Parents and Families

Last reviewed: 10/23/2023

Columbia Health is committed to working with students throughout their time at Columbia. Life at the University offers rich opportunities for intellectual, social, and personal growth. These opportunities can also present challenges such as:

  • Adjusting to life in a new city (and in some instances, a new country) without accustomed social supports
  • Adapting to new academic standards, expectations, or teaching methods
  • Making career choices
  • Balancing academics and relationships

Students can manage these challenges — and parents and families play a critical supportive role as they experience these academic, social, and emotional transitions.

Columbia Health offers many programs and services to support your student:

Medical Services works with families by suggesting ways to help students maintain their health and by guiding students toward appropriate care.

We focus on helping students learn to manage their health and negotiate the local and national health care systems. You can help students prepare to come to Columbia by collecting copies of important medical records and reviewing their student’s medical history including immunization records, previous surgeries, hospitalizations, chronic health conditions, and treatments.

These records may be brought to the student’s first medical visit with Medical Services or shared via the Health History form on the Patient Portal. Students should be prepared to describe any allergies they have or medications they are taking.

Incoming students who have any health concerns or who would simply like to get advice about a health issue should schedule an appointment with their primary care provider when they arrive on campus. Each provider is a member of one of our four practice groups, and we encourage students to request an appointment with the same provider or a provider in the same practice group any time they return to Medical Services. They may select any Medical Services clinician as their primary care provider or continue with the provider who has been selected for them.

Medical Services understands that parents and families sometimes become concerned about a student’s health while they are away. Medical Services providers follow federal standards for maintaining the confidentiality of the student’s health information when responding to inquiries from parents or family members. In many cases, we may ask you to have your student call us directly with their consent. Please contact us for additional information about our services or our approach to providing care and promoting your students’ health.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) is available to students who wish to talk with a mental health professional regarding concerns ranging from conflicts with a roommate, shyness, problems completing a dissertation or other work assignments, to more chronic psychiatric disorders.

CPS offers assessment, consultation, crisis intervention, brief counseling, couples counseling, and a wide range of therapy and support groups, as well as psychiatric services and medication evaluations when indicated. We will assist with referrals for longer-term treatment when it is needed.

Drop-in office hours are available at a variety of locations across campus, and students are welcome to come in without an appointment to see a counselor at any of these offices, each of which maintains late evening hours.

Counseling and Psychological Services is also available to consult with family members who have concerns about a close relative at Columbia. For example, we can help you evaluate signs of excessive stress you may have observed in a student, and help you think about what interventions, if any, might be appropriate. We especially encourage parents of students who have benefited from counseling at home to contact us for assistance in arranging for continued support here in New York.

You are welcome to contact us at 212-854-2878 and speak with one of our providers. In any consultation, we adhere to the strict standards of confidentiality that guides our work with students.

Disability Services is available to speak with you and your student about the important differences between high school and college with respect to services for students with disabilities. Understanding these differences will help to ensure a smooth transition for you and your student. Here’s a summary of key differences:

In high school, teachers or other school personnel identify students in need of services, provide free assessments, and develop individualized educational plans (IEPs). These plans may have included a modified curriculum, specialized instruction, tutoring, academic accommodations, and services of a personal nature.

In contrast, postsecondary education requires students with disabilities to be more self-directed about gaining access to key accommodations they need. While K-12 education emphasizes ensuring students’ success, postsecondary disability services is focused on "leveling the playing field" for students with disabilities so that they have equal opportunity and equal access.

With these important distinctions in mind, the following are key features of Disability Services at Columbia:

  • Students must self-identify to Disability Services to request accommodations.
  • Students must provide documentation that meets Disability Services guidelines of their condition or disability.
  • Columbia is not responsible for assessing or determining students’ disability status or related needs. Colleges also have the right to set reasonable standards regarding the type of documentation and can require that such documentation be current.
  • Higher education institutions, including Columbia, review students’ documentation and determine their disability-related needs for academic adjustments and reasonable accommodations.
  • Reasonable accommodations coordinated by Disability Services include extended time on exams, note taking services, textbooks and other materials in an alternate format, sign language interpreting, CART, and C-Print services.
  • Disability Services consults with faculty and/or students’ academic programs to ensure that accommodations do not modify the fundamental nature of these programs.
  • Services of a personal nature, including tutoring, are not considered reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the two laws which govern the provision of accommodations at the college level.
  • Students are expected to follow the established procedures for receiving reasonable accommodations in order to maintain their eligibility for such accommodations.

We look forward to working with your student as they become a part Columbia’s vibrant community. If you have any questions, contact Disability Services.

Sexual Violence Response provides information to parents and families about sexual and relationship violence and prevention. We also provide:

  • Consultations to family members of student survivors of sexual or relationship violence
  • Referrals for on-campus, community-based, and national support services
  • Tips on how to best support a loved one who has experienced violence

Contact us at 212-854-3500 during business hours if you have questions.

Alice! Health Promotion understands health to be a multi-dimensional, self-defined, and values-based concept that plays a vital role in an individual’s life. Recognizing the impact that individual knowledge and skills, relationships, campus environments, and policies have on well-being, we aim to center students as the owners of their experience while dismantling oppressive systems around them that facilitate health inequities.

Using data- and theory- driven practices, we work collaboratively across campus to help prioritize health and well-being in all facets of the university experience to create communities where students can flourish at Columbia and beyond. Alice! also supports the university’s public health response efforts by influencing communication, informing environmental strategies, and advocacy to reduce risk within our campus community now and in the future.

With this in mind, Alice! provides a low barrier to accessing services within Columbia Health and other resources across campus. To support your student, you can encourage them to take advantage of Alice!’s self-guided and facilitated opportunities for learning and skill-building, such as (but not limited to):

  • Drop-in hours and health education appointments are available for students to discuss health questions 
  • Links to Success is a tool that organizes campus resources by topic or issue, such as financial or academic concerns, so students can more easily navigate available support.
  • Self-Assessments tools, including on sleep, can help students explore health behaviors and get connected to more information.
  • Workshops and trainings are available by request on a number of health-related topics for a student audience.
  • Go Ask Alice! is Columbia’s award-winning health question and answer website. You can encourage your student to visit, share the content, and sign up for the weekly email newsletter: Get Alice! In Your Box.

Alice! Health Promotion is a confidential resource and can also help with way-finding for students who are trying to locate health and well-being resources on campus. Students can contact Alice! by email [email protected] or by calling 212-854-5453.