PhD Registration

A doctoral program in the Arts and Sciences is an immersive, full-time enterprise, in which students are expected to participate fully in the academic and intellectual life on campus, taking courses, conducting research in labs and libraries, teaching, attending departmental and school events, and developing a professional network within and beyond their department. Consequently, students may not simultaneously hold other full-time professional positions within or outside the university while pursuing a doctoral degree.

Policies are in place and resources are provided based on the expectation that students be near and on campus consistently throughout the year, with the primary exception being when students are conducting sanctioned research at another institution or location, or are otherwise on a parental, medical, military, or personal leave.

Every semester they are registered, PhD students in the Graduate School must register for an enrollment category (a full Residence Unit, Extended Residence, or Matriculation & Facilities). The process is the same as that used to register for a course through Student Services Online (SSOL), and is completed at the same time.

NOTE: The degree of Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is conferred upon a student who has fulfilled all PhD requirements except the dissertation; post-MPhil, students are not eligible to enroll in classes except in rare circumstances when the department has deemed a course to be essential for a student’s dissertation research.

Continuous Registration and Full-Time Employment

Doctoral students in the Arts and Sciences are required to register in each semester until all degree requirements have been completed or until the time-to-degree limit has been reached.  Occasionally, an advanced doctoral student begins a full-time position prior to distributing or defending their dissertation.  Students in such situations should be aware of the following:

  1. The continuous registration requirement remains in effect until all requirements are completed or the time-to-degree limit has been reached as noted above.
  2. Students will be held to the same expectations for academic progress as all other students.
  3. Students may not receive GSAS funding while employed full-time unless the student has guaranteed funding remaining.  In such circumstances, GSAS will cover the student’s M&F tuition and health fees.  The term in which such funding is received will count towards the total number of guaranteed semesters. 
  4. Students who accept full-time employment at Columbia may not simultaneously also serve as a student officer.  Similarly, students who have received a GSAS stipend in the semester in which they start a full-time position at Columbia will have their stipends pro-rated based on the start date of the full-time position.
  5. Students who accept full-time employment at Columbia may not stay in Columbia Residential housing beyond the end of the semester in which they start the new position.

Students register for courses through Student Services Online (SSOL). You may only register during your designated Registration Appointment times. A list of your Registration Appointments is available in SSOL. For general information regarding registration periods, see the Registration Dates page on the Registrar's website or the Academic Calendar.

To register, you will need a course's five-digit call number, which is available in Vergil or the Directory of Classes. When registering, you should follow the guidelines and requirements of your department or program and consult with your advisor. Additionally, individual courses may be restricted to students in a particular program only, or may require completion of prerequisites and/or permission from the department or instructor; these and any other special instructions will be listed in the course entry.

You may add or drop courses without penalty through the first two weeks of the semester, known as the Change of Program period. For more information, see the Registrar's website.

Please note that your registration is not complete until you also register for an enrollment category, which affects your tuition bill. For more information on how Residence Units affect your tuition bill, please click here.

Doctoral students must register for one of the following three categories each semester. Search for the correct five-digit call number in the listings for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (listed under Departments) in the Directory of Classes, then register in SSOL (following the same process used for course registration).

  • Full Residence Unit (RESI G0001) – “RU” is for students who will be taking courses or who will still be within their first six semesters at GSAS. The completion of six RUs is a requirement for the MPhil and PhD degrees. 
  • Extended Residence (EXRS G0001) – “ER” is for students who are beyond the first six semesters of their PhD program and are serving as Teaching Assistants (TAs), as Research Assistants (RAs), as Research Fellows, or as Core Preceptors. 
  • Matriculation & Facilities (MTFC G0001) – “M&F” is exclusively for students who are beyond their first six semesters, who will not be teaching, and who are instead:
    • completing a degree requirement such as a language examination or qualifying examination;
    • preparing the dissertation proposal; or
    • writing or distributing the dissertation.

For more information about these registration categories, click here.

Two Residence Units are required for the MA earned as part of a PhD degree; four additional Residence Units, for a total of six overall, are required for the MPhil, PhD, and DMA degrees.

PhD students may not register for more than 20 credits per semester. Credits in excess of 20 must by approved by both the DGS and the GSAS Office of Student Affairs.


1000 and 2000

These are undergraduate-level courses; typically but not always, 1000-level courses are general introductions to a broad field and 2000-level courses are introductions to an area or aspect within a broad disciplinary field.  Introductory and intermediate language courses are typically numbered at the 1000 level. 


3000-level courses are advanced undergraduate courses, generally offered either in a seminar or lecture format. Courses at the 3000 level in language departments may involve the study of literature rather than practice in reading or speaking. 


Generally, though not in all departments, graduate students and advanced undergraduates may register for 4000-level courses.

6000 and higher

These are graduate-level courses; some 8000- and 9000-level courses are reserved for PhD students only.