FAQs for Academic Year 2020/21

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Updated Sept 2 at 2:15 p.m.

Check-In is in progress through September 4.

Updates are made to these FAQ on an ongoing basis. Recent updates include information about how to prepare for quarantine, found in the Quarantine tab.


Update 8/14/20

Room Assignments

Based on the University update sent on August 14, the campus population must be reduced to only those students previously granted exceptions due to personal or academic circumstances.

Students previously approved for Full Year Academic Year 2020-21 can maintain campus housing. All other housing assignments will be canceled. There will not be an exception process.

Yes, room assignments will change. Students will be consolidated into select buildings on campus in order to maintain residential community, while still following health protocols and allowing campus operations staff to focus resources on fewer open buildings. Due to the timing and complexity of these changes we cannot accommodate any room change or swap requests. 

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.   

Room assignments have been sent and are available in the Housing Portal.

None of the brownstones that traditionally accommodate SIC and FSL groups will be in use for the Fall Term. Whether they will be opened for the Spring Term is yet to be determined and will be communicated at a later time.

Students approved for campus housing should sign their Occupancy Agreement by Friday, August 28 at 3:00 p.m. There will not be a fee assessed for canceling between today and your assigned Check-In date. Cancelation fees will apply after you assigned Check-In appointment.

Yes, Columbia Dining will operate. During the Check-In period and first two weeks of Academic Year, students on the Dining Plan will receive meals delivered to the residence halls. Dining hall operations will begin on campus Sunday, September 20. Details are posted to the Columbia Dining website.

An update on the Spring Term will be provided as soon as it is available.


Yes. Check-In appointments previously assigned will change. Updates will be provided by Housing on August 24. Based on your new Check-In appointment, you will need to update your COVID-19 test. However, the Housing team will be flexible with already confirmed travel plans.

No. The Check-In requirements and process as previously outlined do not change. Refer to the Check-in page on the Housing website.


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.

Questions about funding should be directed to Financial Aid.

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.


Students approved for full Academic Year 2020-21 campus housing will Check-In August 31-September 4 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Students received a Check-In appointment along with their room assignment.

Based on your updated Check-In time, you will need to adjust your COVID-19 test appointment accordingly.


The current University plan for Spring Term is as follows:

  • 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, if you arrive after Check-In and testing appointments have ended for the day, please proceed to the Hartley Hospitality Desk. Staff will call the Residence Hall Director on call to assist you with entry to your room.

Students will be instructed to go to their room and contact covidtesttrace@columbia.edu for assistance in rescheduling another appointment. They should not leave their room until their rescheduled testing appointment.

As with current testing protocol, all students should quarantine in their room until confirmation of a negative test result. Students from a restricted state or country should continue to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of test result.

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.

Unfortunately, guests from restricted states or countries may not accompany students into any buildings.

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 countries on the CDC advisory list will not be 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.

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 or countries 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, the CDC, as well as University requirements at the time of move-in.

If a student is arriving from a restricted state/territory or from level 2 or 3 countries defined by the CDC, 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. Additionally, the countries outside the United States with a quarantine requirement upon arrival can be found on the CDC’s travel advisory page.

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.

Your need to quarantine will be determined based on the status of your state at the time of Check-In.

If you are required to quarantine at the time of Check-In, but then your state comes off the list during your quarantine, you still must complete the 14-day quarantine period.

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 Columbia Housing 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, even after quarantine is completed, students are are still expected to follow all University public health guidance, including wearing face coverings and maintaining 6 feet of physical distance from their floormates.

All students regardless of home state or country must quarantine for 24-36 hours after Check-In until confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test result. Students from states on the restricted list, as well as students traveling from countries identified by the CDC as level 2 or 3 that have not already completed the 14-day precautionary quarantine in New York State will be required to do so upon arrival, regardless of a negative test result. See more information about quarantine requirements on the University’s COVID-19 website

In an abundance of caution, students who need to complete the 14-day precautionary quarantine will be assigned to a temporary room in one of our residence halls and then moved to their Academic Year room assignment post-quarantine.

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.

Students are encouraged to bring enough clean laundry to cover the 14-day precautionary quarantine. Students observing quarantine are not permitted to use the building laundry facilities during this time.

Students should bring personal products including soap and other toiletries and enough clean laundry for the 14-day period. Students not on the Dining Plan should also bring snacks or prepare to have food delivered to their building.


Columbia Housing will open with reduced occupancy for Academic Year 2020-21.

At this time, only students approved for full Academic Year housing will live on campus during the Fall Term.

As of now, Juniors and Seniors are scheduled for the Spring Term. 

It has been determined that the campus population must be reduced to only those students previously granted exceptions for the full Academic Year due to personal or academic circumstances.

As of now, Juniors and Seniors are scheduled for the Spring Term. 

New assignments will be sent by Monday, August 24 at noon. The deadline to sign the Occupancy Agreement is Friday, August 28. 

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.   

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 full Academic Year and Spring Term.


Students may cancel their request to live on campus via the Housing Portal up until August 28 by 3:00 p.m. with no fee.

Fees will be assessed for canceling after Check-In as follows:

  • 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 Term 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.

Yes, students who are approved for full year on campus housing can cancel Fall Term and opt to stay in for Spring Term, if offered by the University.


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.

Unfortunately, we cannot offer SIC or FSL Housing at this time.