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A Day in the Life of a Columbia University Student
The college process is filled with numbers, statistics, worries, and stressors. Students often spend a lot of time researching a school’s admissions rates or financial aid policies, and while this information is certainly important, we often forget to worry about the quality of one’s life at a given school. Whereas it might be easy to find out what percentage of applicants are accepted to a certain school, it can be harder to navigate the nuanced question of what an average day on a given campus might look like.
Columbia University is a prestigious school located in New York City. While you might have heard numerous facts, admissions stats, and rumors about this school, there is a lot more to it than just its selectivity and prestige. Read on to learn about the daily life of an average student at Columbia!
Columbia University Morning: Academics
Mornings at Columbia University are filled with the hustle and bustle of students rushing to their morning classes. Some of them head off to classes within the core curriculum. The core is a group of required courses that all Columbia College students take in order to graduate. These classes cover a wide range of subjects, as the program is designed to give all Columbia students an education in a wide range of subjects.
Courses like Literature Humanities and Frontiers of Science are designed to expose students to new material, like ancient literature and scientific experimental design, who otherwise might not be exposed to it. Columbia students also get the chance to study Art Humanities, Music Humanities, University Writing (essentially an English composition course) and a host of other required courses.
Aside from the core curriculum, there are over 80 different areas of study offered at Columbia. Students have the opportunity to major or concentrate in different areas of study (at Columbia, a concentration is similar to a minor).
Students might get the chance to study with some of Columbia’s world-class faculty members as well! Some of Columbia’s most coveted classes taught by celebrity staff members include Carl Hart (who teaches a course on Drugs and Behavior), Brian Greene (who teaches Physics and Mathematics), Mitchell S. Jackson (who teaches a fiction seminar), or Sunil Gulati (the president of the United States Soccer Federation, who teaches economics).
Mid-Morning: Extracurriculars & Work-Study
After they’ve attended their classes for the day, the average Columbia student will probably do something involving extracurriculars or on-campus groups. There are over 500 different clubs offered at Columbia, including dance groups, political groups, cultural groups, religious groups, groups that do different types of activist work, a cappella groups, and academic groups.
The possibilities are endless; in fact, new groups spring up at Columbia all the time, and students also have the opportunity to start their own on-campus clubs. For more information about specific clubs or groups, you can take a look at the Columbia student life page.
Student groups at Columbia also offer unique opportunities for leadership. Students who end up joining a group that they’re really passionate about have the opportunity to take on leadership roles to help manage the other students and keep the club running. Some groups might hold elections for leadership or executive board positions, whereas others might have an application process — some groups will even fill their executive board member position on a volunteer basis.
Some students, after having attended their classes for the day, will go to work or a work-study job offered on campus. Whether or not you qualify for work-study will depend on what kind financial aid package you received from Columbia. In general, Columbia students with work-study jobs might work in the residence halls, the libraries, or one of the various offices around campus. For more detailed information about Columbia’s work-study program you can check out this webpage.
Afternoon: Events on Campus
After they’ve taken care of their academic and extracurricular responsibilities, Columbia students will often attend one of the various events around campus. Sometimes Columbia will bring well-known speakers to campus (such as Bill Gates or even DJ Khaled). There are also events tailored to different fields of interest, such as a recent poetry reading with the accomplished poet Maggie Nelson.
For students who are interested in on-campus activism, there are frequent protests and activist events on campus at Columbia University. Student also have the opportunity to attend on-campus dance events (such as Glass House Rocks or Night Market) and traditional campus events like Bacchanal (a spring festival/concert), Orgo Night, or homecoming.
Evening: Events in NYC
After a long day of classes, extracurriculars, and events, some Columbia students might choose to venture into the vast expanse of New York City! Since Columbia’s campus is conveniently located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it is easy to access events and take in the culture of the city. Columbia’s small neighborhood of Morningside Heights is adjacent to Harlem and only a 20-minute subway ride from downtown Manhattan. In one of the largest and most vibrant cities in the world, there is truly no limit to what a Columbia student might be able to do!
Some students choose to take advantage of Columbia’s location in New York by interning or working at various offices in the city. In fact, there is a website for students that helps them search for and apply to jobs and internships within the city (check out LionSHARE here). Students might end up working in fashion, technology, finance, or even at one of many startups in the city. On campus, there are many exciting options for students looking to pursue research assistantships and other on-campus positions as well.
In New York, there are also plenty of concerts, parties, music festivals, conventions, parks, restaurants, shops — you name it! The city presents Columbia students with countless different options for entertainment, and it also allows students the opportunity to build friendships and connections with students who attend other schools in the city, including New York University, Pratt, Cooper Union, Fordham, and the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Night: Campus Amenities
When it finally comes time to rest, Columbia students return to beautiful Morningside Heights, Manhattan. This neighborhood offers plenty of advantages for students, including its ranking as one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. For more information about Columbia’s campus safety, you can check out the public safety site.
In Morningside Heights, there are plenty of great options for dining as well as bookstores, shops, and cafés. You might find students hanging out at Hungarian Pastry Shop on 111th & Amsterdam, a historic cafe reminiscent of the spirit of the “Beat Generation” poets and writers who attended Columbia in the 1940s, or you might find yourself eating a meal at Tom’s Diner on 112th & Broadway (this restaurant is famously featured on the TV show Seinfeld).
Before students turn in for the night, they might also stop by JJ’s, the late-night dining hall at Columbia, for a snack. Columbia is well-known for being ranked 2nd for Best College for Food in America, and for good reason! In addition to having plenty of healthy and local ingredients, Columbia dining offers its students lots of vegan, vegetarian, halal, kosher, and gluten-free options. You can take a more detailed look at Columbia’s dining program here.
Students will then head home to their residence hall of choice. There are 18 undergraduate residence halls, as well as brownstones and special interest communities. At Columbia, the majority of the student body chooses to live on campus all four years, and housing is guaranteed for all four years as well.
Life at Columbia University is filled with lots of different opportunities regardless of what your interest are. Whether you are learning about Homer and Plato in a Core Curriculum class, learning from top-notch professors, participating in campus events or exploring the city, there’s rarely a dull moment.
For more insight into the Columbia application process and other ivies, check out these blog posts:
As a student considering Columbia University, you know how intense and competitive the college admissions process can be. At CollegeVine, we’re here to offer a helping hand as you navigate this process. Our College Application Guidance service matches you with an experienced consultant who can answer all your admissions questions and help you craft a great application!
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