SEMESTER STUDY ABROAD
Columbia Law School students may create their own independent single-semester programs of study at a foreign school and earn up to 13 credits towards their J.D. degree.
Studying abroad on an independent basis requires significant additional administrative legwork on the part of the student. Planning for this option should thus begin as early as possible, as students assume much greater responsibility than normal for the successful design and completion of their program of study.
Please review important information regarding student responsibilities for independent study abroad programs.
Language of Instruction:
Pre- or Co-requisites:
Tuition and Fees:
Students who participate in a study abroad program will continue to pay Columbia tuition, although in certain programs, health insurance and health service fees can be waived with proof of adequate alternative coverage for the entire year. All other student fees are waived.
Health Insurance Requirements:
Columbia Law School students may be required to continue paying health insurance fees and health service fees at Columbia if appropriate alternative coverage is not obtained for the entire academic year. Please consult with the Office of International Programs for detailed information.
Cost of Living:
Students are responsible for the cost of living while abroad. These costs include travel to and from the foreign country, housing expenses, food, utilities, entertainment, and all other costs associated with study abroad.
Columbia Law School does not provide help in securing housing for students who plan to study abroad.
Columbia Law School students are required to maintain a full-time academic schedule (the equivalent of at least 11 Columbia Law School credits) while studying abroad. Acceptance of credit from a course taken at a foreign school is subject to a determination that it meets Columbia Law School’s requirements. If a grade equivalent to a Columbia C- or below is received, Columbia cannot give credit for that course. No grades are included on the Columbia transcript for a semester spent abroad; the transcript states that credit was awarded for foreign study abroad.
Please note that students are unable to receive Columbia Law School honors (Kent or Stone) during the time that they are studying abroad regardless of their foreign grades.
Students should ascertain that the foreign school will send an official transcript showing the final grades received in each course. Foreign grading systems might differ significantly from those employed in the United States. Unlike at Columbia, students at foreign law schools might fail courses the first time they take examinations. While this is not common among Columbia students studying abroad, it has happened. Columbia can give credits only for those courses passed with a C or above.
A study abroad program does not exempt students from requirements for the J.D. degree (i.e., pro bono requirements, etc).
Visa requirements for those seeking to study abroad on an independent basis may vary widely, depending on the location of the foreign school and the nationality of the student. It is the responsibility of the student to ascertain the relevant requirements, and meet them in a timely manner.
It may be possible while studying abroad to arrange work with a local nongovernmental organization that would qualify towards the fulfillment of the pro bono requirement. Please consult with Social Justice Initiatives for further information.
Applications open during the spring term only and should be submitted for the 2L spring term or the fall or spring terms in the 3L year.
Selections will be made upon the strength of the personal statement; academic record at Columbia; faculty recommendations; and other factors that reflect the likelihood of a candidate’s successful participation in the program. In some instances, interviews may be conducted to assist in the selection process.
Columbia Law School Application Requirements:
- Columbia Law School Study Abroad Application (including a Personal Statement).
- Curriculum Vitae (uploaded to the online application).
- The name of a Columbia Law School faculty member who can submit a brief recommendation.
- Official transcript (students give the Office of International Programs permission to access this information).
- Students seeking to study abroad on an independent basis must also establish contact with the foreign school and obtain the Additional Required Information described below. As the process at each foreign school varies, it is imperative that students initiate contact as soon as possible to provide sufficient time for a decision to be made.
Foreign School Requirements:
- Foreign schools may require their own formal application process and may have set deadlines for special student applications. It is the responsibility of the student to complete all application requirements of the foreign school.
Additional Required Information:
Students must complete an independent study abroad form that is available from Columbia Law School's Office of International Programs. The form asks for the following information:
- Name, address, and contact numbers of foreign school.
- Name of faculty member at foreign school who will act as your advisor.
- Dates that the semester at the foreign school begins and ends. (Because semester dates of foreign schools usually do not coincide with Columbia's semesters, be aware of and try to avoid conflicts.)
- Courses you would like to take, including the number of credits a foreign student is eligible to earn. (Certain schools have a maximum number of courses that they allow students to take.) Columbia grants students a maximum of 13 credits toward the J.D. for a semester spent at a foreign school. (Students must register for a minimum of 11 credits.) The actual number of Columbia Law School credits earned is calculated according to the number of class hours, number of hours spent in preparation for class, and the number of weeks of the foreign semester.
- Number of minutes/hours each class meets each week, number of weeks, or the number of minutes per credit.
- The average academic load at the foreign school (per year and per semester or trimester). If there is a dissertation or other requirement, please describe (i.e., students take four classes, and in addition, are required to write a significant paper/thesis).
- The average amount of minutes/hours that is spent outside of class in preparation for each hour in class.
- The method by which the foreign school evaluates the student's performance (whether oral or written exam).
- The grading method that the foreign school uses. (A simple pass/fail system is generally insufficient to obtain Columbia credit. If letter/number grades are not used at the foreign school, the school must at a minimum use a fail/pass/high pass system, and this must be approved in advance by the Office of International Programs.)
- The ABA requires that the foreign school must be: “(a) government sanctioned or recognized, if educational institutions are state regulated within the country; (b) recognized or approved by an evaluation body, if such an agency exists within the country; or (c) chartered to award degrees in law by the appropriate authority within the country. Students must ascertain that the foreign school fulfills these criteria. Students should also ascertain whether the overseas school provides an academic program leading to a first degree in law.
- Statement of Educational Objectives: A brief statement (one to three, double-spaced pages) which is reviewed by Columbia Law School. It should provide a detailed description of academic goals, and how the semester abroad is expected to satisfy these goals.
- Statement from a Columbia Law School faculty member indicating that he/she has read and supports your educational objectives, and is willing to serve as your faculty advisor during your study abroad.
- Proof of language proficiency if the courses are taught in a language other than English. Include a brief statement as to how language proficiency was acquired. An interview to determine fluency may also be required.
- Most recent Columbia Law School transcript.
I. Students who apply to study abroad on an independent basis are independently responsible for ascertaining all of the following information.
A. When is a student supposed to arrive at the overseas school?
B. Where is a student supposed to go upon arrival at the overseas school?
C. Is there a student orientation at the overseas school, and who is its primary audience?
D. How does a student find housing at the overseas school?
II. As a default, Columbia Law School will calculate the number of credits transferred back from an independent study abroad program according to the number of minutes spent in class at the overseas school. A student who applies to study abroad on an independent basis is responsible for understanding that:
A. This may require a much heavier course load than is typical for local students at the overseas school.
B. Students may petition Columbia Law School for a “Special Calculation,” based on other factors, but:
- Students may not know the courses available for them to take until they’ve already arrived at the local school.
- Students may thus not be able to submit a petition for Special Calculation to Columbia Law School until after Add/Drop has already ended at the overseas school.
- CLS may not be able act on a petition for “Special Calculation” until after Add/Drop has already ended at the overseas school.
- CLS may, for substantive reasons or simply a lack of information, not approve a student’s petition for Special Calculation.
For more information
Visit the Office of International Programs in William and June Warren Hall, 6th Floor. There, you can view any additional information on file from our partner schools, as well as any relevant program evaluations that have been submitted by students who have participated in this and other study abroad programs.
Studying abroad has been very beneficial for many students who are considering a public interest career. The timing of overseas study, however, may also present scheduling conflicts with regard to public interest hiring calendars. Please consult with Social Justice Initiatives to learn more.
Director of International Student Exchange and Dual Degree Programs
Office of International and Comparative Law Programs, Columbia Law School
Office: William and June Warren Hall, Room 605