Room Assignments and Room Transfers

Upon acceptance to Columbia, students are required to complete a housing application form indicating their housing preferences. All first-year students are required to live on campus unless given specific permission to commute from the home of a parent or guardian by the Executive Director of Residential Life. Students’ room assignments are then generated through a randomized computer process.

Students must accept an assignment in their first term of attendance at Columbia and maintain continued occupancy in Columbia Housing residence halls through graduation to maintain guaranteed housing. All students who submit their housing materials by the deadline receive equal consideration. Seniority and random number selection govern students’ placement in upperclass housing. Every Columbia Housing resident who is eligible for housing the following year will register to participate in the Housing Lottery and Room Selection in March/April. Rising seniors always get first choice of space, followed by juniors and then sophomores. The order within each class is determined by lottery number. Detailed information about Room Selection will be posted in early February.

Administrative Violations

The following list is a compilation of Administrative Violations related to Room Assignments. Students may not:

  • Move to another bedroom, suite, or residence hall without authorization.
  • Occupy residence hall space or furnishings assigned to another resident.
  • Sublet a residence hall room, suite, or apartment or allow an individual to reside in a residence hall without authorization.

If it is discovered that students have made an improper swap, they will be charged a $100 fee per resident, and they risk losing their guaranteed housing. Additionally, the locks will be changed within 24 hours. Students must go to the Hartley Hospitality Desk to resolve this issue.

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Incoming first-year students at Columbia College (CC) or the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) are required to live on campus and are guaranteed four consecutive years of housing, provided they meet all the eligibility requirements. For loss of eligibility, see Loss of Guaranteed Housing.

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All first-year students are required to live on campus. If an incoming student lives at home and has been given permission to commute by the Associate Dean Undergraduate Student Life, Executive Director of Residential Life, they may begin housing in their second year without forfeiting their guarantee of residence. Please note, however, that if students choose this option, they must register for Room Selection by the deadline during their first year, or they risk losing guaranteed housing status. Also be aware that moving from the residence halls to off-campus housing, a non-Columbia-owned Greek building or to the student’s family’s home at any point may also result in the student’s loss of guaranteed housing.

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Transfer, Visiting, and Five-Year Program Students


Rising sophomores transferring to CC or SEAS are guaranteed six consecutive terms of housing, while rising juniors are guaranteed four consecutive terms. Students must apply and accept an assignment in their first term of attendance at Columbia and maintain continued occupancy in residence halls through graduation to maintain guaranteed housing. Students who apply for housing will be assigned a room before their arrival. 

New SEAS 3-2 or 4-2 transfers who are a part of the undergraduate Combined Plan Program are guaranteed housing during their first engineering year and will receive instructions on how to apply for housing when offered admission. While Columbia will do its best to accommodate students’ requests to live on campus after the first year, only 74 second year Combined Plan students are guaranteed a room on campus. Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) assists Columbia students and affiliates in their search for housing in non-Columbia owned buildings in the metropolitan area. OCHA maintains a website and regular office hours to provide advice, resources and an online database of available housing.

If entering CC as a first-year student in an authorized five-year program such as the Academic Success Program, housing is guaranteed for 10 terms. Students may enter the lottery twice with senior standing.

Housing is not guaranteed for Visiting Students, although we will try our best to accommodate students who indicate a desire to live on campus. Admitted students will be notified at the time of admission if they will receive housing. If students enroll at Columbia for a second semester, they will be notified if housing will be available when they extend their enrollment.

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Study Abroad

If students study abroad for one or two terms under a program approved by their school, pay tuition to Columbia for this program, and have guaranteed housing when they leave, they are still guaranteed housing when they return. If students are on an approved study abroad in the spring term, students may register and select a room online or designate a proxy to select a room for them in Room Selection. Time abroad is deducted from the eight or ten-term eligibility described above. If students stay longer on a study abroad leave without receiving necessary approval, they will lose guaranteed housing status.

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Medical Leaves

A student in CC or SEAS who has been granted a medical leave of absence and has guaranteed housing when they leave will maintain guaranteed housing upon readmission. However, students on leave will not participate in Room Selection for the upcoming school year. Instead, students on leave may apply for housing as a returning student upon readmission. They will be assigned a room prior to the start of the term.

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FSL Housing/SIC Brownstones

Students who live in a Columbia-owned fraternity or sorority brownstone or in a SIC brownstone maintain guaranteed housing in the residence halls. Students must sign an Occupancy Agreement with Housing.  Students who meet the eligibility requirements, may participate in Room Selection for the next year.

Reentry into the residence halls during the academic year requires a transfer and is not guaranteed. Students living in Fraternity or Sorority brownstone that is not managed by the University will be considered commuters and will lose their guaranteed housing status. Please contact a Housing representative in 118 Hartley for more information on these options.

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Non Full-Time Students

Housing in residence halls is only available  to full-time undergraduate students in CC and SEAS. If students are not registered for the minimum number of credits, their Occupancy Agreement will be terminated, and they will be required to move out of the residence halls. A student’s guaranteed status for housing depends on the circumstances of their withdrawal.

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Loss of Guaranteed Housing

Students may lose guaranteed housing status for one of the following reasons:

  • non full-time status
  • voluntary withdrawal from school
  • required withdrawal from school
  • moving from Columbia Housing residence halls and Brownstones to off-campus housing or a non-Columbia-owned fraternity or sorority building
  • disciplinary action
  • unapproved study abroad
  • failure to graduate on time (ninth-term seniors)
  • failure to register for and participate in the Housing Lottery/Room Selection
  • failure to sign an Occupancy Agreement
  • failure to live in residence during first year of admittance and failure to register for Room Selection for sophomore year

If students lose guaranteed housing, they may never again participate in Room Selection and are no longer guaranteed a room. However, students may still be eligible to live in the residence halls. If students would like to try to obtain an assignment after they lose guaranteed housing, they must reapply for housing each year and will be on the Non-Guaranteed Wait List.

It is not always possible to house all of the CC and SEAS students on the Non-Guaranteed Wait List. Therefore, if students are returning from a voluntary or required withdrawal, or have otherwise lost guaranteed housing status, they may seek off-campus housing through Columbia’s Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA). For best results, begin searching for housing well in advance of the start of the fall term.

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Failure to Participate in Room Selection


Undergraduate CC and SEAS students who are guaranteed housing must participate in Room Selection to maintain guaranteed status. If a student wishes to study abroad or apply for Special Housing (Resident Advisors, RA Riders, members of fraternities and sororities, those participating in the Living-Learning Center and Special Interest Communities), they must indicate this choice during the Registration process. Rising sophomores who participate in the lottery, but who are unable to select a room due to a shortage of available space at their appointment time may complete the Waitlist application until the end of the Room Selection period.

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Failure to Sign Occupancy Agreement


Students must sign their Occupancy Agreement before they check into their assigned room. Students who have failed to sign their Occupancy Agreement risk losing their assigned housing. Please visit Terms and Conditions: Cancellation by the Resident for additional information.

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First-Year Housing Policy

First-Year, CC or SEAS students are prohibited from living off-campus (this includes FSL housing), unless they are commuting from the home of their parent(s) or guardian. If a student chooses to commute, they must apply and receive permission from the Associate Dean, Undergraduate Student Life, Executive Director, Residential Life. Additionally, if they intend to move on-campus their sophomore year, they must register for Room Selection during Spring term of their first year in order to maintain eligibility and guaranteed housing status.

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Room Transfer Requests

Room Transfer Request forms are accepted at the Hartley Hospitality Desk after the first two weeks of classes each term for a period of two weeks. They are processed in order of seniority and availability, and then by date of application. These transfer requests must be approved by the student’s Residence Hall Director (RHD), Assistant Director (AD), or Associate Director (AD) to be accepted. Please have RHD's or AD's approval signatures before coming to the Hartley Hospitality Desk.

Submission of the Transfer Request application is binding. Once a Transfer is authorized, the student agreed to abide by the following:

  • If Columbia Housing is able to meet one of the student’s choices, the student will be required to move within 24 hours. Failure to move will result in a $250 penalty, which will be charged to the student account.
  • If students begin moving and do not complete the move within 24 hours of signing the Occupancy Agreement, the items in their old room will be considered trash and discarded. The fee for this will be $250.
  • Pay the daily charges for the space into which that resident transfers, from the day the transfer becomes effective until the last day of the occupancy period.
  • Pay the daily charges for the space from which the student transfers, from the first day of the contract period until the day the transfer becomes effective, until all personal property is removed and the keys are returned, whichever is later.
  • Students must check out from their old room properly, return or deactivate all room and suite keys and access, and notify Housing when the move is completed.

Once the transfer has been completed, the following information will appear on the student account:

  • A prorated daily charge for the room the student is leaving, up to the date of transfer.
  • A prorated daily charge for the new room, effective the date of transfer.
  • Daily charges are in effect for the previous room until all keys are returned or access deactivated (if the student fails to return all their old keys within 24 hours.)

The room charges on the students’ bill will be split between the two rooms and reflect the difference between the new and old room rates.

Please be aware of the following policies:

  • Upperclass students cannot transfer into first year space, and vice versa.
  • If students are discovered living in a room other than the one for which they have a signed Occupancy Agreement, they will be charged a $250 administrative fee and will be required to return to their assigned room.
  • To ensure fairness to all residents in the Room Selection process, all room transfer requests for academic year spaces are processed in accordance with the rules and regulations established by Columbia Housing.
  • There will be no room transfers during Winter break. All moving must take place by the Fall semester Check-Out date.

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Summer Transfer of Fall Assignment Requests


A student who is not satisfied with the room selected during Room Selection,  may request a Summer Transfer of their Fall assignment. If space becomes available over the summer, Housing will transfer students to a new room. To be eligible, students must complete the "Summer Transfer of Fall Assignment" step in the Housing Portal for New and Returning Students or the Housing Portal for Upperclass Students. as specified by Housing.  Sign into the Housing Portal and select the Application tab, click on the correct Academic Year, and select the menu option for "Summer Transfer of Fall Assignment".

Completion of the form enables Housing to make and approve an automatic transfer to any accommodation that matches the student’s specifications. The request may be as exact as a particular residence hall and room number, or more general like a single. Students cannot decline the transfer once it has been assigned, but they will not be transferred to a space that does not meet the requirements  listed on the form.

Summer Transfer of Fall Assignment Requests are processed by class year (1) and reverse lottery number (2). For example, a senior with lottery number 3,000 will be transferred before a senior with lottery number 1; and a senior with lottery number 1 will be transferred before a junior with lottery number 3,000. Students who registered late for Room Selection will receive the lowest priority within their class.

Limited space is available for Summer Transfer of Fall Assignment during the summer. Student transfer requests will be acted upon only if rooms meeting the listed requirements become available. If a transfer request is processed, the student will be emailed with their new assignment. Students must sign their new Occupancy Agreement online before they Check-In for the Fall term. If the Summer Transfer of Fall Assignment Request cannot be met, students may reapply for a Fall Transfer after the first two weeks of the fall term - Summer Transfer of Fall Assignment Requests do not automatically roll over to the Fall term.

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Room Swaps

Two students may swap rooms if both students are in the same class. If a double room or a room on a single-sex floor is involved, the students must be of the same gender (with an exception of Open Housing). Both residents must sign a new Occupancy Agreement in the Housing Portal for New and Returning Students or the Housing Portal for Upperclass Students after the swap has been processed.

A Columbia student may never swap with a Barnard student, regardless of where the rooms are located.

Only one swap per academic year is allowed.  

If students are eligible to swap, they must complete the steps listed below to complete the room swap:

  1. Both students must have completed the room swap form and obtain the RHD or AD signature.
  2. Both the student and the resident that wish to swap must go in person together to the Housing Office, each with the approved Room Swap form to sign out the new keys.
  3. Both students must retrieve the new keys from the Hartley Hospitality Desk and move within 24 hours of signing the new Occupancy Agreements.
  4. The swap will be voided if both students' moves are not completed within 24 hours.

In addition, please be aware of the following policies:

  • Swaps must have the signature of the student’s RHD or AD on each Request Form for the swap to be accepted.
  • Swaps must be approved by Residential Life and Housing, and both departments reserve the right to deny Swaps.
  • Room keys should not be exchanged between students participating in a room swap. Key exchanges can only take place at the Hartley Hospitality Desk. If students fail to return keys and obtain access properly, they will be charged for an improper room swap ($100), charged for an unreturned key ($15), and billed for a lock change ($50).
  • If students offer or solicit a room for reward, gain, or through coercion, the swap or transfer will be voided and students will be subject to Dean’s Discipline.
  • Students must occupy the rooms for which they have contracted and sign their Occupancy Agreement. If either student fails to sign an Occupancy Agreement following a swap approval or does not physically move within 24 hours of signing the new Occupancy Agreement, the swap will be voided.
  • Swaps tend to occur just before one of the residents cancels their Occupancy Agreement. Therefore, students should be aware that canceling the Occupancy Agreement can lead to liability charges as outlined in the Terms and Conditions of Residence.
  • There will be no room swap moving during Winter Break when the Housing Office is closed. All moving must take place before or after the Winter Break period.

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Summer Housing

We offer Summer Accommodations for students of Columbia and its affiliates. Students must be at least 18 years old, have been a college student for at least one year, and be enrolled in one of the following:

  • the spring term prior to the first summer session
  • the fall term following the second summer session (upper-class students only)
  • summer courses at Columbia

First-year students entering Columbia in the Fall for their first semester are not eligible for summer housing.

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Special Living Options

In order to create safer and more inclusive living environments for transgender students, Housing partnered with the Office of Multicultural AffairsResidential Life, and Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at Columbia) to provide a clearer process by which students can request a housing accommodation that is mindful of needs related to gender identity and expression. For more information, review our paging on special housing options for transgender students, as well as the procedure for room assignments and room transfers.

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