Resources for Students


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Finding the housing that is right for you can be a challenge in New York City. Most international students will find that it is easier and more practical to explore on campus housing or share an apartment than to try to obtain a lease in your name. Getting a lease without a U.S. credit history, employment, or a U.S.–based guarantor is very difficult. Read more at Columbia Residential Off-Campus Housing Resources.

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University Housing for Undergraduate Students

Information about Columbia Housing is included with your admission materials. This includes undergraduate students in Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS).

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University Housing for Graduate Students 

Columbia Residential and CUIMC Facilities Management and Campus Services offer limited on-campus housing to graduate students. It is not guaranteed so apply as early as possible if you’re eligible. Your school will provide information with your admission.

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Off-Campus Housing

Columbia’s Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) can be used by students, faculty, staff and alumni to search for an apartment, a room in an apartment, or roommates. The Office for Work/Life provides a useful Rental Guide. Another resource is 4Stay, a platform geared toward students, scholars and interns to search for medium to long-term furnished rentals.

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International House

International House is an independent non-profit organization that is home to over 700 resident members from over 100 countries. Its location is close to Columbia’s Morningside campus. 

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Temporary Places to Stay

You may need a place for a week or two while you find something more permanent. Check out Work | Life Temporary Housing Options, Columbia University's Travel Portal, and Sara’s HomestayHostelling International NYC is walking distance from Columbia’s Morningside campus.


Subway Map

The subway system is extensive and avoids street traffic. It’s open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day! With a total of 656 miles of passenger tracks, it serves 4 of the 5 boroughs of NYC; Staten Island has its own rail service.

Bus Map

Buses are a great way to get around if you’re not in a hurry. It’s interesting to look out the window and observe the changing neighborhoods. The buses that run closest to Columbia Morningside campus are the M104, M4, M60, and the M5; for the CUIMC campus, the M5, M7 and M100. Each borough has its own bus routes, map and schedule.


MetroCards are electronic fare cards for use on subways and buses in the five boroughs. Choose between refillable "debit" cards or unlimited weekly and monthly cards. MetroCards are available for purchase in all subway stops. As an alternative, avoid paper cards and pay for the MTA through your phone and digital wallet. Learn more on the OMNY website. MTA plans to transition to OMNY only in 2024.


Citi Bike is the nation's largest bike share program, with stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. Designed for quick trips with convenience in mind, it’s a fun and affordable way to get around town.


Taxis (also called taxicabs or cabs)

They are yellow or green with a medallion number on top of the roof. If it is lit up and says on-duty it is available to wave down. There is a metered fare that you may pay with credit card or cash. It is customary to tip 10-20%.

Intercampus Shuttle Map
Intercampus Shuttle

Need to travel between Columbia campuses? Use the Intercampus shuttle to get to, from, and between Columbia campuses. Learn about more services at Columbia Transportation.

Getting Out of the City
Day Trips

Do you need to get refreshed by leaving the urban environment and spend more time in nature? The Long Island Railroad and Metro-North offer one-day and overnight get-away packages to get out of the City. NYC Ferry travels to various locations around the city (and even some beaches). And some of the best beaches near NYC can be reached by subway!

Travel Apps
Travel Apps

To find the best travel route between two points, use Google Maps or CityMapper.

For a real-time public transportation tracker, you can try out MYmta  or Transitapp.

For ride-sharing services, Uber and Lyft are commonly used in the city.


Open a U.S. Bank Account

You will need:

You don't need:

Be sure the bank officer is aware that you are a non-resident. You will be asked to complete a form called W8-BEN for nonresidents so interest from your savings or checking account will not be taxed.

There are many bank locations in the Columbia neighborhoods. In addition, Santander has a branch on the Morningside campus in Alfred Lerner Hall, open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., and on the CUIMC campus in the Mailman School of Public Health (William Black Building on the first floor), open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with 24-hour ATM access. 

Other commonly used banks are Chase, Bank of America, and Citibank. Chase Bank has multiple ATM machines located inside the buildings on the CUIMC campus.

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Obtain a U.S. Credit Card

It is difficult for newcomers to get your first credit card because of lack of U.S. credit history (record of paying your bills). Ask the bank where you have an account about qualifying for one of their credit cards to help establish a credit history.

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Get U.S. Mobile Phone Service

Some carriers may offer student discounts, but it is best to check with the stores owned by the mobile provider directly rather than "authorized dealers." Some students bring an “unlocked” phone from home and buy a U.S. SIM card at a US airport, from a mobile provider, or a prepaid card online. There are many phone service provider stores in the Columbia neighborhoods. Some top providers are: AT&T, T Mobile, Sprint, Verizon.


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Obtain NY State Driver's License/Non-Driver's License

Each state has its own Department of Motor Vehicles that administers the issuance of driver’s licenses. NY State honors foreign licenses for drivers who are here temporarily but you must have a certified English translation. We recommend you bring an International Driving Permit (available only from your home country) to use with your license. The IDP alone is not valid to drive with. Visit NYS Driver’s License or a Non-Driver ID card to learn how to apply. Also refer to Driving in the United States.

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Obtain IDNYC

IDNYC is a government-issued identification card that is available to anyone living in NYC who is age 14 and older, regardless of immigration status. It provides discounts and free membership to some museums and cultural institutions. Learn how to apply.

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Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is used primarily by employers and employees for tax-reporting purposes only. The employer needs to withhold taxes on your earnings using your unique number, and you need your social security number when you file a tax return. Our Social Security Number webpage provides an overview of eligibility requirements and when and how to apply.


Adjustment Tips

Student Working
Select your courses wisely.

When you arrange your course schedule, consult not only your academic adviser but also experienced students. Don't forget to have a full-time course load!

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Keep up with your assignments.

Don't wait until the end of your term to begin studying!

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Talk with your instructors.

Professors expect students to ask questions in or immediately after class, or during office hours. Know your professor's expectations. Each professor may have different expectations and requirements.

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Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is taken seriously, and violations may have harsh consequences, including being expelled from the university. Be aware of plagiarism and cheating. Each school at Columbia has its own code of academic honesty and integrity and the way in which infractions are disciplined. 

What is considered cheating?
  • Having someone else do your work.
  • Talking during examinations, especially in another language. Asking to borrow a pencil or using another person’s calculator during an exam could even be construed as cheating.
  • Collaborating on homework assignments. Be sure you ask the teaching assistant or the professor whether you can work with fellow students on an assignment.
What is considered plagiarism?
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Other Resources

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Take advantage of Columbia's libraries and IT services.

Columbia has one of the largest university collections in the United States (over 21 libraries with almost 12 million volumes). It is a fantastic resource for anyone studying, conducting research, or teaching at Columbia. Become familiar with all its services and research support.

CUIT for Morningside campus and CUIMC IT for CUIMC campus together provide Columbia with central computing and communications including telephones, email, web publishing, computer labs / electronic classrooms, course management and student information applications, office and administrative applications, high-speed campus Ethernet and wireless networks. For Morningside, visit PawPrint for printing instructions.

Take additional English courses.
  • American Language Program provides both full-time and part-time courses for different language goals. 
  • Community Language Program (CLP) at Teachers College (TC) offers International Researchers Language Program (IRLP) as well as general English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
  • Chazen Language Program offers eight-week courses taught by professional instructors in small class sizes. It is held at Columbia Business School's Chazen Institute for Global Business.
  • NY Public Libraries also offer free English classes.


Columbia Health Teams and Services

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Health Reminders

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Get Your Immunization

Don’t forget to comply with the immunization requirement by New York State! If you do not do this, a hold will be placed on your ability to register for classes. This will jeopardize your F-1 /J-1 status. Information for Morningside campus students. Information for Medical Center campus (CUIMC) students. 

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Have Health Insurance

Columbia University requires all its international students to enroll in the university's health insurance. Columbia Health offers a two-part health care program: Medical Services and the Columbia Student Medical Insurance Plan. Learn more about insurance and Columbia plan in this short video

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Crisis Hotline

A crisis situation is one that requires prompt attention but is not immediately life-threatening. 1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355) is a free, confidential NYC Help Line, available 24 hours per day/7 days a week. NYC Well is multilingual and multicultural.

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Culture Shock

Moving to a new country, new city and a new academic environment is a significant adjustment for everyone. The adjustment process is often called culture shock. There is no way to know in advance how you will respond to cultural adjustment. Each individual experiences it differently. The adjustment process is normal, so be patient with yourself and others.



Services and Tips

Be well-informed about your personal safety. New York presents the same security concerns as any other large city worldwide. In case of an emergency, contact Public Safety. Put the number in your phone: 212 854-5555 (Morningside campus) or 212 305-7979 (Medical Campus).

Columbia Public Safety and Columbia Transportation Services
Additional Personal Safety Tips
  • At night, take the well-lit and well-traveled paths. Avoid shortcuts through dark or isolated areas.
  • Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to utilize the Walking Safety Escort Program—your safety, well-being, and peace of mind are at stake.
  • Be prepared and ready with your keys before you approach your residence hall, apartment, home, or automobile.
  • If you think someone is following you, don’t lead him or her to your destination—instead, abruptly change directions and go into a store or restaurant that is open.
  • Be aware of your valuables and belongings, such as your backpack, handbag, or wallet. Even if you’re in a “safe” place for a short time, take them with you rather than leave them behind.
  • When taking the bus or subway, use well-lit, and preferably well-peopled, stations.
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Beware of Scams and Phishing

Fraudulent phishing emails and imposter phone calls are a big problem. Scammers are very creative and skillful in seeking access to your money and/or personal information by either gaining your confidence (“con artist”) or threatening you. They pretend to be from a government agency and demand money for a variety of fake reasons, including taxes you owe or a problem with your immigration status.

The best way to avoid being a victim of a scam is to be aware that they exist and have some common characteristics:

  1. Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls and emails. If it doesn’t sound right—just hang up!
  2. Be aware that a government agency would never ask you to send money a certain way or purchase gift cards. Just hang up!
  3. Resist their pressure to act immediately, before you have time to think or check their information. Contact Public Safety.

Learn more on our website where we have consolidated sample scenarios and videos and additional resources.


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Arts Initiative

The Arts Initiative at Columbia University connects Columbians with incredible arts experiences on campus and throughout the larger arts landscape of NYC. Review their website for free admission to multiple museums as well as city-wide events (some free) all throughout the year.

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Spiritual and Community Life

For information about religious life on campus, learn about the Earl Hall Center. Its mission is to foster learning through spiritual, ethical, religious and cultural exchange, and to promote service to the University and its surrounding New York City communities. Read more through their affiliated websites: Office of the University Chaplain and Community Impact.

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University Life

The Office of University Life partners with student leaders, student affairs offices and central student services at the University to maximize your student experience and provides opportunities for you to get connected with the Columbia community. Find student resources, upcoming events, and more on their website.

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Sports and Physical Fitness

Engaging in sports and physical fitness is a great way to meet others and stay healthy. Learn more about Columbia’s Dodge Fitness Center and 50 Haven Athletic Center for the CUIMC community.

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Volunteering is another great way to get involved and help others. Check out these organizations’ programs and volunteer opportunities:

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Resources for Dependents (Spouse/Children)

We hope these resources for spouses and children will guide you and your family through an exciting transition and opportunities for building life-long friendships.