Combined Plan Computer Engineering (FAQs)
What is the standard fall course schedule for incoming combined-plan Computer Engineering majors?
Course No. Points Course Name ELEN E3801 3.50 SIGNALS & SYSTEMS ELEN E3084 1.00 SIGNALS & SYSTEMS LAB ELEN E3201 3.50 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS ELEN E3081 1.00 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS LAB COMS W3134 3.00 DATA STRUCTURES IN JAVA IEOR E3658 3.00 PROBABILITY 15.00
Can I take different courses than the ones shown here?
Yes. While this is considered a standard schedule, many incoming students have reasons to take something slightly different. Almost all take ELEN E3801 & ELEN E3084 because those courses are only offered in the fall and are foundation required courses. Similarly, those with the expected circuit background take ELEN E3201 & ELEN E3081 because those courses are only offered in the fall and are prerequisites for later courses. Some without enough circuits background take ELEN E1201 INTRO TO EE first (see later question). COMS W3134 is also a foundation course, but some students have already taken an equivalent course so can jump ahead to a course such as COMS W3157 ADVANCED PROGRAMMING. IEOR E3658 PROBABILITY is recommended for the first semester because many students find it is useful to prepare for later electives, but there are other probability & statistics courses that can fill this requirement (see later question). Another required course that is sometimes taken first semester is CSEE W3827 FUNDAMENTALS OF COMPUTERS.
Can I change my course selections after early registration?
Certainly. There will be opportunities to ask a faculty advisor questions and speak with other students right before classes start, and courses can be changed then. Some elective courses are difficult to get into due to enrollment limits, though, and knowing demand can help departments with planning, so it is good to register early for a tentative set of courses if possible. But it is not necessary to be registered for a course to show up at the first class and see what it is like.
Is 15.0 points a reasonable load for fall semester?
Yes. Combined-plan students must take 60 points of credit (or more) at Columbia, an average of just 15 per semester. And in most cases the Computer Engineering requirements can be completed within the 60, so there is no need to go much beyond that. Some Columbia students do take loads as high as 18 or 19 in some semesters, but the first semester in a new place may not be the best time to try a heavy load. It is important to focus on the core required courses to build a solid foundation for later electives. Note that students who try taking an extra course but find that it is taking too much time can drop it without penalty well into the semester.
Where can I find more information about courses and requirements?
There are rules and sample course sequences in the Computer Engineering section of the school bulletin. Combined-plan students should focus on the “late-starting” plan for the final two years. Formal descriptions of all the courses can be found in the department sections of the bulletin, e.g., EE & CS. A handy requirements checklist and other information is also posted on the Computer Engineering website. In addition, meetings with major advisors and other faculty can help answer questions along the way. Note that both the EE and CS Departments post their course offerings each semester on their websites and leave them there for many years, and this history can be used to learn typical patterns.
How is advising done in Computer Engineering?
Every Computer Engineering student is assigned a major faculty advisor on arrival and a list of advisors can be found in the undergraduate section of the Computer Engineering website . There is no requirement to talk with an advisor each semester but it is recommended, at least to discuss things such as career planning. There are also orientation sessions, upon arrival and during the registration period each semester, attended by faculty who are particularly familiar with the curriculum and who can answer general questions about the program. These sessions are also very useful for course planning because many students who attend exchange experience and ideas. And a free lunch (usually pizza) is provided! All students at Columbia also have university CSA advisors who can help with issues outside the major, such as questions about general requirements or advice about housing, health, etc. Note that Elsa Sanchez and Cassandra Kokofu in the EE office, 1300 Mudd Bldg., can help Computer Engineering students with administrative matters pertaining to their major, e.g., forms and approvals (contact information).
What if I already took a required Computer Engineering course elsewhere?
There is a course equivalence form that needs to be filled out to apply for placing out of a required course. If you are confident that it will be approved, you can simply plan your course schedule assuming that it will. Don’t forget to take care of the paperwork during the semester, though. Elsa Sanchez and Cassandra Kokofu in the EE office can help you navigate the approval process. Note that placing out of a course does not affect the requirement for a minimum of 60 credits at Columbia. So for most students, any bypassed requirements will need to be replaced by additional electives.
Am I ready for ELEN E3201 without having taken ELEN E1201?
ELEN E1201 INTRODUCTION TO EE is a preparatory course taken by 4-year Columbia students early on and it is a prerequisite for ELEN E3201. It is highly recommended that combined-plan students take a similar course before arriving at Columbia, but some cannot. In that case there are a few other options:
1) Students with some circuits background can take the course E1201in their first semester in parallel with the follow-on course E3201 (either in addition to or instead of a course like IEOR E3658 PROBABILITY). Some have found this option workable.
2) Students with little background in circuits may need to take E1201 in their first semester and postpone E3201 to the following year. This requires more careful planning of all 4 semesters, and limits choices for technical electives in the circuits area due to prerequisite constraints.
3) Students who feel ready can jump straight to E3201 without having taken E1201 or an equivalent. The EE Department often offers an informal, condensed version of E1201 in August to provide help with this option for those who can arrive early. E3201 covers most of the necessary material from E1201 but goes quite fast assuming it is just a review.
Is ELEN E1201 a graduation requirement for Computer Engineering?
No. Combined-plan students in Computer Engineering do not need formal course equivalence to skip E1201. The first required course in circuits is ELEN E3201. Some do find it very helpful to take E1201 first, however, depending on their background.
Do I need to take each 1-credit lab course with its corresponding lecture course?
No, but it is typical to take E3081 and E3084 along with E3201 and E3801, respectively. They are offered in the same semester and designed to go together. In rare cases students are only in one because they have transfer credit or course equivalence for the other, or need to postpone a lab for a year due to an unusual scheduling constraint. Note that students who take CSEE W3827 in the fall need to wait until the spring to take its corresponding lab ELEN E3082 because, while W3827 is offered both semesters, E3082 is only offered in the spring.
Are there other options for filling the Probability requirement?
This Computer Engineering requirement can be satisfied by taking IEOR E3658, or alternate options listed in a footnote in the bulletin. Not all are offered every semester. One factor to consider when selecting is that the courses without statistics may offer better preparation for some EE electives that require probability. But statistics can be useful in some specialties.
Which version of Data Structures should I take?
The Computer Science Dept. offers an honors version of COMS W3134, COMS W3137, which is a fine alternative for those with sufficient background. But most Computer Engineering majors take W3134, and that is recommended to get a solid foundation unless it is clear that W3137 is more appropriate. Note there is another Data Structures course, COMSW3136 DATA STRUCTURES WITH C/C++, which is taken by many EE majors but is not intended for Computer Engineering majors. Also note that the CS Dept. offers one-credit courses (under COMS W3101) in various languages for students who are familiar with programming but would like to learn an additional language.
Are prerequisites enforced in Computer Engineering?
Not for most courses, but students who have not taken the prerequisites or equivalent courses should be very cautious about ignoring them. There are many resources for learning more about the expected background for courses: course descriptions, textbooks, other students who have taken them, course websites if available, lectures, instructors, advisors, etc.
Last updated: Oct. 2015