Graduation Requirements and D&I Policies

Graduation Requirements

Successful completion of the MD degree requires the following:

  • Passing all courses in the Fundamentals Curriculum 
  • Passing all clinical clerkships in the Major Clinical Year 
  • Passing all electives in the Differentiation & Integration curriculum 
    • For MD students: 7 electives of which at least 5 are clinical, including
      • a subI in medicine, pediatrics, or general surgery (at CUIMC or an affiliate) or SICU
      • a clinical elective in the final semester 
      • Ready for Residency in March or April
      • Please note: More than 5 of the 7 electives may be clinical
    • For Columbia-Bassett students, the above requirements apply, however students complete 6 rather than 7 electives (at least 5 clinical) because they complete Primary Care of MCY in January of 3rd year, and at least one subI (for the specialty or for graduation) must be at CUIMC, Allen, or Harlem Hospital
    • For MDPHD students, 1 subI is required
    • For PHD to MD students, 1 subI and 1 additional elective are required
    • For OMFS students, 7 electives, including 1 subI in medicine or general surgery and 1 additional elective after MCY, and 3 months of anesthesiology
  • Completion of a Scholarly Project according to the policies outlined by the faculty committee.  Scholarly Project is 4 months.  Scholarly Project Plus allows students to substitute one additional Scholarly Project month for a month of elective, up to 10 months total of Scholarly Project 
  • Passing of the USMLE Step 1 and USMLE Step 2 CK exams 
  • Up-to-date payment of 8 semesters of tuition for MD students, 7 semesters for MDPHD and 6 semesters for PHD to MD

Please note, 2 of the 14 months of D&I are for residency interviews.  Students are required to use at least 1 of those months only for interviews during the peak interviewing time for their specialty. 


D&I Policies

During Differentiation and Integration (D&I), students must adhere to the following policies and guidelines that pertain to registration and attendance:

Four-Week Policy

The Office of Medical Education observes and enforces a policy that restricts schedule changes within four weeks of a rotation start date. At the four-week mark, course directors and coordinators start to assemble their rosters for the following month, which may include assigning preceptors and preparing orientation materials. Changes within four weeks of the start date may be reviewed by the senior associate dean of student affairs, based on the following criteria:

  • Personal emergency of the student
  • Faculty not available to provide the course as described
  • Urgent academic issue
  • A change in career plans

This policy affects all schedule changes within four weeks, including electives at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) and away institutions. All self-arranged electives fall under the four-week policy. Students who request to add away electives within four weeks of the start date must receive approval by the senior associate dean for student affairs before the rotation is pursued or started. Requests made after the start of the rotation will only be considered under extreme circumstances, and if related to the student's well-being. Students risk forfeiting a month of elective credit if the request to add/drop is not made prior to the rotation start date.

As a courtesy to faculty, staff, and other VP&S students, it is the student's responsibility to contact the Office of Medical Education in a timely fashion. For further instruction, please visit UserVoice.

Medicine Sub-Internships (March through September)

Due to the high volume of need for sub-internships prior to residency applications (March through September), VP&S students are permitted one medicine sub-internship from March through September. This restriction does not apply to sub-internships in other specialties unless otherwise communicated to the class. Example: Students may take a medicine sub-internship and a surgical sub-internship from March through September.

Away Electives and Visiting Student Application System

Away Electives
A maximum of three electives may be taken at an away site. All away electives must be at least four weeks in length, except for the University of California system, which can be three weeks.

VP&S students are also not allowed to drop a Columbia elective for an away site within four weeks of a rotation. This does not meet the criteria for dropping a course, and VP&S students are advised to not add a Columbia elective if planning to go away. If the away site falls through, it is much more convenient to add a Columbia elective after the fact, and the Office of Medical Education is happy to help those students in need of electives.

Visiting Student Application System (VSAS)
VP&S students are responsible for knowing what materials are needed for their away site applications, and are expected to coordinate these applications in advance to avoid last-minute requests. Due to the volume of VP&S students using VSAS, please note the following estimates for processing VSAS requests:

  • Transcripts: One week to upload. Please contact CUIMC's registrar to request a copy of your transcripts, or log onto SSOL to use the official online form.
  • Letters of Recommendation: One week to upload. Letter writers can email and attach a formatted letter, or submit a hard copy to the Office of Medical Education, located in the Vagelos Education Center, Suite 1103
  • Verification and Releasing Applications: Every weekday at 9:00 a.m. For emergency requests, please submit a ticket through UserVoice

Self-Arranged Electives: Preceptorships and Research

Due to the volume of requests for self-arranged electives, all requests must adhere to the four-week policy. To add a self-arranged elective, please follow the instructions on UserVoice:

Research Summaries
For self-arranged research electives, a two- to five-page summary of the month’s activities and results will be required to receive a grade. Results of the research do not have to be shared if being published. The Office of Medical Education guarantees privacy of all research projects.

VP&S Attendance and Absence Policy

Students are responsible for keeping electives faculty and staff aware of all absences. Please see the VP&S Attendance and Absence Policy for more information.