Columbia University Admissions

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About Columbia University

Columbia University, a private Ivy League research university, was founded in 1754. Located in New York City, it has a total undergraduate enrollment of roughly 6,000 (4,500 in Columbia College and 1,500 in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science). In the 2021 edition of US News & World Report Best Colleges, Columbia ranked #3, behind Princeton and Harvard. 

Within Columbia University, applicants may apply to one of the two full-time undergraduate divisions: Columbia College or Columbia Engineering.

Columbia College: This liberal arts curriculum is distinguished by its intensive Core Curriculum (established in 1919), a series of small, discussion-based seminars that explore foundational texts and documents. As part of the “Literature Humanities” (Lit Hum) requirement, for instance, students can take “Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy.” The required reading list for this course includes Homer, The Iliad; Aeschylus, Oresteia; and Dante, The Inferno

In addition to majors and/or concentrations in over 80 areas of study, students within Columbia College may also pursue pre-professional advising for future careers in law, medicine and other health professions or pursue an accelerated graduate program. Undergraduates may also apply for the 3-2 combined plan, which allows students to receive a B.A. degree in a liberal arts field as well as a B.S. in an engineering discipline. Columbia’s location in New York City offers limitless possibilities for internships and research and has also led to productive relationships with universities and institutes nearby. Students in the Columbia-Juilliard Program, for example, have the opportunity for weekly instruction with Juilliard faculty. 

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Columbia Engineering: In Columbia’s engineering program, students can choose from 16 majors in a wide range of sub-fields, in addition to optional minors in both engineering-related subjects and the liberal arts. While students still complete Columbia’s core curriculum, they also gain professional training and take advantage of hands-on design projects, research and internships before graduation. 

Applying to Columbia University 

Applicants to Columbia can apply Early Decision (applications due November 1) or Regular Decision (applications due January 1) using either the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Students applying under the ED plan may apply to other institutions, but may have only one Early Decision application pending at any time.

Application Requirements and Supplementary Materials: In addition to the Columbia-Specific Application Questions, applicants must submit an official high school transcript, a high school counselor’s recommendation, a school profile, the completed Mid-Year Report, Teacher Recommendations (engineering applicants must submit one recommendation from a math or science teacher), and standardized tests.

If you have completed research with a faculty member or mentor in an academic discipline (STEM, humanities, social sciences or languages), you may provide a one- or two-page abstract as a supplement to your application. This is a great opportunity for students who have pursued high-level research or published an academic article during high school, in any field. Some students may also choose to submit an Artistic Portfolio if they have major achievements at the state, national or international level in a particular art form. This can be submitted through Columbia’s SlideRoom portal. Note: This portfolio is only meant for significant artistic accomplishments and should be used with discretion. A thicker application file is not necessarily a stronger application file. 

Testing: Like many schools, Columbia has revised their standardized testing policy for the 2020-2021 application cycle by adopting a test-optional policy for first-year applicants. For those who wish to submit SAT or ACT scores, however, tests may be taken as late as November for Early Decision and February for Regular Decision. Scores can be self-reported and Columbia does not require the optional writing section. Although not required, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and SAT Subject Tests will only strengthen your application (this year, more than ever). 

Interviews: Applicants may be contacted by a Columbia alumni or current student for a virtual interview, but only after all application materials have been submitted. If you are contacted for an interview, we suggest outlining your top two academic areas of interest and your top two extracurricular areas of interest ahead of time. You won’t have time to touch on everything you’ve ever done in a thirty-minute interview, but you should be able to give examples of your principal interests and strengths. Spend time researching the school’s academic departments and course offerings and prepare a list of questions about the school that have not been answered in the college literature.  Something specific to your interests is great: “I notice you have a Center for Sustainable Investment.  Is there an opportunity for undergraduates to take part in this research?”

Before applying to Columbia, we encourage you to take advantage to the virtual tour offerings via YouVisit or watching “A Walk Through Campus.” 

Admissions Wrap Up for Columbia University:

For the Class of 2024, Columbia accepted 2,465 from 40,084 applications. The acceptance rate of 6.15 percent was slightly higher than the previous 5.14 percent when Columbia admitted 2,190 from 42,569 applications to the Class of 2023.  For this admission cycle, we estimate that Columbia received 4,461 early decision applications and accepted 650 students for an admission rate just below 15 percent. 

Here are some Common Application main essay first few lines from accepted Columbia applications:

“You are long. Be longer,” advised Suki Schorer, “Hold the air with your fingertips.” Feigning a smile, I saut de chated across the floor.

“Chickens are pets with benefits. They fertilize gardens, manage pests, and lay fresh eggs.” The county commissioner responded with an amused smile, but I was unsure if I had her vote after my description.