Columbia Combined Plan

Williams College is affiliated with the Columbia University Combined Plan in Liberal Arts and Engineering.

Columbia’s Combined Plan website

This program can be completed as a 3-2 program, in which the student studies at Williams College for 3 years and then transfers to the Columbia University Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science for 2 more years of study.  At the end of this 5-year program the student earns a B.A. degree from Williams and a B.S. degree from Columbia.  The Combined Plan also can be completed as a 4-2 program.

Columbia offers ABET accredited programs in biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, earth and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.  An ABET accredited B.S. degree is the first step on the path toward state licensing as a Professional Engineer (PE).  A PE license is especially useful for practicing engineers who do contractural work for governments, such as work on public utilities, buildings, bridges, and roads.  Civil engineers are most likely to need a PE license, but it is possible to become a PE in other engineering disciplines as well.

The Combined Plan has many requirements, so careful planning is essential.

Firstly the student must fulfill all of the requirements for a Williams degree before transferring to Columbia, including a Williams major, the distribution requirements, the physical education requirements, and the residence requirement.

Williams degree requirements

For the 3-2 program the required number of semester courses taken at Williams is reduced to 24 and the number of Winter Study courses is reduced to three.  While most students find that 4 years is ample time to fulfill the Williams degree requirements, doing so in 3 years necessitates careful course selection.

Secondly Columbia has an extensive list of prerequisite courses that must be completed before leaving Williams, including about ten or twelve science classes, depending on the student’s preparation and the engineering discipline chosen. You should carefully review the Eligibility Requirements for the year you started or will start at Williams at the Columbia Combined Plan web site.

The student must earn no less than a B (3.00 on the 4.00 grade point scale) in each of the prerequisite courses and must earn a 3.30 or better grade point average in science and mathematics courses and overall.  The following supplement explains which Williams courses should fulfill the Columbia prerequisites.

Williams Supplement to the Curriculum Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many Williams students have completed the Combined Plan?
    Three in the past twenty-five years, all of whom were physics majors at Williams.  Two completed a 3-2 program in electrical engineering and one completed a 4-2 program in mechanical engineering. Other students have been accepted to the program (most recently in 2020), but decided they preferred to stay at Williams to complete their degree.
  • Why do so few Williams students decide to do the Columbia Combined Plan or the Dartmouth Dual-Degree programs?
    In short: students really like being at Williams! Most of our students who go on to careers and/or further education in engineering disciplines do so after completing a regular four-year degree at Williams, and are highly successful in applying to Master’s degree programs, Ph.D. programs, or simply straight to employment in engineering and applied science. Also, because both dual-degree programs count as Study Away programs, you can’t both study abroad and do a 3-2 or 2-1-1-1 dual degree (4-2 is ok).
  • What can I major in at Williams if I want to apply to the Combined Plan?
    Columbia places no restriction on your Williams major. As a practical matter fulfilling the Williams degree requirements and the Columbia prerequisites in three years would be difficult unless you choose a Williams major that has a large overlap with the Columbia prerequisites. Note that there are both general prerequisites and Columbia-major-specific requirements, so you should be sure to consult the eligibility requirements at the Columbia Combined Plan web site. These requirements are updated every year for each entering first-year class. The Pre-Engineering advisor can help you figure out what Williams courses match the required prerequisites.
  • The requirements sound complicated!  What courses should I take at Williams if I am interested in applying to the Combined Plan?
    Sample 3-2 Course Schedule for a Physics Major
    This sample schedule is just an example.  It is important to start taking mathematics and science courses right away as a first year student.  Also, look for overlaps between the Williams requirements and the Columbia prerequisites.  For example ECON 110 at Williams fulfills the economics requirement and part of the Humanities and Social Sciences requirement at Columbia, while also fulfilling one of the three Division II courses required at Williams.
  • When do I apply to the Combined Plan?
    For the 3-2 program you would apply to Columbia in December or January of your third year at Williams.  Although this application process takes place late in your time at Williams, you must plan your Williams courses carefully beginning with the first semester of your first year.
  • Can Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses count toward the Columbia prerequisites?
    Yes, but you will need to document your AP or IB coursework thoroughly to Columbia.
  • Can I study abroad and also apply to the Combined Plan?
    In general, no. Williams only allows one year of Study Away during your four years, and both dual-degree programs count. Study away is possible if you opt for the 4-2 version of the program.
  • Will my Williams financial aid follow me to Columbia?
    Typically yes, for the first year, because it is considered a Study Away year. You should consult both the Study Away and Financial Aid offices for their most up-to-date policies. Any years after your first 4 years of college are not covered by Williams financial aid, and you will need to apply for financial aid from the appropriate dual-degree program. Your Columbia or Dartmouth financial aid offers may or may not match your Williams financial aid.
  • Can international students apply to the Combined Plan?
    Yes, but Columbia notes that it has very limited financial aid for international students.
  • What if Columbia accepts me in the Combined Plan, but does not offer me enough financial aid?
    You can stay at Williams and graduate in the normal four years.  Several dozen Williams alumni have gone directly to graduate programs in engineering, many of which are fully funded.
    Engineering graduate programs Williams students have attended
  • Who is the Williams liaison to the Combined Plan?
    The Williams Pre-Engineering advisor serves as the liaison and will be happy to answer your questions.  Prof. Kate Jensen is currently the pre-engineering advisor. She can be reached by email at [email protected]