Advice, Policies, and Application Procedures for Prospective Visiting Scholars and Students


Please note that all requests for Visiting affiliations (scholars or students) must be sent to the Department Chair and relevant Area chair directly, require the approval of a majority of the Department's faculty, and must be initiated at least one semester before (and ideally a full year before) the proposed visiting period begins. The following description of our procedures for accepting Visiting Students and Visiting Scholars is very detailed and specific. You should read it very carefully before requesting such an affiliation with the Columbia University Department of Music.


The Department is often approached by scholars and graduate students from other institutions who have plans to spend time in New York and who are seeking a "visiting" (courtesy) affiliation with us.  We are delighted to host several Visiting Scholars and Students annually, under a variety of program auspices, and many of us have been graciously hosted at sister institutions in the past. Visiting Scholars and Students enhance the life of our community and create new connections for future exchanges.

However, especially because we are in New York City, a world center for music performance, composition, and research, we receive far more requests for such affiliations than we can possibly honor, and can only accept a small number of affiliated visitors in any given year.  Setting up an appointment as a Visiting Scholar or Student (especially for international visitors, where there are visa issues involved) is a complex, time-consuming process for the Department's office staff. It is also important to understand that Columbia provides no financial compensation, assistance, or support, and no health insurance, to Visiting Scholars and Students. We cannot provide office space, support services, or other major resources. Also be aware visiting scholars and students are not eligible for Columbia IRB review; if your research requires IRB approval, it must be obtained from your home institution.  In short,  a visiting appointment is a courtesy status, with very limited privileges beyond the affiliation as such.

We do, however, welcome Visiting Students and Scholars to participate fully in the busy creative and intellectual community of the Department, and hope for such participation from our Visitors.  Such engagement and exchange should be your primary motivation for seeking a Visiting status appointment at Columbia.

guidelines and procedures

Here are some specific guidelines and procedures to follow if you are seeking or applying for a Visiting Student or Visiting Scholar affiliation.

1) Potential Visiting Students:  GSAS and the Department of Music will permit students enrolled in other graduate programs (at the doctoral level only, that is, you must be a candidate for a PhD or DMA in your home institutions) in Music to spend up to one year (only) in residence, subject to faculty approval.  Visiting students must be affiliated with a sponsoring program (such as one of several university consortia or a major granting agency such as Fulbright or DAAD).

2) Potential Visiting Scholars: The Department (governed by University policy) can invite colleagues with significant credentials (typically a faculty or postdoctoral appointment at another university, although there are other possible qualifications) to spend up to one year (which is renewable for one additional year only under very particular circumstances) in residence as Visiting Scholars. Generally, such visitors are supported by their home institution (such as a sabbatical leave) or by a major granting agency (for example, Fulbright). 

Visiting Scholar and Visiting Student appointments may also be requested for only a single semester, either Fall or Spring, but if so they may not be easily extensible, once an initial semester-long request is granted,  to a second semester (i.e., a full two-semester academic year). Only in rare cases would a Visiting Scholar appointment ever extend from Spring to Fall semesters, that is, with an intervening summer. "One year" means one typical American academic year, from about September 1 to about June 1, with a semester break in late December and early January.  We are aware that other institutions and other countries are on divergent academic calendars and seasons, however, from the typical North American two-semester schedule.  Please consult with the Department Chair's office if this presents a complication for your proposed Visiting status period and we will advise you of your options prior to making your proposal.

3) Potential VIsiting Scholars and Students: The process for applying for visiting status requires that you:

  • Give us significant advance notice, generally meaning you contact us (see below for who and how) at least a semester before your visiting period begins, and up to one year in advance.
  • Send an initial email inquiry directly to the Department Chair (for 2018-2019, Prof. Ana Maria Ochoa).  
  • Copy the email request to the head of the relevant academic area of the Department.  You may find these names and associated email addresses by looking on our "contact" page.  (Search for "Heads of Academic Areas" -- also known as "Area Chairs.")
  • Also copy the email request to Music's Academic Department Administrator (Erica Lockhart, el2461 [at]  
  • Include a CV (curriculum vitae)
  • Include a brief but formal statement of your reasons for wanting to be at Columbia specifically, and  your research or dissertation proposal if appropriate.  
  • Provide, or be prepared to provide, the name and contact information for at least one academic reference, generally a faculty member at your home institution. We may choose to contact your reference(s) for a letter, so let them know you've listed them, or feel free to simply have them send a letter directly by email to the Chair timed to arrive with your proposal and vita. Ideally, such references should be provided in English if possible, although we can read and will accept letters in major European languages. Letters of reference from non-academic sources are discouraged. 
  • If you are funded for the proposed visiting period, provide information (in your initial communication) on the source of support and contact information for the supporting agency so that we can verify your support. If you are in the process of seeking funding and require us to attest that we will accept you as a visitor (sometimes the case with Fulbright and other fellowships), we will do so only after we have approved your application as a visitor by the same process described above. We do not do so routinely unless it is necessary and we would otherwise be able to accommodate you.  Therefore, make sure you contact us early in your process of seeking funding with the same materials requested above.

4) Visiting Scholars are generally expected to deliver a colloquium presentation on their research in the Department during their period of residency for no additional compensation.

5) In general, Visiting Students are welcome to attend appropriate classes and seminars with instructor permission, and for credit only if the sponsoring program requires this and has a reciprocal arrangement for Columbia students, and covers all tuition and fees incurred through registration for classes.  Visiting Scholars are generally not expected (nor generally encouraged) to attend classes or seminars, but may do so as auditors only, and with individual instructor permission only.  Visiting Scholars do not teach in any formal capacity at Columbia while they have Visiting status. (Do not confuse the status of "Visiting Scholar" with the appointed status of "Visiting Professor." A Visiting Scholar is not considered to be a member of the faculty of Columbia University in any sense, at any time, and should never claim otherwise.)

6) All visitors must have a "sponsoring" Columbia Music faculty member during their residency.  We can suggest such sponsors for you, but if no member of the faculty is willing to undertake your sponsorship, we simply cannot accommodate you.   We generally show preference for visitors whose work is of direct enough interest to at least one member of our faculty to incline them to undertake such sponsorship(s).  If you already have a relationship with (or a referral to) a Columbia Music faculty member, approach that person first to determine their interest in sponsoring your Visiting status.   The duties of such a faculty sponsor are minimal, and not a major imposition in terms of time or effort.  But the sponsor provides a point of contact for the visitor in case of difficulties, or if communication is required between the Department and the visitor's home institution.  Sponsors also act as mentors and facilitators for Visiting Students and junior colleagues, and are charged primarily with maintaining the Visitor's communication with the Department during the period of the visit.  When you approach a potential sponsor on the faculty, you may refer her/him to this description of the role; the point is that sponsorship is not a major time investment, but insures the intellectual/artistic connection between the Visitor and the Department is supported and advocated for throughout the period of the Visiting appointment.  If you are not sure who might be a potential sponsor for your Visiting Student/Scholar application, simply say so in your initial communication with the Department Chair and the relevant Area Chair, and we will facilitate an introduction to the faculty member with the most appropriate intellectual or artistic interests to serve in this role.  

For all Visiting status applicants, this means you should examine our faculty listing (see the "People" and "Academic Areas" links in the left sidebar near the top of this page) and the interests and specializations of our faculty members before you contact the Department with your initial proposal and request for affiliation.  The presence of particular faculty members whose work is of interest to you or overlaps with your areas of interest, research, or creativity should typically comprise a significant portion of your proposal for affiliation with us. The other major reasons for seeking affiliation at Columbia might include the presence of particular collections or other resources (such as our various research centers) or the presence of particular faculty members in other departments (in which case, however, you might consider approaching those other departments!).  We do especially ask you, in your proposal, to articulate the reasons why Columbia's Department of Music, specifically, can help serve your academic or artistic goals during the period of your proposed visit. 

7) All Visiting Scholars and Students must be approved by a majority of the full-time faculty in the Department.  This is an important reason why you must give us at least several months' advance notice ahead of your planned period of residency. Our faculty meets only once a month, approximately. It can take several months to schedule vote on a request and for all faculty members to be able to review the applicant's proposal, vita, and letter(s) of reference.

8) While Columbia's International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) will assist international Visiting Scholars and Students, the visitor is solely responsible for knowing and conforming to applicable immigration and customs policies and laws. For international visitors, specialized questions about visa or immigration issues pertaining to your proposed visit, or approved Visiting status, must be addressed to the ISSO.

9) There may be fees attached to processing your visa paperwork for Visiting status, and if so, you (or your granting agency or home institution) are expected to cover those fees.  Under no circumstances will the Department of Music ever cover such fees. Likewise, for courses taken for credit by Visiting Students, tuition and fees must be covered under the auspices of an existing consortium (such as IUDC) or by the Visting Student's home institution or granting agency.  Under no circumstances will tuition or fees be covered by the Department of Music or the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

10) In general, we can accept a maximum no more than four Visiting Scholars and no more than three Visiting Students at any one time.  These numbers can vary depending on exogenous factors such as faculty leaves and the size of our annual incoming graduate student cohort. Once again, if you are hoping to be affiliated with us as  a Visitor, you must make contact with the Department Chair's office directly with your request as far in advance as possible.   Irrespective of the merit of individual requests, and to be fair to all applicants, we allocate Visiting Scholar/Student positions in the order in which requests for such positions reach us and are approved by the faculty, and when we've filled all the available slots, we can't approve any more visitors!  Therefore, to repeat, the earlier you can petition for Visiting status to the Chair's office, the better your chances of us being able to accommodate you. Even a highly qualified application usually cannot be approved on short or late notice. Consideration of any application may take several months.

Please note however that Columbia is on summer break from approximately May 15 to approximately Sept 1, every year. During the summer we do not have faculty meetings and cannot act on Visiting Student or Scholar requests. In general, we discourage such requests during the summer months, although you may make individual inquiries with possible faculty sponsors for your proposal.  In most cases, applications for visiting status for the following academic year (currently 2015-16) should be filed, if possible, in the preceding fall semester or early in the spring semester.  By April, we have very often run out of capacity to accept any more visitors for the coming academic year.

If your proposed visiting period (as Scholar or Student) is only for the spring semester of the forthcoming academic year (that is, you would arrive in New York around Jan. 1 and remain until around June 1), we may be able to accept your proposal as late as the beginning of that academic year, in early September. 

We can make exceptions to these timelines only in rare cases. The process for approving an application typically takes a couple of months, during the academic year.  That's the point.  Plan accordingly and let us know as soon as you think you might want to apply for Visiting status at Columbia, even if it's only possible to tell us you  expect you will be applying for Visiting status.

11) No individual member of the faculty can approve or confirm Visiting status for a scholar or student without approval from the Department Chair's office and a majority of the full-time faculty, nor can any other agency or office at Columbia University.  Formal requests must be sent to the Chair and the appropriate Area head for action on a request for Visiting status to begin. Again, you are welcome to contact the faculty member you'd most like to work with or to whom you have been referred for sponsorship before contacting the Department Chair and the appropriate Area head, and it might well be a good idea to do so (and to reference such prior correspondence in your formal request for Visiting status).  But your request is not formally initiated until it has been made to the Department Chair and relevant Area Chair, copied to the Department Administrator, as described above.

12) By strict policy of the University, former visiting scholars and students SHOULD NOT claim to have earned a degree from Columbia or attended a Columbia University-sponsored training program unless the terms of their sponsorship specify otherwise (IUDC visiting students, for example).  "Visiting" status is not enrollment or matriculation.  Nor should current Visiting Scholars or Students claim a Columbia University affiliation for such professional purposes as conference presentations, media appearances, or publications.  A visiting scholar or student's very limited affiliation with Columbia begins and ends with the period of visiting appointment.  We do not, ever, issue credentials, degrees, or subsequent formal affiliation to visiting scholars or students. 

Please contact the Department Chair's office with any questions about these policies and procedures.