International Students

Many of the international students at CSSW are enrolled in a special program designed for them and their particular needs, called the International Students Program (ISP).

Go to International Students Program INFORMATION SHEET.

Go to International Students Program STUDY PLANS.

You may also find it helpful to read through the answers to the top 10 Frequently Asked Questions for our international students.

  • What does the program for international students at CSSW consist of?

    After extensive consultation, our faculty designed a five-consecutive-term program for international students who are pursuing higher degrees in social work but are unfamiliar with the U.S. social welfare system. Called the International Students Program (ISP), it offers international students an opportunity to get up to speed on the special features of U.S. social services, and improve and enhance their English skills, before beginning their field education. 

    As a member of the International Students Program (ISP), you’ll receive an introduction to social work practice in the United States—including the organizational structures and operation of American social service agencies—and learn about a variety of social welfare issues in this country. 
    During orientation week, you will take English language proficiency exams that are administered by the University’s American Language Program, under its School of Continuing Education. The School of Social Work will evaluate your test results and review your Admissions file to determine whether the ISP is the best fit for you and your educational needs. We will also determine whether you should be enrolled in intensive English-language writing and comprehension courses. 
    NOTE: In a few instances, an international student may be exempted from ISP based on strong English-language skills and adequate experience either working in the U.S. or an English-speaking country or with an English-speaking population. If you believe you have this level of language proficiency and experience, please contact the Director of Student Services by sending an e-mail to
  • How much does the program cost?

    Tuition is estimated at $17,480 for Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, which allows you to register for up to 16.5 credits per term, at a cost equivalent of 15 credits. The Summer 2016 flat rate is estimated at $13,900, for up to 13.5 credits. (Our flat-rate tuition plan does not cover classes taken at Teacher’s College, Jewish Theological Seminary or Union Theological Seminary. If you choose to register for a course at one of these schools, you will be charged tuition in addition to the flat-rate cost.) 

    NOTE: In addition to the fees charged to all full-time students, international students are charged a $50 International Service Charge each term.
  • Am I eligible for financial aid?

    Unfortunately, we are not able provide financial aid for international students. Loan options are available, but you must have a co-borrower who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. For more information, go to the Graduate Financial Aid page in the University’s Student Financial Services site.

  • Am I able to work while in school?

    If you are on an F-1 or J-1 visa, you may work part time (up to 20 hours a week) and only on campus. Otherwise, you will need a work permit. Before accepting any employment, be sure to consult with an officer at Columbia’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO).

  • What are the requirements for maintaining my student visa?

    To maintain your student visa, you must be enrolled as a full-time student. At the School of Social Work, this means a minimum of 10.5 credits.

    NOTE: Students enrolled in the Summer course "English for Professional Purposes: Social Work" will have their visas processed through the School of Continuing Education–American Language Program. Once you have successfully completed that summer session and are matriculating into our master’s program in the Fall, your visa will be transferred under the School of Social Work.

  • How do I register for classes?

    For your first semester, we register you for your required classes. You will then be able to add/drop certain classes via an online system, space permitting. In the semesters that follow, you will register yourself for most of your classes via Student Services Online (SSOL), the University’s Web-based registration system. That said, the School will automatically register you for Field Education in the four terms where this applies, as well the required 6007 Immersion Seminar in the Fall and Spring terms of your first year. NOTE: Our Office of Student Services will be there to guide you with the self-registration process by providing a detailed how-to guide as well as reminders.

  • Since I won’t be in field my first semester, can I register for additional courses?

    Yes, you may be able to enroll in additional courses. To explore your registration options, please contact the Office of Student Services by sending an e-mail to or making an appointment with one of our staff.

  • Can I pursue a minor?

    You may pursue a minor in Business, International Social Welfare, or Public Policy and Administration but not in Law. NOTE: Pursuing a minor may require you to take additional coursework at an additional cost.

  • Are there any special resources available for international students?

    Both the School of Social Work and the wider Columbia University community offer resources for international students. At the School, international students have their own representative in student government as well as their own student groups, or caucuses. At Columbia, there is an International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), which offers many helpful services including pre-admission counseling, immigration-related document services (such as the I-20), social and cultural activities, and a program for the spouses of students. For the full menu of ISSO’s offerings—including reduced-rate tickets for plays, concerts, and other cultural events in the city—go to Essential Information for New International Students and Scholars. In addition, all of Columbia’s international students have a complimentary Affiliate Membership in the International House (“I-House”), on 500 Riverside Drive.

  • Can I get some assistance with writing my papers?

    Yes. The American Language Program has designed a special course for you that is offered during the Fall semester. The course aims to help you improve both oral and written communication skills in English. You will be given writing assignments related to social work topics. In addition, the School of Social Work’s Writing Center can answer questions about grammar, punctuation, organization, expression, and APA style, or even help you think through how to approach writing a paper for one of your courses.

  • Still have questions?

    Still have questions?

    If your questions still haven't been answered, we urge you to enter them into our online form. Once your form is submitted, we will direct it to the appropriate department. Our goal is to answer any questions submitted by current students within 24 hours.