Columbia Core Curriculum

Columbia Core Curriculum

At Columbia, we believe a solid foundational education is essential to any creative career. That’s where the Columbia Core Curriculum—our general education requirements for all undergraduate students, and courses that are generally outside of your major—comes in. 

The courses you take in the Columbia Core help you develop transferable skills that will set you up for long-term success. These courses blend the best of what Columbia has to offer: arts and media training; entrepreneurial, marketing, and business skills; technological literacy; and a broad foundation in critical and analytical thinking.

And for those students seeking additional challenge in their Core classes, there is the Honors Program.

The Columbia Core contains two distinct areas: Columbia Experience and the Essential Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

You’ll take a total of 42 credits in the Columbia Core: 3 credits in the Columbia Experience, 33 credits in Essential Liberal Arts and Sciences, plus 6 credits of your choice from either category.

  • The Columbia Experience: (3 credits minimum)

    The Columbia Experience section of the Columbia Core highlights the city of Chicago, and the creativity that drives the communities you’ll be a part of after graduation. 

    "Big Chicago" (First-semester Experience)

    Connect with the city of Chicago in fundamental ways while working with a cohort of student peers—led by some of Columbia's top scholars and professionals.

    All first-semester freshmen take a "Big Chicago" course

    Creative Communities

    Explore the creative ecosystem of a community, with a spotlight on Chicago as a socially and artistically relevant location in a global world, with an intentional focus on strategies and skills for working with interdisciplinary collaborators.

    Transfer students, please consult with your college advisor on this requirement.

    Innovation and Impact

    Learn how focused innovation can drive sustained social, economic, and cultural impact. These courses teach you how to work with an idea from concept to pitch, connecting business, technology, and communications.

  • Essential Liberal Arts and Sciences: (33 credits minimum)

    The Essential Liberal Arts and Sciences section of Columbia Core includes writing and rhetoric, history and social science, literature, math, and science. As you choose ELAS courses, you’ll have the option to select a Pathway that will guide you. Choosing a pathway for your ELAS courses is not required, but it is highly recommended so you can take advantage of the opportunity to connect concepts and issues you find intellectually engaging throughout your studies in the Core.

    Learn More About Pathways

    The ELAS courses you take will ensure you have a broad base of knowledge in many different areas, help you develop your critical thinking skills, and help you apply what you learn at Columbia to the world around you.

    In this section, you will take 33 credits. The specific breakdown includes:

    Writing and Rhetoric I and II 6 credit hours
    History and Social Sciences 9 credit hours
    Humanities and Literature 9 credit hours
    Mathematics 3 credit hours
    Science and Science with Lab 6 credit hours

    Additionally, you must complete:

    • Nine Columbia Core credit hours at level 200 or higher
    • Six credit hours with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) designation

You can speak with your academic advisor for more specific information about fulfilling the Columbia Core requirements.