Prospective Student FAQs


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Applicant Profile and Statistics

Who should apply to the MS in Human Nutrition program at the Institute of Human Nutrition (IHN)?

The MS program aims to train professionals to integrate nutrition into whatever fields they pursue. While approximately two-thirds of our graduates pursue medical school, many discover that their MS in Human Nutrition provides them with abundant opportunities across diverse career paths. These include dentistry, nursing, optometry, physical therapy, podiatry, dietetics, communications, consulting, journalism, law, public health, administration, research, entrepreneurship, and more.

What are the average GPA and standardized test scores for an IHN MS program applicant?

The average GPA is equal to or higher than a 3.2 on a 4-point scale, and the desired graduate-level entrance exam (DAT, GRE, MCAT, etc.) score is at the 60th percentile or higher for all sections. Standardized test scores are not required for our program application.

We consider a range of criteria when selecting applicants. Otherwise, outstanding applicants with GPAs or test scores below average are encouraged to apply. To inquire further about prerequisites, contact our offices at

How competitive is the MS program?

The program is competitive and attracts students with a strong background in biological sciences. We typically receive between 200 and 250 applications for 75-80 spots.


Program Details

Is this program in-person or on-line?

Our Master's Program is only available in-person. Our program incorporates basic science, clinical, or public health research, clinical observation, and community engagement that makes in-person participation essential.

Are students required to get a Covid-19 vaccine?

Yes, the Covid-19 vaccine is required for students. Our program offers clinically-based opportunities; students with vaccine waivers cannot participate in these parts of our program.

How long is the MS program?

The MS program is completed in one year, beginning with mandatory orientation the last week of August, and ending with the completion of the master's thesis the following September. Degrees are officially conferred one month later in October. View our Academic Calendar for a more complete sense of the program timeline, with holidays and breaks.

If students anticipate attending another graduate program (e.g. dental, medical, nursing school, etc.), they may frontload their thesis work to finish the program mid-summer. This frontloading requires careful planning and communication with thesis mentors and the MS Associate Director, Dr. Madra.

We provide cover letters in instances where proof of program completion is required in advance of the October MS degree.

What is expected of me during the MS program?

During their three semesters at IHN, students are required to put in hard work and dedication. The program offers exposure to a wide range of ideas in the complex field of health, which has garnered significant attention and resources from health professionals and policy-makers worldwide. To maintain a high academic standard, students should dedicate at least one hour per credit per week to in-class work and about three hours per credit per week to work outside of class. With a typical course load of 15 credits per semester, this means approximately 60 hours per week of combined in-class and out-of-class time.

Moreover, students should allot 10-15 hours per week for their thesis project during the fall and spring terms, and commit a minimum of 10 weeks on a full-time basis (~350 hours or more) from May to August. It is mandatory for all students to attend classes and arrive on time.

When and where are nutrition courses held?

Classes are scheduled from Monday to Friday, usually from 9 AM to 6 PM, at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center campus. The campus can be found on West 168th Street, situated between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue. Normally, classes are held once a week for two to three hours or twice a week for one and a half hours per session. We allocate one full weekday without any classes so that students may dedicate their time to their thesis project.

Does the Institute of Human Nutrition have online courses?

The only online courses offered by the Institute of Human Nutrition are continuing medical education courses for healthcare professionals. Classes for our MS in Human Nutrition degree are all in-person. 

Are there part-time program options?

Yes, it is possible for students to pursue our MS Program on a part-time basis. Typically, part-time students complete their degree in two years by taking three courses per semester during the fall and spring terms, or in three years by taking two courses per semester during the fall and spring. As part of the program requirements, all part-time students must register for the Thesis Research summer course during one summer term. 

We have several part-time students who are also Columbia University employees and use their tuition credits to complete our program.

Please note that tuition rates are prorated for full-time students during the fall and spring terms, and hence slightly higher for part-time students. 

What does the class schedule look like? Where can students find their class schedule?

Human Nutrition classes are scheduled four days a week, generally from Monday to Thursday, and take place between 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, except for two fall term Critical Readings sections that start earlier. Course schedules vary each year based on classroom availability at Columbia Medical Center. In the fall term, students usually have class two weekday mornings and in the afternoons from Monday to Thursday. During the spring term, Human Nutrition courses continue take place four days a week, but individual student schedules vary depending on the elective courses they choose. Required Human Nutrition classes are usually held on Monday to Thursday afternoons and Thursday mornings. Besides their required coursework, students must complete two to three elective courses to earn their 33 credits for graduation. If students take elective courses outside of the Institute of Human Nutrition, they may have class five days a week.

Do students take classes altogether or split up into smaller sections?

In the fall semester, full-time students are required to take six classes and the entire class will be together for five of these six courses. Our fall Critical Readings of Biological and Clinical Literature course is discussion-based. This course is divided into five sections, each consisting of ten to fifteen students. (Students are randomly assigned to a section.) In the spring semester, students take three required classes together, but only a portion of the class will attend elective courses. 

How and when do students register for classes?

New students register for their Fall term starting in late August. Students register through Columbia’s Student Services Online during their appointed registration times listed in the system. The IHN distributes registration instructions and dates to new students through their Key Program Information Canvas site, their central hub for general program information.

How do students choose elective courses in the Spring?

In the spring semester, students are required to take at least one elective course from the IHN department. However, they have the option to take one or two more elective courses from IHN or choose courses from a different department within Columbia. Prior to enrolling in non-IHN courses, students must obtain approval from the program director and ensure that the courses are relevant to their degree path. Towards the end of the fall term, IHN shares information about spring electives, including a list of non-IHN courses that have already been approved, on the student Key Program Information Canvas site.



What are the application requirements for the program?

Please visit our  Application Information page for a list of our application requirements.

What is the admissions time frame?

Refer to our Application Information page for an overview of our admissions process, including timeframe. Students are accepted on a rolling basis. Due to our small class size (80 students) we recommend applicants apply before the application deadline. 

Can I submit my online application without materials such as test scores and letters of recommendation?

Yes, please submit your application. The IHN staff will thoroughly review it for completeness and inform you of any missing materials before presenting it to the Admissions Committee. Submitting without all the official materials enables us to begin processing your application promptly and expedite the process once the remaining materials are received.

How will I know when my application materials have been received and my application is under review?

You may log in to our online application portal any time post-submission to view the status of your application and receipt of accompanying materials.

My school went to P/F grading for Spring 2020. Will this affect my application?

We understand Spring 2020 grading may be P/F for courses where you normally would have received a letter grade. Do not let this worry you. The IHN will reach out to applicants if the Admissions Committee requires additional information. 


Can I submit electronic transcripts?

Yes, and they are preferred.

Upload your unofficial e-transcript to the academic information section of your online application. Your unofficial transcript may be used for preliminary application review. An official transcript from each institution attended must be sent to the IHN Admissions Office at To be considered official, this transcript must come directly from the school (i.e., no student involvement). 

Please note that e-transcripts are strongly preferred to hard copies.

My university does not send electronic transcripts, may I submit a paper one?

Yes, while electronic transcripts are preferred, you may submit a paper one. Our mailing address is:

Institute of Human Nutrition
c/o Education Officer

Columbia University Irving Medical Center
630 W168th Street, PH1512E
New York, NY 10032

I am an international student. Do I need to translate my grades to the US grading system?

Your transcript must be translated to a US grading system before it is reviewed by the Admissions Committee. World Education Services and Educational Credential Evaluators can both be used to validate and translate your transcripts for submission to the MS application. In certain instances, international schools use a US grading system and the translation requirement is waived. If you believe this applies to your school, contact our admissions office at to have your international documentation reviewed. 

Standardized Tests

I am an international student. Do I need to take the TOEFL or IELTS?

You must take the TOEFLIELTS or Duolingo test if your native language is not English and (1) the instruction of your undergraduate school was not in English or (2) you reside in a country where English is not the primary language. The TOEFL school code is 2173.

The IHN requires the following minimum scores:

  • 600 on the TOEFL paper-and-pencil test
  • 100 on the TOEFL internet-based test
  • 7.0 on IELTS
  • 135 on Duolingo

What are the Institute's GRE codes?

School code: 2173, Department Code: 0214

How can I submit my MCAT scores?

Visit the AAMC website. Click on Get MCAT Test Scores and log in with your credentials. Click on Create Score Report to access a sixteen-digit verification code. Enter your AAMC ID, MCAT score, sub-scores, accompanying percentiles, and verification code into the test scores section of the online applicationVerification codes can only be used once, so please do not test the code yourself or give the same code to other institutions.

I understand standardized test scores are not required. If I have taken a standardized test, should I submit my scores, even if they are below the stated score recommendation?

If you have taken a standardized test, the Admissions Committee prefers you submit your scores. Use the Addendum section of your application to explain scores you feel are not representative of your academic capabilities. Remember that the Admissions Committee looks at your whole application, and their ultimate goal is to determine if our program is a good fit for you. 

I have not taken a standardized test, should I take one to apply to this program?

The Admissions Committee prefers you not take a standardized test solely to apply to our MS program. If the Committee cannot make a final admissions decision with the information provided in your application, they will contact you to discuss options for moving forward with your application. 

Letters of Recommendation

Are committee letters written for dental, graduate, medical, nursing schools or other graduate schools acceptable?

Yes, committee recommendation packets are acceptable; additional letters are welcome.

Letters can be written for entry to any graduate/professional school; recommenders do not need to re-write letters specifically for the MS in Nutrition Science program. Committee letters and separate recommendation letters should be emailed to IHN admissions at, sent to IHN admissions via Interfolio, or mailed to the office at the following address:

Institute of Human Nutrition
c/o Education Officer

Columbia University Irving Medical Center
630 West 168th Street, PH15E-1512
New York, NY 10032

Can I send in a pre-health committee recommendation packet or letters via Interfolio?

Yes. Have your packet preparer send the recommendation packet to

Career Options

If I complete the MS program, will that guarantee me a slot or interview in the Columbia medical school?

The Institute of Human Nutrition’s admissions office and procedures are independent of other degree programs at Columbia University. Completing the MS in Human Nutrition program does not guarantee admissions interviews for any other program at Columbia University or other institutions.

I am interested in becoming a registered dietitian. Will this program fully prepare me for the RD exam and offer support in placement in a dietetic internship?

The latest requirements for Registered Dietitians (RD) state that a master's degree is now mandatory. Our MS in Human Nutrition program satisfies this RD licensure prerequisite. However, it's crucial to note that our MS degree is not exclusively designed for those seeking entry into the field of dietetics. Thus, it doesn't include all the coursework required by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or a dietetics internship component. As a result, students who wish to pursue dietetics must complete these licensure elements elsewhere. 


Columbia Teacher's College is an excellent option for those interested in becoming a dietitian. They offer a dietetics program that fulfills all the requirements. Every year, we have registered dietitians enroll in our program for its research component, comprehensive biochemistry, and physiology curriculum, which they didn't receive in their original dietetics program. Furthermore, we have graduates from our program who advance their studies in dietetics programs. If you're interested in this path, we're delighted to connect you with our RD alumni.

What are the common career paths of an MS program graduate?

While approximately two-thirds of our graduates continue to medical school, many realize that their MS in Human Nutrition opens the door to various career options. Standard fields entered by our graduates include healthcare (e.g., dentistry, medicine, nursing, optometry, physical therapy, dietetics), business, communications, consulting, journalism, law, public health, research, and technology. 

Tuition, Financial Aid and Housing

What is the tuition and cost of attendance?

You can locate the estimated budget for our program on the Tuition and Financial Aid webpage

What are my funding options? Is financial aid available for the MS in Nutrition Science Program?

The Institute of Human Nutrition works with the Columbia University Irving Medical Center's Student Financial Aid and Planning Office to provide MS students with loan information. The course load does not afford time for work-study programs. Student veterans may participate in the Yellow Ribbon program. Students may seek outside scholarship opportunities and should connect with the Student Financial Aid and Planning Office to discuss details. 

The IHN offers a small, needs-based IHN Director's Scholarship. Which is discussed further in the question response below.

Are there any scholarships available?

The IHN has a small, needs-based scholarship program called the IHN Director's Scholarship. The scholarship is assessed based on past federal financial support. To be considered for the scholarship, applicants must have submitted their application and completed a FAFSA form by May 15.

If you have received financial support in the past that is not documented within the federal financial aid system, you may submit a note to the IHN for scholarship consideration by emailing us at

Please note that the IHN Director's Scholarship is currently available only for domestic students. Applications for scholarship consideration are reviewed in late May and scholarship awardees are notified in mid-June. 

Is financial aid available for international students?

Yes, please visit our Student Financial Aid and Planning Office for details and contact them directly to discuss options available to you. 

Can students work either full or part time while in the nutrition program as a full-time student?

Please note that our full-time MS program is designed to require your complete focus and dedication. We discourage students from seeking employment while attending our program; most of our students do not work. 

However, if you are considering part-time work, we urge you to wait until you are settled in your thesis setting so that you can assess your workload and availability. Course attendance is mandatory, and your work schedule must be flexible enough to accommodate last-minute schedule changes. We want to ensure you have a stress-free experience while pursuing your academic goals.

What is the cost for on-campus or off-campus housing?

On-campus housing for all students at Columbia University Medical Center is limited. Prices vary according to the type of accommodation (apartment or dorm style). Housing applications are available to incoming students upon notification of acceptance and should be submitted as soon as possible. Please visit the CUIMC Office of Housing Services for additional information about on-campus housing. Off-campus housing in the neighborhood is also available. CUIMC Office of Housing Services can assist with off-campus housing information.

Is Columbia University Irving Medical Center safe?

The Columbia University Department of Public Safety works around the clock to maintain a secure and open environment for the entire Columbia University community, and to balance the safety of all with the rights of the individual. For more information visit the Columbia University Department of Public Safety website.

Covid-19 Vaccine Requirement

Is the Covid-19 Vaccine required for Human Nutrition students?

Yes. Our program has the option for clinical involvement; our students must have completed the primary series of the Covid-19 vaccine. The booster is recommended but not required.