Magnolia tree in front of the library in the spring

Non-Degree (Special Student) Program

Columbia Law School accepts a limited number of applications from lawyers who are non-degree candidates.

Special students include:

  • Those who wish to take a single course in a semester.
  • Graduating LL.M. students who wish to continue their studies in a non-degree capacity.
  • LL.M. graduates (including those from other law schools) who wish to take additional courses post-degree to complete New York state bar requirements.


If you are admitted as a special student, you must register for at least one course and pay the per-point tuition costs and other fees (the 2021-2022 per-point tuition cost is $3,680). You may not attend or audit courses other than those in which you are registered, nor can you register for courses in other divisions of the university.


Students who have completed an LL.M. degree at a U.S. law school and wish to take additional courses at Columbia Law School may apply to do so under special student status.

International students who wish to qualify for or maintain F-1 or J-1 student status must register for at least 10 academic points per semester. They must also take all examinations and complete all coursework required for the courses in which they are enrolled.

Note that foreign non-degree students are not eligible for Optional Practical Training at the conclusion of a non-degree program. 

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Special Student Program

Part-time special students are those who wish to take one or two specific courses at Columbia Law School. Those courses are usually in their field of practice or in an area in which they need further training for their current work.

Because special students are admitted to courses on a space-available basis, we encourage applicants to contact the Office of Graduate Degree Programs before applying to assess probable availability. In most cases, we will be unable to make an initial determination before pre-registration for full-time students, which takes place in late July for the fall semester and late November for the spring semester.

Application Instructions and Frequently Asked Questions

Before completing an application to the Special Student Program, contact the Office of Graduate Degree Programs to determine the likelihood of your preferred courses being available. We will then forward the appropriate application materials if enrollment in a particular course is possible. 

  • What admissions and application guidelines apply to special students?
    The admission standards and application procedures are the same as for the LL.M. Program. However, please note that admission into the Non-Degree (Special Student) Program does not guarantee eventual admission to the LL.M. Program. Non-degree students must submit a new, full application for admission to the LL.M. Program for consideration. 
  • When are special student applications due?
    All special student applications should be submitted by August 1 for fall term admission and in mid-November for spring term admission. Applications should include the specific course(s) in which you wish to enroll. Special students who will require a student visa may wish to submit their applications earlier.
  • How are admissions decisions made?
    Admission decisions are made based on your academic qualifications as well as space availability in the courses in which you wish to enroll.
  • Do I need to take examinations?
    You may take examinations in your courses and seminars and receive grades if you wish, but you are not required to do so.
  • Can I apply for a degree program (such as the LL.M. program) after being admitted as a special student?
    Yes, although you cannot transfer any credits earned as a Special Student toward the degree.

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