International Students Program FAQ

Our five-term International Students Program is designed for international students who are unfamiliar with the U.S. social welfare system. You will be offered opportunities to get up to speed on the special features of U.S. social services via a Professional Immersion Seminar in the fall term, and to improve and enhance your English-language skills, before beginning field education.

Here are some useful links:

You may also find it helpful to read through the answers to the following Frequently Asked Questions for our international students.

What does the program for international students at CSSW consist of?

The International Students Program (ISP) is designed for international students who are pursuing higher degrees in social work but are unfamiliar with the U.S. social welfare system. Taking place over five consecutive semesters, it offers international students an opportunity to get up to speed on the special features of U.S. social services, and to improve and enhance their English skills, before beginning field education. As a member of the ISP, you’ll receive an introduction to social work practice in the United States—including the organizational structures and operation of American social service agencies—and learn about a variety of social welfare issues in this country.

During orientation week, you will take English language proficiency exams that are administered by the University’s American Language Program, under its School of Continuing Education. The School of Social Work will evaluate your test results and review your Admissions file to determine whether the ISP is the best fit for you and your educational needs. We will also determine whether you should be enrolled in intensive English-language writing and comprehension courses.

NOTE: In a few instances, an international student may be exempted from ISP based on strong English-language skills and adequate experience either working in the U.S. or an English-speaking country or with an English-speaking population.

What are the requirements for maintaining my student visa?

To maintain your student visa, you must be enrolled as a full-time student. At the School of Social Work, this means a minimum of 10.5 credits.

NOTE: Students enrolled in the Summer course “English for Professional Purposes: Social Work” will have their visas processed through the School of Professional Studies–American Language Program. Once you have successfully completed that summer session and are matriculating into our master’s program in the Fall, your visa will be transferred under the School of Social Work.

How much does the program cost?

Tuition is $19,666 for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019, which allows you to register for up to 16.5 credits per term. The Summer 2019 flat rate will be $15,640, for up to 13.5 credits. (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 these schools, you will be charged tuition in addition to the flat-rate cost.)

Information about fees that will be charged in addition to tuition can be found here. NOTE: International students also are charged an $90 International Service Charge each term.

Am I able to work while in school?

If you are on an F-1 or J-1 visa, you may work part time (up to 20 hours a week) and only on campus. Otherwise, you will need a work permit. Before accepting any employment, be sure to consult with an officer at Columbia’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO).

What are the English Language Requirements?

English-Language Ability: Applicants who are not U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents and who are citizens of non-English speaking countries must have a working knowledge of English. To meet this requirement, applicants must achieve the following minimum score on the TOEFL Test of English as a Foreign Language or IELTS – International English Language Testing System.

TOEFL
Internet-based Test (iBT): Minimum Score 98
Computer-based Test (CBT): Minimum Score 233
Paper-based Test (PBT): Minimum Score 577

IELTS
Minimum Score = 7.0

Applicants submitting Paper-based Test scores only must also submit the following individual scores:
TWE (Test of Written English): Minimum Score 4.0
TSE (Test of Spoken English): Minimum Score 4.0.

Applicants are not automatically exempt from taking the TOEFL if they have received a degree in the U.S. or from an institution whose official language is English. Please contact the Office of Admissions at cssw-admit@columbia.edu for more information.

Am I eligible for financial aid?

Unfortunately, we are not able provide financial aid for international students. Loan options are available, but you must have a co-borrower who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. For more information, go to the Graduate Financial Aid page in the University’s Student Financial Services site.

Can I get some assistance with writing my papers?

Yes. The American Language Program has designed a special course for you that is offered during the Fall semester. The course aims to help you improve both oral and written communication skills in English. You will be given writing assignments related to social work topics. In addition, the School of Social Work’s Writing Center can answer questions about grammar, punctuation, organization, expression, and APA style, or even help you think through how to approach writing a paper for one of your courses.

How do I register for classes?

For your first semester, we register you for your required classes. You will then be able to add/drop certain classes via an online system, space permitting. In the semesters that follow, you will register yourself for most of your classes via Student Services Online (SSOL), the University’s Web-based registration system. That said, the School will automatically register you for Field Education in the four terms where this applies, as well the required T6007 Immersion Seminar in the Fall and Spring terms of your first year. NOTE: Our Office of Enrollment & Student Services will be there to guide you with the self-registration process by providing a detailed how-to guide as well as reminders.

Since I won’t be in field my first semester, can I register for additional courses?

Yes, you may be able to enroll in additional courses. To explore your registration options, please contact the Office of Student Services by sending an e-mail to sw-studentservices@columbia.edu or making an appointment with one of our staff.

Are there any special resources available for international students?

Both the School of Social Work and the wider Columbia University community offer resources for international students. At the School, international students have their own student groups, or caucuses. At Columbia, there is an International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), which offers many helpful services including pre-admission counseling, immigration-related document services (such as the I-20), social and cultural activities, and a program for the spouses of students. For the full menu of ISSO’s offerings—including reduced-rate tickets for plays, concerts, and other cultural events in the city—go to Essential Information for New International Students and Scholars. In addition, all of Columbia’s international students have a complimentary Affiliate Membership in the International House (“I-House”), on 500 Riverside Drive.

Can I pursue a minor?

You may pursue a minor in Business, Criminal Justice, International Social Welfare, or Public Policy and Administration but not in Law. NOTE: Pursuing a minor may require you to take additional coursework at an additional cost.

Still have questions?

If your questions haven’t been answered, we urge you to enter them into our online form. Once your form is submitted, we will direct it to the appropriate department. Our goal is to answer any questions submitted by current students within 24 hours.