Frequently Asked Questions


You will get a unique opportunity to develop lasting friendships with highly motivated students in the field. Also, preliminary studies indicate you are likely to do better in the class as well as enjoy it more, as you will gain a better understanding of some of the core principles, like algorithmic thinking and problem solving. Finally, you should have lots of fun with your peers (snacks will be provided)!

Here are what previous participants have said about ESP:

“The Emerging Scholars Program was a great asset to the introductory level Computer Science class. It helped me to think outside of just programming and more into developing problem-solving skills. I loved being in a small group because it forced us all to participate and I also loved having a workshop leader that was close in age and encouraged creative thinking.”

“ESP helped to ignite my interest in Computer Science. Through the varied workshops, I was exposed to interesting people and ideas, realizing the breadth of an entirely fascinating subject in which I had no previous experience. I really looked forward to the workshops because they were very fun. It was extremely rewarding to participate in something in which I not only found academic value but also social and recreational value.”

“I love being part of ESP because it challenges me to think with a different perspective and then apply it to computer science. What I've learned in the workshops has helped me grasp and understand many topics in my classes.”

The problems presented in ESP are taken from across the spectrum of Computer Science fields, such as Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, Biometrics, Encryption and more. The problems are not “extra help” for your CS course; rather, they demonstrate problems that you will see in advanced computer science classes. Although the workshops are led by an undergraduate peer leader, the classroom materials are prepared by PhD students in conjunction with Professor Cannon. We try to select problems that are interesting and challenging, as well as amenable to group collaboration.

For example, one workshop last semester was about analyzing social networks. How can we represent social relationships as a graph (network)? Once we have a friendship graph, how could we use it to suggest “People you might know” to users? How do we design algorithms that can work on a graph that keeps getting larger and larger? (For example, Facebook has more than 2.45 billion monthly active users, and keeps growing.)

You may look at our syllabus for an overview of all the topics we are seeing this semester!

To apply for ESP, all you have to do is fill out this application.

We enroll as many students as we possibly can, subject to capacity and quality constraints. We enroll students at any stage of their undergraduate career from freshmen to seniors, however, the program is primarily intended for freshmen and sophomores who are choosing a major. Applicants are required to enroll simultaneously in an introductory computing course including:

  • COMS W1001: Introduction to Information Science
  • COMS W1002: Computing in Context
  • COMS W1004: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Java
  • ENGI 1006: Introduction to Computing for Engineers and Applied Scientists
  • COMS BC1016: Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science (Barnard)
  • COMS W3107: Clean Object-Oriented Design (formerly COMS 1007 - Honors Intro to CS)

If you are unsure whether an introductory computing course satisfies the enrollment requirement, reach out to the ESP coordinators .

There are no prerequisites to apply to ESP! We don't assume that you have any prior knowledge of Computer Science—just that you're interested in learning more about the field, and are excited to participate and solve problems with your peers.

Yes, you will register for COMS 1404, a one-point class that will be pass/fail.

ESP registration occurs close to the end of and sometimes after the add/drop period. For students in Columbia/GS, you can add the course from SSOL with the permission of your advisor. More detailed instructions for Barnard students are provided in the next FAQ item.

If Emerging Scholars Program is added to the Directory of Classes and Student Planning (the latter may update a day later) before the registration deadline of September 16, 2022, and available for regular registration or waitlisting, Barnard students who have permission should be able to plan and register for it just like any other classes. If not, or if it is not available for direct registration, then there are two possibilities, depending on timing:

  1. Up to a week after the registration deadline, Barnard students may add using the Add Form in Slate by selecting "add a class that requires permission" as the category of class they are adding. To do this, they will need the course number, title, section number, call number, instructor name and email address. They will also need to upload emails granting permission to add from both the instructor and their academic adviser.
  2. Beyond a week after the registration deadline, students will need to petition CPAS for a late-add. This will require all the information above and in addition the student will need to explain in the petition why they are adding the class late (if they are adding it late for structural reasons, e.g. the class wasn't yet available, that is a totally acceptable reason -- as is being confused about registration procedure as a first-year Barnard student adding an unusual type of Columbia class).

Support for this program has been provided by the Columbia CS department, a grant from the National Center of Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) , and a gift from Northeastern University's Center for Inclusive Computing at Khoury College of Computer Science. ESP is coordinated by Professor Adam Cannon and two PhD students, Tim Randolph and Roland Maio.

This program is not “remedial computer science” and it is not extra tutoring or office hours. Rather, you will work with other participants and the peer leader to come up with solutions to interesting problems related to computer science, and discuss those solutions‘ pros and cons. Also, there will be no homework and no required preparation for the meetings; all you need to do is show up, participate, and have fun!

Applications are open! Fill out this form and send your resume to our coordinators if you're interested in being a workshop assistant this semester.

Contact the ESP Coordinators with any questions or for more information.