Policies Governing Majors and Concentrations

Policies Governing Majors and Concentrations

Concentrations | Transfer Credit Toward the Major | Double Majors | Independent Majors

In addition to the GS Core, all GS students must fulfill the requirements for a major to qualify for a bachelor's degree from Columbia. The purpose of a major is to provide students with an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of a particular subject, developing expertise and critical thinking through sustained and advanced work. Students must have completed at least 45 points toward the degree, of which at least 12 letter-graded points should have been completed at GS, prior to declaring a major. Majors are noted on the Columbia transcript.

Students should consider various options and become familiar with the requirements for a particular major before filing a major declaration. In most cases, students should have done some previous coursework in the discipline before declaring the major. Faculty members are often excellent resources for discussing possible majors. Many departments sponsor open houses for potential majors during the academic year.

For information about specific majors and their requirements, see Major Fields of Study. From there students may link to department websites to obtain more information. It is recommended that students also attend a department open house to find out more about the major from faculty and other students in that major. These are usually held in the spring term and are publicized through the GS listserv. Many departments also have informational handouts for potential majors in their departmental offices. Certain majors require an application process and approval by the department while others do not.

Students eligible to declare a major may do so online in either October or March.

Students are expected to meet the requirements for the major that are in place at the time they declare their majors. Students who do not complete the major requirements within five years of their major declarations may be expected to comply with any new requirements that have been subsequently established.

The following rules pertain to all majors; exceptions to any of these rules are noted by individual departments on their official websites:

  1. No course with a grade of D will count toward the major.
  2. No courses with the mark of P (Pass) will count toward the major.
  3. No more than two courses may overlap with GS Core requirements.
  4. No course overlap is permitted between double majors.
  5. No course overlap is permitted between a major and a concentration unless explicitly stated in the description for the major or concentration.
  6. Students must check with departments for permission to count summer session classes and courses taken while studying abroad toward the major.
  7. No more than 12 transfer credits may count toward the major (some departments have a lower limit).
  8. Students must submit all required paperwork relevant to petitioning major departments for transfer credit toward the major in the same semester in which the major is declared; failure to meet this deadline will result in the loss of eligibility for transfer credit toward the major.
  9. At least 18 points of coursework toward the major must be taken at Columbia.


Concentrations are optional and provide students with the opportunity to develop more in-depth knowledge of a secondary field in addition to the major. Most departments and programs offer a concentration. Some programs offer only a concentration. A premedical concentration, administered by the GS Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program rather than a department, is available for students who want to prepare for medical, dental, or veterinary schools. See Major Fields of Study for more information about concentrations and requirements.

Choosing a Concentration

Courses counted toward a departmental concentration may simultaneously fulfill core requirements as long as the total number of overlapping classes from the major and/or concentration counted to the core does not exceed two. (Since the premedical concentration is not considered a departmental concentration, it is exempt from this policy.)

Courses cannot be counted toward both a major and a concentration unless explicitly stated in the departmental description for the major or concentration. Students interested in choosing a concentration in addition to a major must do so before completing 80 points toward the degree. In order for a concentration to appear on the Columbia transcript, students must file paperwork with their GS advisor.

Transfer Credit Toward the Major and Concentration

The director of undergraduate studies (DUS) in each department is authorized to accept up to 12 GS-approved transfer credits toward the major; some departments accept less than 12. The limit on transfer credits toward a concentration is 6. Students must check individual department policies concerning transfer credits. Credits from other institutions of higher education do not automatically transfer—and in some cases are not approved—toward the Columbia major or concentration, although they may count as electives or core requirements.

It is the student's responsibility to discuss with the DUS the possibility of counting transfer credits toward the major or concentration and to provide the department with any materials needed in order to make a decision about transfer credits. When reviewing transfer credits the DUS needs copies of official transcripts from the other institutions (supplied by the GS Dean of Students Office) and often the syllabus for the course in question (supplied by the student).

Note: Students must submit all required paperwork relevant to petitioning major departments for transfer credit toward the major or concentration in the same semester in which the major or concentration is declared; failure to meet this deadline will result in the loss of eligibility for transfer credit toward the major or concentration.

Double Majors

Students should have a strong academic record and excellent academic reasons for choosing to declare two majors. Students who wish to double-major must declare both majors prior to completing 75 points toward the degree. Double majors are different from combined majors such as Economics-Philosophy or Economics-Statistics. For a double major, students must complete all the requirements for each major as outlined by the department. Candidates for a double major must have a minimum GPA of 3.2 and need to provide the Committee on Academic Standing with a compelling statement about their reasons for double-majoring.

Double majors are required to complete separate sets of requirements for each major; a single course may not be counted twice. Any allowable exceptions must be stated in the description of the major. Double majors are bound by the rules applicable to all GS students concerning overlap between major and core requirements, which limit this overlap to a maximum of two courses.

Independent Majors

GS students have the option to structure and declare an independent, interdisciplinary major in cases where the student's plan of study cannot be accommodated by one of the approximately 70 undergraduate programs currently available at Columbia. The independent major must be declared before the completion of 80 points toward the degree and is restricted to students with a minimum GPA of 3.5. Students should first discuss their interest in an independent major with their GS advisors. If the proposed plan of study seems academically reasonable, the student is referred to the Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs to develop their proposal. The petition will be reviewed by the CC/GS Joint Committee on Instruction, whose formal approval is required for all independent majors. Students with independent majors may be eligible for departmental honors.