Outgoing Study Abroad Students FAQs
The questions and answers on this page are organized under the following section headings. Click on any of these to jump to that section on the page.
Q: What are the options for study abroad?
A: CLS offers more than 25 overseas academic programs, divided into Semester Abroad, Global Alliance and Dual Degree programs. To learn more about our programs, a good place to start is on the study abroad pages on the CLS website. We also hold Information Sessions about study abroad in general and some of our specific programs at the beginning of each semester. Information about these sessions will be listed in the Law School events calendar and emailed to all 1Ls and 2Ls.
You can read evaluations from past participants of most of our programs by using the following link: https://www.law.columbia.edu/international-programs/study-abroad-programs/evaluations/read. We now require that students read any evaluations available prior to participating in a study abroad program.
For further information, you may sign up online for an appointment with representatives of the Office of International Programs (OIP) at https://www.law.columbia.edu/international-programs/study-abroad-programs. Our offices are located on the 6th floor of William & June Warren Hall (Big Warren).
|Regular Office Hours|
Director of International Programs
Monday – Thursday
2:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Assistant Director of International Programs
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday
10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (noon)
Q: What is the difference between Semester Abroad, Global Alliance and Dual Degree programs?
A: Semester Abroad: CLS has approximately 20 single-semester study abroad programs with partner schools in more than a dozen countries around the world. With some additional legwork, students may also participate in an “independent” semester abroad program with a non-partner.
Global Alliance: Each of these programs, created in collaboration with world-renowned law faculties in Amsterdam, Oxford, and Paris, focuses on a particular area of law, with a specialized curriculum at both schools. Students spend one semester at CLS and one studying at the partner school during the Alliance year.
- Amsterdam Global Alliance (Fall abroad, joined by a cohort of 8 Amsterdam students during the entire academic year) – LLM in International Criminal Law from Amsterdam Law School;
- Paris Global Alliance (Spring abroad, joined by a cohort of 8 Sciences Po and 8 Paris 1 students during the entire academic year) – Certificate in Global Business Law and Governance from program with CLS , Sciences Po and Sorbonne;
- Oxford Global Alliance (Spring abroad) – Attend term of Master in Law and Finance at Oxford.
International Dual Degree: Columbia J.D. students have the opportunity to spend their entire 3L year (and in some cases “4L” year) abroad, and, at the same time, earn law degrees in the UK, France or Germany.
Q: What factors should I consider in deciding which program is right for me?
A: Some possible considerations:
- Do you speak a foreign language and can you/do you want to study in that language or in English or a combination of the two?
- Do you want to go abroad in the fall or the spring semester?
- Do you want to go during your 2L or 3L year?
- Is there a region or country you’re interested in?
- Is there a particular field of law or career path that you are interested in?
- Would you prefer to study with other CLS students?
- Do you have the ability to delay degree conferral or the state bar examination?
Q: What is an “Independent” semester abroad program?
A: CLS students may propose their own single semester programs of study at a non-partner foreign school and earn up to 13 credits towards their J.D. degrees.
Approval of this “Independent” program is contingent on, among other things, an assessment of the foreign school’s academic standing and administrative capacity; the availability of places in comparable programs already offered by CLS; and a compelling argument for the value of the experience within a student’s overall academic trajectory.
Studying abroad on an independent basis requires significant additional administrative legwork on the part of the student, who must meet various criteria, submit an “Independent Program Addendum” by February 1, and be approved by the Office of International Programs. 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.
Q: How do I apply for “Independent” single semester options at King’s and SOAS in London?
A: There are two independent options that are pre-approved and do not require a full separate “Addendum” as described in the application section: Kings College and SOAS Law schools in London. Applicants for these programs must submit an abbreviated form listing potential course selections prior to February 1.
Q: How and when do I apply for study abroad?
A: The CLS study abroad application is available online from approximately February 1 – March 1 of each year. During this period, students can access the application initially via LawNet. At that time, student applicants will click on “Apply for Study Abroad” under the “My Services” tab and accept the terms of the agreement, which gives the OIP access to their transcripts.
After a student has started an application, any changes will be saved and the student can go back and edit as often as they wish before the due date. After that, they can then log in directly to the application site at: https://passport.law.columbia.edu.
Q: Who can apply for which programs when the application opens?
A: See chart below.
Paris Global Alliance
Amsterdam Global Alliance
Oxford Global Alliance
London, Paris, Frankfurt
For 2L spring
For 2L spring
For the entire 3L year
For 3L spring or Fall
For 3L spring
For 3L fall
For 3L spring
Q: During which semesters do students generally study abroad?
A: Most CLS students study abroad during the fall or spring semester of their 3L year. It is also possible to study abroad during the spring semester of the 2L year. Study abroad is generally not advised for the fall semester of the 2L year. Students who participate in dual degree programs in Paris, London and Frankfurt spend the entire 3L year abroad.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of going abroad in the Fall or Spring?
A: There are a greater number of programs available in the fall. Many universities in other parts of the world finish the semester too late for 3Ls to graduate on time if they go abroad for the spring semester. The most common programs in the spring are the Paris and Oxford Global Alliance programs, which allow 3Ls to finish early and graduate with plenty of time. There are a couple of other places where this is possible, or where students can finish in time to get their degrees conferred in October but take the state bar examination in July with their classmates. Speak with the Office of Career Services or Social Justice Initiatives to find out about specific things like on-campus interviewing for a particular semester.
Q: May transfer students study abroad?
A: Transfer students may study abroad for one semester, but are not eligible to apply for dual degree programs that entail spending the 3L year abroad.
After transfer students are accepted to a study abroad program, they must petition the registrar’s office to go abroad for a semester. They should send a brief email to the Office of Registration Services at [email protected] explaining which program they have been accepted to and why they wish to participate in the program. In most cases, these petitions are granted. The registrar’s office will usually recommend that the student makes sure to get in the necessary black letter courses during their time at Columbia and that the student speaks with Office of Career Services or Social Justice Initiatives before going abroad.
Q: How likely am I to be accepted into my program of choice? Is there a cap on students for the various programs?
A: Historically, most applicants have been able to participate in their first or second choice program. Many programs are limited to 2 or 3 nominees per year. The Global Alliance programs are designed to accommodate a larger number of students. Oxford Global Alliance can take a maximum of 5; Amsterdam Global Alliance can take 8; Paris Global Alliance can take 16. There is usually some movement on programs with waitlists. However, whether the list clears will ultimately depend on the number of applicants for a particular program in any given year.
Q: Do you need to speak the language of the host country to study abroad?
A: Some programs require language fluency, e.g., for Paris I/Sorbonne you must speak French. For Buenos Aires, you must speak Spanish. In many places, you can do your studies fully in English, e.g. Amsterdam, ILF (Frankfurt), Luxembourg, Bucerius (Hamburg), CEU (Budapest), Beida (Peking). Hitotsubashi (Japan), ESADE (Barcelona), Sciences Po (Paris), etc.
Q: What documentation do I need to submit in order to apply for CLS study abroad programs?
A: Once the study abroad program application is open (from approximately Feb 1 – Mar 1), CLS students will be asked to submit the following documents:
- CLS Study Abroad Online Application (including a Personal Statement).
- Curriculum Vitae (uploaded to the online application).
- The name of a CLS professor who has agreed to submit a brief recommendation (can be an adjunct or visiting professor).
- Law School Transcript (To start the online application, students will have been instructed to check a box allowing the OIP access to their transcript).
Q: What implications may there be on a first choice if I put down a second choice?
A: You should absolutely list a second choice if you have one; it will not hurt you in any way. We will always try to put you in your first choice placement and will waitlist you if you don’t get a spot. We ask students when selected for a program to please let us know as soon as possible if they wish to take the spot or to withdraw their applications, both for administrative reasons and as a courtesy to any fellow students on the waitlist.
Q: What is required for the personal statement?
A: The personal statement should describe your academic, professional, and/or personal interests and how you envision study abroad serving these. The statement should be double spaced and no more than two pages long. Feel free to write a separate paragraph about your first, second and third choices.
Q: What is required on the faculty recommendation?
A: Once you submit the professor’s name in the recommendation section of the application, the person you have designated as your recommender will receive an email from the system asking them to check off either: a) Highly recommend, b) Recommend, c) Don’t know well enough to recommend, or d) Don’t recommend. At the minimum recommenders must check off one of these options.
The recommender is also directed to “feel free to make any additional comments regarding the student.” Most recommenders do write a few lines there (e.g., about how they know and why they recommend the student). Some just submit checklist, and some write longer recommendations. It is particularly advisable that your recommender be willing to write a few lines for the more competitive programs.
Q: Are recommendations subject to the same March 1 deadline as the rest of the application?
A: Prior to the end of the application period, students must include the name of a professor/recommender on the online application to be submitted. When they receive the email from our system, the professor must take the next step and submit the form they receive. If professors do not respond in a timely fashion, the Office of International Programs will follow up with reminders, etc. Students will not be penalized for late submissions but should request early to avoid slowing down the decision-making process.
Q: When is the Independent Application due?
A: Students applying to independent programs must follow a two-part application process. They must first complete a special Independent Program Addendum, which may require substantial research by the student, and email it to [email protected] before the study abroad application opens and no later than February 1 of the academic year prior to that in which they wish to study overseas. When the online application opens in February, students must additionally follow the same process as for single-semester programs.
Q: Which programs have co or prerequisites?
- Pre or Co-requisite: Amsterdam Global Alliance in International Criminal Law - L6269: International Law (or L6183: The U.S. and the International Legal System). Note: International Law may be taken in Amsterdam, but for no additional credit.
- Prerequisites: Paris Global Alliance in Global Business Law and Governance - L6231: Corporations; L6269: International Law (or L6183: The U.S. and the International Legal System). These courses may be taken any time before the Paris semester.
- Prerequisites: Oxford Global Alliance in Law and Finance - L6231: Corporations; L6423: Securities Regulation; L6232: Corporate Finance; L6202: Advanced Corporate Law: Mergers and Acquisitions (Usually offered during the Spring semester and sometimes not available in the Fall. Applicants should ideally plan to take L6202 in spring of the 2L year). The courses may be taken any time before the Oxford semester.
- We cannot guarantee any particular course will be offered during the fall of the 3L year, so students should ideally aim to take three to four of these courses by the end of the 2L. Remember that Corporations is generally a pre or co-requisite for the other prerequisites.
- Dual Degree Programs have no pre-requisites, but students must fulfill all J.D. degree requirements to participate in these or any other study abroad programs.
Q: How should we show on the application that we’ve taken or are currently taking a prerequisite class?A: The application asks if you’ve taken each pre or co-requisite. Please mark “Yes” on the question only if you have either completed a course or are currently enrolled in the course at the time of application. If you are planning to take the course in a future semester, mark “No,” so that we can use that information to remind you to take missing courses in the future.
Q: How are acceptance decisions made?
A: Decisions are made on basis of the strength of your statement, academic record at CLS, faculty recommendations and an overall assessment of an applicant’s ability to successfully complete the program. If the student is planning to take a course taught in a language other than English, we will set up an interview in that language. The partner school has the final say to accept or reject nominated candidates, but will usually defer to our application process.
Q: Do I need to submit a separate application to the partner school abroad?
A: The Office of International Programs will communicate individual requirements after students are selected to be nominated for specific programs. Partner schools have different requirements and additional documentation varies by program.
Q: Will I continue to pay Columbia tuition and fees during study abroad?
A: Columbia students who participate in study abroad programs will continue to pay Columbia tuition, as well as Health Service and (except as described below) Health Insurance fees. Most other campus-based fees, including Student Activity and University Facilities fees, are waived during a student’s period of study abroad.
Q: How is financial aid affected by study abroad?
A: Students in a one-term or one-year study abroad program are charged the same tuition and have the same student budget as if they were studying at CLS, so their financial aid is not affected.
There is no adjustment to the institutional aid amount (grant or loan) for students participating in a one-term or a one-year study-abroad program. Students who need additional borrowing from credit-based loan programs to cover higher living costs should write to the Financial Aid Office to request a Budget Adjustment Request form. Every effort will be made to accommodate reasonable requests that are documented.
Please see the Finances and Financial Aid for Columbia Law School J.D. Students Participating in Study Abroad Programs form for more information on this topic. All students are required to read and sign this form before participating in study abroad programs.
Q: Can the Columbia Health Insurance fees be waived during study abroad?
A: Students may request a waiver of the otherwise obligatory Columbia Health Insurance fees by presenting proof of adequate alternative coverage for the entire year (even if only studying abroad for a semester) to the Columbia University Insurance and Immunization Compliance Office. Waivers are generally not granted for just one semester. Regardless of whether a waiver is granted, University policy requires that all students continue to be responsible for paying Health Service fees while abroad.
Learn more by visiting the Columbia Health Services website at https://health.columbia.edu/.
Q: What other costs will I be responsible for?
A: 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, printing costs, residency permits, and all other costs associated with study abroad. Visit the Office of International Programs to see samples of the costs of living at various foreign institutions.
Q: How do I apply for a student visa/residence permit, etc.?
A: All participants must meet the host country’s student visa requirements and should hold a passport valid for 6 months after initial travel. The specific application procedures vary by country and nationality.
Non-U.S. citizens should check current visa requirements and allow for extra time, as in some cases the visa process applicable to them may take longer than for U.S. citizens.
It is very important that participating students start their visa application process as soon as possible once they receive their official acceptance letters, as visa appointments may be required and slots fill up quickly. Putting off the task of scheduling an appointment could prevent a student from receiving a visa in time to enroll in classes abroad. If they are not able to study abroad, and have not made timely arrangements to enroll at Columbia, they may have no choice but to take a leave of absence.
Q: How do I get a health insurance certificate/card, if required for my visa?
A: Students on the Columbia plan, should call the customer service line at Aetna Student Health at 800-859-8471. They will ask for some basic information, like insurance ID number, date of birth, address and your reason to get a certificate (e.g. visa eligibility). Certificates can be faxed or mailed (it can take 7-10 business days, no fee).
Students not on the Columbia Plan must ascertain with their own insurance plan whether or not they meet a foreign school or government’s criteria for coverage while abroad.
Q: Can I participate in 2 different semester abroad programs over 2 semesters at CLS?
A: No, students can only receive credit for 2 semesters abroad if they are participating in one of our dual degree programs that entails spending both semesters of their 3L year in London, Paris or Frankfurt.
Q: Can I participate in the DC externship if I am studying abroad for a semester?
A: Yes, you may apply and are allowed to participate if accepted. Make sure to satisfy all degree requirements, as always.
Q: Can I sublet my Columbia housing when I go abroad?
A: You are permitted to sublet your Columbia housing if you are on a Columbia-approved program and are not in your final semester at Columbia. This means that if you are a 3L abroad during the fall semester, or are a 2L away for either semester, you may sublet. You will need to fill out sublet forms and get a signature from the law school’s housing liaison in Student Services. You can reach them at [email protected].
We have many international exchange students who come to CLS, particularly in the fall. They are eager to find convenient and reasonably-priced housing and we are happy to put you in touch. Each year many incoming exchange students sublet Columbia housing from CLS students going abroad for the semester.
Q: If I study abroad in my final semester before graduation, may I sublet/retain my unit?
A: No, students in their final semester must vacate their Columbia housing unit completely. Students must provide 30-days’ notice of their plan and will only be responsible for the rent until the day they move out and return keys. Students going abroad in the spring must vacate their apartments by December 31 to avoid paying a fee for the following semester.
Q: If I go abroad in the spring, may I return to CLS housing to study for the state bar?
A: Unfortunately, 3L students are not permitted to retain their apartments in the spring to return for state bar examination housing. Oxford global alliance students whose program ends in March may choose to retain or give up their housing and may apply to stay in the housing for bar study, but are not permitted to sublet while abroad.
Q: Why does LawNet show only 10 credits for my semester abroad?
A: Until we have your final schedule, students in semester abroad programs will be registered for 10 points in LawNet as a place holder. The true number of credits you will receive for the semester may be more or less than this. Once we have students’ course information, we will determine the equivalent number of CLS credits and update LawNet accordingly.
Q: How many credits can I earn abroad?
A: Generally, students take 11-13 credits abroad. The maximum number of credits that may be transferred in a semester is 13. Occasionally students take 9 or 10 credits abroad and meet their minimum credit requirement with supervised research with a Columbia professor or journal work while abroad.
Paris and Amsterdam Alliance participants get 12 credits. Oxford participants get 9 credits for a fixed schedule and must also write a 2-3 credit supervised research paper with a Columbia professor. London LLM participants get 18 for the year and require a 3 credit supervised research paper to reach 21. Sciences Po Dual Degree participants get 21 credits for the year.
Please note: Paris 1 and Frankfurt (ILF) Dual Degree program participants will receive 20 credits for the year’s study. Potential participants should speak to the OIP about how to obtain the one additional credit required.
Q: How are foreign credits converted to CLS credits?
A: The Law School awards J.D. credit for overseas study in a manner that is consistent with the ABA’s Standard 310 (“Determination of Credit Hours for Coursework”). Given the variation in credit-related policies among different national educational systems, OIP must make credit transfer determinations on a case-by-case basis. As a general matter, we usually require about 14-15 hours of classroom time, each supported by approximately two hours of out-of-classroom work, for each one credit that is applied toward the J.D.
All courses taken for credit abroad must be pre-approved by OIP. Students are responsible for sending the following information to [email protected] as soon as the partner school’s course registration or add/drop permits.
- A list of courses for which they intend to register
- The number of foreign credits awarded by the partner school for each course
- The number of classroom minutes per class session for each course
- The number of class sessions during the term for each course
- A calculation for each class of the number of class sessions per term multiplied by the number of minutes per class session, and a calculation of total classroom minutes
This information should be sent as soon as possible to permit OIP to determine how many credits may be transferred toward the J.D. degree. All proposed subsequent course changes must be reported immediately to OIP for approval.
Students may need to add courses or write an additional supervised research paper with a Columbia Law professor if they cannot otherwise receive approval to transfer sufficient credits towards the J.D.
Important: It is possible that a student’s proposed course selection may not be approved by OIP. Students are responsible for allowing sufficient time to make any necessary changes. No credit will be given for courses that are not eligible for approval (e.g., language study), or that are offered outside the partner school’s faculty of law (e.g., in the business school). No credit will be given for clinics, field placements, or simulations unless otherwise stated.
Q May I receive credit for language courses abroad?
A: Students may take language courses abroad but non-law classes taken abroad do NOT count toward the J.D. degree.
Q: Is class attendance mandatory at foreign schools?
A: The policy depends on the school. In some places, attendance is mandatory to receive credit from the foreign school. For example, at some Paris schools, more than 2 absences may lead to failing the course. No foreign credit would mean no CLS credit. Students are expected to attend classes, follow the partner school’s rules, and represent Columbia Law School well while abroad.
Q: Will study abroad grades appear on my CLS transcript?
A: Participants will receive transcripts with grades from the partner law school. The grades earned abroad will not be listed on students' Columbia transcripts; the Columbia transcript will only indicate the number of credits earned under an international study abroad program.
However, Columbia will only award, and the CLS transcript will only reflect, credit for approved courses that a student passes with the equivalent of a grade of C or above. Students are generally not permitted to take classes abroad on a pass/fail basis.
Q: Can I fulfill my pro bono requirement abroad?
A: Yes. It is possible with prior approval from SJI to do pro bono work abroad or remotely. Make sure to get this approval before starting a project.
Q: Can I fulfill my experiential requirement abroad?
A: No, your 6 experiential credits must be fulfilled while students are at Columbia. Students are generally not permitted to receive credit for any internships, clinics or externships abroad.
Q: Can I continue to work on a journal while abroad?
A: Journals set their own policies regarding whether students can spend a semester or year away from CLS. Many journals allow students to spend a semester or year abroad and work remotely and/or get credit while abroad, but it is always best to check with them. Law Review allows a limited number of members to study abroad.
Q: What kind of evaluations of my study abroad program am I required to submit?
A: Participants must submit course and program evaluations. Course evaluations should be about 1/2 to 1 page for each class. They should include specific things covered in the courses and give feedback on students’ impressions of the courses and professors overall. Final program evaluations should be as detailed as possible, the more feedback the better. Dual degree program participants submit mid-term and final program evaluations.
Q: Do I have to have graduated, or to have completed my degree requirements in order to take the state bar examination?
A: The rules vary by state, so students should check with the Office of Registration Services and with their specific state’s bar association so that they may take this into account should they choose a program where they will graduate off-cycle. In some states, including New York, JD students can generally sit for the bar as long as degree requirements have been successfully completed, even if they have not yet been conferred their degree. Students should check with their state about specific time frames for other requirements such as the pro bono hours and MPRE test.
Q: Do I need to have my overseas law school fill out the Law School certificate after I pass the state bar exam? How do I accomplish that?
A: After students pass their state bar examination, they will need to have each law school that they have attended, including foreign law schools, confirm this by filling out an original “Form Law School Certificate.”
Students should identify a contact person to whom they can send this once they have the forms. If a student needs help finding the contact person, please let OIP know.