COVID-19 Student FAQs

Please see below for the answers to frequently asked questions relating to COVID-19 and the Law School's plans for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

The academic calendar for 2020-2021 is available at

Classes for incoming J.D. students will begin on Tuesday, September 8, with the introductory Legal Methods I course. Full-semester classes for first-year students will begin on Tuesday, September 15.

Classes for continuing J.D. students will begin on Monday, September 14.

We are providing a choice between two start dates for LL.M. students. For those who elect a fall start date, classes will begin on Tuesday, September 8, with the Introduction to American Law course. Full-semester classes will begin on Monday, September 14. For those who elect a January start date, classes will begin on Monday, January 11, and continue through Monday, August 16. Please contact the Office of Graduate Legal Studies ([email protected]) for more information.

This option is not currently available due to housing and other constraints.

No. The J.D. program will be offered exclusively within a September through April timeframe.

Orientation for incoming J.D. students will take place on September 2, 3, and 4. Additional details regarding the format and schedule of orientation will be made available via email and on the J.D. Orientation website

Orientation for fall-matriculating LL.M. students will take place on September 2, 3, and 4. Orientation for spring-matriculating LL.M. students will take place on January 7 and 8. Additional details regarding the format and schedule of orientation will be made available via email and on the LL.M. Admitted Students website

The Law School’s working plan, as outlined in Dean Lester’s July 7 message, allows for a multi-modal instructional approach in which classes can be offered in one of three formats:

  • In-person classes where most, if not all, students are physically present during each class session in a classroom large enough to accommodate safe physical distancing
  • Online classes where both the instructor and students attend virtually  
  • Hybrid classes where at least one-third of students are able to be physically present in a classroom on a rotating basis, with the remaining students attending virtually

The requirements that we reduce density in our buildings and maintain physical distancing combined with other factors, such as class size and instructor availability, will limit the number of courses that can be offered in person, and students should anticipate that many, if not most, of their classes will be conducted virtually. 

Our intention is for most instruction, including final exams, to move fully online following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Hybrid instruction is a combination of online and in-person instruction. Our plan allows for students to attend class in a classroom or from a remote location on a rotating basis. For instance, one-third of the students enrolled in a particular class could attend in person, while the other two-thirds attend virtually. The mechanics of the rotation (i.e., which students attend on which days) will be determined by the individual instructor. This format is facilitated, in part, by robust technology support and assistance. 

We plan to publish the online Curriculum Guide before the end of July, labeling each course using one of the three formats listed above. Given the evolving nature of the pandemic and its impact on faculty ability to teach in person, it is possible that the designations published in the Curriculum Guide will need to change. Students will receive more information about the course registration process and timeline once the Curriculum Guide is released.

Pre-registration for upper-year and LL.M. students will begin once the curriculum guide is released. Students will receive further information from the Office of Registration Services.

Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 will not be permitted to attend classes on campus. Separately, students who do not wish to attend classes on campus will not be required to do so. No matter the stated format, and with only very few exceptions for certain elective courses, Law School classes will provide the option for students to attend remotely.

Instructors are encouraged to make every effort to accommodate students in different time zones, including making recordings available promptly after class sessions and being available for office hours and other consultations.  

Fall 2020 final exams will take place from December 14 through December 23. See the academic calendar for further details.  

Fall 2020 final exams will be conducted remotely.

The Law School plans to return to its normal grading system (letter grades) for AY 2020-2021 courses. 

The Law School will fully comply with all applicable State, and University-wide measures designed to protect the health and safety of the community, as well as visitors, while on campus. These protocols, which have been developed in consultation with leading public health experts, include:

  • Testing of all persons for COVID-19 upon returning to campus, followed by subsequent sampling of the campus population
  • Daily self-checks for symptoms and potential exposure via the ReopenCU App
  • A campus-wide contact tracing program
  • Mandatory wearing of face coverings
  • Observance of six-foot physical distancing except where it is impossible to do so
  • Reduction in density of students, faculty, and staff present in campus buildings, as well as limitations on in-person events and group gatherings
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of classrooms, common areas, restrooms, and work spaces

In addition, the Law School is altering its physical plant to include touchless restroom fixtures, hand sanitizing stations, plexiglass barriers in select high-traffic areas, signage to manage the flow of foot, stair, and elevator traffic, and other safety-enhancing adaptations. 

Yes. All campus citizens are required to abide by University health and safety protocols and must affirm their willingness to do so by accepting the terms of the Community Health Compact. These safeguards are necessary not only for each of us to protect ourselves, but also to protect others. 

Our hybrid model allows for rapid ramp-down of in-person instruction if required. Even if circumstances necessitate a minimization of in-person instruction, the Law School will do all that it can, consistent with State law and campus public health requirements, to maintain sufficient hybrid instruction so that all members of the student body are able to continue their educational program.

Individuals traveling from certain jurisdictions and states outside of New York may be subject to mandatory self-quarantine, based on public health regulations in place at the time of scheduled arrival. Probably the most important of these New York regulations for purposes of planning is that New York currently requires individuals entering the state from certain other jurisdictions to self-quarantine for 14 days. The list of states to which this requirement applies has been changing over time, so it will be important to monitor this. Anyone who is subject to a state quarantine requirement is expected to abide by it. This means that, if you plan to attend your classes in person, you will need to arrange for your arrival in New York to be at least 14 days prior to the first in-person class in September. 

University-related travel for students, both domestic and international, remains suspended. This includes travel for study abroad and exchange programs facilitated by Columbia. 

The standard cost of attendance  for AY 2020-2021 is available on the Law School’s website. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid for assistance with financial planning.

Shortly after the pandemic’s effects began to affect our operations, the Law School established an emergency relief fund to assist students experiencing financial insecurity as a result of the global health crisis. Requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and are facilitated through the funding request form on the Law School’s Financial Wellness page.

The Law School has also established a Student Technology Equity Fund, which will provide $1,500 in scholarship aid to every student this year.

Beyond these measures, the Law School will also increase scholarship aid by $1,500 for every student who has been previously awarded institutional grant aid, including our returning 2L and 3L students. Combined with the Student Technology Equity Fund, Law students with the greatest financial need will receive $3,000 in total grant aid, which will more than fully offset tuition growth.

For those currently not receiving institutional grants, a need-based process will be available to reevaluate eligibility for this supplemental award. The Office of Financial Aid will administer the reviews beginning September 8. Additional details regarding process and required documentation will be made available on the Financial Aid website the week of August 31. 

The additional scholarship support will be directly applied to student accounts in September. Refunds are generally processed automatically as a transfer to your bank account when a valid credit appears on the student account. Students will not need to complete any paperwork to receive this credit.

Yes. All LL.M. students will receive $1,500 in scholarship aid as described above. 

Yes. University housing will be available for all first-year J.D. students who apply.

All students who have applied for housing within the Columbia Residential pool, including continuing students, can withdraw their applications until August 15 without financial penalty.

Yes. Students attending classes fully online may take up residence in University housing.

Public health guidelines will necessitate changes to some residential buildings, including physical distancing in common areas where possible and reduced occupancy of certain units. 

Information related to on-campus housing can be found here. Columbia Residential has also prepared COVID-19 related FAQs which can be found here. You can also reach out to the Law School's housing liaison with any questions you might have.

Yes. The Law School’s wide array of supportive services, including academic and career counseling, academic affairs, IT support, as well as mental health and wellness services, will continue to be available to students regardless of instructional format. 

We will continue to offer a robust array of co-curricular programming and activities regardless of instructional format. Most activities during the fall semester are expected to take place virtually.

We have planned for three major employer recruitment programs for J.D. students. Each program is tailored to allow students to engage with employers at a time when principal recruitment for the sector is expected to be active. The chart below summarizes the program schedules, participating employer types, and students eligible to participate in each program:

Program Interview Dates Employer Types Student Population
Fall On-Campus Interview
August 31 -
October 16

Public Interest
Judicial Clerkships (3L only)* 
Private Sector (3L only)

2L (No Private Sector)

Winter Interview Program
(formerly EIP)
January 11-13

Private sector
Government (Very limited)


Spring On-Campus Interview
February 1 - 26

Public Interest
Private sector

All J.D. Class Years

Each of these interview programs will be hosted virtually. Quiet spaces with sufficient internet bandwidth to accommodate video interviews will be made available on campus for students who need them. 

Information about these programs will be made available through the SJI, OJC and OCS websites. Additionally, these offices will provide remote programming and individual advising to support you in preparing for these interview programs. All counseling appointments in the Fall for all offices will be held by phone or video conference.

*Limited to the Alaska Supreme Court and Second Circuit Staff Attorneys Office. Federal  law clerk hiring for the Class of 2021 began in June and continues on a rolling basis, outside of any OCI Program. Class of 2022 is not yet eligible to apply for Federal Clerkships under the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan.

Yes. Columbia University's Office of Counseling and Psychological Services is still offering virtual appointments and several virtual support groups. Information on how to sign up and the list of support groups can be found here

Yes. The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, which governs bar examination eligibility, issued a waiver of the rules governing distance learning and LL.M. residency. Assuming all other requirements are met, J.D. and LL.M. students will be eligible to take the New York Bar examination. 

Requirements for bar examination and admission vary by jurisdiction. Students should visit the jurisdiction’s bar examiner website or the National Conference of Bar Examiners Jurisdiction Information page.

Since the outset of the pandemic, Dean Lester and the Law School administration—often in conjunction with the deans of other New York law schools—have advocated on behalf of recent graduates who plan to sit for the New York bar examination. Dean Lester has co-drafted and co-signed several letters to the New York Court of Appeals, including to request a diploma privilege, push for waivers to distance learning restrictions (including a recent request to extend the existing waiver into Spring 2021), support legislation in the New York State Senate that would allow a diploma privilege, and advocate for non-first-time test takers.

The New York Court of Appeals has indicated that it is not likely to extend its June 4 order, which temporarily waived distance learning limitations for law students for Fall 2020. That waiver, however, permits LL.M. students to take classes during Summer 2021 and remain eligible for the New York Bar exam.