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About the 3-2 Program

A student can study at Williams for 3 years and then transfer to Columbia University for 2 years of engineering study. At the end of five years, the student receives both a B.A. from Williams and a B.S. in engineering from Columbia. Please note that a 3-2 student must complete the Williams distribution requirements and a Williams major, earning a 3.0 GPA overall, as well as take several prerequisite courses. Careful planning is necessary to complete all of these requirements in three years, though a few of these required courses may typically be taken at Columbia rather than at Williams. With approval of the chair of the major department, the student may receive credit toward his or her Williams major for engineering courses taken at Columbia.


During what would be their senior year at Williams, first-year participants in the 3-2 program at Columbia are housed in the Carlton Arms apartments, located on Riverside Drive between 108th and 109th streets, which mostly consists of graduate students at Columbia. The Carlton Arms is about a 25-minute walk from Mudd Hall, the Engineering building at Columbia, and is run by University Apartment Housing ("UAH"), not by University Residence Halls ("URH"), which runs undergraduate housing at Columbia for students enrolled at Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Undergraduate students at Barnard College and General Studies typically receive housing from the Barnard housing office or are on their own for housing, respectively.

During their second year, students typically live in URH housing, as do most Columbia undergraduate seniors. For purposes of the Columbia housing draw, they are treated exactly as if they were seniors at Columbia. Students may form a housing group of up to 6 people, but a housing group may only pick into a suite of that size. For example, 4-person and 5-person groups cannot pick into six-room suites; they are confined to 4- and 5-room suites respectively. However, groups may split up and enter the individual room draw if they are not satisfied with the remaining group housing.

All Columbia students have Resident Advisors (RA's). First-year 3-2's live with or near a 2nd-year 3-2 student. Second-year 3-2s living in URH housing have the interesting experience of having an RA who is typically several years their junior on or near their dorm room or suite. All students must swipe into their dorms in front of a seated and uniformed security guard every time they enter. There are strict limits on overnight visitors, who must be signed in and out every time they enter and exit a Columbia residence by their host or another resident of that building.


Credits and Classes

Unlike Williams, Columbia is on a strict credit system. While both the lecture and lab sections are required for many courses, they are scheduled separately, often taught by different people, and are graded separately. This is actually an improvement Williams insofar as it eases the academic burden on students. At Columbia, engineering students receive additional credit for their lab sections (typically 1-2 credits, while the typical lecture section is 3-4 credits), whereas Williams counts science classes with lecture and lab just as much as non-science classes with a much lower in-class time committment.

Students may freely cross-register for any other undergraduate classes at Columbia. There is no real barrier to taking classes from Columbia's undergraduate college of Arts and Science. Neither Williams participant in the 3-2 program, however, has tried to register for a Barnard or Teacher's College class, so it is not currently known how difficult that is for a 3-2 student.


Columbia's scheduling is quite different from Williams'. There is no division of the day. Very few engineering classes start before 9am. There are also almost no engineering classes scheduled on Fridays, with the exception of some intro-level lab sections.

However, a few classes, such as intro-level language classes, meet every day. Introduction to Hebrew, for example, is typically scheduled to meet from 9-10 am every day (including Friday), partially to deter the large number of students at Columbia and Barnard who would otherwise take such a course.

Additionally, other classes may meet at night, another stark contrast from Williams. In Spring 2004, for example, Music Signal Processing, an upper-level Electrical Engineering elective, met from 8-10 pm on Tuesday nights. 4-6 pm classes are also not uncommon -- the required Electrical Engineering lab during fall of the final year at Columbia was scheduled from 4-6 on wednesdays but often ran until 8 pm.


There is much lower participation in any sort of athletics, and very little school support for the sports teams compared to Williams. Club sports and intramural athletics are almost non-existant. The Carlton Arms does not have a fitness center, though all Columbia students may use the Uris Fitness Center, located on campus near Mudd Hall.

The Social Scene

Columbia is the exact opposite of Williams regarding the Social Scene.

There are very few, if any, house or dorm parties at Columbia. For freshman and sophomores, this is mostly due to the presence of RA's. Even for older students, who have more spacious housing, there is typically very little common space in which to host such a gathering.

Additionally, the abundance of bars, pubs, lounges, and clubs in the Columbia area and around The City as a whole creates a thriving bar scene. Many Columbia students under the age of 21 have fake IDs, and most of the area establishments do not look at ID with a great deal of scrutiny, particularly if the ID in question belongs to a woman.

Columbia has many more events than Williams, including famous foreign dignataries and literati. Student groups are also VERY active, especially those on the anti-war left, who typically protest whenever the weather is nice.

Advising and Dealing with the Columbia Administration

Advising is quite weak at Columbia. This is particularly deficient regarding the 3-2 students, who are struggling to adapt to an entirely new system and unlearn the tips and tricks of their first 3 years of college.

Unlike Williams, Columbia has red tape as far as the eye can see. While it is fairly easy to see department heads and faculty. However, most office hours are supplied by TAs, who are graduate students or junior/senior undergraduates, with faculty only available for 1-2 hours a week, and often at fairly inconvenient hours relative to the TAs. Professors also rarely interact with students outside of the classroom.

Seeing any administration relating to either UAH or URH housing, or anybody in the bursar's or registrar's office, is often quite difficult. There are typically no convenient walk-in hours, and one will have to schedule an appointment days, if not weeks, in advance. The deans are, if anything, even less accessible, and do not have walk-in or office hours for students as the ever-friendly Williams deans do. Security at Columbia is farmed out to a private company, which does not have direct interaction with the deans.

Criticism of the 3-2 Program

  • Williams does not make it easy for students to do the 3-2 Program.
    • It is not exactly hard or long to get from Williams to Columbia, but it is certainly not easy in terms of transportation
    • Leaving your friends and support structure from your first 3 years of college is EXTREMELY difficult.
    • Lowell D. Jacobson '03 was a double major in History and Physics at Williams. He had completed all distribution requirements and the entire history major by the end of his junior year at Williams, and was one upper-level physics elective away from completing the physics major. After inquiring about when he would walk at graduation, he was told that he could graduate Williams in '02 as a History major or in '04 as a History and Physics double major. He was told that under no circumstances would he be able to graduate in '03 with his class or even walk at graduation and not receive his degree. Professor Kevin M. Jones, the head of the physics department at the time, had indicated that Lowell's first semester coursework at Columbia was more than sufficient in both grades and rigor to count for his one missing physics elective, and had made this opinion known to the Registrar and the Registrar's Office. Despite this, Lowell's request was denied, the Registrar and the Registrar's Office fearing that if this were allowed, then students would just go to Columbia for their senior years and not complete the last year of the 3-2 program.
  • A sensible -- and as yet unexplored -- option would be some sort of agreement with RPI, which is less than an hour away in Troy. This would allow interested Williams Students to take a course or two during their junior or senior years. This would give Williams science majors valuable hands-on experience, without requiring them to uproot and leave.

Student/Alumni Participants

  • Lowell D. Jacobson '03/B.S. in Electrical Engineering '04.
  • Sebastian Sorgenfrei '04/B.S. in Electrical Engineering '05.