Deadlines & Requirements | Columbia Journalism School

Deadlines and Application Requirements

Create an account through our application system. 

You can return to the application at any time and submit materials as you are ready. The application details the required submission materials. Please allow plenty of time to write your essays, get recommendations and transcripts and gather samples of your work. Remember to save your username and password for future access to your application. Deadline information on Knight-Bagehot and Spencer Fellowship can be found on the program pages.

Note: Applications for 2019-20 are now open.

Application Details

What you'll need to complete your application. 

Application Fee

Required by applicants to all programs

$100 non­-refundable application fee payable at time of on­line application submission by:

  • credit card (preferred method) or
  • check or bank money order drawn in U.S. dollars from a U.S. bank. 
    • The check must be payable to Columbia University.
    • 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 by 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.

  • Scanned copies of transcripts showing all of the courses you took and the grades or marks you received from each of the undergraduate and graduate institutions you have attended should be uploaded through our online application system.
  • If you have already graduated, the transcript must indicate the title of the degree you received and the date it was conferred. If that is not on the transcript, you must upload a copy of the diploma showing the same information.
  • If an official transcript is not in English, submit both the official transcript and its verbatim English translation. If the institution does not provide an English translation with the official transcript, a certified, verbatim English translation from a translation service must be submitted. If you are admitted and decide to enroll, you must submit, in the original, sealed envelope, from the institution(s), your academic transcript(s).

IMPORTANT: Transcripts must be documents identical to those received from your school's Registrar's Office or its equivalent from universities in other countries. Do not submit photocopies, printouts from student self-­service portals, photographs of documents, etc. After saving your file, make certain your transcript uploaded properly and is legible by using the "Preview Upload" button.

  • If a transcript has multiple pages, combine all pages and upload the complete transcript as one document.
  • Transcripts must show all marks/grades for all courses taken each year.
  • If you attended multiple schools, you must upload each school’s transcript separately.
  • If you are reapplying from a previous year, make certain that the uploaded transcript reflects the most up­-to-­date version of your academic record.
  • If you have transcripts from China, India or Latin America, you must submit marks/grades for all courses taken each year and the diploma certificate showing date and title of degree earned (if you have graduated). If you have questions about transcripts from your country, contact the admissions office.

Three Letters of Recommendation

Required by applicants to all programs

  • An email is sent to each recommender listed in the application instructing him/her on how to write, upload, and submit their recommendation letter.
  • You may submit your online application even if the letters of evaluation have not yet been submitted by your evaluators.
  • Appropriate recommenders are, for example, professors, editors, job supervisors, and teachers; in short, people who have supervised your academic or professional work and can comment on and provide evidence of your ability to perform top graduate level work.
  • Inappropriate recommenders are relatives, family members, personal friends and classmates.
  • Letters of recommendation should be on official letterhead.

Writing Test

Required by applicants to M.S. and M.S./Computer Science programs and by M.A. applicants who indicate they would also like to be considered for the M.S. program.

The writing test, which is administered by the Journalism School, is taken from mid-­December through January.

  • The test format is short answer and open­-ended questions.
  • Test information will be sent after the application has been submitted.
  • The Admissions Office will email you regarding test logistics after December 16.
  • The writing test takes approximately two hours and focuses on an applicant’s reporting, writing and critical thinking skills.
  • It may be taken in New York City or administered with an alumni proctor in your area. You are not required to come to New York City to take the test.
  • We do not have a sample test online.

Proof of English Language Proficiency

Required by 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 you indicate that you did not complete your entire undergraduate education at an English­-language university.
  • Ph.D. applicants: if either English is not your native language OR you indicate that you did not complete your entire undergraduate education at an English-­language university.

TOEFL scores are valid for two years from the test date. Waivers of this requirement are rarely given and must be requested and approved before the application deadline. 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.


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 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 by 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. Our only requirements are that the essay be informative, well written, and reflective of your own voice; our only cautions are that you avoid poetry, purple prose, or writing about yourself in the third person.


Required by 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 by applicants to M.S. specialized programs

Data Journalism Degree Essay - Explain why you want to pursue a degree in data journalism and what data project you envision doing during your year at the Journalism School. Describe an example of what you would consider a high quality data journalism piece and explain what makes it a good story. We also want to know about any previous experience with computation and projects that drew from data or made some use of data analysis and/or reporting data. You will not be required to demonstrate a strong data portfolio, however, but instead demonstrate a strong interest in the subject. 

Stabile Investigative Journalism Specialization Essay (for Stabile applicants only) We urge you to think very carefully about your skills, educational goals and professional ambitions before applying to the Toni Stabile Center: Investigative Journalism Specialization. The bulk of the essay should make the case for your admission to the investigative journalism specialization. Please describe how your educational or professional experience has prepared you to undertake the investigative journalism specialization within your concentration. 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 by 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 by 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 by 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.


Required by 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 Work Samples

Required by applicants to M.S., M.A. and Dual Degree/Computer Science

Multimedia clips/writing samples – We require M.S. and M.A. applicants to submit three examples of their journalistic or other written work in support of their application.

  • Please upload these samples (in PDF or Word format) 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, permanently bound or laminated work, notebooks, magazines, newspapers, books, etc.
  • Do not submit work you have not written yourself or copy-edited.
  • 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. We will not accept any DVD or CD disks with audio or video clips. 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

Required by Ph.D. applicants

  • Ph.D. applicants should include a sample of your writing of no more than 15­-20 pages.
  • Scholarly writing is preferred, but an essay or piece of substantial journalism is acceptable.
  • The piece can be an excerpt from a larger work, published or unpublished.

GRE Scores

Required by applicants to Ph.D. and Dual Degree/Computer Science

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.