Frequently Asked Questions

Application and Visa

Housing & Meals


Campus Life

General Questions


How do I apply to VISP?
An online application is available only to students nominated by the designated coordinator from the following universities. The deadline is September 15 of each year. There are several requirements for admission.

What if my TOEFL/IELTS score does not meet Barnard’s minimum requirements?
If your TOEFL/IELTS score does not meet Barnard’s minimum requirement (100 TOEFL; 7 IELTS), it may still be possible for you to be admitted. If you are ultimately accepted, we will require you to take a placement test through Columbia's American Language Program upon arriving on campus. Depending on the score you receive, you may be required to take an English language course through ALP, in addition to the academic courses you would be taking in the Spring.

What kind of visa do I need in order to come to Barnard through VISP?

All VISP students come to Barnard on J-1 visas. Once you have been accepted, you will be asked to submit a number of personal and financial documents. We will review these materials and issue you a DS-2019. This is a formal U.S. government document you need to present to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your home country in order to be issued a student J-1 visa for study in the U.S. For more information about the process to obtain your student visa once you are admitted, click here.

Can I extend my time in New York or the United States beyond the end of the semester?
Students may stay in the United States up to 30 days after the program end date as indicated on their DS-2019. If a student wishes to stay longer, she must extend her J-1 visa. For more information, please contact Diana Sierra.

Can I work and earn money while I am there?
Yes, you may only work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week if you are in good academic standing. You must first be approved to do so by Diana Sierra. You may be able to work off-campus if there is demonstrated economic necessity, but you must first discuss this with the Office of International and Intercultural Student Programs.

Can I get a summer internship? If so, how do I get my visa extended?
On your DS-2019, the program end date is listed as June 1, after which you have 30 days to leave the country. However, you may apply to extend your visa if you:

  • apply for and are offered a summer job or internship IN YOUR MAJOR FIELD OF STUDY (this is called Academic Training)
  • submit proof of this internship offer and other application documents to the Office of International and Intercultural Student Programs by May 1
  • are in good academic standing
  • get a letter of support from your academic adviser
  • maintain a valid passport, I-94 card, and DS-2019
  • can prove that you have sufficient funds to subsist in the US for the duration of the internship (at least $1500/month, + return travel to home country)

If you are interested in getting a summer job or internship in NYC, you may search for available opportunities through the Office of Career Development's online job and internship database.

Note: if you are offered an internship and are granted an extension of your visa, you may also apply to remain in Barnard OR Columbia  housing for the summer.


Can I get an apartment in New York while I am there?
All VISP students are required to live on-campus for the length of their stay. No exceptions will be made.

What type of campus housing should I request?
There are several things to consider when deciding which type of housing to request. First, would you like a roommate, or would you prefer to have your own room? Note that roommates may be full-time Barnard students or other VISP students, depending on vacancies in the residence halls. Second, would you prefer to be in a room along a corridor with many other rooms, or in a suite (apartment) - style arrangement? Is it important for you to have a kitchen? Once you have thought about these questions, read more information on Barnard’s residence halls to decide which residence halls you'd like to preference on your housing form.  Assignments will be based on where space is available for the Spring semester (note: the number of single rooms is usually limited and most VISP students are assigned to shared bedrooms with other students).

What is the guest policy in the residence halls?
All Barnard students are permitted, with valid BC ID, to enter any Barnard residence hall: Elliott, 110th Street, Cathedral Gardens, Plimpton, 600, 616, and 620 West 116th Street, Sulzberger, Brooks, Hewitt, and Reid Halls. Columbia students, accompanied by a resident of the building, must be signed in as a “guest” with the access attendant in order to enter. All non-Barnard students must also be signed in as a “guest” with the access attendant each time they enter, and are only permitted entry into their host’s residence hall. Guests are expected to visit for a limited period of time, and any guest who is a “long-term” or “permanent” visitor may be denied access.Read more information regarding the Barnard guest policy

Will I be living just with other international students?
VISP students will be housed throughout all of Barnard’s residence halls, as room availability permits. We ask that students submit their housing preferences by November 10 so that we may try to accommodate requests. However, we cannot guarantee that requests will be granted.

Will Barnard provide bedding and supplies for me? If not, where will I be able to buy bedding and things for my room?
If you do not bring linens with you, you may rent a complete set of room linens for your first week at Barnard at a rate of $12.50/week. During Orientation week in January, you will have the opportunity to purchase your own linens. There are many stores throughout New York City that sell bedding and dorm room supplies. Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and various shops are popular among students.

How long after the semester finishes can I stay in my dorm room?
The latest possible date a student would be able to stay in her dorm room is 5pm on Friday, May 15, 2015 (the day exams finish). If you wish to remain in Barnard housing for the summer, you will need to pay additional housing fees and you may need to change rooms. Learn more about summer housing.

What type of meal plan should I select?
Where you live will affect what meal plan you choose. You must choose the Quad Upperclass Plan if you want to live in the Quad. It is also a good plan if you want flexibility in where to eat on campus and do not plan to cook your own food. If you want to live in a suite with a kitchen (for example, in Plimpton, 600's, Cathedral Gardens, etc.), you might want a plan that would allow you to prepare your own food, such as the Basic Plan, Convenience Plan, or Points-Only Plan. If you know that you want to eat in the dining halls and do not want to cook your own food, the Platinum Plan might be best for you. You should choose your ideal housing choice and the meal plan that would go best with that choice. Please note that you can change your meal plan when your housing assignment is confirmed and/or when you come to campus.

What is the difference between meals and points?
Meals can be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in Barnard's or Columbia's dining halls. Meals are buffet, all-you-can-eat style. Points are more flexible - they are loaded onto your student ID card and can be used just like dollars on Barnard's campus. For example, a lunch in a dining hall costs $7.75 (7.75 points), or for approximately the same price, you can get a sandwich and a drink at a campus cafe. Points cannot be used on Columbia's campus, but students can purchase dining dollars once they arrive on campus. Dining dollars are also loaded onto your student ID card and can be used on both campuses.


How difficult are the courses?
Barnard is an elite, highly-competitive liberal arts college and offers courses that seek to challenge and inspire its students. Barnard students take courses at both Barnard and Columbia, and they take a range of courses from large lectures to small seminars. While the emphasis placed on classroom participation varies among professors, in general, student involvement is encouraged and comprises a considerable part of a student’s final grade. Students may visit professors and lecturers during office hours, which are typically held for 2-4 hours each week. Faculty may also be available by phone or email, or by consulting the Department Assistant.

Can I take any course offered through Barnard/Columbia?
Barnard students are free to enroll in classes on both the Barnard and Columbia campuses. Like all Barnard students, VISP students are eligible to take the following courses during the spring semester:

  • Courses designated BC, C, V and W
  • Courses numbered from 1000 through 4999
  • VISP students are not eligible to take any course designated G, K, I, J U or any other letter, or any course number beginning with 6000 or higher

Can I register for classes before I arrive?
VISP students cannot sign up for classes before they arrive; course registration (called “program filing”) at Barnard will begin on Friday, January 15. The first two weeks of the semester are considered a “shopping period”, during which students can try out various courses, in consultation with their advisers. All students must have their final programs approved by their advisers by the second Friday of the semester.

What types of classes should I be choosing?
VISP students can take courses in a wide variety of departments while at Barnard. Ultimately, student course choices will be influenced by home department policies. Please note that generally speaking, the number of a course (1000 thruogh 4999) indicates the level of the course. Courses numbered 1000-1999 are generally less advanced that courses labeled 2000-2999, which are less advanced than courses labeled 3000-3999. Courses labeled  4000-4999 are hybrid undergraduate/masters courses. Also note that generally within the ranges just described, there is no difference in level (for example, a course labeled 3900 is not necessarily more advanced than a course labeled 3002). For more detail about individual course offerings, see the Columbia Course Catalogue.

How many points should I be taking?

Your J-1 visa status requires you to take a minimum of 12 points.

What if I want to take more than 12 points of course work?

You may certainly take more than 12 points, but keep in mind the following: courses at Barnard may require more frequent written assignments and quizzes than you are accustomed to at your home institution, and, therefore, may well require more time on your part.  If you overload on courses, you may not be leaving yourself enough time to explore New York City, extracurricular activities at Barnard and U.S. culture in general.  You will of course want to verify the number of credits required by your home institution, but in most cases our VISP partners are aware of the tremendous workload required in a 12-point program at Barnard.

There are two courses that I am very interested in taking, but they overlap by ten minutes; the e-Bear system let me enter both on my program.  Does this mean that I can leave one class early to attend the other?

Even though the e-Bear system may not “catch” the time conflict, you may not take classes that overlap with one another. Check this carefully when you are planning your program.  Leaving a class early or arriving late on a regular basis may result in your failing the class.  If you wish to petition to take two back-to-back courses or two courses with a minimal time conflict, you need to petition the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing (CPAS) through the Registrar’s office.

I would like to take most or all of my classes using the Pass/D/Fail option; may I do that?

Although there is nothing written in Barnard policy that prevents this, taking more than one class Pass/D/Fail per semester is seriously frowned upon, except in cases of extraordinary personal problems or illness. Students who opt to take more than one course Pass/D/Fail are flagged by the Registrar’s office and will be asked to explain their reason for doing so to the academic dean for VISP students. Please also be sure to research your school's policy on accepting Pass/D/Fail credits. Note that once a course is declared P/D/F, it is final and unchangeable.

Can I take Engineering courses through VISP?
VISP students are not allowed to take Columbia Engineering courses while at Barnard. Students may choose courses from among the many liberal arts departments Barnard offers.

What documentation will I get after my semester at Barnard?
VISP students will receive an official transcript of the classes taken while at Barnard and Columbia. The transcript will be sent to the coordinator at the student’s home university. You may request an additional transcript through the Registrar's Office for a fee of $3.00 plus shipping costs. 


Can I get involved in campus activities while I am there?
Barnard offers a wide range of events, and cultural, performance, pre-professional and special interest clubs and organizations that are available to all students. A full listing of these clubs and organizations is available.

Are there male students at Barnard?
Although Barnard is an all-female college, almost all classes are available to both Barnard and Columbia students. For this reason, many classes are co-ed, as males from Columbia have the freedom to explore academic options here at Barnard and vice versa.

When is the earliest I can arrive at Barnard in January?
All VISP students should plan to arrive at Barnard on Tuesday, January 13th, 2014. Orientation begins the next morning, so it is important that you be on campus before 5 p.m. on the 14th to check in and get settled. You will need to arrange for your own transportation from the airport to Barnard; please email for more information about transportation, check-in, etc. If you cannot arrive by 5 pm, you will need to stay in a hotel or hostel for the night, and arrive the following morning after 9 am. For a list of possible places to stay, email

Am I guaranteed an internship while I am at Barnard?
While students are not guaranteed internships, there are plenty of opportunities for student employment on campus and unpaid internships throughout New York City. Students should consult the Office of Career Development to find a listing of potential internship positions.

When does the semester start and end? What about vacations?
Please see the Academic Calendar.

Can I stay beyond the initial semester at Barnard?
Currently, VISP is only a one-semester program, which takes place during the Spring semester. For this reason, students will not be able to remain at Barnard for additional semesters.


Is there someone who can answer my questions specifically about Barnard and VISP?
Please email all questions to, and someone will respond to you shortly.

My university is interested in becoming involved in VISP; how can I get more information on creating a VISP partnership with Barnard?
For further information, please contact with information about your university and why you are interested in participating in VISP.