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Apply as a freshman student if you’ve completed high school, home school, or a GED and have not enrolled in coursework at a postsecondary college or university. This excludes dual enrollments, courses taken at Columbia College Chicago, and/or any postsecondary enrollment during the summer immediately following secondary school graduation or GED completion.

Columbia operates on rolling admissions, admitting students beginning in early fall. We make admissions decisions within four weeks of receiving a complete application file.

Ready to apply? Follow these steps.

1. Start your application using Columbia’s application or the Common Application. Submit by April 1, 2018, for Fall 2018 priority consideration.

We accept both. Begin the application process using Columbia’s application, or add Columbia as a school when you complete the Common Application.

2. Submit the following required items.


Choose the option that best allows you to express your ideas. Your essay should be between 250 and 650 words.

  • Option 1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Option 2: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Option 3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Option 4: Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  • Option 5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Option 6: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  • Option 7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

All applicants are required to submit their official high school transcripts to Columbia.

High School Applicant: Ask your high school to send your most recent and/or final transcript.

GED Applicant: Ask the testing agency to send an official copy of your GED test results, including your scores. Certificates of GED completion are not accepted.

Home School Applicant: Ask your state-recognized home school to send an official copy of your home-school transcript.

International Applicant: Ask your secondary school or high school to send official or certified true copies of your educational records that demonstrate successful completion of a high school or secondary education.

As an international student, you may be required to submit a “leaving certificate” or “graduation certificate” along with your certified educational records. Official educational records not written in English must include an official English translation. For help determining which transcripts or records to send us, check out this guide.

How to Submit Transcripts

Ask your institution(s) to send official transcripts to Columbia College Chicago Admissions at 600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60605. All transcripts received by mail or in person must be in the original sealed envelope from the school.

We also accept transcripts—when sent directly from the institution—via email to or via fax to 312-369-8024.

Application Fee

Application fee for domestic students (nonrefundable): $50 
Application fee for international students (nonrefundable): $100

You must submit payment in order to complete the online application.

International Students Only: English Language Proficiency
If English is not your country’s primary language, you must prove English language proficiency.

3. Read about our supplementary materials—not required for admission—and then decide if you want to submit any of them.

Test Scores

While test scores are not required for admission, you’re welcome to submit ACT, SAT, AP or IB scores to further demonstrate your preparedness for college-level work.

ACT and SAT Scores

You should request your ACT and/or SAT score reports from the testing agency. Request your ACT score report using Columbia College's ACT School Code (1002). Request your SAT score report using Columbia College's SAT School Code (1135).

Note: Once admitted, you can take an on-campus placement test if you believe your ACT or SAT scores do not accurately reflect your ability in writing, reading or math.

AP Scores

List Columbia College Chicago on your College Board account so we receive your score reports as soon as possible.

We grant college credit for scores of 3 or higher on most AP exams. Please see our AP exam table for a complete list of exams and credits awarded by score.

IB Exam Results

Ask your diploma programme coordinator to submit a request for your IB exam results. In some cases, you may be able to request results yourself.

We grant credit for IB exam results of 4 or higher.

Digital Portfolios and Video Auditions
View Portfolio and Audition Requirements

Submitting a portfolio or audition makes you eligible for the Faculty Recognition Award, our competitive talent-based scholarship. This scholarship is renewable up to four years. The portfolio submission deadline for scholarship consideration is January 15, 2018.

The Faculty Recognition Award is open to:

  • Outstanding high school seniors entering for the first time in Fall 2018 semester
  • Outstanding transfer students who have earned no more than 75 transferable college credit hours and are entering for the first time in the Fall 2018 semester
  • Students who submit samples of their creative work that demonstrate strong accomplishment, talent, or ability in one of the many areas of study at Columbia
  • Students who have earned a cumulative high school or grade point average of 3.0 or higher on 4.0 scale (or equivalent)
  • Students who have been admitted to Columbia
  • International students may be considered

Please note: Your portfolio or audition submission will be used for talent-based scholarship consideration only. Visit our portfolio and audition requirements page for submission information.

Letter of Recommendation

While not required, we recommend that you submit at least one letter of recommendation.

Who should write my letter of recommendation?

Ask an instructor, counselor, advisor or other individual who can speak to your ability to succeed in a rigorous arts and media curriculum.

Does my recommender need to use a special form?

No. When you enter your recommender's information on the application, they'll receive an electronic recommendation form with instructions. The process for the Common Application is similar.

How do I submit a letter of recommendation?

The person who writes your letter of recommendation should submit it to us online or by mail, fax or email.

The online application has a feature that sends an email request for a letter of recommendation on your behalf to your recommender, who can then submit your letter online. If your recommender submits by email or fax, please ask them to include a cover letter with your full name and date of birth.

Mailing Address

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



BA, BFA, BMus, BS Degrees: What’s the difference?

Our bachelor of arts (BA) programs allow for exploration, including the ability to tailor elective coursework beyond your major or add a minor. Bachelor of fine arts (BFA), bachelor of music (BMus) and bachelor of science (BS) programs feature more intensive required coursework in the major with limited elective coursework.

To enroll in certain professional degree programs, you must first gain admission to the college. Students typically apply to enter BFA or BMus programs after one to three semesters of study at Columbia.