FAQs for Academic Year 2020/21

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Updated Aug 7 at 4:00 p.m.

Students will receive an email by August 7 that includes both their room assignment and assigned Check-In day and time. Check-In will occur over several days between August 31 and September 4 to allow us to manage campus density and physical distancing.

This information will be updated as planning continues.


Incoming new students should be sure to complete the requirements outlined on the Countdown website.

As you make your travel plans, it’s important to note that each student will be permitted only one guest at Check-In. See “Check-In Day” for more information.

If you are returning to campus, any items in storage can be scheduled to be delivered. Please coordinate directly with the vendor. Keep in mind, students are strongly encouraged to only keep essential clothing and items in their residence halls.

If you are not returning to campus, please make arrangements directly with the storage vendor to extend your contract or ship your items.

Students are strongly encouraged to bring to campus only what they can easily pack and travel with on their own, whether you are here for the Fall Term or the Full Year. Think airline style: one large piece of luggage and two carry-on items. Students are discouraged from bringing personal furniture, TVs, or other large items.

Keep in mind that on-campus classes end November 24. Students approved for Fall Term will need to move out by noon on November 25. You will need to pack all your belongings before you leave campus. Students and their guests must also bring face coverings as they will be required to wear them while on-campus. We also recommend gloves and hand sanitizer.


Fall term Check-In will take place August 31-September 4 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

  • You will be assigned a Check-In appointment for a specific date and time during the move-in period.
  • You will be provided information on where and when to report for your COVID-19 test.

You will receive more information as Check-In approaches.

  • Juniors and seniors will Check-In the week of January 4, 2021.
  • Your assigned Check-In day and time will be communicated along with your room assignment in an email no later than December 4.

When you arrive on campus for your scheduled appointment, you will:

  • Drop off your belongings at the identified bag drop area for your building.
  • Proceed to Alfred Lerner Hall for Housing Check-In at 212 Café.
  • Follow directions to the Lerner Hall auditorium Columbia Health testing.
  • After testing is completed, return to retrieve your belongings and proceed to your residence hall.
  • Depending on your quarantine status, you should remain in your room 24-36 hours until confirmation of negative test result or begin your 14-day precautionary quarantine. See “Quarantine” section for more details.

You can expect to receive additional instructions from Columbia Housing to help you prepare for Check-In.

The Check-In times are designed to limit the number of students moving in simultaneously and enable University staff, residential students, and Check-In guests to maintain adequate physical distancing throughout the Check-In process. Housing discourages residents from requesting changes to their assigned Check-In time except in extenuating circumstances. Requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Columbia Health will provide COVID-19 testing from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of Check-In. It is important that you do not miss your appointment. In extenuating circumstances, please contact covidtesttrace@columbia.edu for assistance in rescheduling another appointment.

If you are unable to schedule an appointment before 5 p.m., or if you arrive after testing has closed for the day, you will not be able to move into your residence hall and will need to secure alternate accommodations for the night. Columbia Health will provide an alternate day for you to schedule a testing appointment.

COVID-19 testing is an essential facet of the University’s robust and ongoing virus screening program. It is essential to controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our community, and to protecting the health of New York City.

COVID-19 testing is mandatory for all residential students. If you do not submit for testing, you will not be permitted entry into the residence halls and will not be permitted to remain on campus.

Each student will be permitted only one guest at Check-In. The guest may be a family member, a friend, or a hired helper. You may not substitute one guest for another mid move-in; it must be the same person the entire time. Your guest will only be allowed in your residence hall, only on the day you move in. They may not enter other campus buildings.

Your guest may not accompany you to through the Check-In and Testing process. Guests will be instructed to wait at a designated location and submit a symptom attestation form so they can accompany the student into the residence hall.

The University will follow the quarantine protocols in place by New York state and the CDC. Guests who are traveling from states on the New York restricted list or from abroad will not permitted entry to the residence halls unless they have completed the 14-day quarantine. If this condition is met, your guest may enter the residence hall.

Columbia Housing is scheduling Check-In appointments to manage the volume of activity and reduce density during the move-in process in each building. You and your guest will be expected to wear face masks/coverings and to maintain proper physical distancing at all times while on campus and in your residence hall. Students are not required to wear a face mask/covering while inside their own rooms.

The Student Service Center in 205 Kent Hall will be open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in a limited capacity to assist returning students who need ID Cards. Visit the Student Service Center’s website for more information.

New students are required to submit a picture in advance of Check-In. They will not be able to access the Student Service Center. 

Columbia cannot provide parking, but you may be able to find street or garage parking. Keep in mind parking in New York City and during Check-In may be limited. View a list of neighborhood parking garages.

In light of public health conditions and based on the University’s plan, first-year/new students and sophomores will move out at the Thanksgiving break by Wednesday, November 25 at noon.

Juniors and seniors will be invited to move into campus residence halls the week of January 4 for the spring semester. Check-out will be April 27, 2021 by noon, with the exception of seniors, who will check-out 24 hours following their school ceremony and University Commencement.


Yes. All students, regardless of home state, will need to quarantine for 24-36 hours until confirmation of a negative test result. Students from states on the restricted list that have not already completed the 14-day precautionary quarantine in New York State prior to getting their gateway test will need to continue to quarantine, regardless of a negative test result.

Yes. The University will follow the protocols in place by New York state as well as University requirements at the time of move-in. As of July 29, travel from 36 states/territories now requires a 14-day precautionary quarantine when individuals arrive in New York. Columbia also requires all students arriving from outside the US to quarantine for 14 days on arrival. 

If a student is arriving from a restricted state/territory or from outside the US, they will be asked to quarantine for 14 days in advance of arriving to campus or in their assigned room once they have completed the Check-In process.

The 14-day quarantine in New York state (either before or after arriving to campus) should be completed regardless of a negative COVID-19 test.

New York state guidance is subject to change; visit New York state’s travel advisory page for the updates and to see the list of restricted states.

Traveler Health Form

Per New York State’s Travel Advisory, all out-of-state travelers from designated states must complete the required form upon entering New York. Travelers who leave the airport without completing the form will be subject to a $2,000 fine and may be brought to a hearing and ordered to complete mandatory quarantine. Travelers coming to New York from designated states through other means of transport, including trains and cars, must fill out the form online.

Students can choose to arrive in New York State (or another state not on the New York State Travel Advisory) at least 14 days prior to the date for student return to campus, and quarantine in an alternate (non-campus) location. Students can also choose to quarantine in their residence hall upon arrival.

Yes, until you receive results of your COVID-19 gateway test. Students traveling from states not on the restricted list will be required to quarantine for 24-36 hours until confirmation of a negative test result.

However, they may have floormates who are required to quarantine. As such, they are still expected to follow all University public health guidance, including wearing face coverings and maintaining 6 feet of physical distance from their floormates.

Students who are required to quarantine will be required to stay in their assigned room for 14 days, starting at Check-In. Students on a Dining Plan will have meals delivered to the building. Students not on a Dining Plan should make arrangements to have food delivered to the building lobby. Students who do not have private bathrooms (i.e. in buildings with shared bathrooms) will have full access to assigned restrooms but are expected to take precautions to limit their exposure. This includes, but is not limited to, wearing a face covering, maintaining 6 feet of physical distance from floormates, and refraining from socializing in the restrooms and hallways.

Medical support through Columbia Health will be provided to all students in quarantine, as needed:

  • Medical check-ins.
  • Psychological support (access to individual counseling and virtual support spaces)
  • Communication with point of contact in school (Dean of Students) to provide academic materials and study support for students in isolation.
  • Coordination of other services for students.

During this time, students are not permitted to:

  • Leave their room, unless to use the restroom or for medical reasons
  • Enter another resident’s room
  • Use building amenities like laundry facilities or lounges

Find more information on the University's COVID-19 website.


Columbia Housing will open with reduced occupancy for Academic Year 2020-21. New students and sophomores are invited to live on campus for the fall term. Juniors and seniors are scheduled for the spring term. A small number of exceptions may be made by the schools for students with unique circumstances who seek to remain on campus all academic year. 

In order to give all students an opportunity to spend one semester on campus, on-campus housing will be organized by class year. The University determined that new students and sophomores will be eligible for fall housing; juniors and seniors will be eligible for spring housing. Special exceptions will also be granted for certain circumstances.

Fall assignments will be sent no later than Friday, August 7 to students at their Columbia email address. The deadline to sign the Occupancy Agreement is Friday, August 21. 

Room assignments will be determined based on a number of factors, most importantly public health guidelines to ensure physical distancing in student rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and lounges. Students will be assigned to single room. Only a certain number of students will be assigned per floor depending on building style. Ultimately, your health and safety while living in the residence halls is our main priority.   

Unfortunately, we are unable to honor the Spring 2020 Room Selection process for continuing students. Based on the University’s newly announced plan, the Housing team must restructure which residence halls will be used and in what way living space will be assigned to accommodate students and maintain a safe environment. However, the Columbia Housing team will make every effort to assign students in close proximity to their original group members.  

No. For students living on campus, there will not be an appeal process for assignments due to the complexity of housing students according to the set public health guidelines.

Where possible, suite-style living will still be available in the upcoming academic year, though with fewer students allowed in each suite. Given the complexities of assigning space in the residence halls around physical distancing requirements, this will not be possible for everyone. 

View fees for the fall and spring semester, as well as full year.


Students may cancel their request to live on campus via the Housing Portal up until August 9 by midnight with no fee.

Following that time, cancellation fees will be assessed as follows:

  • 8/10 – 8/30, cancellation fee of $350
  • 8/31 – 9/30, cancellation fee of $500
  • 10/1 - 10/30, cancellation fee of $1,000
  • After 10/30, no refunds will be issued upon cancellation
  • Students approved for spring semester must cancel by December 7

International students who are approved and assigned housing, but find later that they have travel or visa issues will not be assessed a cancellation fee.

Yes. Columbia Housing will make a reasonable effort to keep full year students in the same room assignment.


Students in residence are required to follow public health guidance, which includes wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, ensuring frequent hand washing, participating in the mandatory testing program, and limiting the size of social gatherings. Students will be expected to agree to the Columbia University Compact

No. Residents may not sign-in or host guests, including Columbia students living in another residence hall, Columbia students living off-campus, family members or significant others.

Students are encouraged to socialize outdoors while practicing physical distancing or by using technological tools.

As stated above in the visitor question, students may not sign-in or host guests. In addition, students are encouraged to limit social gatherings in their room, and are expected to comply with University and public health guidance when gathering. This includes maintaining 6 feet of physical distance, and wearing a face covering.

Students are encouraged to socialize outdoors while practicing physical distancing or by using technological tools.

Residence hall lounges will be open, but restricted based on reduced capacity requirements. Lounges are to be used by residents of that building only.

No. Residential hall lounges will be restricted to building residents only.

Laundry rooms will be open, but students will be asked to follow capacity requirements and public health guidance, including wearing a face covering.

Columbia University Facilities and Operations has stringent cleaning standards and procedures in place. Learn more about these cleaning protocols and other enhancements made on campus.

In the residence halls, Facilities and Operations custodial teams will increase cleaning schedules in common spaces, including communal bathrooms in corridor buildings. In order to eliminate unnecessary traffic into private spaces, custodial staff will not clean in-suite or shared bathrooms. Students assigned to suite style buildings will be provided with cleaning supplies so that they can clean their bathrooms.

Following city, state, and federal guidance, residence hall occupancy will be designed so that bathrooms are shared by a minimum number of students, following a ratio of 4 students to 1 bathroom fixture or less where possible. Capacities will be clearly posted for students using communal restrooms. Students will have an assigned bathroom to ensure access without crowding.

Maximum capacities will be displayed for all elevators. Students will be encouraged to use the stairs whenever able.

Columbia Housing and Columbia Health have identified a residence hall that will be used for safe isolation of any resident who becomes ill. As residential students will be assigned single rooms, in many cases, quarantine (when a student has potentially been exposed, but is not ill) can occur in their current residential space. Learn more about the protocols in place for isolation, quarantine and care for undergraduate students.

Columbia Dining will be available, though the format of service will change to ensure physical distancing and minimize contact in the dining halls. Expect the same quality food you know and love from Columbia Dining, but more grab-and-go options. Read more on the Dining website.

All students, including those living off campus, will be asked to abide by the Columbia Community Health Compact. Every member of the community has a responsibility to follow through this commitment and will be held accountable for doing so.


If you remain enrolled full-time and choose to live off-campus, you will maintain your guaranteed housing status and can participate in Room Selection in March 2021.    

Yes. If you take a voluntary leave, you will lose your guaranteed housing status and will not be eligible to participate in Room Selection in March 2021.

No, only students with guaranteed housing will be eligible to request to live on campus based on the University plan.


Yes. The Columbia Housing team will ensure your accommodation is taken into consideration when making assignments. 

Unfortunately, there will not be a Barnard-Columbia exchange this year.

Hopefully, there is ample representation of students from SIC or other special communities who are approved to live on campus for the fall semester, so that students may still be able to live in the group’s building. However, given the complexities of assigning space in the residence halls according to public health guidelines, this is still being determined.