Non-Degree (Special Student) Program
Occasionally, and in unusual circumstances, lawyers who are not candidates for a degree are accepted, upon formal application, as Special Students to take a limited number of courses.
Special Students must register for at least one course and pay the per-point tuition costs and other fees (the 2019-2020 per-point tuition cost is U.S. $3,494); they are not admitted solely to perform research. Special Students may not attend or audit courses other than those in which they are registered, nor are they permitted to register for courses in other divisions of the university. Special Students enjoy no preference in admission to courses, as degree candidates have priority. They are permitted to use all libraries of Columbia University.
Special Students may take examinations in their courses and seminars and receive grades if they wish, but are not required to do so. A foreign lawyer who wishes to apply for a practical training extension of his or her visa after completing a full-time program, however, must take examinations. To qualify for or maintain a student visa, international students must register for at least 10 academic points per semester.
If a Special Student should subsequently apply for a degree program, he or she may not transfer any credits earned as a Special Student toward the degree.
Part-Time Special Student
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 Legal Studies before applying to ascertain the probability that they will be able to take the course(s) in which they are interested in the upcoming academic year. 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.
Full-Time Special Student
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. Foreign students in such status 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 (OPT) at the conclusion of a non-degree program.
Admission Standards, Application Procedures, and Application Deadline
Eligibility requirements are the same as for incoming LL.M. students. All Special Student applications should be submitted by early summer (June) for fall term admission and mid-November for spring term admission, and should include the specific course(s) in which the applicant wishes to enroll (Special Students who will require a student visa may wish to submit their applications earlier). Admission decisions are made after all decisions for the LL.M. Program are complete and are based not only on the applicant's qualifications but also on space availability in the courses in which the applicant wishes to enroll. Special Student applicants are encouraged to contact the Office of Graduate Legal Studies prior to completing and submitting their application to determine the likelihood of their courses of interest being available in the term they wish to enroll. The Office of Graduate Legal Studies will then forward the appropriate application materials if enrollment in a particular course is possible.
Please note that admission into the Non-Degree (Special Student) Program does not guarantee acceptance into the LL.M. Program, as the admission standards differ for each program.