Columbia University, located in New York, is a member of the “Ivy League” and one of the world's elite institutions of higher education. Columbia is highly selective and receives far more applications than openings for its various undergraduate and graduate programs. While some programs are more competitive than others, applicants can increase their chances of being admitted by planning ahead, achieving high grades, and scoring well on entrance exams.
Method 1 of 3: Apply as an Undergraduate Student
Step 1. Choose the indicated program
Prospective undergraduate students at Columbia can apply to Columbia College or Columbia School of Engineering. If you are unsure of your area of interest or know that it does not involve engineering or computer science, you will need to apply to Columbia College.
Step 2. Talk to past graduates of Columbia University
Contact the program or school of your choice in Columbia to ask if they have a list of alumni with whom you can discuss the nature of their academic experience and how to prepare for the program.
Step 3. Visit the campus
Columbia offers informational talks and campus tours for prospective students. You must register in advance to ensure you have a time that matches your ability to be on campus. While on campus, take the opportunity to speak with current students about their experiences and what they did to prepare to enter Columbia.
If you can't make it to New York City, the school offers informational talks off campus. See if there is one near you
Step 4. Develop your academic strengths
Take whatever accelerated or advanced academic courses are available to you in high school and get them right. The Columbia Admissions Office looks for students who challenge themselves academically when possible. More than 90% of the class of 2018 graduated in the top 10% of their high school classes.
Step 5. Develop extracurricular interests
Columbia's admissions committee uses a "holistic" review process, which means they consider not only academic grades, but extracurricular activities as well. Columbia wants undergraduate students who can make an impact outside of the classroom and contribute to the cultural and social life of the school.
Columbia's "writing supplement" asks about books, newspapers, and magazines you've read, or about movies, concerts, exhibits, and other shows you've seen in the past year. Use it as an opportunity to expand your horizons and take advantage of as many of these extracurricular opportunities as you can
Step 6. Score high on required standardized tests
You can apply to Columbia by taking the SAT or Academic Aptitude Test and the two SAT tests per subject, or the ATC Writing Test. If you apply for the option "Early Decision", you can take the exams until November and for "Regular Decision" until January. You can take the exams multiple times, as Columbia will only review the highest score. Be sensible, Columbia will only see the test percentages once, so you can't trade anything.
- For the SAT, Columbia does not require a written section, only math and critical reading. 50% of the students admitted to the class of 2018 scored between 2160 and 2330 in all of those three sections.
- For SAT Subject Tests, Columbia recommends choosing subjects based on your strengths. If you apply to the School of Engineering, you must take a Mathematics exam and a Biology, Chemistry or Physics exam. Columbia recommends that you do not take the Foreign Language test if you are a native speaker.
- For the ACT, the written portion will no longer be required for Fall 2017 admissions. If you are applying for Fall 2016, you will still need to take it. If you have a particular subject that interests you, you can also take the SAT by subject in that area and take it with the ACT. 79% of the admitted class of 2018 that took the ACT scored between 32 and 36.
Step 7. Write a compelling personal presentation
Make sure you follow the instructions carefully and pay special attention to the length, subject, and format it requires. Ask other people, such as trusted relatives, friends, and teachers, to review the essay before submitting it to comment on its clarity and effectiveness.
Step 8. Provide good letters of recommendation
Columbia requests letters from the high school counselor and two academic discipline teachers. If you are applying to the School of Engineering, one must be from a science or math teacher. These letters should come from teachers who are very familiar with your work ethic, communication skills, personality, and capabilities. If they are willing, take the opportunity to speak with the people writing the letters about why you want to attend Columbia, which can help provide a more personalized letter that really highlights your strengths as an applicant.
Step 9. Complete the application as much as possible
Make sure you have all the materials ready when you submit the “common application”. Review Columbia's specific questions for the “writing supplement” and prepare your answers within the guidelines provided.
Step 10. Provide supplemental materials
There is a space in the “common request” to provide supplemental materials for work in science or art. If you have experience in these fields, include materials to help deepen your application. Be sure to carefully review the correct types of materials, including the type of document and format.
Method 2 of 3: Apply as a Transfer Student
Step 1. Choose the right program
Potential undergraduate students at Columbia can apply to both the Columbia School of Engineering and Columbia College. If you are unsure of your area of interest or if you know it will not involve engineering or computer science, you will need to apply to Columbia College.
Step 2. Do well in the first semester
Generally, the Columbia Admissions Office will not be able to see your second semester grades, so your first semester grades will weigh heavily on your application. You will need a minimum GPA or grade point average of 3.5 to be considered; Furthermore, the school strongly recommends a minimum of 3.5 in engineering and science courses for the School of Engineering.
Step 3. Take enough appropriate classes
To transfer to Columbia, you must have completed, or programmed, 24 credit points. Make sure you take, and have taken, transferable credits. Columbia does not accept transfer credits from departments such as Business, Communications and Education, as the school does not have them.
Colleges may count class credits differently. Review Columbia's requirements to make sure you're on the right track
Step 4. Develop extracurricular interests
Columbia's admissions committee uses a "holistic" review process, which means that it considers not only academic grades, but extracurricular activities as well. Columbia wants undergraduate students to be able to have an impact outside of the classroom and contribute to the social and cultural life of the school.
Columbia's "writing supplement" asks about books, newspapers, and magazines you've read, as well as movies, concerts, exhibits, and other shows you've seen in the past year. If you already attend college, there will undoubtedly be a variety of opportunities to attend interesting and useful events
Step 5. Make sure the materials are up to date
If you have already applied to Columbia, materials passed as test and essay results will not roll over. Before resubmitting materials, such as your personal essay, try to review and improve them by using your own personal growth and input from others at your current institution.
Step 6. Provide two good letters of recommendation
Columbia requests letters from university professors. Letters should come from teachers who are closely familiar with your work ethic, communication skills, character, and abilities. If they are willing, take the opportunity to talk to the people writing the letters about why you want to attend Columbia, which can help provide a more personalized letter that places greater emphasis on your strengths as an applicant.
Step 7. Complete the application as much as possible
Make sure you have all the materials ready when you submit the “common application”. Review the specific Columbia questions for the "writing supplement" and prepare your questions within the guidelines provided.
Step 8. Provide supplemental materials
There is no space on the “common request” to provide supplemental materials for work in science or art. If you have experience in these fields, include materials to help deepen your application. Make sure to carefully review the correct types of materials, including file type and format.
Method 3 of 3: Apply as a Graduate Student
Step 1. Decide which school you should apply to
Columbia has 17 graduate schools, offering master's, doctorate, and other higher degrees in a wide variety of fields. Each school has different application requirements and processes, so you will need to review them carefully.
Step 2. Contact potential advisors
You will have to work with teachers who are experts in your chosen field and who will likely remain during your time in the program. If possible, visit the campus and schedule a face-to-face meeting with your potential professors. Some schools will offer information sessions or help organize these meetings.
Step 3. Get good grades
Columbia's graduate programs are some of the best in the country and must see strong college performance to be admitted. Pay close attention to see if the programs you chose have required courses, and be sure to focus your academic energies on getting high marks in those classes. Each program is likely to provide a range of accepted GPAs or grade point averages each year. If this information is not easily accessed through the school's website, please contact the program directly to see what information they can provide.
Step 4. Get high marks on the indicated standardized tests
Each graduate program has its own test requirements and acceptable ranges for admission. Contact the program directly if such information is not immediately available. Make sure you take all the required exams and arrange the proper delivery of grades.
Step 5. Write a compelling personal presentation
Make sure you can clearly articulate why you want to study at Columbia and how the program will help you achieve your career goals. Ask other people, especially trusted teachers, to review your essay before submitting it to comment on its clarity and effectiveness.
If you are pursuing a college degree, your current school can provide additional help through the Office of Professional Services
Step 6. Get solid recommendations
You will need letters from university professors who are closely familiar with your work ethic, communication skills, character, and capabilities. Teachers who have ties to Columbia, whether they have attended school or know Columbia teachers personally, can also give you good information, if they don't give you good letters. If they are willing, take the opportunity to speak with the people writing the letters about why you want to attend Columbia, which can help provide a more personalized letter that really highlights your strengths as an applicant.
Step 7. Complete the application as much as possible
Make sure you have all the necessary materials ready when you apply and offer as much supplemental materials as the program suggests.
- Feel free to contact the school for information on programs, student life, or other questions you may have about applying. Columbia wants the best students where possible will help you in any way so that you can properly submit your application.
- As an elite institution, Columbia has a very low acceptance rate, even a strong application could not earn an admission. However, don't be discouraged, as many of the materials that make you a strong applicant for Columbia make you a strong applicant at many more great schools.