Welcome to Columbia University from Spectator!


Welcome to Columbia—and get ready for one of the most tiring, exhilarating, and important weeks of your four years here. Before you jump fully in to our Orientation Guide, we want to tell you a little bit about Spectator, how we can help you make the most out of NSOP, and how you can get involved.

Get the most out of NSOP

NSOP is a time to be uncomfortable, meet new people, and learn how to live and thrive on campus. Life at Columbia can be frustrating and stressful, but also truly amazing if you know how to play your cards right.

That’s where we come in. We’re your eyes and ears around campus, creating content across a variety of platforms that informs, entertains, and allows you to get the most out of your Columbia experience.

We’ve put a lot of work into helping you through NSOP. This Orientation Guide will help you with everything you need to do to get acclimated. You’ll learn where to eat, drink, go, and study both on and off campus. You’ll learn how to register for classes, where to find key resources around campus, and figure out which clubs might suit you. We’ve also compiled a list of the top stories we think you need to follow this year and the 116 Columbia traditions that will make you a true Columbian.

After checking out this site, you should sign up for our NSOP Wake Up Call Newsletter, a daily newsletter that will break down which orientation events you won’t want to skip and bring you live NSOP coverage and helpful guides to Columbia life from Spectrum, our 24/7 blog.

About Spectator
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Spectator is a financially independent student-produced collection of publications, products, and events. We create content that informs, engages, and entertains the community with a goal of enhancing the Columbia experience.

At the core of what we do is the Columbia Daily Spectator, the nation’s second oldest college daily that has maintained a strong tradition of using a skeptical eye to accurately report the news over its 139 year history.

You can learn more about each of our publications and products by clicking the icons above.

Joining Spectator

We believe joining our staff is the best way to spend your extracurricular time at Columbia. Working at Spectator makes you grow as a person, thinker, and a leader in a way that empowers you in any career you pursue. Through doing the work of journalism, business, tech, and more, we learn how to run a real company—with real consequences. The skills students learn at Spectator can prove valuable in a variety of fields, and we’ve had alumni go off and have successful careers in journalism, consulting, banking, politics, entertainment, medicine, law, and more.

Spectator also offers the best work-study jobs on campus. If you qualify for work-study and are accepted in a staff position, you are eligible to apply into our work-study program right away.

Come to an open house or check our website ( to learn more!

We hope you find this site useful, and feel free to reach out to us directly with any questions or comments at


Michael Ouimette
President, Spectator
Editor in Chief, Columbia Daily Spectator

Samantha Cooney
Vice President of Publications, Spectator
Managing Editor, Columbia Daily Spectator

Daniel Friedman
Vice President of Business & Innovations, Spectator
Publisher, Columbia Daily Spectator

Course Registration

Courses We Loved

Click a course to see why we recommend it

Dates to keep in mind

Tuesday, September 8 – First Day of Classes
Wednesday, September 9 – Fall 2015 Registration Deadline for Barnard
Friday, September 18 – Last Day to Add Class or Get a Tuition Refund
Tuesday, October 13 – Last Day to Drop Classes for Barnard, CC, and GS.
Monday, November 16 – Spring 2016 Registration Opens for CC, GS, and SEAS
Monday, November 16 - L-Course Sign-Up Begins for Barnard
Thursday, November 19 – Last Day to Drop Classes for SEAS.
Monday, December 14 – Last Day of Classes
Thursday, December 17 to Wednesday, December 23 - Final Exam Dates

Registration tools: a guide

  • Launched in April 2014 by Spectator, it is completely student-developed and coded
  • Over 9,000 reviews on the site: Quick Reviews (short ratings for categories like “Professor’s Organization” and “Course Workload”), CULPA data (written reviews from students), and SEAS course evaluation data from the University
  • Build multiple schedules before you register to plan all possibilities, see which courses fulfill Core/major requirements, color-code your classes, and add your own extracurricular/non-academic events.
  • Exchange Core sections of classes such as UWriting and Lit Hum with your peers by clicking on “Core Exchange” and making your request.
  • No need to search all over to find and purchase your textbooks: Buy all textbooks at once by clicking on the “Textbooks” tab.
  • Preview your projected finals schedule based on courses you’ve added to your Scheduler.
  • Columbia-operated registration tool
  • No need to create a new account—you can login with your UNI.
  • Build your course schedule before you register and add personal events. You can only make one, though!
  • Import your desired courses into your Wish List during registration via SSOL.
  • Very few (if any) faculty reviews currently exist on the site.
  • Sleek design
Food & Drinks

Select a map, then click on a dot to explore the local food scene

Ways to Save Money and Eat Cheap

Eat@CU Rewards

If you're going to always spend your Friday happy hour at Bernheim & Schwartz, you might as well as get rewarded for it. Eat@CU, an app developed by Spectator—the parent company of the Columbia Daily Spectator—has partnerships with a number of restaurants in the neighborhood, including the Heights, 16 Handles, Thai Market, Mel's Burger Bar, and Bernheim. When you dine at any of these restaurants, you'll get a star on your phone — which you can use for free food and drinks down the line.

Eat@CU Deals

You can also reap the benefits of discounts and deals at the restaurant and bars in the area. It's like a virtual happy hour or special menu. Some current deals you can enjoy through the app include "$19.95 unlimited tacos and sangria at Amigo's," "an all-night happy hour at Bistro Ten 18," and "10 percent off 16 Handles."
Like Eat@CU on Facebook to get updates.

CU Meal Share

Students are finding ways to help save money on meals. The First-Generation Low-Income Partnership started CU Meal Share. Students who want to share meal swipes will post the dining hall location, date and time, descriptions of themselves (so you can identify them), and contact information on the group page. To accept a meal swipe, simply text/message/contact the person who posted on the page.
Subway Map

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to begin exploring

116 Traditions

Check off these traditions as you complete them!

Enter the 116th Street gates and sing “Roar, Lion, Roar” on the first night of orientation.
Check out all five boroughs. Alternatively, set foot in four and look at Staten Island on the subway map.
Try to figure out the Barnard-Columbia relationship. Give up and realize that students from both sides of Broadway are great.
Lock yourself out of your room while in a towel and flip-flops. Proceed to Hartley or the security desk.
Lock yourself out of your room while dressed. Borrow towel and cell phone from friend and call Hartley to say you are locked out and undressed (lazy bums only).
Enroll in an 8:40 a.m. or Friday class. Never go.
Get a Broadway shake at Tom’s after 3 a.m.
Graduate without ever setting foot in Camille's, Mondel, or Samad's Gourmet.
Detach your closet door. Play beer pong on it.
Sign up for 20 clubs. Get spammed for the next four years.
Forget to transfer at 96th Street. Never make that mistake again.
Catch someone moving your laundry.
Do your laundry at midnight during the middle of the week just so you can do your laundry.
Develop a vague idea about what Manhattanville is. Realize it probably won’t affect you, but argue about it anyway.
Listen to Vampire Weekend’s discography. Alternatively, lie about having listened to Vampire Weekend.
Pretend to know the acronyms used on campus. Nod your head in fake understanding until you actually learn them.
Get sexiled. Sleep in the lounge.
Eat a slice of Koronet pizza after a long night of drinking. Return another day to discover it’s not as good when you’re sober.
Explore the tunnels. Alternatively, dream about exploring the tunnels.
Watch the Varsity Show each year at Columbia. Notice repetition of tired Barnard jokes. Also GS jokes. And SEAS jokes.
Register for a class without consulting CULPA. Never do it again.
Take a class on the seventh floor of Hamilton. Hate yourself for it.
Get a fake ID. Still get rejected from bars.
Go to a frat party (just one).
Get an A without ever doing the reading (humanities classes only).
Protest something.
Counterprotest something.
Get shafted in McBain. Instagram passive-aggressive posts of the shaft view. Do this until you lose all your followers.
Eat at Sylvia’s in Harlem.
Realize Harlem is a lot safer and more interesting than you thought it was.
Go to Health Services with a cold. Leave with condoms.
Have fun at Glass House Rocks. Once it’s over, be reminded about how much Lerner sucks.
Go to a campus group’s performance. Cheer obnoxiously for the friend you know.
Go to Midnight Breakfast and drown your pre-exam jitters in syrup and ’90s pop music.
Make friends with maintenance workers and security guards (and buy their CDs).
Participate in PrezBo’s 5K fun run.
Witness a Columbia athletics victory. High-five Roar-ee.
Subscribe to each new philosopher you read. Believe in nothing but social constructs at one point in your college career.
Finish your Nine Ways of Knowing as early as possible. Never remember all nine of them at the same time (BC only).
Read a text from every author on the Butler frieze. Find out who Demosthenes is and let us know.
Take a walk of shame. Run into your professor. Understand true shame.
Spend freshman year rotating through Mel’s, The Heights, 1020, and Cannon’s. Then pick one sophomore year and never go anywhere else.
Change your major. Twice.
Take the vertical tour of Saint John the Divine. Be genuinely awed.
Take part in 40s on 40 on Low Steps. If it still exists. If not, pour out a 40 for another casualty of the War on Fun.
Watch the sunrise from Butler. Marvel at its beauty through your bloodshot eyes.
See a movie filming on campus. When the movie comes out, go see it and obnoxiously point out Columbia scenes to your friends.
Go to a fireside chat. Eat mini-burgers and chocolate chip cookies in PrezBo’s living room.
Sneak onto the roof of Mudd or IAB for a picnic.
Take a class on something you know absolutely nothing about.
Eat brunch at Community while hungover. Temporarily forget your woes until you receive the check.
Make 2 a.m. halal your comfort food of choice.
Only take: the M60 to LaGuardia/the train to Newark/a taxi to JFK.
Pull an all-nighter with the rest of your floor studying for the Lit Hum final.
Find a study spot in Butler. Sleep there to keep it during finals week.
Go to Orgo Night. Feel conflicted about what you’re laughing at.
Spend a vacation on campus while it’s empty. Enjoy it until the crushing loneliness hits you. Vow to appreciate your friends more.
Go to Postcrypt in St. Paul’s Chapel. Dress like a hipster.
Quote a Core text outside of class. Bonus points if you do it at a cocktail party.
Go to the World Leaders Forum and shake hands with a foreign leader. Bonus points if it’s a brutal autocrat. Alternatively, never manage to sign up in time. Complain about the limited seating anytime Columbia is called a “global university.”
Have a snowball fight on Low Plaza. (Bonus points if you get on the news for doing it.)
Ignore the red flags on South Lawn.
Pretend that Low Steps are your local beach when it gets nice out. (Only possible for two weeks during each semester.)
Forget your umbrella. Pick up a copy of Spectator to protect your books.
Call CAVA—now CU-EMS—for a friend. Resolve to never be CAVA’d.
Discover previously unidentified substances in the McBain/Carman elevators (see 66).
Take part in CU Assassins. Develop intense paranoia.
Make a spare key with an old credit card and an X-Acto knife (VingCard dorms only).
Check out the view of campus from Butler’s roof, preferably at night and preferably sober.
Jump in the fountains in front of Low Library.
Start using Flex because it feels like free money. Feel the wrath of your parents when it shows up on your tuition bill.
Get into museums for free using your CUID. Hate paying for the Frick and Guggenheim.
Listen to your out-of-town friends call the 1 the “red line.” Laugh at their ignorance.
Go for a run in Riverside Park. Post about it on Instagram so people have proof it actually happened.
Learn that Williamsburg isn’t the only place in Brooklyn worth visiting.
Eagerly await the announcement of the Bacchanal headliners. Then complain that they suck.
Walk all the way up Lerner using the ramps until you discover the staircases in the back. Pretend they’re secret passageways when you use them.
Hear Jeffrey Sachs speak. Experience liberal guilt.
Sample the various local supermarkets. Pledge your heart (and wallet) to Westside.
Pass a course without ever scoring above 60 on a test (SEAS only).
Drag yourself out of bed at 4 a.m. for a fire alarm—three times in one week.
Walk from Battery Park to campus or vice versa.
Join a campus tour and ask the tour guide awkward questions.
Be first in line to get a warm bagel from Absolute Bagels when it opens.
Get a coffee from Joe or Oren’s. Never go to Starbucks again.
Spend a month never going south of West 107th Street (Absolute) or north of West 120th Street (Joe).
Take Principles of Economics with Sunil Gulati. Become an econ major.
Discover econ majors have to take econometrics. Become an English major.
Try to go to a party in EC. Spend your whole night waiting to get signed in (BC/GS only).
Log into LionSHARE and realize that 90 percent of the internships are in consulting.
Get an “I Love BC” T-shirt on Barnard Spirit Day.
Only attend Homecoming senior year for the free beer.
Pledge to cook more. Fail. Get Seamless.
Attend a ceremonial religious meal, but not for your religion.
Hook up with someone. Awkwardly bump into said hookup everywhere.
Find the owl and then sit on Alma Mater.
Plan out the answers to the questions in your Senior Wisdom for Bwog. Now, if only you had one...
Go to the tree lighting and Yule Log ceremonies. Discard your jadedness for several hours.
Attend a WBAR-B-Q. Pretend you’ve heard of the bands to impress the bespectacled, beanie-clad WBAR staff.
Attend Senior Night more times before senior year than during your senior year.
Run into a TA at 1020. Awkwardly talk about your time in his section.
Spend one summer living and working in the city. Appreciate how good New York smells the rest of the year.
Make friends with a General Studies student who is 10 years older than you (CC/SEAS/BC only). Be the General Studies student who is 10 years older than everyone around you (GS only).
Lose friends in senior regroup.
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at night. Eat at Grimaldi’s.
See your name appear in a campus publication. (Bonus points if it’s an op-ed in Spec.)
Realize the value of research librarians.
Check out Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, and Barclays Center.
Work an off-campus internship. Either love or hate the commute.
Put off the swim test until the second semester of your senior year. Consider inventing a water phobia to get out of it (CC only).
Hook up in the Butler stacks.
Remember that thesis you were supposed to write. Leave the stacks to get actual work done.
Get into arguments about how terrible your commencement speaker is with friends. Realize it doesn’t matter. Instead, focus on the remaining time you have left with those friends.
  • Columbia and Barnard have a contractual relationship allowing for students from both schools to live, eat, and take classes on either side of the street. Barnard has its own budget, president, and board of trustees, but Columbia confers Barnard’s degrees. For many students, though, the distinctions between the two schools are murky at best

  • Tom’s Restaurant, located on the corner of Broadway and 112th Street, is famous for being used as the exterior of Monk's Cafe in “Seinfeld.”

  • Samad’s Gourmet is owned by the same family that owns The Heights, a favorite watering hole in Morningside Heights.

  • Just north of Morningside Heights, Manhattanville is a former industrial neighborhood that will be home to a new Columbia campus. The campus, currently under construction, will provide the University with 17 acres of badly needed space, but has been highly controversial among locals.

  • Vampire Weekend consists of four Columbia graduates, including lead singer and guitarist Ezra Koenig, CC ’06, pictured here at the 2014 Governor's Ball Music Festival. Vampire Weekend also performed at Columbia's 2009 Bacchanal.

  • Koronet is the perfect late-night stop thanks to its cheesy pizzas that come in gigantic sizes—hello, 32-inch pies!

  • Tom’s Restaurant, located on the corner of Broadway and 112th Street, is famous for being used as the exterior of Monk's Cafe in “Seinfeld.”

  • Columbia has 11 fraternities, and five sororities.

  • During the 2013-15 school years, student activism has centered around Columbia’s sexual assault policy and the University’s investment in private prison companies. Student protests proved fruitful this past summer when Columbia became the first U.S. university to divest from the private prison industry.

  • In the spring of 2014, the controversial decision by Barnard’s administration to remove a Students for Justice in Palestine banner led to a series of protests and counterprotests by pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian student groups. These dialogues flare up again every spring when students erect a wall on Low Plaza during Israeli Apartheid Week to protest what they believe is Israel’s apartheid wall.

  • Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, and Bill Clinton have all dined at Sylvia’s.

  • Medical Services is housed on the third floor of John Jay Hall.

  • Glass House Rocks is an annual student-run event where campus groups showcase their work in Lerner Hall. This is one of the few times a year when many groups come together to put on amazing performances for students.

  • Orchesis is a popular dance group that puts on a big show each semester.

  • Every semester, students come together the night before finals begin to unwind and participate in Midnight Breakfast, which is a free breakfast hosted in Barnard’s LeFrak Gym.

  • President Bollinger kicks off the academic year every fall with the Fun Run, a 5 kilometer run/walk through Riverside Park that’s open to all Columbia students, faculty and staff.

  • In the 2014-15 school year, Columbia’s men’s and women’s fencing teams came home with an Ivy League title, an NCAA Championship, and No. 1 rankings for both squads. If their tournaments are too far away—they recently went to South Korea for the World University Games—check out sports like basketball and volleyball that play on campus.

  • The front of Butler’s frieze boasts these names: Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, and Vergil.

  • Cannon’s is actually now called Tara Hill. But we still call it Cannon’s.

  • The stained glass windows, the flying buttresses, and the beautiful view from the roof will make the vertical tour of Saint John the Divine the best part of Art Hum, as long as you’re not afraid of heights.

  • 40s on 40 is an annual, unofficial celebration typically held 40 days before Commencement, during which seniors gather on Low Steps to drink and reminisce.

  • You’ll probably emerge from Butler bleary-eyed on more than a few mornings.

  • In April 2012, Daniel Radcliffe came to campus to film scenes of “Kill Your Darlings,” a Sony Pictures Classics movie about Columbia's famed Beat writers. Radcliffe, pictured here on Low Plaza in costume, portrayed Allen Ginsberg in the film. More recently, in March 2014, Julianne Moore was spotted jogging along College Walk for the film “Still Alice,” for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress.

  • During a fireside chat, students who were randomly selected through a lottery system are invited to have a candid conversation with President Bollinger about current campus events at his home.

  • Mudd is known as one of the easier roofs to climb on. It’s against the rules, of course.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters were spotted dining at Morningside Brunch favorite Community in the spring

  • The halal cart on 114th is a favorite for late night grease among Columbia students.

  • If Butler is filled to capacity, try to find a seat in NoCo or Avery.

  • Orgo Night is a semesterly event held by the Columbia University Marching Band in Butler 209 at midnight just before the Lit Hum final. The band tells jokes about campus happenings and plays songs along with its performance.

  • Started at Barnard in 1978, Take Back the Night aims to create a safe space for sexual assault survivors and promote discussion about sexual violence on college campuses.

  • Postcrypt is a student-run music venue that hosts folk concerts every Friday and Saturday night in St. Paul’s Chapel’s basement. It also runs a coffeehouse that serves baked goods and sweet drinks.

  • The World Leaders Forum is an annual series of events held in Low Rotunda, where global thought leaders and heads of state, like His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, are invited to speak to and engage with students.

  • Whenever a big snowstorm hits, Facebook events for snowball fights on South Lawn are bound to appear. During one such snowball fight in January 2014, a CNN reporter was caught in the crossfire on live television.

  • The lawns are notoriously closed most of the time—but Dean of Undergraduate Student Life Cristen Kromm said she’s trying to change that for the upcoming semester.

  • The Low Steps are a popular study and hangout spot in the spring and early fall.

  • Columbia University Emergency Medical Service, previously known as CAVA, is a student-operated, New York state-certified basic-life volunteer ambulance corp. It responds to calls made all throughout campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • Butler’s roof is a bit trickier to climb on than Mudd and IAB.

  • During Bacchanal 2013, Katie Furr (aka Fountain Girl), CC ’14, rose to fame by climbing into the upper part of the Low Plaza fountain and splashing water on the crowd. Public Safety waited patiently for her to finish before taking her away.

  • Your CUID gives you free admission into over 30 museums around the city. If you can’t get into a museum for free, fret not: Most museums have Pay-What-You-Wish hours, which means you’ll still be able to get into the new Whitney Museum in Chelsea for a relatively low cost.

  • Riverside Park boasts a number of notable monuments, including Grant’s Tomb at W 122nd.

  • Jeffrey Sachs is, among many other things, a world-famous economist, director of Columbia’s Earth Institute, and special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

  • The Westside salad bar is a favorite among students.

  • It’s a 9.5 mile walk.

  • Oren’s owner is the brother of the owner of brewery Bernheim & Schwartz.

  • Housing policy requires that any student without a campus housing assignment must be signed in by residents (through a new policy change is supposed to ease weekend congestion). Due to this strict policy, the East Campus lobby is often crowded and noisy on weekend nights.

  • When Homecoming rolls around in October, show some school spirit and take the free shuttle or the 1 train up to Baker Athletics Complex, at Broadway and 218th Street. Don't know much about sports? That's OK. Neither do the people in this video.

  • Hillel hosts Friday night Shabbat dinner each week.

  • Every winter, College Walk is illuminated by the glow of lights hung on the campus’s trees. At the end of November or the beginning of December, students come together for the festive Tree Lighting and Yule Log ceremonies.

  • 1020 is known for being one of graduate students’ favorite bars.

  • Barnard has eight research librarians.

  • Check out Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, and Barclays Center. Buy tickets to a game—if you must.

  • Yes, you have to pass a swim test to graduate from Columbia.

  • Or, get a room.

  • Every May, Low Plaza and South Lawn fill up with light blue robes and eager friends and family for the University Commencement ceremony.

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Campus Resources

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Student Groups

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Over the summer, Spectator solicited information from student groups about what they wanted first-years to know about their group. Many groups also included information about how to get involved. This information was curated and lightly edited for style by Spectator but submitted by the groups themselves. Limited additional information was added as deemed necessary.

Stories to Watch

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Teaching & Learning Center construction Construction of the new Teaching & Learning Center generates controversy, leaves Barnard students without a library
Trans admissions policy implementation What does it mean to “consistently live and identify as women,” and how will it affect Barnard as a women’s college?
New Barnard curriculum Barnard is doing away with its current core curriculum, the Nine Ways of Knowing, for the Class of 2020.
Bacchanal After an unprecedented increase in administrative supervision of Bacchanal, students eye future of spring concert
Manhattanville opening The first buildings on Manhattanville campus are to open in Fall 2016
Grad students and adjuncts Grad students continue their fight to unionize, citing late paychecks, lack of job security, and poor medical benefits
Food security Will increased student focus on food security lead to admin response?
Sexual assault admin handling Administration to release revisions of sexual assault policy
Fossil fuel divestment Following divestment from private prisons, students continue push for fossil fuel divestment
Textbook info compliance Will professors release prices of textbooks in compliance with federal law?
Mental health admin handling Students call on administrators to improve and increase mental health resources
Men’s Tennis Will the team’s younger generation be able to defend its Ivy title after the graduation of its top players?
Football The football team will hopefully end its losing streak under the fresh direction of former Penn head coach Al Bagnoli
Fencing Fencing is poised to capture its second National Championship title
Baseball Men’s baseball is expected to continue its dominance in the 2016 season
Men’s Basketball Men’s basketball has its sights set on making the tourney this year.
Who's Who at CU

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Study Spaces

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Diana Center
Under the Magnolia Tree
Hungarian Pastry Shop
Butler Library
Max Caffe
Business and Economics Library
Brownie's Cafe
Schapiro Lounge
LLC Sky Lounges
Low Steps
Starr East Asian Library
Lerner Hall
Carleton Commons
Paris Baguette