School of General Studies
|Degrees||BA, BS, Postbac Certificate in Premedical Sciences|
|Enrollment||1,260 Undergraduate, 433 Postbac students (2006)|
The School of General Studies, or GS is a degree-granting college of Columbia University. It confers Bachelor of Art and Bachelor of Science degrees in over forty different majors. In addition to its undergraduate program, GS also offers a joint program with List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary as well as a postbaccalaureate premedical program. The average age of GS students is 27.
Offices for the School of General Studies along with the General Studies Lounge are located in Lewisohn Hall. Until 1964, GS had operated out of Buell Hall, which was known as Alumni House at the time.
Although the School of General Studies is notoriously tight-lipped about its admission criteria and the statistics on admitted students, some information is available. Most GS students are transfer students, as 78% of the admitted class in 2006 transferred some college credit. For transfer students, a minimum college GPA of 3.00 is required. However, most successful applicants attain GPAs of at least 3.7. GS also requires standardized test scores for entry. The school will use scores from the SAT, ACT, or the school's own General Studies Admissions Exam.  A list of admissions requirements and procedures is available from the General Studies website
Additional statistics on application, admission, and matriculation are available at the website of the Office of Planning and Institutional Research. 
GS students must complete a total of 124 credits to graduate. Up to 60 of these credits may be transferred from another institution; at least 64 credits must be completed at Columbia University. GS students must complete the core requirements and a major. GS students may attend full-time or part-time, while CC students are expected to attend full-time (part-time study is accepted under special circumstances.)
The following table lists the core requirements for GS and CC:
|Writing||University Writing||University Writing|
|Literature||2 Literature Courses OR Literature Humanities||Literature Humanities|
|Foreign Language||4th Semester of a Language OR exemption by university exam||4th Semester of a Language OR exemption by university exam|
|Art||Art Humanities, Asian Humanities (Art) or exemption by similar course taken at another institution||Art Humanities|
|Music||Music Humanities or Asian Humanities (Music) or exemption by similar course taken at another institution||Music Humanities|
|Humanities/Social Science||2 courses each in Humanities and Social Science (students have the option to take Contemporary Civilization, which satisfies the Social Science requirement.||Contemporary Civilization|
|Quantitative Reasoning||Exemption by exam: 600 on Math section of SAT OR any mathematics, statistics, economics, or computer science course, OR Frontiers of Science, which satisfies both a Science and the Quantitative requirements||Covered under Science requirement|
|Physical Education||None||Swim test, 2 courses|
|Science||3 science courses, one of which can be Frontiers of Science||Frontiers of Science and 2 additional science courses|
|Cultural Diversity||1 course that focuses on a culture, society, literature, or language of a nation or region that, as a general principle, is located outside the United States, Canada, or Europe.||2 courses from the Major Cultures Approved Courses List|
Major requirements are determined departmentally. These are generally the same for both GS and CC.
GS offers scholarships for both newly accepted and continuing students. These scholarships are merit- rather than need-based, and the amounts awarded range from $500 to $18,000.
A common complaint made by GS students is that the financial aid amounts and options offered by GS are smaller than those offered to CC/SEAS students. In the absence of need-based institutional aid, many GS students rely on a combination of loans, external grants, and personal funds. In 2006 the University announced financial aid reforms for CC and SEAS students whose parents earn less than $50,000 annually.
GS does not offer parity with the packages offered to CC/SEAS students. This is because the scholarship system at GS is independent of the financial aid system for CC/SEAS and funding is sourced from a separate GS-only pool. GS has made some recent efforts to address the issue, both through campaigns to increase the endowment and by increasing its scholarship offerings by 10 percent (in 2006.)
The University Extension program was reorganized and renamed the School of General Studies in 1947, in part to address the influx of GIs returning from World War II. It became Columbia's third official undergraduate school. It is sometimes claimed that Barnard College is Columbia's third undergraduate school, and GS is its fourth; however Barnard is officially only affiliated with Columbia University, while GS, its deans, and students are formally integrated into the university proper, along with Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.
GS originally maintained its own faculty, classes, and programs. In 1968 the University Council first decided to allow GS to grant the B.A. degree in addition to the B.S. In the 1980s it was separated from the Division of Continuing Education. In 1990, the CC, GS, and GSAS faculties were merged into the Faculty of Arts & Sciences.
The school’s name subtly refers to its diverse student body by alluding to medieval universities, which were also known as studia generalia. Unlike the studia partiuclaria, schools that educated only members of a local population, the studia generalia were degree-granting institutions that served a much broader, often international group of students and scholars.
- GS is night school.
- GS students attend the same classes as students in other colleges at the university. Columbia offers some classes at night, which are available to all students.
- GS is an extension program.
- GS is a degree-granting college. Students are expected to pursue a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree. The separate School of Continuing Education offers individual courses on non-degree basis.
- GS is a back door to CC.
- It is unclear whether anyone has ever successfully transferred into CC or another Columbia undergraduate school from GS. The official policy reads:
Undergraduates enrolled in the School of General Studies, including Joint Program students, who are interested in transferring to another Columbia or affiliated undergraduate school (Columbia College, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), Barnard College, or List College/JTS) should not submit a transfer application to any of those schools without prior consultation with their GS advisors. Transfer applications from GS to Columbia College, SEAS, or the Joint Program with JTS will not be considered by those schools without a written endorsement from the GS Dean of Students. Endorsements are limited to those students in good standing who have sound academic reasons for seeking to transfer from GS. Joint Program students who are considering the submission of a transfer application to one of the Columbia undergraduate schools, including GS, should also discuss the matter with their GS and JTS advisors; transfer to GS is not automatic for Joint Program students and requires a new application to GS through the Office of Admissions.
- GS students perform just as well academically as students at other schools.
- GS students are on average ten years older than CC students.
- GS has two Nobel Laureates as alumni.
- GS students are the biggest suck ups in the history of mankind.
Relationship to Columbia College
The School of General Studies is loosely defined as a school for 'non-traditional students.' “Nontraditional students include persons who have interrupted their educations since high school for at least one academic year or individuals who have compelling personal or professional reasons to attend college on a part-time basis. GS is also the college at Columbia for students seeking to complete a second B.A. or B.S. degree.” (Admissions section of the 2006-07 GS Academic Bulletin, pg. 7).  Columbia College is for 'traditional students' who matriculate directly from high school and have not had a gap of more than one year in their undergraduate studies. On this basis, students applying to study at Columbia University are directed to the appropriate school.
In December 1968 the University Council decided, over the objections of some members of the Columbia College Faculty, to allow GS to grant the B.A. degree in addition to the B.S. The Board of Trustees authorized that decision in February 1969. As a result, even though GS and CC students are academically indistinguishable- they both receive instruction in the liberal arts and sciences from the Columbia Faculty of Arts and Sciences and receive the Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University- some students feel that GS is treated as a lesser school. At the time each of schools had a faculty independent of the other, with professors able to hold joint-appointments between multiple faculties. The independent faculties of the schools have since been integrated into a single Faculty of Arts and Science.
GS admissions statistics are not reported in conjunction with CC/SEAS statistics. This is related both to GS's different admission deadlines and the fact that CC/SEAS and GS have different applicant pools. GS releases few statistics about its incoming class, leading to speculation that GS lets in students with subpar statistics, which the University then 'hides.' This may also provide the grounds for accusations that GS is a "back door" to a Columbia undergraduate education.
Additionally GS students deal with a dearth of financial aid funding. Because GS is operated separately from the joint administration of CC and SEAS, it is not covered in the plan to eliminate student loans for CC and SEAS students with family incomes below $50,000, an initiative applicable only to the financial aid office under CC/SEAS's Division of Student Affairs.
The somewhat arbitrary delineations between the College and GS have grown as a result of attempts to reconcile the overlap between the schools while justifying the disparate standing of the schools within the University. The wide range of constituents forming the GS student body, from professionals or dropouts returning to school for a degree, to students who took 2 years off before attending college, to 'traditional'-age students enrolled in the Joint Degree Program with List College at JTS, to postbac pre-med students, makes it hard to say just what identity GS students have that makes them so different from their fellow students in the College.
- Profile of 2006 admitted students
- Source: 78% of 2006 admitted students transferred credit.
- Source: GS admissions FAQ for transfer students
- Source: ibid
- Source: GS Credit Policies
- School of General Studes Core Requirements
- Columbia College Core Curriculum
- University Writing is required of both GS and CC students, but the sections are divided by school.
- Average gap in studies for a GS student in the fall 2006 entering class was 6 years
- GS website
- GS Housing website
- OwlNet, GS Alumni website
- GSLOUNGE (Official Site of the GSSC)
- History of the School of General Studies
- IMPLICATIONS: General Studies (Article on the evolving and conflicting identities of GS) - The Spectator 3/5/07
- College for Grownups (Time article from 1952)
- The Unwashed Brother (article on GS in Time Magazine, circa 1959.)
- Wikipedia article
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