGayava (a Jewish LGBTQ group), and Proud Colors. Additionally, Columbia Health Services runs a Gay Health Advocacy Project (GHAP), and the Columbia University Center for Career Education offers job search, résumé, and interviewing advice to LGBTQ students.

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What if I have a late class or am in the building until late — will I be safe walking home?

If you have a late class, stay at the Library until closing hours, or are here for an event that lasts into the evening, and are worried about getting home safely, one option is to call the Columbia University Escort Service. Two special trained students will walk you to your door within a certain radius, or to the subway station.

Does Columbia have any transportation services that run among its campuses?

Columbia Transportation provides an efficient, timely and safe means for faculty, staff, and students to travel between Morningside, Lamont, Manhattanville, Medical Center, and Harlem Hospital campuses, via an intercampus shuttle, which is available to all students and personnel with a valid University ID, free of charge. Go to route maps and current schedules. NOTE: You can also download a special app to track the shuttle on the go.

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Issues and Grievances

I feel discriminated against and/or have been harassed at the School and/or the University. What do I do?

You should immediately reach out to your advisor to discuss any incident of discrimination, harassment or gender-based misconduct. The School and University consider allegations of discrimination and harassment and/or gender-based misconduct to be extremely serious matters. In addition, you should report the issue to appropriate officers at the School and at the University. If you’ve experienced discrimination and harassment by:

Incidents of gender-based and sexual misconduct should be reported to Melissa Tihinen, Senior Manager, Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct (; 212-854-1717).

For more information, go to Gender-Based Misconduct Policies for Students on Columbia’s Student Services site; and Student Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment on Columbia’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) site.

What should I do if I have a problem with an instructor/colleague/administrator that can’t be successfully resolved?

Please reach out to the appropriate officers at the School.

If you have a grievance with:

In all instances, you may also consult the University’s Ombuds Officer.

For more details about reporting a grievance, see CSSW’s grievance policy and procedures.

What does the Ombuds Office do?

The University’s Ombuds Office serves as an informal, confidential resource for assisting you with conflict resolution. You can speak freely to Ombuds Office staff as they promise to keep your discussions confidential and operate independently of the Columbia administration. They do not take sides but will listen to your concerns, give you information about the University’s policies, help you evaluate your situation, and assist you in making plans to resolve the conflict. The Ombuds Office will also mediate conflicts if both parties are agreeable. To sample the information the Ombuds Office provides, go to its Resources page.

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Does the School offer any student housing?

No, the School is not in the position to offer housing to its graduate students. We receive a small allocation each year from the University Housing Office, but preference is given to students who are relocating to New York, with priority placed on those who are traveling the greatest distance (e.g., abroad, the West Coast, the Midwest). Although accommodations for graduate students are limited, we encourage all of our students to apply to University Apartment Housing (UAH). Even if you do not receive housing right away, UAH does maintain a waitlist and it is possible you will be offered an assignment later in the year. Types of University housing include apartment shares, dormitory-style rooms, studio/efficiency units, and one- and two-bedroom units (prioritized for couples and families). For more details about housing types, availability and costs, go to the Types of Accommodation page on the UAH site.

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

Columbia University’s Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) manages a database known as the Housing Registry, which includes available rooms and apartments in non-Columbia-owned buildings and sublets of units in Columbia-managed housing—go to registration page.  Prospective roommates can also post and search profiles on this site.  In addition, OCHA offers one-on-one counseling for your housing search, and is supported in these efforts by cooperative relationships with two New York City real estate/relocation agencies. For further online resources, download OCHA’s “Newspapers and Other Online Resources” hand-out (PDF: 3 pages).

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