Admissions Guide to Columbia University
How does Columbia University stack up against other prestigious universities in the US? What are the admission requirements and how do you go about applying? These are common questions asked by students who are considering applying to the school, so read on to find out more about Columbia University’s admissions requirements and how to get your application going.
The name Columbia University has been synonymous with academic excellence since the Ivy League institution was founded in 1754 by King George II of England, whose son went on to become one of the university’s first students. Located in New York City, Columbia is recognized as one of the world’s leading research universities and consistently ranks among the top schools in America and around the globe. Its reputation stems not only from academic excellence but also from dedication to community service and international outreach as well as diversity, making it an ideal fit for any student who values these qualities in their college experience.
Columbia University in New York City provides an elite Ivy League education to approximately 7,000 undergraduate and 5,000 graduate students each year. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia has developed into one of the leading educational institutions in the United States and around the world. In addition to its location in the heart of New York City, Columbia also has several campuses around the world that provide instruction to students from all over the globe. Prospective students looking to gain admission into Columbia University may find this guide useful when exploring their options at this institution.
What is a good GPA in Columbia University?
The school’s admissions office provides little information about what grades and test scores students should have in order to get into Columbia. They do, however, provide a great deal of information regarding how they evaluate candidates.
There are seven points that comprise an evaluation:
1. Performance on standardized tests.
2. Class rank.
3. Personal statement (which is similar to a Common App essay).
4. Level of extracurricular involvement.
5. Teacher recommendations.
6. GPA is considered a bonus point.
7. Rigor of high school coursework (they value AP classes).
While these items don’t tell you exactly what you need in order to be admitted into Columbia, they do paint an overall picture of who they look for—and more importantly, who they don’t look for. It’s safe to say that if your GPA is below 3.5 or so, it might not be worth applying; if your SAT/TOEFL score is below 1300 or so, it might not be worth applying; if you haven’t taken any AP courses or aren’t involved in any activities outside of school, it might not be worth applying.
But then again, those are just guidelines; Columbia looks at each applicant individually and evaluates them based on their own merits rather than using some sort of formulaic process. As long as you can prove yourself as a strong candidate with good grades and impressive extracurricular involvement, chances are good that Columbia will take notice.
How does your GPA compare with other applicants?
It’s worth noting that GPAs are not normally distributed at Columbia. For instance, if you have a GPA of 3.8, or 97%, on a 4.0 scale, you should know that 95% of applicants with whom you’re competing for admission also fall in that range. In other words, your academic accomplishments are impressive relative to everyone else who applies to Columbia but not necessarily in an absolute sense (compared with other students at different schools).
This is important because it means you needn’t be quite as strong in terms of academic achievement as it might seem from looking only at Columbia’s average GPA and SAT scores. However, if your GPA is below a 3.5 or so, there’s probably no point in applying unless you have some truly outstanding extracurricular activities to compensate for what would otherwise be a relatively weak application.
The SAT vs. ACT – Which Test Do You Take?
Columbia accepts both SAT and ACT scores. Admissions officers will review your application using a number of factors, including your GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, personal statement, and more. For general guidance on choosing between an SAT or ACT score and whether you should take them at all, check out our guide: The Best Time to Take Your SAT or ACT Test. If you’re applying to Columbia, you’ll need to submit your scores as part of your application. You can either send them in with a paper copy of your application or upload them online through the Common Application website.
Essay Prompts and Tips
If you’re applying to Columbia University, admissions officers want to get a sense of what kind of person you are. To do that, they might ask you questions like:
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? How would you describe yourself in one word? When were you most satisfied with your life and why? When were you least satisfied with your life and why? How would others describe you? Based on what they read, admissions officers try to assess whether applicants will be a good fit for Columbia.
The key here is honesty – choose answers that speak most directly about how others see or experience who you are (not necessarily who you think of yourself as). It helps if those opinions come from people who know (and care) about your performance over time.
Common Application or Coalition Application?
The Common Application is used by hundreds of schools, including Columbia University. If you are applying to multiple schools that accept either application, then you may want to consider using either one interchangeably.
However, if you are applying exclusively to Columbia or a small handful of schools, it may be worth your time and effort to learn each school’s separate application process. Some universities make use of their own unique formula for weighing various components in an applicant’s profile (such as GPA and standardized test scores).
Therefore, it is essential that applicants familiarize themselves with each school’s unique policy before beginning the admissions process.
One tip: Always pay attention to specific submission dates; many colleges have early application deadlines.
Columbia require prospective students to submit either one of two applications. The Common Application is a single form that can be used for almost 400 schools, but Barnard requires its own application. Either way, you’ll need to complete an essay, pay a fee (the current rate is $80 for first-year applicants), and list your school grades, standardized test scores, extra-curricular activities, honors and awards.
Letters of Recommendation – Who Should Write Them?
Letters of recommendation are one of those essential parts of a college application that nobody particularly likes but everybody seems to need.
Who writes them? When should you ask for them? And how do you know if they’re good or bad? The following advice will help steer you through these frequently-dreaded but absolutely necessary application materials. Make sure your recommenders actually remember who you are: The most common mistake when requesting recommendations is simply neglecting to follow up at all once they’ve agreed. If a teacher, employer, or counselor agrees to write a letter on your behalf and sends it in with an envelope provided by your college, make sure you reach out and thank them again once it’s submitted.
Requesting Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are a crucial part of your application for admissions. If you already have a professional relationship with someone, then it will be easier for that person to provide you with a great letter; if not, then try setting up an informational interview ahead of time.
This way you can get to know your recommender and impress them enough that they’ll want to write your letter. Or if you really want someone impressive but don’t have an existing relationship, contact them by email and tell them why they should recommend you.
Give them a good reason, like sharing their expertise or providing knowledge they would find interesting; they’re more likely to say yes if they feel like they won’t get bored writing it!
Also check out:
Planning an Early Decision Application?
Columbia’s Early Decision Program is a binding application that locks an applicant into attending Columbia if admitted. The benefits of applying early decision are appealing: you’ll know about your admission status in December, and you won’t have to worry about whether or not other colleges will accept your application. But keep in mind that applying early decision means submitting one school—Columbia—to be your only option; if Columbia doesn’t accept you, it’s back to square one.
If you think Columbia might be your top choice but aren’t sure, consider applying regular decision instead. You can apply to as many schools as you want with a single application for $80 (and without being bound by any decisions). Regular applications are due January 1st.
So what do you do if Columbia accepts you under its early decision program? Then you must decide whether or not to attend. Acceptance under early decision is non-binding, so students who are accepted through ED may still choose to attend another college. However, those who choose to go elsewhere will forfeit their place at Columbia unless they were accepted under Columbia’s regular decision program.
Additional Materials – Do You Need Them?
This question gets asked a lot. The answer is, it depends. If you want to study at an American university but don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree, then yes, you probably need additional materials beyond your transcript and recommendation letters.
If you have your bachelor’s and you plan on applying for a graduate program in business administration, entrepreneurship or engineering that isn’t research-oriented (i.e., one that doesn’t require prior academic coursework in specific fields), then no—you can just send your transcript and recommendations. That said, if these are competitive programs, there may be additional requirements.