Columbia International College was founded in 1979 as a response to a need by international students wanting to graduate from a North American secondary school. Its west end campus is located at the former Ainslie Wood School which was previously operated by the Hamilton Board of Education.
Columbia International College is world renowned and has an extremely competitive admission process, a recent statistic generated by the school was for every 10 applicants, only 4 were granted admission. Fees for admission are $20 000 for tuition, $20 000 for room and board and an additional $10 000 for textbooks and deposits. Columbia International College does not offer assistance for families that can not afford the fees which are often above $50 000 for the ten month scholastic year.
It is the largest private boarding university-preparatory school in Canada, with 1,200 students from over 48 countries. Its facilities include a teaching campus and residences in the west end, satellite residential campuses downtown and on the West Mountain, and a 700 acre (2.8 km²) centre for outdoor education and leadership training at Bark Lake in the Haliburton Highlands, north of Toronto.
Columbia International College is a member of the Independent School Associations of Ontario and the Industry-Education Council of Hamilton. Some faculty hold post-graduate degrees and some are members of the Ontario College of Teachers. Its vision is to be the "first choice private school for students throughout the world".