Undergraduate Science Requirement

Many courses in the Psychology department can be used to partially fulfill the undergraduate science requirement. Please refer to the relevant pages for Columbia College and General Studies students. 

To pursue exceptions to these policies, e.g., by applying transfer credit from another institution, please see the sections below. 

IMPORTANT: Well before your final semester you should verify that any exception you are counting on has been authorized and is on record in the appropriate offices. Failure to do so could delay your graduation date. 

Columbia College

For all exceptions to the Columbia College science requirement that involve psychology courses, you need to go to the College Dean's Office.


Criteria for granting exceptions. A large number of psychology courses count toward the science requirement. In general, therefore, courses taken outside the Columbia Psychology Department will be allowed to substitute for required psychology courses in the Department only if: 
(1) you are a transfer student to Columbia and had already taken suitable psychology courses before you transferred; or 
(2) you have a compelling reason for taking a course elsewhere. 

In either case, the course taken elsewhere should be very similar to the course for which it is substituting. (Note: The College Committee on Science Instruction has decided that, except in extraordinary circumstances, the science requirement must be fulfilled by courses taken at Columbia. In general, only transfer students have been allowed to substitute courses taken elsewhere.) Barnard courses do not fulfill the College Science Requirement except when explicitly listed in the Columbia College list of aproved courses.

How to apply for an exception. For any exceptions involving the College Science Requirement, you need to go to the College Dean's Office, NOT to the Director of Undergraduate Studies or your Program Advisor. This applies both to transfer credit for a psychology course taken elsewhere, and to (conditional) advance approval for a course to be taken during the summer.

If permission is granted. Once you have received signed permission, you need to make copies of the permission form and see that it gets filed in the necessary places:

(1) In your own files. Be sure to keep one copy of the signed permission you have received for any exception.

(2) In the Central Administration Office. If the exception you have been granted involves the science requirement, or advance (conditional) approval to take a course elsewhere, one copy of the permission form needs to be taken to the appropriate dean's office to be processed.

School of General Studies

You need the signature of a Psychology Dept. Program Advisor for all exceptions to the science and social science requirements that involve psychology courses. For courses taken at another institution prior to your admission to General Studies, the fact that you were awarded transfer credit by GS does not imply that the course is approved for the science or social science requirement. To obtain approval for such a course you must complete the GS Science Requirement Substitution form, following the instructions below.

A course taken outside the Columbia Psychology Department will only be allowed to substitute for a psychology course in the Department if:

  1. you are a transfer student to Columbia and had already taken the psychology course before you transferred; or
  2. you have a very compelling reason for taking a course elsewhere, and you obtain advance approval.

In either case, the course taken elsewhere should be very similar to the course for which it is substituting, and you must be able to demonstrate this similarity with supporting documents (see below). In addition, you must have received a B- or better and have completed the course no more than 8 years prior to applying for substitute credit.

1. Before you apply. 

If you are seeking transfer credit for a psychology course taken elsewhere you must first obtain permission from the relevant Dean to transfer those credits to your CU transcript. You also need (conditional) advance approval if you plan on taking a course elsewhere during the summer. See your Dean first and complete the relevant forms for obtaining transfer credit before starting the GS Science Requirement Substitution Form.

2. Assemble all required materials for each course you want us to consider:

  • The GS Science Requirement Substitution Form with Sections 1-4 completed
  • A course syllabus that clearly indicates weekly topics and reading assignments as well as course requirements
    • If the syllabus is not sufficiently detailed you may be asked to bring in the textbook, quizzes and tests, course notes, and/or term papers.
  • Course description from school bulletin
  • Your transcript showing grade received for this course
  • A transfer credit report showing the number of credits GS has awarded for this course

Note that the form asks you to indicate why you think the exception is justified. The justifications listed are generally required for any course taken outside the Columbia Psychology Department, and you must provide material that describes the outside course quite completely. Blurbs from course catalogs are helpful but not sufficient.

3. Email assembled materials to the UCA ([email protected]) where the Undergraduate Curriculum Assistant will check them for completeness. IMPORTANT: As a GS Student, you must submit all required paperwork in the same semester in which you declare a major; failure to meet this deadline may result in the loss of eligibility for transfer credit toward the major or concentration.

4. Answer any questions from the Program Advisor. The UCA will pass your submission on to a Psychology Program Advisor, who will contact you if he or she has any questions or requires additional materials in order to review your request.

5. If permission is granted. Once the Program Advisor has reviewed your request, the UCA will let you know whether or not permission has been granted. If it has, the UCA will email you a copy of the signed form. You are responsible for bringing a copy of the signed form to your GS advisor in order to complete this process.