FAQs on H4D

Who can take this class?

At Columbia, all undergraduates and graduates are eligible to apply for this course. All disciplines are welcome, as they bring unique perspectives and skills to unpacking and solving the problems at hand.


Who SHOULD take this class?

To quote Steve Blank: “If you’re curious, if you want to work on real world problems, if you’re excited about working with a diverse team, this is a class for everybody.”


How does H4D work, exactly?

Students taking H4D are formed into teams and each team is given a specific, real, national security problem to work on. The teams then get access to and work directly with a specific government agency (referred to as a “sponsor”) on those problems. In addition to the time spent in touch with the agency, teams do research into their problems and customer discovery interviews. The class also meets for lectures, progress reports, and feedback on each project.


Are there any prerequisites?

No – though students must apply for this class.


Do I need technical/computational experience to apply?

No – in this case, “Hacking” refers to a problem-solving approach, not the use of a computer system. However, technically-skilled students are well represented in the class, given the nature of many of the projects tackled in the class.


Do I need military experience to apply?

No –  the class and the sponsors benefit from bringing together students with diverse backgrounds, disciplines, and experiences. However, students with a military background are well represented in this class due to the relevance of their skill set.


What will I get out of this?:

  • A real work product. The sponsors may implement some or all of what you have created; some of you might even move on to form a viable business. All of you, however, will have helped the government think through some of their toughest issues with speed and urgency, and will therefore be able to point to a real impact that you have had on national security.
  • A 360-degree approach to real-world problems. You will work on actual problems facing the nation today, with students of diverse perspectives and disciplines. You will learn from each other, from your sponsors, and your professors, and you will leave better able to holistically approach problems and solutions.
  • Civic duty. Not only are you serving your country by taking this class, you will better understand the U.S. government, its realities, and its intricacies.


Where do I apply?

The Fall 2018 application period is currently closed, but sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social to find out about the next application period.



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