Undergraduate Admissions

International Freshman

Please pick the type of application:

A completed online application including essay and non-refundable $100 application fee

(Students will be able to submit their payment online in the final step of the application process.)


Essay question options:

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

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Official or Certified True Copies of Educational Records (Transcripts, Mark Sheets, or School Records)


Students must submit all official educational records of high school, secondary school, or college/university work. Official educational records not written in English should include an English translation when possible.

International freshman applicants must submit official or certified true copies of their educational records demonstrating successful completion of a high school or secondary education as noted above. In some cases this may require applicants to submit a “leaving certificate” or “graduation certificate” along with their translated, certified educational record. Official educational records not written in English should include an English translation when possible.

How to Submit Records

Transcripts must be official documents from a student’s high school, college, or university. Students may submit transcripts:

  • by mail or in person in the original sealed envelope from their institution
  • by electronic submission, if available at their institution
  • by fax provided that their institution stamps the transcript official and it is faxed from that institution’s fax number

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Letter of Recommendation

At least one letter of recommendation is required to complete your application. A letter of recommendation should be completed by your instructor, counselor, advisor, or other individual who can speak to your ability to succeed at college-level work in a rigorous arts and media curriculum.

How to Submit Recommendation Letters

Recommendations must be submitted to Columbia by the recommender of your choosing. If you are using Columbia’s online application, there is a feature that will send an email request for a letter of recommendation on your behalf to your recommender. Your recommender may then submit your letter online.

Your recommender may also choose to submit a recommendation by mail, fax, or email using the submission information below. If helpful to you, we have provided a recommendation form that you may download here. The Common Application also provides a similar form.

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Proof of English Language Proficiency

Proof of English language proficiency is required for admission into the College’s undergraduate degree program if English is not your country’s primary language. This can be demonstrated by submitting at least one of the following:

  • Official TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)—Recommended score of 80 on the iBT (Internet Based TOEFL) or 553 on the pBT (Paper Based TOEFL);
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)—score of at least 6.5;
  • ACT (American College Testing)—Recommended score of 18 or higher on the English and Reading sections;
  • SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)—Recommended score of 430 or higher on the Critical Reading section;
  • Transcript from a U.S. high school or a high school in which English is the language of instruction and the applicant has completed at least one year in that high school with passing grades;
  • Evidence of completion of at least one semester of university-level coursework in English Composition at an accredited college/university in the United States with a grade of “C” or better;
  • Successful completion of an ESL course at a preferred institution:
    - DePaul’s English Language Academy—University Bridge Level
    - Intrax English Language Programs­—level 9.

Note: The English Proficiency Requirements cannot be waived for any applicant educated in a country where the native language is not officially recognized as English. Waivers will not be granted to international applicants/non-native speakers on the basis of U.S. employment or U.S. residency alone, nor solely on completion of an English as a Second Language (ESL) program unless there is a pre-existing partnership agreement between Columbia and the ESL program.

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A Portfolio of a Student’s Best Creative/Artistic Work (optional)

Submitting a portfolio is not required for admission to Columbia College Chicago. However, we welcome and encourage the submission of a portfolio of creative work (original film, video or audio clips, creative writing samples, video of musical, theater or dance performance, news clips or reel, online media or interactive work, etc.), from all of our applicants. Applicants may submit a portfolio if they believe that it would help the Admissions Review Committee gain a fuller understanding of their ability to succeed within Columbia’s rigorous creative learning environment.

Additionally, a student’s portfolio (in combination with other required admission application materials) could identify her or him as eligible for the college's merit scholarship program if they are received before January 15th.

Note: Most of Columbia's other scholarship programs for incoming students do not require the submission of creative work samples.

How to Submit a Portfolio

Portfolio submissions will only be received or reviewed after an applicant has submitted their Admission Application. Applicants will receive instructions, via email, on how to submit their portfolio materials.

All creative work samples must be submitted online via Slideroom. Do not send original artwork, DVDs, CD-ROMs, etc.

Each academic department at Columbia College has specific recommendations for work samples and/or supplementary materials. Those requirements are available here. Please read the instructions for your intended major carefully.

If you do not have work samples that align with your intended major or you believe the work you have done within that discipline does not reflect your strongest creative work to date, you may submit a portfolio of your strongest creative work in another discipline. In that case, please follow the submission guidelines of that alternate academic department.

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Immigration & Visa

F-1 Student Visa and Sevis I-20

As an international student, you will need an F-1 student visa to enter the United States to study. You will need to apply for the visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, using the I-20 Certificate of Eligibility form issued by Columbia College Chicago.

Getting an I-20 (Initial)

Students applying for an F-1 visa will need to submit these documents in order for the college to issue the SEVIS form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility. These documents are not due until after a student has received an admissions decision of “Admit” from the college.

  • A photocopy of the passport page(s) showing the applicant’s full name, date of birth, and passport expiration date;
  • Proof of Sufficient Funds for the relevant school year, as determined by Columbia College Student Financial Services; For the 2013/2014 school year this is $41,507
  • Sponsorship Verification Form if the funds are not from the applicant’s personal bank account.

Applying for your F-1 student Visa (Initial I-20)

Items, in addition to the SEVIS I-20, which may be required by the embassy or consulate include the following:

  • Evidence of financial support for the period of time and amount indicated on the I-20 form
    • This should be original documents identical to those submitted to Columbia College Chicago
  • The acceptance letter from Columbia College Chicago
  • A passport valid for at least 6 months after your proposed date of entry into the U.S.
  • Evidence of English proficiency
  • Proof that you have a permanent residence outside the U.S.;
  • Online Non-Immigrant visa application Form DS-160
  • One 2”x2” photograph.
  • The “SEVIS I-901 Fee” payment confirmation
  • Evidence supporting your nonimmigrant intent. You must show ties abroad that would compel you to leave the United States at the end of the temporary stay. These ties can be possessions, employment, social and family relationships that bind you to your country of residence. Some examples of relevant ties in foreign countries are a job, a house, social and family relationships, or a bank account. Consular officers are aware that ties differ from person to person.

The SEVIS I-901 Fee

  • F-1, M-1 and J-1 visa applicants with I-20 (or DS-2019) forms are required to pay a SEVIS fee before applying for the visa. This is a one-time fee charged to F-1, M-1 and J-1 visa applicants
  • The fee must be paid and fully processed at least 3 days prior to the date of the visa interview. Proof of payment of the fee should be presented at the time the applicant applies for the visa. The fee is nonrefundable. No refunds will be made because a visa has been refused. Refunds will only be made for payments made in error.
  • The SEVIS fee receipt is valid for twelve months. If your application is refused, you may reapply using this fee receipt provided it is within twelve months of the initial payment. The fee receipt may be used if you are reapplying for the same visa or applying for a new visa for a different program provided the SEVIS fee payment meets the fee required for the different program.

If approved, the consular officer will place a visa in your passport. You can enter the United States up to 30 days before the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.

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