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.  See the following document for details.

Columbia Pre-Combined Plan Curriculum Guide

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 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.
  • 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.  To date, all of the Williams students who have completed the Combined Plan majored in physics at Williams because the physics major overlaps strongly with the prerequisites.  A mathematics major or another science major might be possible.
  • 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.  In 2017 the application deadline is February 15.  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.  See the Williams Supplement to the Curriculum Guide for a more complete discussion.
  • Can I apply to the Combined Plan if I do not fulfill all of Columbia’s requirements for guaranteed admission?
    Columbia will consider applications on a competitive basis from students with at least a 3.00 grade point average.  Be forewarned that the Combined Plan has become popular at some colleges, so Columbia accepts few of the students who do not fulfill all of the requirements for guaranteed admission.
  • Can I study abroad junior year and also apply to the Combined Plan?
    Junior year study abroad is not compatible with a 3-2 program, but it could work with a 4-2 program.
  • Will my Williams financial aid follow me to Columbia?
    No.  When you apply to transfer to Columbia you can also apply for Columbia financial aid.  Although Columbia is a wealthy university that offers substantial need-based financial aid to Combined Plan students, it does not guarantee that it will meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need for everybody.  Your Columbia financial aid 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]