My daughter and I took a tour of Columbia College in April. It’s a beautiful campus that is much larger than it looks.
The most important college application takeaway that I got was their advice on Extracurricular Activities. Columbia’s admission person said to include anything that you do after school. This includes taking care of a relative for whatever reason (I’d include alcoholism, drug addiction, illness for example!), picking up and taking care of younger siblings, and part-time jobs.
The other things that I learned about Columbia are:
— Their Core Curriculum takes 1/3 of undergraduate classes and it’s fairly fixed, particularly the choice of books since the curriculum was created in 1918. It’s also Western civilization based.
— Columbia seems to be actively seeking applicants with family household income below $60k (free tuition).
I’d like to elaborate on this because I saw this article in the New York Times: Colleges Recruit at Richer, Whiter Schools. I think colleges with smaller endowments are more likely to favor the rich. On our school visit, I noticed a parade of inner-city children of color who looked like they were in middle school on a visit to Columbia. It was clearly school field trip with support from Columbia.
While smaller colleges with less resources talk diversity but need students who can pay full tuition, highly competitive colleges have the money to fund need-blind.
— Applying Early Decision doesn’t really help your acceptance rate. Columbia does not have a set goal for ED. In other schools such as NYU, the admissions officer was clear in the vast difference of applying ED versus regular decision. It’s not the case at Columbia where they don’t have to worry about acceptance rates.
— It’s a college with a community feel due to defined campus architecture but with access to NYC. This is also great access to internships, whether summer or during school.
— Math/Science/Engineering majors apply to a different school within Columbia and are not required to take the entire Core Curriculum.
— It feels pretty safe. This part of Harlem is really gentrified.
One big draw for Columbia is its proximity to the best bagels in NYC, Absolute Bagels!
My son, who did not tour Columbia, wants to try the incredible fried chicken restaurants in the neighborhood including Sylvia‘s and Red Rooster. His dream would be to eat at Red Rooster on a daily basis until he’s best friends with chef and owner Marcus Samuelsson. He’s only 13 years old so he might change his mind.
Overall, Columbia has a campus with a centralized square, making it feel like a separate world from the urban setting it is in. The general atmosphere is also less frenetic compared to NYU which is in a busy part of New York City.
The Core Curriculum is nearly 100 years old and I’m not sure how excited I would be to study the list of books. I was a History and Science major and I did not find classic philosophy to be that interesting.
Also, the Core Curriculum is very European/White-centric and feels outdated given the global world we live in. While Columbia offers classes to fill this gap, it just feels like the Core is a slave to tradition, propping up a Euro-Centric worldview that tries to justify colonization. Still, it’s a small price to pay if you want to live in NYC but not in the hustle and bustle of the city proper.
p.s. Related posts (all my posts on applying to college are here):
Making the Most of Your Child’s College Visits
Visiting Boston College during COVID Quarantine
Visiting University of Maryland (College Park)
Top 5 Tips to Choose a College & Visiting Trinity College
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7 thoughts on “Visiting Columbia University and Tips for Applying to College”
I love this! Thanks, Mia. We just went on our first college tours over the summer, to MIT and BU. Since I work for a university (albeit a graduate school), it was interesting to see their takes on admissions. I fully agree that the more heavily endowed schools can be more accessible to those in lower incomes. That was the only way I could have gone to Mount Holyoke. I think a lot of people see the “price tag” and opt themselves out, which is not always the best path! It would have been more expensive for me to go to UMass than Mount Holyoke based on the financial aid I was given.
And a 100-year old core curriculum? No, thanks! Sounds stodgy and downright lazy to have such a large core that does not change with the times. But different strokes, I guess!
Hey! You were in my neck of the woods! We might head down to yours if Tulane gets added to the list. What I am learning about college admissions is that if you are seeking financial aid, then applying Early Decision (which is binding) might not be the best option as the applicant can generally get the most money by applying “down” a level of college that they are qualified for. They can sometimes get merit scholarship money as well as financial aid this way. Also, it seems to help to call after the final acceptances and financial aid packages come out if one school is your first choice but another school gave you more money. You can sometimes get a small adjustment.
I’m not a fan of a 100-year-old core curriculum that is Euro-centric either. It would be like studying 100-year-old science concepts at university that refused to update. Leeches anyone?
Let me know if you make it down here – would love to take you out for coffee!
I would love that Dee! I definitely will. I’m not sure how my daughter feels about the south yet. She’s in Virginia right now so this is her first taste of schools below the Mason Dixon line. I just learned that Texas doesn’t count as the south, LOL! (From a Texan in the audience of a school visit).
By the way Dee,
Did Dillon like the Stuart Gibbs FunJungle series? Does he need more books? I’m cleaning out my bookshelves and I’ll pick some out for him if he needs more. Just let me know and send me your mailing address again: firstname.lastname@example.org. It makes me so happy that he enjoys reading these days!
The campus looks incredible! My best friend from high school went to Columbia, and i just met up with her earlier this month!
I had never been to Columbia before and I was nervous that the neighborhood would be dangerous but it’s actually such a nice area! I had no idea!