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 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.