Jul 22, 2024  
2018-2019 Catalog 
2018-2019 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Requirements for Graduate Admission

Graduate Admissions

Columbia College Chicago offers master’s degrees in creative industries. Our programs look for candidates who demonstrate a high level of aptitude and passion for their medium and who have a potential for continued growth and excellence at the graduate level. Each program admits only a small number of applicants each year, to be determined by a Graduate Admissions Review Committee. This committee is department-specific and conducts holistic reviews of all completed applications.

For more information about Columbia College Chicago Graduate Admissions, please see Graduate Requirements and Deadlines

Requirements for Admission

Degree-Seeking Students

To apply for admission to one of Columbia’s graduate programs, all applicants must submit the following:

  • Online application for admission, including the self-assessment essay and resume upload
  • Transcripts from every college or university attended
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • A non-refundable application fee
  • Specific additional materials and/or work samples as required by each program. See: Graduate Requirements and Deadlines

The college welcomes the submission of scores from standardized tests such as the GRE or GMAT, although neither is required for admission. Applicants who believe their scores will strengthen their applications are encouraged to submit them.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have earned, or will have earned, the equivalent of a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree before they begin class in their first semester.

Applicants may receive a conditional offer of admission based on unofficial transcripts. If an offer of admission is made, official transcripts must be submitted before the applicant can enroll.

Columbia College Chicago reserves the right to revoke offers of admissions should any discrepancies be found in these documents.

Nondegree-seeking Students

Some graduate level courses are available for nondegree-seeking students. Contact the School of Graduate Studies for more information about which courses are available.

Nondegree students may apply for admission as a degree-seeking graduate student in accordance with published admission deadlines. Students may not change their enrollment status mid-semester; that is, a nondegree student must complete his or her current semester of enrollment as a nondegree student and enroll as a degree candidate in the next fall semester following admission to the college. Credit earned as a nondegree student may be applied toward a Columbia College Chicago graduate degree only at the discretion of the academic department to which the student is granted admission. Nondegree students are not eligible for financial aid through federal, state, or institutional programs or for veterans’ benefits.

Application and Scholarship Deadlines

Application deadlines vary from program to program. Many graduate programs admit students on a rolling basis at various times throughout the year, but require students to submit by a specific priority deadline in order to be considered for the college’s merit-based scholarship program for incoming graduate students (see Graduate-Requirements and Deadlines for this year’s specific dates by program). Students must submit the online admission application by their program’s application deadline; all supplemental materials and documentation must be postmarked by that date. Only complete application files that meet these criteria are considered for admission by the Graduate Admissions Review Committee.

Retention of Application Materials

Only the transcript(s) or educational records are retained in a student’s permanent educational record at Columbia College Chicago. The application form, letters of recommendation and/or any additional supporting materials are not retained, nor are they available for student perusal prior to or after admission to the College.

Applying to Multiple Graduate Programs

Students may apply to only one master’s degree program in an application cycle; they may re-apply in any subsequent year. They may apply for a master’s degree program and a certificate program concurrently.

International Students

Columbia College Chicago considers international students to be those applicants who are neither citizens nor permanent residents of the United States.

Proof of English Language Proficiency

Proof of English language proficiency is required for admission into the college’s graduate programs, if English is not the applicant’s primary language. This can be demonstrated by submitting at least one of the following:

  • Official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score. Recommended score of 90ibt, 250cbt or 600pbt
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score. Recommended score of 6.5
  • Transcript or educational records from an institution where English is the language of instruction and proof of a completed bachelor’s degree

Note: Waivers are not 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.

Credential Evaluation

Official educational records (transcripts) of college/university work completed at institutions outside the United States require a credential evaluation, which converts foreign educational documents to U.S. equivalents. Students must obtain and submit their own credential evaluation from a verifiable third-party as a part of their application.

Upon Acceptance

If accepted for admission, international students must also submit the following, as applicable, as soon as possible after receiving their decision letter:

  • $450 ENROLLMENT DEPOSIT: The enrollment deposit secures the student’s spot in the incoming class and initiates a review of the student’s file by Columbia’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services, so that they may issue a SEVIS I-20 Certificate of Eligibility (one of the items required in order to obtain a visa). Note that an I-20 cannot be issued until all the required documents (below) have been received. The enrollment deposit can be paid at: colum.edu/gradpayment
  • OFFICIAL FINANCIAL DOCUMENTS: Students must submit an official bank letter/statement dated within six months of the start of classes.
    • Financial documentation should verify that the student has financial support available to them that is equivalent to Columbia College Chicago’s published “Attendance Budget” for the year they intend to enroll. The current Attendance Budget is posted on Columbia’s Student Financial Services website.
    • Financial documents should be either in the student’s name or the name of the student’s sponsor, if appropriate.
    • If the sponsor is providing the student with free room and board, then the student is exempt from having to provide documentation of the “Room and Board” portion of the Cost of Attendance. 
  • CERTIFICATE OF SPONSORSHIP FORM: The Certificate of Sponsorship form should be completed only if someone else is providing funding for the student’s graduate education; the person completing the form must also have it notarized.
  • AFFIDAVIT OF SPONSOR PROVIDING FREE ROOM & BOARD: The Affidavit of Sponsor Providing Free Room & Board form should be completed only if the student has a sponsor providing free housing for him or her while he or she is studying here. A photocopy of the lease or deed of the property should accompany the form.
  • IMMIGRATION PRE-TRANSFER VERIFICATION FORM: The Immigration Pre-Transfer Verification Form should only be completed if the student is currently in the U.S. on an F-1 visa.

SEVIS and I-20 Issuance for International Students

A SEVIS Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility will be issued only after admission requirements have been fulfilled and the student has been granted written acceptance to Columbia College Chicago. If a student already holds valid F-1 status, a SEVIS I-20 will be issued once the current school has released the student’s SEVIS record to the college. To remain in compliance with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service regulations, students must be enrolled in a minimum of nine credits (full-time) during each semester of an academic year, abide by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) requirements, and be in compliance with the college’s Satisfactory Academic Progress policy each term.

Columbia College Chicago is a SEVIS-approved institution and complies with any and all data collection and reporting requirements as mandated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. The college is obligated to report the following items on each international student who is admitted to and enrolled at Columbia College Chicago: enrollment status (full-time/part-time); change of address; change of major, program of study, and educational level; employment; finances; school transfers; withdrawal from classes; and completion of studies. International students must promptly report any changes in these items to Global Education. Failure to do so may result in a violation of immigration status.

The college has implemented a mandatory health insurance plan for international students that meets immigration criteria.

For further information regarding international graduate admissions and immigration-related issues, contact Graduate Admissions.

Admission Decisions

Admission decisions are communicated via official letter from the School of Graduate Studies, and are typically mailed six to eight weeks after each program’s priority application deadline. If an application is submitted past the priority deadline, admissions decisions are typically mailed four to six weeks after the application is complete.

Accepting an Offer of Admission

To accept an offer of admission, students must pay a non-refundable $450 Graduate Enrollment Deposit. This deposit may be paid via credit/debit card via apply.colum.edu/status, and is credited towards the student’s first semester’s tuition once the student enrolls.

Deferring Admission

Admitted students may request permission to defer their admission for one year. However, deferrals are granted at the discretion of the department and are not guaranteed. If a student is granted a deferral, they are required to submit a $300 Graduate Deferral Deposit in addition to a $450 Graduate Enrollment Deposit. After receiving permission and submitting these two payments, the student’s seat in the next year’s entering class is guaranteed. If a student is considering deferral, they should contact Graduate Admissions.


Typically, students placed on the waitlist during the admission process are informed whether or not a seat is available eight to ten weeks from the date on their decision letter. However, it sometimes occurs that a space becomes available later into the summer or close to the beginning of the fall semester. The School of Graduate Studies communicates waitlist decisions promptly as they are made.

New Graduate Student Orientation and Registration


The School of Graduate Studies hosts an Online Orientation that begins in May, and is available to students throughout their first semester at Columbia. This Orientation portal is designed to strategically introduce new graduate students to the information they need and be available as a resource to them after they are current students.

New graduate students also attend a New Student welcome day, typically held the Friday before classes begin. This day is centered around orienting the students to Columbia’s campus and giving them an opportunity to connect with their cohort.

In addition, most departments also host a separate orientation specific to each program.

Registration: Degree-seeking Students

Registration opens for incoming graduate students in May. Students are eligible to register once they have submitted their $450 enrollment deposit and any outstanding admissions materials, including their transcripts. Students will receive information regarding registration from the School of Graduate Studies. Students must submit final proof of their bachelor’s degree by the first day of classes, or they will not be able to register for subsequent semesters.

Registration: Nondegree-seeking Students

Nondegree students may register for courses at Columbia during open registration each semester after all degree-seeking candidates of the College have registered. Nondegree students must meet all prerequisite requirements for the courses in which they enroll.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition charges are based upon the number of credits for which a student enrolls each semester, and are calculated using the per-credit-hour rate for that program. Tuition rates, student fees, and refund schedules are established each year. Please consult the Student Financial Services web site at www.colum.edu/sfs for up-to-date information, or consult the Student Financial Services Graduate Student Handbook for the current academic year.

In addition, the college charges students additional fees to provide various student services such as graduation, registration, student activities, health services, and student health insurance. For current listings of tuition and fees, students should visit the Student Financial Services web site at www.colum.edu/sfs for up-to-date information, or consult the Student Financial Services Graduate Student Handbook for the current academic year.

Paying for College

Creating a financial plan begins with evaluating and understanding all of the costs involved with attaining one’s education. The cost of a Columbia College Chicago education differs from individual to individual depending on many personal choices. These may include anything from where one decides to live while attending school to one’s mode of transportation. With this in mind, Columbia’s Student Financial Services has designed tools to assist students in evaluating and determining their individual costs. More information is available on payment options, plans and services on the Student Financial Services (SFS) web site. 

Outstanding Student Account Balances

Students who have not resolved their outstanding student account balance are not able to register for future courses nor obtain copies of their official transcript and/or diploma. For assistance in resolving an outstanding student account balance contact Student Financial Services.

Federal/State Financial Aid

All students wishing to be considered for any federal or state financial aid programs must first complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students should visit the Student Financial Services website for further assistance. All students who receive federal/state financial aid must comply with all applicable regulations. Please visit the Student Financial Services website for a complete listing of funding sources available for application.

Graduate federal aid recipients are required to meet certain financial aid satisfactory academic progress standards (SAP). SAP is evaluated once per year at the end of spring semester. Failure to maintain satisfactory progress may result in the loss of financial aid eligibility. Please see the Student Financial Services website to learn more about Maintaining Your Eligibility.