Columbia University School of General Studies

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Columbia University School of General Studies
Motto Lux in Tenebris Lucet[1]
Motto in English
The light that shines in the darkness
Established 1947
Location New York, New York, USA
Campus Urban, 36 acres (0.15 km2; 0.056 sq mi) Morningside Heights Campus, 26 acres (0.11 km2; 0.041 sq mi) Baker Field athletic complex, 20 acres (0.081 km2; 0.031 sq mi) Medical Center, 157 acres (0.64 km2; 0.245 sq mi) Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
Affiliations Albert A. List College (Jewish Theological Seminary of America), the Juilliard School, and Sciences Po

The School of General Studies is a highly selective undergraduate liberal arts college of Columbia University that allows non-traditional students to pursue traditional undergraduate degrees. [2] GS students make up approximately 25% of the undergraduate population at Columbia University. [3] GS is also home to the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program and has joint degree programs with List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary and Sciences Po.[4] GS is the historical home to dual programs at Columbia University—the school is the first undergraduate college at Columbia University to offer joint programs with other universities.[5]


Columbia School of General Studies confers the degree of Bachelor of Arts (and until 2014, both the B.A. and B.S. degrees) in more than 70 majors.[1] All GS students are required to take Core classes in Writing, Literature/Humanities, Foreign Language, Art Humanities, Music Humanities, Global Core, Contemporary Civilization/Social Science, Quantitative Reasoning, and Science.[6]

In addition to its bachelor's degree program, the School of General Studies offers combined undergraduate/graduate degree programs with Columbia's Schools of Law, Business, Dental Medicine, Social Work, International and Public Affairs, Teachers College, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as undergraduate dual-degree programs with the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and the French University Sciences Po.[7]


Admission to Columbia GS is highly selective and "extremely competitive."[8] Admission standards are among the highest in the nation: the SAT score range (25th -75th percentiles) for admitted students is 650-760 for Critical Reading, 670-760 for Math, and 670-760 for Writing. The average GPA of admitted students is 3.9/4.0. [9]

Admission requires a formal application as well as submission of official SAT or ACT test scores, academic transcripts, essays, and recommendations; if the test scores are older than eight years, applicants may instead take the General Studies Admissions Examination.[10] Interviews are conducted in person and on the phone.

Eligibility for admission requires that applicants have taken a minimum of one year or more off from academic studies, or have extenuating circumstances which preclude them from attending Columbia College full-time. Prospective Columbia undergraduates who have had a break of a year or more in their education, have already completed an undergraduate degree, or are pursuing dual undergraduate degrees are considered non-traditional and are automatically ineligible for admission to Columbia College. [11][12] GS students have the option to attend part- or full-time.[13]

Science Po Columbia University Dual BA Program[edit]

The Dual BA Program is a highly selective program in which undergraduate students earn Bachelor of Arts degrees from both Sciences Po and Columbia University. Students spend two years at one of three Sciences Po campuses in France (Le Havre, Menton, or Reims), each of which is devoted to a particular region of the world. After two years, students matriculate at Columbia University, where they complete the Core Curriculum. Graduates of the program are guaranteed admission to a Sciences Po graduate program. High school students may apply.[14]


Nontraditional education began at Columbia in the 1830s.[8] A formal program, Extension Teaching (later renamed University Extension), was created by Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler in 1904.[8] GS's evolutionary ancestor, however, is Seth Low Junior College, which was established in Downtown Brooklyn to help alleviate the flood of Jewish applicants to Columbia College. The entrance requirements for Seth Low Junior College were reportedly the same as those enforced in Columbia College.[15] Following completion of the two-year program, graduates could complete their undergraduate educations at the University's professional graduate schools (many of which still conferred bachelor's degrees) or earn B.S. degrees as University Undergraduates at the Morningside Heights campus. [16]

However, Seth Low Junior College was closed in 1938 due to the establishment of Brooklyn College in 1930 and the concomitant economic effects of the Great Depression. Henceforth, its remaining students were absorbed into Columbia's undergraduate population as students in the University Extension program. [17] Admission to the degree program was contingent on a B average in the secondary school courses required by Columbia College.[18]

With an influx of students attending the University on the GI Bill following the resolution of World War II, in December 1946, the University Undergraduate program was reorganized as an official undergraduate college for "qualified students who, because of employment or for other reasons, are unable to attend other schools of the University" and designated the School of General Studies as of July 1947.[8][15] Additionally, the School was tasked with offering instruction to non-matriculated, part-time students on the adult level.[19]

Unlike Columbia College and Barnard College, GS was coeducational from its inception.[15] Formed in 1952 as an analog to the Columbia College and Graduate Faculties, the Faculty of General Studies ensured greater curricular autonomy and encompassed the majority of female instructional personnel at Columbia in the 1960s.[20] During this period, fissures between the CC and GS communities solidified over a minimum matriculation age (20) that demographically overlapped with traditional residential students.[21]

Released in February 1958, the controversial Macmahon Report on the Educational Future of the University recommended the elimination of the non-matriculated program (in which eighty percent of the School's student body was then enrolled) and raising the matriculation age to 23; this precipitated the immediate resignation of Dean Louis M. Hacker, who helped to initiate and favored the School's egalitarian "open door" policy, in which students were allowed to take nine credits of coursework without matriculating.[22] During Hacker's tenure, 63 of 759 students who completed the "validation" program received GS degrees, while over three-fourths of respondents to a questionnaire issued to the graduating classes of 1956 and 1967 went on to pursue graduate or professional education.[23] Although the recommendations were not stringently implemented following Hacker's resignation, by 1964 "the number of non-matriculated students [had] dropped to a level just above that of the degree candidates," while less than half of the School's courses were offered at night.[24] In December 1963, the University trustees amended a section of the University Statues pertaining to the GS program of study, leading to voiciferous faculty outrage. Following the dedication of Lewisohn Hall (a building that included dedicated classroom and administrative facilities) in April 1964, the matriculation age was raised to 21 by the trustees to maintain the stipulated character of the school amid the influx of traditionally-aged transfer students.[25]

In December 1968, the University Council permitted GS to grant the B.A. degree over the objections of some members of the Columbia College Faculty.[26] The Board of Trustees authorized that decision in February 1969.

In 1990, the CC, GS, and GSAS faculties were merged into the Faculty of Arts & Sciences. As a result, GS students receive degrees conferred by the Trustees of Columbia University through the Faculty of Art & Sciences, and GS is recognized as one of the two official liberal arts colleges at Columbia University, along with Columbia College.

More recently, as a result of the passage of extended GI Bill coverage in 2008, the school hosts many U.S. and international veterans.[27] In the 2010-2011 school year, the school hosted about 150 of Columbia's nearly 300 studying veterans.

Some GS students are veterans of the U.S. military, and have their own group, the U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University (or "MilVets"; see link below). In addition, there is a significant population of former Israeli soldiers who have completed their pre-university military duty. A January 2010 news article in The New York Times discusses the strong military veteran presence in the GS student body.[27] In addition to a large body of former military students, many students have held full-time jobs before matriculating at Columbia.


  • Frederick H. Sykes, (1904–1910) Director of Extension Teaching.
  • James Chidester Egbert, Jr., (1910–1942) Director of Extension Teaching/University Extension.
  • Harry Morgan Ayres, (1942–1948) Director of University Extension (re-established as School of General Studies in 1947).
  • John A. Krout, (1948–1951) Acting Director of the School of General Studies
  • Louis M. Hacker, (1951–1958), former student of University Extension. First Dean of the School of General Studies.
  • Cliford L. Lord, (1958–1964)
  • Clarence C. Walton, (1964–1969)
  • Aaron Warner, (1969–1976)
  • Ward H. Dennis, (1977–1991)
  • Frank Wolf, Acting Dean, (1991–93)
  • Caroline W. Bynum, (1993–1994)
  • Gillian Lindt, (1994–1997)
  • Peter J. Awn, (1997–Present)

Notable alumni and attendees[edit]

The following list contains some of the notable alumni and attendees of the School of General Studies and its extension school predecessors only. For a full list of people associated with Columbia University as a whole, please see the list of Columbia University people.

An asterisk (*) indicates an attendee who did not graduate.

Alumni of the School of General Studies and its precursors[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "The Core | General Studies". Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  7. ^ "Columbia University School of General Studies". 2013-09-22. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  8. ^ a b c d [1]
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Program Overview | General Studies". Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c [2]
  16. ^ Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York ... - Robert A. McCaughey - Google Books. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  17. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 2 June 1942 — Columbia Spectator". 1942-06-02. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  18. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 10 November 1942 — Columbia Spectator". 1942-11-10. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  19. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 6 December 1946 — Columbia Spectator". 1946-12-06. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  20. ^ Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York ... - Robert A. McCaughey - Google Books. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  21. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 8 March 1956 — Columbia Spectator". 1956-03-08. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  22. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 6 February 1958 — Columbia Spectator". 1958-02-06. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  23. ^ "GS: Controversial University School Adult College's Critics Often Attacked 'Lower Standards' — Columbia Daily Spectator 2 November 1959 — Columbia Spectator". 1959-11-02. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  24. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 6 February 1964 — Columbia Spectator". 1964-02-06. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  25. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 5 May 1964 — Columbia Spectator". 1964-05-05. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  26. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 19 December 1968 — Columbia Spectator". 1968-12-19. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  27. ^ a b Lisa W. Foderaro (January 8, 2010). "From Battlefield to Ivy League, on the G.I. Bill". The New York Times. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°48′33″N 73°57′47″W / 40.809163°N 73.962941°W / 40.809163; -73.962941