Deadlines & Requirements | Columbia Journalism School

Deadlines and Application Requirements

Note: All materials (essays, clips, work samples, resumes, etc.) must be submitted in English. If an original transcript (mark sheet, diploma, degree certificate, or academic record) is not in English, you must upload both the official transcript in the original language and its verbatim English translation.

The applicant must submit all materials directly, not through an agent or third-party vendor, with the following exceptions: the US Department of State's Fulbright Program and its three partner agencies IIE, LASPAU and AMIDEAST; the Danish-American Fulbright Commission (DAF); or Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).

The applicant will be required to attest to the accuracy and authenticity of all information and documents submitted to Columbia. If you have any questions about this requirement, please contact the Office of Admissions at [email protected]. Applicants may be required to assist admissions staff and faculty involved in admission reviews in the verification of all documents and statements made in documents submitted by students as part of the application review process. Failure to submit complete, accurate and authentic application documents consistent with these instructions may result in denial or revocation of admission, cancellation of academic credit, suspension, expulsion or eventual revocation of degree.

Application Details

What you'll need to complete your application. 

Application Fee

Required of applicants to all programs

$100 non­-refundable application fee payable at time of on­line application submission by credit card only.

We do not accept checks or bank money orders. We will not accept cash or postal money orders. No exceptions. 

Applications are not considered complete unless accompanied by the fee. The school does not grant application fee waivers.

Academic Transcripts

Required of applicants to all programs

A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. university or its equivalent from another country, awarded by the summer of the year that you begin classes, is required.

During the initial phase of the application process, you are permitted to upload unofficial copies of your academic transcripts for evaluation purposes via the application portal. You must submit transcripts from every university you have attended, without exception. Should you be accepted and choose to enroll, you will then need to submit official academic transcripts from every university you have attended to the school. Please review the official transcript submission methods below:

Transcripts from Domestic Institutions 

  • Electronic transcripts: Receiving electronic transcripts via a point-to-point system that bypasses the student (using vendors such as Parchment, Credentials Solutions, and the National Student Clearinghouse) enhances efficiency and ensures authenticity of materials. All admitted students who have attended a college or university in the United States must submit electronic transcripts directly from their school, delivered directly to The Office of Admission. 
  • Paper transcripts: If an admitted student’s U.S.-based institution does not offer electronic delivery, the student must write to the Office of Admission with the link to their prior U.S. institution’s webpage concerning transcript orders to confirm that paper is the only option and obtain permission to submit a paper transcript. If a paper transcript is the only option, it must be sent directly from the other institution to Columbia, and not delivered or forwarded via the student.

Transcripts from International Institutions 

  • International institutions outside of the People’s Republic of China: Admitted students who attended international institutions must submit an electronic transcript if their school offers secure online delivery. If the school cannot send transcripts electronically through a secure online system, they must contact World Education Services (WES) and order a course-by-course evaluation and International Credential Advantage Package to be sent directly to The Office of Admission (Columbia Journalism School, 203 Pulitzer Hall, Mail Code 3801, 2950 Broadway, New York, NY 10027).
    • If you already have a degree conferred from a foreign institution, you are strongly encouraged to have a WES evaluation sent verifying U.S. equivalency.

  • International institutions in the People’s Republic of China: Admitted students who attended institutions in the People’s Republic of China can access a unique resource through CHESICC, the credentials verification service affiliated with the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Education, to arrange for submission of a “Verification Report of China Higher Education Student’s Academic Transcripts” AND a “Verification Report of China Higher Education Qualification Certificate.” These should be delivered electronically to the appropriate admissions office at Columbia.

Writing Test

Required of all applicants to M.S. programs and M.A. applicants who indicate they would also like to be considered for the M.S. program.

The writing test is taken from mid-November through mid-January.

  • The test format is short answer and open­-ended questions.
  • Test information will be emailed after an application has been submitted, beginning in November.
  • The writing test takes approximately two hours and focuses on an applicant’s reporting, writing, and critical thinking skills. 
  • This is not a test of current affairs, and there is no way to study for the exam.
  • This test is administered by a service called ProctorU. All students will take the test remotely, regardless of location. You do not need to travel to New York City to take the test.

Proof of English Language Proficiency

Required of applicants to all programs

Current official TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score reports are required for:

  • M.S. and M.A. applicants: if English was not the language of instruction during your entire undergraduate education.
  • Ph.D. applicants: if English was not the language of instruction during your entire undergraduate education or your native language is not English.

TOEFL scores are valid for two years from the test date. The Graduate School of Journalism reference code for ETS is 2120. On the TOEFL, we require a minimum score of 650 (paper­-based) or 114 (internet-­based); and for the IELTS we require a minimum score of 8.0.

The Admissions Committee reserves the right to require a test of English language proficiency from any applicant for admission, if deemed necessary during its evaluation.


Applicants to our programs are required to write 2-3 essays as outlined below.

M.S. Applicants (2-3 essays)

  • Autobiographical essay
  • Professional Interests/M.S. essay
  • Specialized program essay (only if applying to the Investigative, Documentary or Data Degree programs)

M.A. Applicants (3 essays)

  • Autobiographical essay
  • Professional interests/M.A. essay
  • Program Interests essay

Ph.D. Applicants (2 essays)

  • Autobiographical essay
  • Academic Interests essay

Guide to Essays 


Required of applicants to all programs

In a short autobiographical essay, tell us about yourself. You can write about your family, your education, your talents, or your passions about significant places or events in your life; about books you have read, people you have met, or work you have done that has shaped the person you have become.


Required of applicants to M.S. programs

What led you to your interest in journalism?  What experience, if any, do you have in journalism?  What do you hope to gain through your work at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism?


Required of applicants to M.S. specialized programs

Data Journalism Degree Essay - Explain why you want to pursue a degree in data journalism. For example, you might reflect on a high-quality data journalism piece that you found inspiring or describe a data-driven project you're interested in pursuing during your year at Columbia Journalism School. Although we don't require applicants to have a strong data portfolio, please include any experience you've had with computation or projects that used data analysis. 

Stabile Investigative Journalism Specialization Essay (for Stabile applicants only) Investigative techniques are useful for a range of stories, but investigative reporting is not just about the use of these techniques, it is also about the exposure of wrongdoing. Please describe how your educational or professional experience has prepared you to undertake the investigative journalism specialization. The bulk of the essay should make the case for your admission to the investigative journalism specialization. It will be helpful to the admission committee if you discuss some ideas for your master’s thesis since this will be the most significant investigative piece you will complete at the School.

Documentary Essay (for Documentary applicants only) The Documentary Program is a selective concentration for those who feel passionately about learning in-depth visual storytelling. The bulk of this essay should make the case for your admission to the documentary specialization. Please describe why you want to make documentaries and what subject area(s) might interest you and why. In your answer, cite some documentaries you have seen that you think fulfill a journalistic potential.


Required of applicants to M.A. program

Submit a stringent self-assessment of your work as a journalist or in Columbia’s Master of Science program, pointing out strengths and weaknesses. If you have not been enrolled as a student in the past five years, we would like to know what opportunities and challenges you foresee in pursuing the Master of Arts, as well as how you expect to change your career path after completing this program. If you have recently completed our Master of Science program, we would appreciate your specific ideas regarding the added value the Master of Arts program will confer upon you, and your assessment of the relationship between the two curricula.


Required of applicants to M.A. program

This essay should make the case for your admission to your chosen major within the M.A. program.  Please describe how your educational or professional experience has prepared you to undertake this field of study and to handle the in-depth materials you will encounter in the major. It will be helpful to the admission committee if you discuss any interest in a sub-specialty (i.e. a Business and Economics major may wish to become a technology reporter) in which you will produce your master’s thesis.

ACADEMIC INTERESTS (750 word limit)

Required of applicants to Ph.D. program

Please describe the academic and intellectual interests, progress, and achievements that have contributed to your decision to apply for doctoral study. You should include a thoughtful description of your tentative plan of study or area of inquiry at Columbia as you now envision it, the kind of research questions you intend to pursue, and what you hope to expect to do after you have completed the degree.

Dual Degree with Computer Science (FOR DUAL JRN/CS APPLICANTS ONLY)

  • Autobiographical - Provide a brief description of your academic and professional activities and accomplishments, as well as any other information that you feel can help us evaluate your potential to succeed in the program. (two-page limit)
  • Professional Interests - Describe your career objectives and specific goals in pursuing the Dual M.S. in Journalism and Computer Science. Why did you apply to this program? What do you hope to do after graduation? (two-page limit)


Required of applicants to all programs

Current resume/curriculum vitae: Please include any honors or awards you have received as a student or working journalist. Please note important stories you have developed or covered.

Journalistic Clips or Writing Samples

Required of applicants to M.S. and M.A. programs

  • We require applicants to submit three examples of their journalistic or other written work in support of their application.
  • Upload these samples into our online application.
  • Please submit no more than a total of 15 pages.
  • We will not accept, via post, any clips or writing samples.
  • Do not submit work you have not written yourself or have copyedited.
  • For applicants who do not have clips, the admission committee wants to see writing samples that demonstrate your ability to distill and interpret information, e.g. blogs, press releases, or short writing samples.
  • For any audio or video clips, submissions should run no longer than 2-3 minutes each.
  • Any materials submitted that do not meet these criteria will not be considered.
  • No more than three samples should be submitted in total, whether written samples or multimedia clips.

Academic Writing Sample(s)

Required of Ph.D. applicants

  • Ph.D. applicants should include two writing samples of no more than 15­-20 pages each.
  • Scholarly writing is preferred, but essays or pieces of substantial journalism are acceptable.
  • The pieces can be excerpts from larger works, published or unpublished, whether term papers, journal articles, conference papers, etc.
  • They should display your analytical skill as well as writing craft.
  • You must be the sole author of the work; co-authored pieces are not acceptable.

Letters of Recommendation

Applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation. An email is sent to each recommender instructing him/her on how to write, upload, and submit their recommendation letter. Please refrain from asking relatives, family, or personal friends and classmates to write your letters of recommendation. We also highly advise that you do not ask former teachers/mentors from your high school years. Appropriate recommenders are, for example, professors, editors, job supervisors, teachers, in short people who have supervised your recent academic or professional work and can comment and provide evidence of your ability to perform top graduate-level work. Letters of recommendation should be on official letterhead.

  • The email address for each recommender should be a professional email address (e.g., with an ".edu" extension or company-related domain). RECOMMENDATIONS CANNOT BE SUBMITTED BY THE APPLICANT.
  • Students who have received a degree in the past 5 years are required to provide at least 1 academic reference from faculty at that institution and encouraged to provide at least 2 academic references. Students more than 5 years away from their most recent degree are encouraged to provide at least 1 academic reference.

GRE Scores

Optional for Ph.D. & Dual Degree/Computer Science applicants

For Ph.D. & Dual Degree/Computer Science students, GRE scores are optional. You will not be penalized if you submit an application without scores; it will be considered on the same terms as those with current scores.

Should you wish to submit your test scores, please provide test scores as printed on the score report you received from Educational Testing Service (ETS) and ensure that an official copy of your score report is sent from ETS to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The school code to reference is 2120.