Please note these instructions are subject to change, based on guidelines we receive both from the university and the government.

New Students On-Campus Program FAQ

New Students On-Campus Program FAQ

Fall 2020

Q: Where is the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 and the Columbia University campus? 
Please regularly visit Columbia University's Resource Guide for COVID-19 and ISSO.


Q: What format will the Fall 2020 classes be and how can I attend? 
Fall 2020 classes will be offered as either hybrid or online.  Hybrid classes include an in-person and a virtual component.  Online classes will be entirely virtual.  Core required classes for incoming students will have both options:  hybrid or online only.
  • Students who prefer to take their classes 100% online are encouraged to register for the "online only" sections. 
  • Students who enroll in hybrid sections are expected to participate in all planned in-person components of these classes. 
  • Remote participation options are available in all classes to accommodate individual students who encounter health needs during the semester.
Q: What is a hybrid class? 

We are trying to be as flexible as possible, given university guidelines and considering campus public health safety regulations.  All core classes will have a hybrid option.  Students who enroll in hybrid sections are expected to participate in all planned "in person" components of these classes. In-person components for hybrid courses are designed by course instructors, which is different from course to course. Students should check with their course instructors close to the beginning of the semester, as the planning of these in-person components is still very fluid given the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Remote participation options are available in all classes to accommodate individual students who shall encounter health needs during the semester.

THIS is an example of a hybrid class for Fall 2020.  The "Method of Instruction" is circled. 

Q: What can I expect in terms of my exam format for virtual courses? 
Most of the core classes will be using a combination of zoom and canvas (course management system) to implement exams. Zoom will be the proctoring platform with your TA as the live proctor. Canvas is where you will obtain and upload your completed exam.
  • Please review expectations and processes for the online exam.  Follow the guidance of your TA, Professor, and your Course Syllabus. 
  • In order to best prepare for virtual exams, please review this Virtual Technology Guide .  
Q: What health and safety protocols do we have to follow? 

Campus health policy will require that people wear a face covering at all times while on campus, unless they are in a private room with the door closed. Physical distancing will be enforced throughout campus.

A detailed overview of public health protocols on Columbia’s campus includes symptom screening, mandatory and periodic testing, contact tracing, face covering, social distancing, and quarantining.

Q: What is the Columbia Community Health Compact? 

It is the shared community pledge to the highest standards of health and safety. See here:  Columbia Community Health Compact

Q: I am a new international student. What is my best option for starting in the fall? 
Your best option is to arrive as early in the Fall as possible.  If you are an international student who would like to qualify for CPT eligibility as part of our fieldwork course GR5398, you would need to complete two full academic semesters in active F1 status.
The two academic semesters needed for eligibility can be fulfilled by the two options below:
  • Arrive in the US before the end of change of program period (Sept 18th).  Take a full-time course load in the Fall and Spring. Summer = Fieldwork/CPT

  • Take classes virtually Fall A, arrive in the US by Fall B (Oct 26th).  Take a full semester in the spring, take two classes (6 units) in Summer A. Then Summer B = fieldwork/CPT
The optimal is to arrive in the US by the start of Fall A (Sept. 8).  If, however, you cannot enter the US by Fall A by the end of the "change of program period"  (Friday, Sept 18th), you may still start Fall A virtually.  Those classes would count towards the degree program, but online enrollment will not count toward eligibility for Statistical Fieldwork (required for CPT). 
If you are able to arrive in the US by Fall B, that semester does count towards eligibility for the fieldwork course GR5398 (required for CPT).  

International students are advised to visit ISSO and the ISSO COVID-19 FAQs.  

Q: Is it possible to begin my Fall Semester with Fall B? 
International students must register for 1 RU (resident unit) to be considered full time.  All incoming, international students must register for the Fall Semester with fully virtual and/or hybrid courses starting in Fall A. 
In order for an international student to be eligible to apply for GR5399 (Statistical Fieldwork) in Summer 2021, it is advisable to arrive on campus as soon as possible.  The latest possible arrival should be October 26 (the date of the start of Fall B) having registered for Fall B core courses.  Please contact ISSO for more information. 
Q: How late can I arrive this Fall Semester and still be eligible for GR5399 Statistical Fieldwork (required for CPT) in summer 2021? 

International students must arrive no later than the start of the Fall B semester which is Oct 26th, 2020. Students must complete 2 full semesters in active F1 Status to qualify for GR5399 Statistical Fieldwork (required for CPT eligibility).  If a student arrives by the start of Fall B, this would be met by Fall B, Spring and Summer A -- all in active F1 status. 

HERE is a diagram that illustrates possible arrival times. 

Always check with ISSO regarding visas or international status. 

Q: I am an admitted student, but currently not located in the US. What happens if I can’t secure my visa and/or I am not able to enter the US in time? 

Prospective students are advised to visit ISSO and the ISSO COVID-19 FAQs

Our Department will be as flexible as possible in regards to instructional design and format in order to best accommodate our incoming students regardless of their location and the status of the pandemic. 


Q: Is it possible to defer until the spring semester? 

The option to defer to the Spring is available only for 2020, given the unprecedented circumstances.  

The deadline to request a spring deferral is August 15th, 2020.  Read more on the GSAS Website. 

We have included a robust list of courses available in the spring, including all of our core classes. Additionally, we are proactively preparing summer opportunities and workshops for our students to take advantage of. If you start in Spring 2021 and take courses in Summer 2021, you can still graduate by Dec 2021.  Here is a DIAGRAM that illustrates different start and arrival times. 

We will also continue to honor one year deferrals until next fall with a deadline of August 15th. For more information on a one year deferral process, please read HERE.

Q: I have already deferred and now I have changed my mind. Can I still join with a Fall 2020 start? 

Please read the details about deferral on the GSAS Website HERE

If after a deferral request, you find you are able to attend in Fall 2020 after all, you may cancel your deferral and join the incoming cohort in Fall 2020 by writing to, with the subject line, “CANCEL MY DEFERRAL.” We understand that, depending on current location, you may have additional challenges in attaining a visa on short notice. We will work with you so that you may join us for the earliest semester possible. 

This option is available for this exceptional year only. 

Q: Can I register for my courses if I am outside the US? 

Yes.  Registration can occur from any location. 

Newly incoming students will not be able to register until the end of August.  When Registration is open, each student will receive an assigned appointment time in SSOL.  All MA Statistics Students will register at the same time.  Please review the Registration Guidelines on the MA Statistics Website.  The Office of the University Registrar is helpful. 

MA Program Requirements

Q: What are the overall requirements to graduate? 

All students must complete a minimum of ten approved classes and two Residence Units (RUs) to graduate. 

For the 10 minimum classes:

  • Three are core classes:
    • Probability GR5203
    • Inference GR5204
    • Linear Regression GR5205
  •  One capstone course is required from the two options below: 
    • Advanced Data Analysis GR5291
    • Advanced Machine Learning GR5242
  • Three of the remaining six electives must be from within the Statistics Department.  If both capstone courses are taken, then one of them will count as a Statistics Elective. 

Students can keep track of their courses in the  MA Program Course Checklist.


Q: How long does it take to complete the Master’s Degree? Is there a part-time option? 

Full-time Students

The majority of students take three semesters to complete the program. Some well-prepared students complete in two semesters.  The faculty adviser can offer guidance and  recommendations. Full-time international students may not stay longer than three semesters. 

Part-time Students

A part-time, domestic student has up to four years to complete the program. 

All students are subject to the CONTINUOUS REGISTRATION rule.  

Q: How many credits should I take each semester if I am full-time? 

Full-time status:

Registration for one full RU or ER satisfies the requirement for full-time status.  One full RU or ER both allow up to 20 points maximum per semester,* and a minimum of one class to count for graduation.  

No additional semesters are allowed for the international student.**

New students should not take more than four classes in the first semester, as these classes are challenging and a student must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.  After a successful first semester, any number of courses are permitted (up to 20 points), as long as all graduation requirements are met by the end of the last semester.  

The Faculty Adviser must approve the course schedule during registration each semester. 


*Note:  Extra fees will be charged if greater than 20 credits are taken at any time, even if classes are dropped later on. 

**Always consult ISSO for issues on international status and visas. 

Q: May I take more than the ten courses required for the degree? 

Yes, with the approval of your Faculty Adviser.  Once you are a student on campus, you will have a variety of approved electives to choose from. 

Students may also take classes that are not required for the degree, as long as they do not interfere with required course work and the minimum 3.0 GPA is maintained. 

A student registered for a full RU (Residence Unit) or ER (Extended Residence Unit - required after completing two RUs in GSAS) may take up to and including 20 points.  Extra fees will be charged if more than 20 points are taken at any point, even if classes are dropped later on. 

Q: What programming language is used for the MA Program? 

The course GR5206 Statistical Computing and Introduction to Data Science will be using R programming language.  

Q: Where can I find answers to my questions? 

Click HERE for more information on a specific topic.

Other informative links:

New Students

Q: What are key steps prior to arriving on campus? 
Q: When do I submit my final transcripts? 

Please read carefully about this on the GSAS New Student Checklist  and submit as soon as possible, or you may receive a hold on your registration.  You can email questions to: 

Q: When will I receive my student ID card? 

Read the emails from the Department.  To avoid delays, submit a photo HERE  today. 

Q: When do I receive my Faculty Adviser assignment? 

You will be notified of your Faculty Adviser assignment via email towards the end of August - just before registration for incoming students.

Q: What is the role of my Faculty Adviser? 

Your Faculty Adviser is the primary person to go to in terms of your academic needs. 

Your Faculty Adviser must approve your course selection before each semester and affirm that you are making adequate progress towards graduation.  The approval may be in person or email.  Make sure to provide adequate time in advance to meet with your Faculty Adviser (a week is reasonable).   

Contact and visit your Faculty Adviser if you are having difficulty in your classes or if you need advice on what courses to take. 

Q: How do I get credit for MA courses I took prior to being admitted to the MA Statistics program? 

The Statistics Department only offers credit for courses taken at Columbia University provided the credits were not used towards any other degree program. A maximum of four courses may be approved for the MA Degree, and a maximum of three courses may be approved for the BA/MA degree.

All advanced standing credits must be verified by our Program Director before formal approval by GSAS.  Submit the Application for Transfer Credit Form (PDF) to the MA Program Coordinator Jill Forger (  This form will not be processed by GSAS until the beginning of the Fall Semester.  More information about receiving transfer credits can be found here.

Q: How and when do I pay my tuition? 

Once you accept your offer of admission into the MA Program and pay your deposit, a space is reserved for you to register for classes in late August/early SeptemberHere is information about tuition and fees which are based on Residence Units

When you register for classes, you will also register for a full RU or a partial RU, depending on if you are full-time or part-time.  Once you register for RU, you can expect to be billed. 

Please consult Student Financial Services for complete instructions on billing and payment (including E-Billing, payment options, refunds, and withdrawals). There is also information about payment and billing deadlines through the GSAS page. Finally, you may refer to this guide to making your online payment. 

Payment is due by the date listed on the Student Account Statement, which is available in Student Services Online (SSOL). In general, payment for each term is due before the end date of the University’s official Change of Program period, as noted on the academic calendar. 

Q: How do I receive transfer credit? 

Courses taken in Statistics at Columbia University prior to entering the M.A. program may count toward the M.A. degree if approved by the Program Director and upon final review by the Graduate School. According to the policy of the Statistics Department, no more than 4 classes (and a maximum of 1 RU), taken at Columbia prior to admission in the M.A. program may be applied towards the M.A. degree.  No Columbia course may be applied to more than one degree.

Transfer credit may be awarded after the student registers for the first semester.  When transfer credit is granted, concomitant Residence Units may also be credited toward fulfilling the two RU requirement for the M.A. Degree.  Here is more information about transfer credit. 

A student may receive Transfer Credit by following this procedure (after registering for classes):

  1. There is a Transfer Credit form on the GSAS Website.  The top of this form must be filled out with student signature on the appropriate line.
  2. The courses should be listed in the blank area provided.
  3. “Previous Institution” should be Columbia University, i.e., where the courses were taken.
  4. The form may be given or emailed to the Program Coordinator (Jill Forger who will pass it to the Director for approval.
  5. The Program Director will determine the number of points and RUs to be credited.
  6. Once the form has been approved and signed by the Director, it can be submitted to GSAS in 107 Low.
Q: What should I do if I have concerns about my academic performance? 

If you have any concerns about your academic performance due to any reason (personal, professional, academic) make sure to reach out to someone in the program as soon as possible.    Appropriate contacts could include anyone on the MA Team, the Program Director, and/or your Faculty Adviser.  Most important is that you do not delay seeking guidance.  The earlier you reach out, the more options you will have. 


Q: What courses are being offered this fall and when? 

Access detailed course information in the Columbia University Directory of Classes

According to the 3 semester academic calendar, the fall schedule will entail:

  • “Fall” term courses will run the full 14-week term: Tues., Sept. 8, 2020 – Wed., Dec. 23, 2020
  • “Fall A” courses will run during the first half of the term: Tues., Sept. 8, 2020 – Fri., Oct. 23, 2020
  • “Fall B” courses will run during the second half of the term: Mon., Oct. 26, 2020 – Wed., Dec. 23, 2020

The Course Schedule for Fall 2020 Incoming Class

Q: What are the important deadlines I need to know? 

GSAS is strict with these deadlines and does not allow exceptions! 

Last Day of the Change of Program Period - Last day to add or drop without penalty.  You may add classes directly via SSOL until this day.  Wait lists end on this day.  Make sure you are not registered for over 20 points or you will be charged extra tuition. 

Last Day to Drop a Class - Talk to your professor before this date if you are experiencing academic challenges.  Not all classes can be changed to Pass/Fail, so make sure you know this before you decide to not drop the class.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Dropping a class is a two-step process.  You must complete both steps in order to drop the class.  If you are having difficulty, please contact the Student Service Center:  You must officially drop a class or you will receive a grade in the class, even if you have stopped attending. 

Last Day to Drop a Half-Semester Class - These dates are different from the date to drop a full semester class.  Please make note of the dates. 

Last Day to change to Pass/Fail or R Credit - Understand the difference between Pass/Fail & R Credit


Q: How do I register for classes? 

Newly incoming students will not be able to register until September 1.  When Registration is open, each student will receive an assigned appointment time in SSOL.  All MA Statistics Students will register at the same time.  Please review the Registration Guidelines on the MA Statistics Website.  The Office of the University Registrar is helpful. 

Registration at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is a two-part process:

  1. Register for courses.
  2. Register for a full or partial Residence Unit (RU). 

Your RU provides the basis of your tuition charges.  Read HERE about Residence Units.  For complete information about registration procedures, refer to the GSAS Registration page

Q: Where do I find information on relevant courses? 

Access course information in the Columbia University Directory of Classes.  Compare with the lists on the MA Statistics Website to choose approved electives.  

MA Statistics Courses begin with GR52xx.   Do not register for the GU42xx version of the same class. 

The Columbia Course Directory:

  • Reveals when a student is restricted from taking a course. The class must be “open to” GSAS.
  • Shows how many students have already signed up and how many slots are still open (time-delayed from the evening before).
  • Reveals if there are any “Approvals Required.” 
  • Lists prerequisites. 

Read carefully all informative emails from the Department, especially the MA Newsletter which will be available for new MA students in September. Special announcements of courses opening up or waitlists will be found in the MA Newsletter. 

Q: Which courses are recommended for the first semester? 

The recommended full-time course load in the first semester is:  

  • Probability – GR5203—Core Course
  • Inference – GR5204—Core Course
  • Linear Regression Models– GR5205—Core Course
  • Stat Comp & Intro Data Science—GR5206—This is the first offering in the popular Statistics Data Science Sequence. 

Part-time students should review their schedule needs with their Faculty Adviser. 

Students with a background in probability and inference should take the half-semester versions of these courses.  This allows for more advanced studies in the second semester. 

Students without a strong background in probability and inference should consider taking the full semester versions of these courses.  They should confer with their faculty adviser as to how to balance their schedule.  

It is important to know what courses are REQUIRED, what electives are APPROVED, and what courses are NOT-APPROVED.  

More information will be available in the August Welcome Webinar

Q: How do I know if I should take GR5203 Probability and GR5204 Inference in the half-semester format versus a full semester of each? 

Most students, with a strong mathematics background and previous exposure to probability and inference, should take the half-semester version of GR5203 and GR5204.

The half-semester courses move very quickly at the beginning, so it is important to keep up.  In the Welcome Emails, there will be a link to the PROBABILITY PREVIEW to get a feel for the pace of this course. 

Those with less exposure to probability should take GR5203 in a full semester format and then GR5204 the following semester.  It is recommended to have a strong background in probability and inference in order to do well in the MA Program.  All students should consult with their Faculty Adviser regarding course choices. 

Q: Am I guaranteed my first choice section for the core classes? 

No.  Each student is guaranteed to get into the required core classes in the first semester (Probability, Inference and Linear Regression).  However, you are not guaranteed to get into your first choice section for each class.  Please do not reach out to the Department asking to be switched into any sections

Q: May I register for multiple sections of the same class? 

No.  If you sign up for multiple sections you are holding up seats for your peers who need to get into a class.  Students found registered for multiple sections will be contacted and penalized appropriately.   


Q: How do wait lists work? 

Registration is based on a first-come-first-serve basis. If a section is full for a particular class then you may apply for the next section or you will be placed on an electronic waitlist. If you are on a waitlist, you must wait to find out if there will be room in a class. Since there is no guarantee that you will be allowed into the class, consider signing-up for a second choice. 

You should not sign up for multiple wait lists of the same class. 

If you receive a “Pending” status, this means that the instructor will allow you in the class if there is room. There is no need to email the professor or the Department. Review this GUIDE to Waitlists or email for questions.

Q: May I add/drop classes after the semester has begun? 

Yes, you may add/drop classes (without penalty) in SSOL until the end of the Change of Program Period (first two weeks of classes).  Check the academic calendar for specific dates. 

You may drop classes using SSOL until the last day to drop classes.  Check the academic calendar for the specific date.  You will not be able to drop a class after the Drop Date.  This deadline is strictly enforced. 

Read the MA Weekly Newsletter as key dates will be announced.

If you plan to make changes to your schedule it should be done in consultation with your Faculty Adviser.  Changes may affect RU registration. 

Q: When may I drop a half-semester class? 

The deadlines for half- semester courses are in proportion to the deadlines for full-semester courses:

  • Half-semester courses must be dropped within the first two weeks.
  • The deadline for Pass/Fail or for R credit is the first day of the fifth week. Core classes may not be taken for Pass/Fail or R credit.  Nor may they be taken over to receive a higher grade.
Q: What is the difference between a letter grade, R grade or Pass/Fail? 

Courses taken for R or Pass/Fail do not count towards the MA Statistics degree. Core classes cannot be taken for R or P/F.

Students must notify their faculty adviser before any course is changed to R or P/F statuses.  R, Pass/Fail grade policy can be found here: R Grade; Pass/Fail.

The last day to change a course to Pass/Fail or R Grade is listed in the Academic Calendar.  This deadline is strictly enforced. 

Q: May I register for classes in another department? 

Cross Registration is always at the discretion of the school, the program and the course instructor. The Statistics Department does not have any influence on allowing you into a cross registered class. Before attempting to cross register, MA Students must check in with their Faculty Adviser to ensure that it is a class they can take for credit.

Some graduate schools have their own cross registration processes. Please review the links below for information on how to cross register for those graduate schools. For schools not listed below, reach out to the specific department and inquire about their cross registration options and process.

Admittance into any course is not guaranteed.  All courses are subject to availability. 

Below are links for how to cross register into the following schools:

MA students may register for courses at TC, as long as they get permission from TC and their adviser.

For schools with no special procedure, fill out a Registration Adjustment Form, obtain the signature and UNI of the appropriate administrator of the other school and your faculty adviser, and bring the form to 107 Low Library for processing or email 

Q: How do I know if an elective is approved or not? 

There is an up-to-date list on our MA Website of approved electives and a list of classes which are not approved.

Sometimes a new course needs to be evaluated for inclusion.  If a course is not on our list, but...   

  • It relates to your studies in Statistics, obtain a syllabus and review it with your Faculty Adviser.  Your Faculty Adviser can approve your particular course schedule. 

Since new courses are coming up all the time, the MA Program has a procedure to request a new Approved Elective for all MA Statistics Students. 

  • The first step is to obtain the syllabus. 
  • The second step is to fill out and submit the ELECTIVES APPROVAL FORM.   

Please do not assume you can receive credit for an elective just because you can register for the course.

Q: May I take a language class or something that doesn’t directly relate to this program? 

In order to graduate you must have both a:

  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0, which includes all the courses you take.
  • 3.0 GPA in the ten courses which will count for graduation.  Only approved electives will count toward graduation. 

It is possible to take courses that will not count for graduation, as long as they do not interfere with your required studies.  You should review all electives with your adviser each semester.  Make sure you remain in Good Academic Standing.

Q: What is the American Language Program (ALP)? 

The ALP (American Language Program) offers classes for improving communication skills available to all MA Statistics students.  Please see details on this program and other language programs under International Students

Q: May I register for classes during winter and summer vacation? 

There are no courses in the winter break. 

Summer Registration

Summer Session:  Classes are offered to students in the MA Statistics Program through SPS (School of Professional Studies). 

Classes that Count for Graduation

  • Require registration of ER  (full-time student).
  • Require registration of the appropriate RU fraction (part-time student with fewer than 2 RUs completed).
  • May be approved electives from the Statistics Department or other schools or departments.  Please read about cross-registration.   

Career Development & Other Classes

 Questions about registering for Summer courses in SPS can be sent to:

To drop the last class of Summer,  fill-out the  withdrawal form.

Internships & Employment

Q: Is there a CPT option? 

This program has a CPT option.  Please review the Statistical Fieldwork Course GR5399

Please direct all visa-related questions about internships to the ISSO Office.

Q: How and when may I apply for campus employment? 

The Statistics Department urges students to focus on their coursework in the first semester.  Look for a job, preferably in the second semester, via this LINK.  International students should review the ISSO Website

Q: May I apply to be a TA or RA? 

The Statistics Department does not hire an MA student to be an RA or TA. 

There are “Grader” opportunities available for MA students, but not in the first semester.  You may apply in the second semester based upon your qualifications.  You will be informed of these opportunities via email. 

Q: How can I find an internship/job? 

Read the MA Weekly Newsletter (the communication email) to find new internship and job opportunities. The MA program has its own Career Development team, which provides individual, and group guidance to help students find jobs. This includes resume and cover letter reviews, training through mock interview sessions and networking events with employers and alumni. 

The MA Program has a dedicated LinkedIn group for MA Statistics students and alumni where job leads are posted. 

Review further details of employment at ISSO.  


* Please note these instructions are subject to change, based on guidelines we receive both from the university and the government.