Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Columbia University School of General Studies

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit


+1 212-854-2772

Number of students


Undergraduate tuition and fees
50,760 USD (2016)

Columbia blue

Peter J. Awn

Columbia University School of General Studies

Urban, 36 acres (0.15 km; 0.056 sq mi) Morningside Heights Campus

408 Lewisohn Hall, 2970 Broadway, New York, NY 10027, United States

Lux in Tenebris Lucet; The light that shines in the darkness

Notable alumni
R W Apple, Baruj Benacerraf, Mike Gravel, Jacques Pépin, Simon Kuznets

Columbia University, Columbia University School of, Jewish Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary, Sciences Po


Columbia university school of general studies student andrew

The School of General Studies is a liberal arts college and one of three official undergraduate colleges at Columbia University, situated on the university's main campus in Morningside Heights, New York. GS is known primarily for its traditional B.A. degree program for non-traditional students (those who have had an academic break of one year or more, or are pursuing dual-degrees).


GS students make up almost 30% of the Columbia undergraduate population and have been known to consistently earn the highest average GPAs among undergraduates at Columbia University.

GS offers dual degree programs with Sciences Po in France, the City University of Hong Kong, and List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary. GS is the historical home to dual-degree programs at Columbia University—the school is the first undergraduate college at Columbia University to offer joint programs with other universities. GS is also home to the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program.

Numerous GS alumni have gone on to win prestigious fellowships, including the Rhodes Scholarship, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and the Fulbright Scholarship. Notable alumni include Nobel Prize winners Simon Kuznets and Baruj Benacerraf, as well as Isaac Asimov, J.D. Salinger, Amelia Earhart, and Princess Firyal of Jordan.

Columbia university school of general studies student alejandra

Defunct Predecessors

GS's evolutionary ancestor 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. Following completion of the two-year program, graduates could complete their undergraduate degrees at the University's professional schools, such as the School of Law, Business School, or School of Engineering and Applied Science (all of which conferred terminal bachelor's degrees at the time) or earn B.S. degrees in the liberal arts as University Undergraduates.

Seth Low Junior College was closed in 1938 due to the adverse economic effects of the Great Depression. Henceforth, its remaining students were absorbed into Columbia's undergraduate population as students in the University Undergraduate program (previously, University Extension, which was established by Nicholas Murray Butler in 1904).

The Establishment of the School of General Studies

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. In December 1968, the University Council permitted GS to grant the B.A. degree instead of the B.S. degree. Despite the objections of some members of the Columbia College Faculty, the Board of Trustees authorized the decision in February 1969 (at the time, the University only conferred the B.A. to graduates of Columbia College).

The Merging of the Columbia College and General Studies Faculties

In 1990, the Columbia College (CC), School of General Studies (GS), and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) faculties were merged into the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, which resulted in the complete academic integration between the School of General Studies and Columbia College. As a result, both GS and CC students receive B.A. 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.


GS students make up almost 30% of the Columbia undergraduate population and have been known to consistently earn the highest average GPAs among undergraduates at Columbia University. This statistic should be qualified with the fact that 23% of GS students are part-time students who have significant, full-time work commitments in addition to their academic responsibilities (which is also the case for some full-time students). Since 2010 (and until 2017), GS has been the only undergraduate college at Columbia University to produce any Rhodes Scholars.

The School of General Studies confers the degree of Bachelor of Arts in more than 70 majors. All GS students are required to complete the Core Curriculum, which includes classes in Writing, Literature/Humanities, Contemporary Civilization/Social Science, Art Humanities, Music Humanities, Global Core, Quantitative Reasoning, Science, and Foreign Language.

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.


Admission to Columbia GS is highly selective and "extremely competitive." Admission standards are among the highest in the nation: the SAT score range (25th-75th percentiles) for admitted students is 1330–1530 out of 1600 on the new SAT (680-770 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section and 650-760 on the Mathematics Section). The average GPA of admitted students is 3.9/4.0.

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. 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 must apply to GS. GS students have the option to attend part- or full-time.

Sciences Po Columbia University Dual BA Program

The Dual BA Program is a unique and highly selective program in which undergraduate students earn two Bachelor of Arts degrees from both Columbia University and Sciences Po (one of the most prestigious and selective universities in France) in four years. This program is geared towards traditionally-aged applicants in high school.

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. At Sciences Po, undergraduates can pursue majors in political science, economics, law, finance, history, among others. After two years at Sciences Po, students matriculate at Columbia University, where they complete the Core Curriculum and one of over 70 majors offered at Columbia. Graduates of the program are guaranteed admission to a Sciences Po graduate program.

Joint Bachelor's Degree Program Between the City University of Hong Kong and Columbia University

This highly selective program is open to top-ranked undergraduates enrolled at the City University of Hong Kong and allows graduates to receive two bachelor's degrees from CUHK and Columbia in four years. Undergraduates spend their first two years at CUHK and their final two years at Columbia, where they complete the Core Curriculum and choose one of 70 majors offered at Columbia.

Combined Plan with the School of Engineering and Applied Science

GS students are eligible for guaranteed admission to the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) through the Columbia Combined Plan program, under the condition that they complete the necessary prerequisite science and mathematic courses. Students in the program receive a B.A. in a liberal arts discipline from GS and a B.S. in an engineering discipline from SEAS. Students may apply for the Combined Plan program in their junior (3-2 program) or senior (4-2) year of undergraduate study.

Notable alumni

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


  • Simon Kuznets (1923), Nobel Prize-winning economist.
  • Baruj Benacerraf (1942), Nobel Prize-winning immunologist.
  • Isaac Asimov (1939), science fiction writer and biochemist, professor of biochemistry
  • Allen Forte (1950), professor at Yale University, music theorist and musicologist
  • Jehuda Reinharz (1964), President of Brandeis University
  • Edward Cecil Harris (1971), Creator of the Harris matrix.
  • Roger Pilon (1971), Constitutional scholar and legal theorist.
  • Alfred Appel (1959), scholar on Vladimir Nabokov.
  • Politics

  • Philippe Reines (2000), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
  • Patrick Gaspard* (1994–1997), current United States Ambassador to South Africa, White House Political Affairs Director for U.S. President Barack Obama, former Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee
  • Mike Gravel (1956), Former United States Senator from Alaska and candidate for the 2008 Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Released full Pentagon Papers.
  • Howard Dean (1975), Former Governor of Vermont and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
  • Peter H. Kostmayer (1971), United States Congressman from Pennsylvania.
  • Seymour Halpern (1934), United States Congressman from New York
  • Gale Brewer (1997), 27th Borough president of Manhattan
  • Stewart Rawlings Mott (1959), Lobbyist and Philanthropist
  • Patricia Robinson (1955), First Lady of Trinidad and Tobago from 1997 to 2003
  • Literature and arts

  • J. D. Salinger* (1939), Writer, The Catcher in the Rye
  • Federico García Lorca* (1929), Spanish poet and dramatist; influential member of the Generation of '27
  • Barbara Probst Solomon (1960), American author, essayist and journalist
  • Louis Simpson (1948), Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet
  • Ingrid Bengis (1996), American writer
  • Sasha Frere-Jones (1993), American writer, music critic, and musician
  • Ted Rall (1991), Syndicated cartoonist, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists from 2008 to 2009
  • Simi Linton (1977), author, consultant, public speaker who focuses on disability studies
  • Edward Klein (1960), Author.
  • Kevin Brown* (1990), biographer, essayist, translator
  • Joy Leftow (1983), poet, fiction writer, essayist
  • Mykola Dementiuk (1984), American author; twice winner of the Lambda Literary Award
  • Lee Siegel (1980s), cultural critic
  • Cecil Brown (1966), African American writer and educator
  • John Rousmaniere (1967), American sailor, author on sailing and yachting history
  • Castle Freeman, Jr. (1968), author, Go with Me; contributor to Old Farmer's Almanac
  • Raymond Federman (1957), French–American novelist and academic; author, Double or Northing
  • Hunter S. Thompson*, (1958). Writer.
  • Herbert Kuhner (1959), Austrian writer and translator
  • Donald Clarence Judd (1953), Artist.
  • Dolores Dembus Bittleman (1952), American fiber artist
  • Alexandra Ansanelli (2010-), American ballet dancer for The Royal Ballet
  • Technology and entrepreneurship

  • Thomas Reardon (2008), creator of Internet Explorer
  • John W. Backus (1950), Developer of Fortran, the first true computer language.
  • Scott Brinker (2005), programmer and entrepreneur
  • Chris Dixon (1996), angel investor, co-founder of Hunch and SiteAdvisor
  • Activism

  • Jane Jacobs* (1940s), author The Death and Life of Great American Cities, urban theorist and activist.
  • Florynce Kennedy (1949), Feminist, Civil Rights advocate, Social activist
  • Bruce Mayrock* (1969) Student activist and self-immolator
  • Susan Mesinai (1965), activist, founder of the Ark Project that aimed to find out information on non-Russians taken prisoner by the former Soviet Union
  • Matthew Lipman (1948), founder of the Philosophy for Children movement
  • Music

  • Ira Gershwin* (1918), Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer.
  • Leonard Cohen* (1957), Musician and poet
  • Jason Everman (2013), former member of Nirvana, Soundgarden, the Army Rangers, and Green Berets
  • Gil Shaham (1990), Violinist.
  • Lena Park (2010), Korean-American singer
  • Robin Pecknold (2016), American musician and frontman of Seattle indie folk band Fleet Foxes
  • Pat Boone (1957), Singer and actor.
  • Tamar Kaprelian (2016), Singer.
  • Film and entertainment

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt* (2000–2004), American actor and director
  • Robert Sean Leonard*, American actor
  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas (2010), Actor.
  • Kristi Zea (1974), Academy Award-winning producer, As Good as It Gets
  • David O. Selznick* (1923), Hollywood producer, King Kong, Gone with the Wind
  • Telly Savalas (1946), Actor, Emmy-award winner and Oscar nominee.
  • Sarah Ramos (2013-), American actress, American Dreams, Parenthood
  • Eric Shaw (2003), Emmy Award-winning writer for SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Ossie Davis (1948), Actor and social activist, Emmy- and Golden Globe-award nominee.
  • Adriana Ferreyr (2011-), Brazilian film, television and stage actress, Marisol
  • Julia Bacha (2003), Brazilian documentary maker, director of Budrus
  • Larysa Kondracki (2001), Canadian film director, The Whistleblower
  • Donald Richie (1953), Film Critic.
  • Anthony Perkins* (1950s), Actor and writer.
  • Frank Sutton (1952), actor, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
  • Media

  • R. W. Apple (1961), The New York Times associate editor.
  • James S. Vlasto (1950s), American editor, public relations consultant for Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. and Herman Badillo; press secretary for Governor of New York Hugh Carey; father of Chris Vlasto, executive producer of Good Morning America
  • Jacques Pepin (1970), internationally recognized French chef, TV personality, dean at the International Culinary Center
  • Mary Helen Bowers (2008), celebrity fitness guru, entrepreneur, former New York City Ballet dancer
  • Ray William Johnson* (2008), YouTube celebrity best known for his show "Equals Three"
  • Trish Regan (2000), Fox Business Network anchor
  • Steve Hofstetter (2002), comedian, host, and executive producer of "Laughs" on Fox television stations
  • Erik Courtney (2000) Bravo TV personality Newlyweds: The First Year
  • Mark Rotella (1992), senior editor at Publishers Weekly
  • John Horgan (journalist) (1982), American science journalist, known for his 1996 book, The End of Science
  • Howard G. Chua-Eoan (1983), News Director, Time.
  • Malcolm Borg (1965), Chairman of North Jersey Media Group (formerly Macromedia, Inc.) owner of The Record (Bergen County)
  • Eytan Schwartz (2001), Israeli Reality television personality
  • Matt Sanchez (2007), journalist and former Marine reservist
  • Athletics

  • Red Auerbach* (1937–39), legendary basketball coach of the Washington Capitols, Tri-Cities Blackhawks, and general manager of the Boston Celtics
  • Kimberly Navarro (2004), ice dancer, 2008 & 2009 U.S. bronze medalist and 2008 Four Continents bronze medalist.
  • Trent Dimas (2002), Olympic champion gymnast
  • Gillian Wachsman (1994), former skater; 1985 NHK Trophy champion and 1986 U.S. national champion
  • Sandy Koufax* (1955), Hall of Fame pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Troy Murphy (2015), former NBA player
  • Fashion

  • Gerard W. Ford (1957), Founder of the Ford Modeling Agency.
  • Mary McFadden (1959), Fashion Designer
  • Kelly Killoren Bensimon (1998), model, author, socialite, The Real Housewives of New York City
  • Sara Ziff (2011), American supermodel
  • Cameron Russell (2013), model and activist.
  • Miscellaneous

  • Amelia Earhart* (1920), American aviator and early female pilot.
  • Princess Firyal of Jordan (1999) Jordanian princess, socialite, and philanthropist
  • John Tauranac (1963), Chief designer of the New York City Subway map of 1979.
  • Josh Waitzkin* (1999), Child chess prodigy and author.
  • Steve Brozak (1982), investment banker, retired marine
  • Gabby Gabreski (1949), American flying ace during World War II and the Korean War; headed the Long Island Rail Road
  • Notable students currently attending the School of General Studies

  • Lipa Schmeltzer (2014-), American Jewish singer, entertainer writer, and composer
  • Abby Stein (2014-), American transgender activist, Blogger, and speaker.
  • Grace Phipps (2016-), American actress
  • Ayesha Kapur (2016-), Indian actress
  • Michelle Page (2016-), American actress
  • Tiiu Kuik (2016-), Estonian fashion model
  • References

    Columbia University School of General Studies Wikipedia

    Similar Topics