The Graduate School offers admission with the expectation that students will matriculate in the semester specified during the application process. If extraordinary circumstances will prevent you from matriculating, you may submit a request to defer your enrollment for up to one calendar year. 

In this time of COVID-19, it is a given that we are in extraordinary circumstances. If you wish or need to defer for one year (until August 2021), you are welcome to do so.  Most, but not all, departments are also able to accommodate a one-semester deferral (until January 2021). Please consult with your Director of Graduate Studies or Program Director to confirm that this option is available. 

The deferral options described below are available whether Columbia classes are held in person, online, or in a hybrid instructional format. 

Deferral requests will be granted after receipt by the GSAS Office of Admissions, with one exception: MA applicants admitted from the summer waitlist are not eligible to request deferrals. If you accept summer waitlist status and receive an offer of admission, you must enroll in the Fall 2020 term or, if you are unable to do so, reapply for 2021.

The deadline for submission of a deferral request is August 15. Students who have registered for the fall term are no longer eligible to request a deferral and may only request a leave of absence or a withdrawal.  

Once a deferral request has been approved, your place in the 2021 class is guaranteed.

Doctoral Students

Requesting a Deferral
PhD applicants who have accepted offers of admission for Fall 2020 may request a deferral by writing to gsas-admissions [at], with the subject line "PhD Deferral Request." You must submit the credentials verification forms before a deferral request can be approved.

2021 Enrollment
In the months prior to your new enrollment term, an updated offer of admission will be sent to you via email. This new offer must be accepted via the online response form (instructions will be provided in the updated admission letter).

Deferral Reversal
PhD students whose deferral requests are approved will not be able to request that their original offers be reinstated so that they may enroll in Fall 2020. You are expected to enroll in the term to which you have deferred.

Master’s Students 

Requesting a Deferral

  1. Accept the offer for the current season by paying the tuition deposit. This deposit must be paid on or before the response deadline listed on page two of the admission letter.
  2. Begin the credentials review process by submitting the Re Vera Release Form and the Recommender Verification Form. 

After the tuition deposit and the two forms are received, the Deferral Request Form will appear on the Applicant Status page. Submit the Deferral Request Form, indicating the intended term of enrollment and providing a brief explanation for the request.

2021 Enrollment
Because of the COVID-19 crisis, an MA applicant whose deferral request is approved will not be required to submit an additional tuition deposit to accept the new offer of admission in the following year. The initial tuition deposit payment will appear on your account as a credit toward tuition.

Additionally, MA students whose offer of admission for Fall 2020 includes a funding award from GSAS are guaranteed that their funding will remain in place for the new enrollment term, unless their program has previously notified them that the funding will not transfer to the new enrollment semester.

In the months prior to your new enrollment term, an updated offer of admission will be sent to you via email. This new offer must be accepted via the online response form (instructions will be provided in the updated admission letter).

Reinstating Fall 2020 Enrollment

If after a deferral request, you find you are able to attend in Fall 2020 after all, you may cancel your deferral and join the incoming cohort in Fall 2020 by writing to gsas-admissions [at], with the subject line, “CANCEL MY DEFERRAL.” We understand that, depending on current location, you may have additional challenges in attaining a visa on short notice. We will work with you so that you may join us for the earliest semester possible. 

Tuition deposits vary by program. Most MA programs require a $1,000 deposit.

Exceptions are noted below:

The following programs require a $2,000 tuition deposit:

  • MA in Climate and Society
  • MA in Islamic Studies
  • MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • MA in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences
  • MA in Sociology

The following programs require a $3,500 tuition deposit:

  • MA in Biotechnology
  • MA in Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies

The following programs require a $5,000 tuition deposit:

  • MA in Economics
  • MA in Mathematics with a specialization in the Mathematics of Finance
  • MA in Statistics
  • MA in Statistics (Hybrid Online/On-Campus Program)

Please contact gsas-admissions [at] with any questions.