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Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Office of International Services

Academic Information > Academic Information for International Students

Academic Information for International Students

The Credit / Point System

Like most other U.S. institutions, Teachers College follows a 'credit' / 'point' system in organizing its academic programs. That is, degree programs require satisfactory completion of a minimum number of coursework credits or points (in addition to other requirements, such as comprehensive examinations, a master's thesis or integrative project, a doctoral dissertation, etc.) in order to qualify for graduation. The standard coursework credit requirements for programs at Teachers College are as follows:

  •     Master of Arts (MA) - 32 credits
  •     Master of Education (EdM / ME) - 60 credits
  •     Doctor of Philosophy (Phd) - 75 credits
  •     Doctor of Education (EdD) - 90 credits

Consult with your program to see how many coursework credits are required to qualify for your degree. Courses at Teachers College are usually taken for 1 to 3 credits, with 3 credits as the standard number of credits for a regular semester-long academic course. Full-time students take 12 credits of courses or the equivalent every semester.

Courses may be taken for letter grade (A, B, C, D, F) or pass/fail. However, students should consult with their academic programs since courses taken as pass/fail may or may not be accepted for degree purposes. Also, many academic programs require a minimum grade (typically "B" or above) for certain courses if they are to be counted toward graduation.

Students who receive the letter grade of C- for 8 credits (or more) of coursework are considered in unsatisfactory academic standing and are dismissed from the College.  Students should consult the TC Academic Catalog following arrival to learn more about TC's grading and academic policy.

The Academic Year


The standard academic year is from September - May, divided into the Autumn (September - December) and Spring (January - May) semesters. Teachers College also offers two summer semesters, Summer A (mid-May - late June) and Summer B (early July - mid August).

Students register for courses at the beginning of each academic semester, but are allowed during the "Drop / Add" period (usually the first ten days of the semester) to change and make final course selections. Consult the TC Academic Calendar for more information about the Academic Calendar, including semester beginning and starting dates, holidays, and academic deadlines.

Planning Your Course of Study


Newly-admitted students are strongly encouraged to research the web sites of their academic programs prior to arriving and starting studies. Programs vary in the types of courses they require. Some programs are very flexible, allowing students a wide range of self-selection and choice, while other programs are very structured and follow tight sequences. Contact your program beforehand with any questions you may have.

Newly-admitted students will also have the opportunity during the New Student Experience (New Student Orientation) to meet with an advisor to discuss academic course selection. Your advisor will also provide you with a PIN (identification number) which will allow you to register for courses.

Full-time Study / Full-Time Equivalency


As a rule, international students in F or J status are required to pursue a full-time course of study throughout the academic year. At Teachers College, full-time study requires registration for 12 credits of coursework or the equivalent during the academic year (registration during the summer semesters is optional).

A student who is registered for 12 credits of coursework or more is automatically considered full-time. However, a student registered for less than 12 credits may still be considered as doing the "equivalent" of a full course of study if the student is also engaged in other approved academic work or activity, such as:

  •     a required or elective for-credit internship, practicum, or fieldwork
  •     student teaching, required as an integral part of the degree program
  •     research and writing for the master's thesis or integrative project
  •     study for required comprehensive or language examinations
  •     research for the doctoral dissertation
  •     graduate research or teaching assistantship

The Office of International Student Services advises students individually on whether or not they may qualify for full-time equivalency based on one of the above activities. The final approval is made, in all cases, by the Office of the Registrar. In any event, international students must be engaged in 12 credits of coursework or the equivalent combination of coursework and other approved academic activity.

Reduced Course load Exemptions


International students in F or J status who are beginning their studies at TC may request from the OIS a first-semester exemption to the 12-credit requirement and take a reduced course load at 9 credits instead. This exception is granted only if the student is new to U.S. higher education and would like to take fewer than 12 credits to assist with the process of academic and language adjustment. Students who are granted permission for reduced courseloads are expected to enroll in Academic Language and Culture, a free series of workshops for international students that focuses on U.S. classroom culture, academic writing, and oral presentation skills. More information about Academic Language and Culture will be presented at New International Student Orientation.

Additionally, F-1 and J-1 students may request a reduced course load in their final semester of study, if less than 12 credits are needed to complete their degree requirements.

Transfer Credits from Previous Graduate Work


If you are in a program leading to an EdM, EdD, or PhD, you may be able to receive credits for graduate courses taken at another school, thereby reducing the total number of courses you may need to do at Teachers College. Determination of transfer credits is done after you have enrolled in your TC degree program. Go to the Office of Admission to request a Transfer Credit Evaluation Form. Complete the form and submit it to the Office of Admission, to request an evaluation of your previous graduate school work. After the evaluation, it is up to your academic advisor to approve which credits will be accepted. You will be notified in writing once the final evaluation has been made.
Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
Box 7, 525 W 120th Street
New York, New York 10027-6696
Phone: (212) 678-3939 ♦ ~ Fax: (212) 678-3990 ♦ Email: