Non-Degree Special Students and Visiting Ph.D. Scholars


In select instances, students who are matriculated doctoral candidates at other institutions and who do not wish to enroll in a degree program, may be permitted to register as non-degree special students. Typically, non-degree special students are international students who have received a scholarship to conduct one year of doctoral research at a university in the United States.

Admission as a non-degree special student or visiting scholar is made by the Office of the Dean in consultation with a department relevant to the student's research interests. Non-degree special students are charged tuition at either the Extended Residence rate (if they wish to enroll in courses) or the Matriculation & Facilities rate (if they are conducting research only). Non-degree special student status is limited to a maximum of two terms.

Non-degree special students and visiting scholars register only at the Graduate School, and are not eligible to participate as Columbia University students in other exchange or consortium agreements through the Graduate School, such as the Ivy Plus Exchange Scholar program or the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium (IUDC). With the limited exception of international exchange students participating in one of the programs listed below, non-degree special students and visiting scholars are not eligible for fellowships or other financial aid from the Graduate School. International exchange students participating in these exchanges should consult the exchange coordinator at his or her home institution for specific details. Fellowship aid for these students in all cases is strictly limited to the award made in the letter of admission.

Postbaccalaureate applicants who are not degree candidates elsewhere but who wish to take non-degree graduate-level courses at Columbia should contact the School of Professional Studies instead (203 Lewisohn Hall, telephone: 212-854-9666).

Admissions Deadlines for Non-Degree Students

  • Spring 2017 semester
    Most programs: November 16
    University of London-Birkbeck: October 15
    Ecole Polytechnique, EHESS, Trilateral Agreement: November 1 
  • Fall 2017 semester
    Most programs: April 15
    Minzu STS: February 1
    University of London-Birkbeck: March 25

Students applying through the Exchange Scholar Program (Ivy Plus), through the Partnership Ph.D. Mobility Program, or from the Bard Graduate Center may be eligible for year-round admission. If you are applying through one of these programs and are unable to access the application via the Exchange Scholars Application links on this page, please email for assistance. 

Applying as a Non-Degree Student

Doctoral students from other institutions who wish to study at Columbia on a visiting basis should select one of the options below and apply according to the instructions given.

1. Exchange Scholar Program

Ph.D. students from the following graduate schools in the United States may study at Columbia for a limited period of time, to take advantage of particular educational opportunities not available at their home institutions. Please click here to apply.

  • Bard Graduate Center
  • Brown
  • Cornell
  • Harvard
  • MIT
  • Princeton
  • Stanford
  • UC Berkeley
  • U of Chicago
  • U of Pennsylvania
  • Yale

2. International Exchange Scholars 

Doctoral students who are matriculated at institutions outside of the United States and who wish to take classes or do research at the Graduate School, and whose institution participates in a special exchange program with Columbia GSAS, may apply as International Exchange Scholars. For specific information about partnerships between Columbia GSAS and your home institution, please contact your home department for assistance. 

Please note: Not all departments or programs at Columbia GSAS offer admission to International Exchange Scholars. Before beginning the application process, prospective students should coordinate their plan of study at Columbia with both their home institution and the Columbia department or program to ascertain whether non-degree admission is offered, and if a faculty member is willing to serve as an advisor.  

The Exchange Scholars application should only be submitted if you are applying from one of the institutions/programs below and have been officially selected by your home institution.

  • Alliance (Ecole Polytechnique, Sciences Po, Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne)
  • Ecole des Hautes en Science Sociales (EHESS)
  • Ecole du Louvre
  • Ecole Normale Superieure (Lyon or Paris)
  • Ecole Polytechnique
  • European University Institute
  • Freie Universitat - German Consortium
  • Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia
  • London School of Economics (Anthropology or History)
  • Max Planck Institute
  • Minzu STS
  • Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne
  • Paris IV Sorbonne
  • Paris VII Diderot
  • Partnership Ph.D. Mobility Program (London School of Economics, National University of Singapore, Sciences Po)
  • Sciences Po Ph.D. Exchange Program
  • Trilateral Agreement (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales Paris, Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies at Freie Universitat Berlin)
  • University of Mainz
  • Waseda University
  • University of London-Birkbeck (Classics or History)
  • University of London King's College (English and Comparative Literature)
  • University of Warwick

3. Non-Degree Special International Students

Doctoral students who are matriculated at institutions outside of the United States and who wish to take classes or do research at the Graduate School, but who do not wish to enroll in a degree program, may apply for Non-Degree Special Student status. Admission as a Non-Degree Special Student is made by the Dean of the Graduate School in consultation with the faculty in the department relevant to the student's research interests. This status is limited to a maximum of two terms, during which Non-Degree Special Students may do the following:

  • Take classes for credit (and pay tuition at the Extended Residence rate), or conduct research under the formal guidance of a Columbia faculty member without taking classes (and pay tuition at the Matriculation & Facilities rate). Current tuition rates are available on the Cost of Attendance page.
  • Receive full student status, including an official statement of attendance at Columbia.

Please note: Not all departments or programs offer admission as a Non-Degree Special Student. Before beginning the application process, prospective students should contact the department or program to ascertain whether non-degree admission is offered and if a faculty member is willing to serve as an advisor.

If your institution/program does not appear in the International Exchange Scholars section above, please follow these instructions:

  • Apply using the regular GSAS M.A./Ph.D. application
  • Select "Non-Degree" as the Primary Degree choice
  • Select the department to which you are applying as the Primary Program choice
  • Indicate your intention to take classes via the Yes/No questions that follow
  • The following materials are required as part of your application:
    • Curriculum vitae
    • Statement of purpose
    • Transcripts
    • 2 letters of recommendation
    • Language proficiency exam scores, if the undergraduate degree was completed at an institution located in a country where English is not the official language. For more information, see the English Proficiency Requirement section.

4. Visiting Ph.D. Scholars

Doctoral students who wish to visit the University to conduct independent research without formally enrolling in classes and without receiving formal guidance from Columbia faculty may apply for Visiting Ph.D. Scholar status.  The following conditions and limitations apply:

  • No tuition is charged.
  • Visiting Ph.D. Scholars are not considered enrolled students and do not receive an official statement of attendance or grade transcript.
  • They do not receive University housing, administrative support, or other University services
  • They may audit lecture courses only with the permission of the instructor.
  • This status is granted for up to one year.
  • They receive free reading privileges in the Libraries and may have four-week borrowing privileges upon payment of a monthly fee to the Libraries.
  • They may use the Physical Fitness Center and the University's other recreational facilities upon payment of a fee.

To apply for Visiting Ph.D. Scholar status, interested individuals should contact the relevant department or institute of the University, and provide to that office the following materials:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Research proposal
  • Academic transcripts (note: please provide a notarized translation for any non-English transcript)
  • One (1) letter of recommendation

Please note that departments can only accommodate a limited number of Visiting Ph.D. Scholars, and will only invite a Visiting Ph.D. Scholar after identifying a faculty member willing to serve as that Visiting Ph.D. Scholar's contact.  Departments that accept a Visiting Ph.D. Scholar's application will issue a letter of invitation.