Oct 30, 2020  
2020-2021 Catalog 
2020-2021 Catalog

Requirements for Graduate Admission

Graduate Admissions

Columbia College Chicago offers master’s degrees in the arts, media, and the business of the arts. 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
  • Transcripts or educational records 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.

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 college will accept their enrollment deposit.

Columbia College Chicago reserves the right to revoke offers of admission 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 degree-seeking graduate students in accordance with published admission deadlines. Students may not change their enrollment status mid-semester; that is, a nondegree student must complete their current semester of enrollment as a nondegree student and enroll as a degree student 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 veterans’ benefits or financial aid through federal, state, or institutional programs.

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 apply by a specific priority deadline to be considered for the college’s incoming graduate student merit-based scholarship program for incoming graduate students (see Graduate-Requirements and Deadlines for current program specific dates). Students must submit their online admission application by their program’s application deadline; all supplemental materials and documentation must also be submitted or postmarked by that date. Only complete application files that meet these criteria are considered 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 may they be viewed by any student 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 but may re-apply in any subsequent year; however, students 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

Students whose primary language is other than English must demonstrate language proficiency in one of the following ways:

  • Official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score, recommended score of 90ibt, 250cbt, or 600pbt or above.
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score, recommended score of 7 or above.
  • 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 based on 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 International Student 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). An I-20 cannot be issued until all the required documents (below) have been received. The confirmation deposit can be paid on the student’s status page.
  • PASSPORT: A copy of the applicant’s main passport page (biometrics) page. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the program start date.
  • OFFICIAL FINANCIAL DOCUMENTS: Students must submit an official bank letter/statement dated within six months of the start of classes.
    • Students must provide a statement of adequate support that indicates they have the funds necessary to cover the amount listed in the current “Attendance Budget”.
    • The statement must be issued by a recognized bank, carry the student’s or sponsor’s name, bear the signature of a bank official, and bear the date.
    • Sponsored students who will receive free room and board are exempt from documenting their ability to pay for such.
  • 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.
  • AFFIDAVIT OF SPONSOR PROVIDING FREE ROOM AND BOARD: The Affidavit of Sponsor Providing Free Room and Board form should be completed only if the student has a sponsor providing free housing for them while they are studying here. A photocopy of the lease or deed of the property must 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 a F-1 visa.

SEVIS and I-20 Issuance

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 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 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 the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), 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 International Student and Scholar Services. 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 the School of Graduate Studies.

Admission Decisions

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

Accepting an Offer of Admission

To accept an offer of admission, students must:

  • Submit official transcripts and/or credential evaluations confirming that they have, or will have, received the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree before they begin their graduate program.
  • Pay a non-refundable $450 Graduate Enrollment Deposit, payable by credit/debit card or check via apply.colum.edu/status, and is credited toward 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. 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 the program continues to operate. If a student is considering deferral, they should contact the School of Graduate Studies.


Typically, students placed on the waitlist during the admission process are informed whether a seat is available eight to 10 weeks from the date on their decision letter. However, spaces may become available later. The School of Graduate Studies communicates waitlist decisions as soon as they are able.

New Graduate Student Orientation and Registration


The School of Graduate Studies hosts an online orientation. The orientation introduces important information and serves an ongoing resource. Students can access the orientation after they pay their confirmation deposit and throughout their first semester at Columbia.

New graduate students also attend a New Student Welcome Day, during which they connect with their cohorts and learn about Columbia’s facilities. Many departments also host separate program-specific orientations.

Registration: Degree-Seeking Students

Incoming graduate students can begin registering in May. Students are eligible to register once they have submitted their $450 enrollment deposit and any outstanding admissions materials, including their official transcripts and/or credential evaluations confirming that they have or will have received the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree before they begin their graduate program. Students will receive information regarding registration from the School of Graduate Studies. Students must submit final, official proof that they have received the equivalent of a U.S. 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. Students are also responsible for paying additional fees, including those associated with graduation, registration, student activities,  health services, and student health insurance. Tuition rates, student fees, and refund schedules are established each year. Please consult the Columbia Central website for current details.

Paying for College

Creating a financial plan begins with evaluating and understanding all costs involved with attaining one’s education. The cost of a Columbia College Chicago education differs from individual to individual depending on many factors. These may include anything from where one decides to live while attending school to one’s mode of transportation. Students can use Columbia’s Columbia Central tools to assist them in determining their likely costs, payment options plans, and services on the Columbia Central web page.

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 Columbia Central.

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 Columbia Central web page for further assistance. All students who receive federal/state financial aid must comply with all applicable regulations. Please Columbia Central 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 academic progress may result in the loss of financial aid eligibility. Please see the Columbia Central website to learn more.