A World-Class Education in the Heart of Chicago

At Columbia College Chicago, we welcome international students from more than 60 countries. You’ll study, work, live, and explore in the heart of beautiful Chicago—the third-biggest city in the United States and a thrilling place to be a student.

We hope you will join us! Please review the list of admissions requirements before starting your application. 

International Student FAQs

What are my transcript requirements?

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. 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. If you need help determining which transcripts or educational records to send us, check out this guide. All required documents should be sent to:

Columbia College Chicago
600 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605

If you have any questions, please contact us at intladmissions@colum.edu or +1 312-369-7130.

Can I waive the TOEFL requirements?

Please visit our application instructions for more information.

When will I get my I-20?

In order for Columbia to issue your I-20, you must be admitted to the college and submit all of the required documents. (See the Visa and Immigration Information section below for a list of requirements.) Once Admissions has processed your documents, you should receive your I-20 in two to three weeks.

I am transferring from a school in the U.S. and I already have an I-20. What do I need to do to transfer that paperwork to Columbia College Chicago?

See the Visa and Immigration Information section below.

What if I am not able to attend the ISWP program?

The ISWP program is a mandatory program for all international students. This program has been designed and implemented based on student feedback. We feel that students who take part in this program have the best preparation to begin their studies at Columbia. We understand that things come up that may be out of your control—like flight arrangements or obtaining a visa—but we highly recommend that you attend this program.

My parents will come with me. Can they attend ISWP?

Yes. We welcome parents at ISWP and will have additional activities planned just for them. We do not, however, provide overnight accommodations for parents. If your parents are planning to attend, view our local hotel suggestions.

Do I need to stay on campus for ISWP?

We recommend all students to stay on campus for ISWP, but if you already have made arrangements for off-campus housing or are already living in the Chicago area, please contact intladmissions@colum.edu for additional information.

How to Make a Payment/Student Financial Services FAQs
Visa and Immigration Information

As an international student, you will need either an F-1 visa or a J-1 visa to enter the United States to study.

What type of visa do I need?

If you are enrolling as a full-time student, you should apply for an F-1 visa. Most students will be applying for an F-1 Visa.

If you are part of an exchange program or attending Columbia through a special partnership, you should apply for a J-1 visa.

Apply for an F-1 Visa with Form I-20

Those applying for an F-1 visa must do so at a U.S. embassy or consulate using a Form I-20, a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status to study in the United States. Columbia College Chicago will issue your I-20.

Initial I-20

If you're arriving from overseas and requesting an initial I-20, we will need:

  • A photocopy of your passport page(s) showing your full name, date of birth, photo and passport expiration date
  • Proof of sufficient funds to cover the school year. Columbia requires you to have proof of funds of at least $47,266. Proof must be an official bank letter or statement on bank letterhead that shows the name of the account holder, amount available and bank official's signature.
  • If the funds are not from your personal bank account, Columbia requires a Sponsorship Verification Form. There is no limit to the number of sponsors a student can have, but each sponsor must sign a certificate of sponsorship and present Columbia with official bank statements. The sponsorship verification form is available at colum.edu/sponsorship.

Request an I-20

I-20 Transfer

If you currently hold F-1 student visa status in the U.S. with a valid I-20, you can transfer your I-20 to Columbia College Chicago. We will need:

  • Immigration Pre-Transfer Verification Form. Download and have your school advisor fill out the form available at colum.edu/pretransfer.
  • Photocopy of passport signature page(s) showing your full name, date of birth, and passport expiration date.
  • Photocopy of current F-1 visa.
  • Photocopy of current I-20.
  • Proof of sufficient funds (see above).

Apply for a J-1 Visa with Form DS-2019

Those applying for a J-1 visa must do so at a U.S. embassy or consulate using Form DS-2019, a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. It is the basic document used in the administration of the exchange visitor program. Columbia College Chicago will issue your DS-2019.

If you are applying for a J-1 Visa, please provide the following documents:

  • A photocopy of your passport page(s) showing your full name, date of birth, photo and passport expiration date.
  • Proof of sufficient funds. This monetary amount is dependent on your specific program cost and whether you receive any sponsorship or discount. Columbia College Chicago will communicate this amount to you.

 request a ds-2019

Living in Chicago

Columbia’s South Loop campus is close to all Chicago has to offer—including first-rate museums, concerts, galleries, more than 28 kilometers of trails along Lake Michigan, and a variety of thriving artistic communities spread across the city. Chicago’s comprehensive public transportation system provides access to Midway and O’Hare airports as well as the city’s many culturally rich neighborhoods.

Read more about living in Chicago and things to do near campus.


Our Residence Life office provides a variety of housing options to suit your individual preferences. Apartment-style rooms and suites are fully furnished. All facilities are conveniently located only steps away from the main campus buildings, and all are close to public transportation.

After you decide to enroll and make a deposit to confirm your attendance, you should complete a housing application. Students must submit a $500 prepayment when they apply. We expect new freshmen and transfers to live on campus their first year. See floor plans and photos and apply for housing—which is offered on a first-come, first-served basis—at colum.edu/residencelife.

Buddy Program

The Buddy Program is a program designed for new international Columbia College Chicago students. The Buddy Program pairs you with a current Columbia student who will be your Buddy for a semester. Your Buddy will be your guide to the college and the city of Chicago, and can also help you with transportation from the airport to Columbia.

Sign Up for the Buddy Program

If you have any questions on this program you can contact Kevin Obomanu at kobomanu@colum.edu. To find out more information, find the Buddy Program on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Pre-arrival Information

We can’t wait to see you at Columbia! Here is some information to make your trip here as smooth as possible. 

What to Bring

Before you leave home, please remember to pack important information in your carry-on luggage. You will need the following information as soon as you arrive in the USA:

  • I-20
  • Passport
  • Financial documents
  • School information
  • Important phone numbers
  • Shuttle pick-up confirmation and phone number
  • Phone number and email of your Buddy

How to Get to Columbia College Chicago’s Campus

There are a number of different ways you can arrive on campus.

Airport Pickup
If you would like help scheduling an airport pickup, please contact Kevin Obomanu at kobomanu@colum.edu.

Public Transportation
From O’Hare Airport: Take the Blue Line to the Jackson stop. From there you will walk 2 to 6 blocks, depending on your housing location.

From Midway Airport: Take the Orange Line to the Roosevelt stop or Harold Washington Library stop, depending on your housing location.

By Taxi
Taxi stands are located at O’Hare and Midway airports, outside the baggage claim area. Follow the official airport signs. Do not accept rides from individuals who ask inside the airport.

Airport Shuttle
Columbia College Chicago partners with Wellstay and Go Airport Express.