Application Materials

How can my reference providers submit their letters of recommendation?
Your references are received through the online application after you submit it.

We do not accept hard copy reference letters by mail nor via email to individuals at our School or via our office email address. References sent this way will not be reviewed. Exceptions are not made.  If your reference provider has trouble submitting their reference for you please contact the Office of Graduate Student Affairs for assistance at: seasgradmit@columbia.edu   

What is the deadline for the arrival of the recommendations supporting my application?
See the application deadline page for priority deadlines by program. Our School has a rolling admissions process. This means you may apply after the posted deadlines. We advise you to apply and complete your application close to the priority deadline and within a few weeks. 

You must submit your application for admission prior to your reference letters being received. Online references are accepted after your application is submitted online through the application system and are connected to your application.  It is best to submit the application sooner and give your reference providers time to send their letters by or near the priority deadline.

Are certain recommendation letters deemed more effective for the application?
A letter that addresses recollections of favorable personal interactions in a classroom or a laboratory setting is very valuable. Letters from professors in the student's department who have direct experience with the student and can clearly compare him/her to others in this class or prior classes are effective.

Also, letters from research supervisors in the student's chosen area are important. Research-oriented letters are encouraged for those applying at the Ph.D. level.

Who should I ask for recommendation letters?
For MS applicants it is recommended that at least one of the three recommendation letters be from a current or former professor who has taught you in a related subject. It is sometimes preferred to have a letter from an internship or job supervisor. 

For PhD applicants, it is usually best to ask professors from your current or most recent academic institution. Research supervisors are strongly preferred over classroom teachers, unless the course(s) involved a substantial project. Obtain letters from regular faculty members if at all possible, rather than from adjuncts, staff, or graduate students. Supervisors from summer internships, particularly research labs, are also good choices. However, applicants returning to school after several years away from academia should submit recommendations from work supervisors and advanced colleagues, preferably those who hold a graduate degree and/or have publications in major forums. It is less useful in these circumstances to request letters from former professors who have had no contact with you in many years. It is not recommended that you submit "character references" from people with no academic or research experience or from persons unfamiliar with your academic credentials or qualifications and research potential. 

Where can I find the recommendation forms that I should send to my providers?
The online application contains the appropriate form and will be sent to the providers you listed on the application electronically.

How long should my personal statement be?
There is no minimum or maximum length for the personal statement. Brevity is preferred. The statement serves as both a writing sample and opportunity for you to explain, why you are applying, what makes you a good fit, and anything that may be unclear elsewhere on your application. 

What if I want to update my personal statement, resume, or other, after submitting the application?
The online application system will allow you to update your documents and most of the information you entered (exceptions include, program changes and reference provider details) up until it is flagged for review internally. At that point you will not be able to alter your application. 

While you can't remove a reference provider from your online application, you may add additional providers as needed. 

I am an international student. Do I need to submit financial documents along with my application for visa purposes?
You may be required to submit financial statements to a different office at the university after you are accepted into the program. There is no need to submit financial documents before the decision is made. 


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