What is Columbia’s Acceptance Rate & Admissions Requirements?

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If you’re looking for an Ivy League college in a prime location, Columbia might just be your first-choice school. Offering exceptional academics in the heart of New York City, Columbia is an ideal fusion of school and city life.


Gaining admission to Columbia is no easy feat, so we at CollegeVine want to support talented students in getting a leg up on the competition. Ready to find out what it takes to get into Columbia? Read on for insider tips and info.


Want to learn what Columbia University will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Columbia University needs to know.


Applying to Columbia: A Quick Review


If you’re planning to apply to Columbia, there are some important dates and deadlines to keep in mind. Early Decision applicants should submit all the requisite materials by November 1. For Regular Decision, the deadline is January 1.


Be sure to submit all of the following components by the date required:


  • Completed Common Application or Coalition Application
  • Columbia supplemental essays
  • High school transcripts and mid-year report
  • Guidance counselor recommendation
  • Self-reported SAT or ACT scores (essay not required)
  • Teacher recommendations (Engineering students must submit one recommendation from a math or science instructor.)
  • $85 application fee or fee waiver


Note that Columbia doesn’t require students to take any SAT Subject Tests. However, should an applicant choose to submit their scores, the university will review them.


Columbia’s Acceptance Rate is 5.5%


Boasting more than 100 academic programs and a top-notch faculty, Columbia is a highly desirable institution with a low admissions rate. Of the 40,203 applicants, the school accepted 2,214 students for an average acceptance rate of 5.5%. However, that doesn’t mean aspiring Columbia attendees should give up on their dreams.


According to the Columbia Admissions website, the school employs a holistic admissions process. In other words, the school considers every aspect, both qualitative and quantitative, of a candidate’s application. The goal is to determine how a prospective student would fit with the school community.

What grades and scores do I need to get into Columbia?


It’s no surprise that most of the students accepted to Columbia are high achievers. According to the university website, here are the middle 50 percent test score ranges for accepted students:


SAT: 1460-1550

ACT: 33-35


While Columbia has no explicit minimum GPA requirement, more than 90% of admitted students were in the top 10% of their high school class.


So, How Can I Get into Columbia?


To gain acceptance to Columbia, students must excel in various areas. Some of the areas that the admissions committee considers include:


  • Intellectual diversity: Columbia is similar to Brown and UPenn in that it heavily values academics, but with more of an explicit focus on intellectual diversity. This means that even if a student has advanced STEM courses on their transcript, they should also have strong humanities courses (i.e. multiple APs) and vice versa.
  • Essay: Also like those at Brown, admissions officers at Columbia weigh your essays heavily, both your Common App and your supplements. They use these to get a sense of your character and how you might fit within the Columbia community.
  • Context: Columbia takes a student’s personal factors into account, assessing the quality of the secondary school, family circumstances, and resources.


How to Make Your Application Stand Out


There’s no one secret guaranteed to get you accepted to Columbia or any university. However, you can take steps to ensure your college application stands out from the pack. The Empowerly blog posted an interview with a Columbia admissions officer that included tips on gaining admission. Here are a couple recommendations courtesy of someone on the inside:


Challenge Yourself Inside and Outside the Classroom: Columbia’s admissions committee prizes students who seek out challenges, both academic and extracurricular. Along with taking challenging courses in high school, students can demonstrate an interest in learning and commitment to taking advantage of Columbia’s resources. Finally, admissions staff recommends that aspiring students show that they plan to give back to their communities and the world at large.


Find Your Passion: Academic excellence is only one part of the package. According to Columbia admissions experts, it’s important to find extracurricular activities that thrill and challenge you. If you’ve excelled in an artistic field, like writing, architecture, or dance, consider submitting the optional arts supplement showing your achievements in this area. The goal is to show Columbia that you are talented, socially adept, and skilled at managing your time outside school.


What If You Get Rejected?


Columbia University is highly competitive, and even exceptional students sometimes receive that dreaded rejection letter. It’s important to remember that there are many fine schools throughout the US, and that a rejection one place might mean an opportunity to find community elsewhere.


If you settle into another school and find that you still want to attend Columbia, you might consider transferring. Just know that transfer admissions are still extremely competitive, with under a 10% acceptance rate. You also generally need above a 3.5 college GPA.


Remember that college overall what you make of it, and that many students end up thriving at schools that weren’t their first choice. Maximize the opportunities that you are given, and you can ultimately find success.


Wondering what university will help make your dreams come true? There are various factors to consider, including academic programs and ranking, geographic region, extracurricular opportunities, and more. If you’re struggling to choose the right school for your needs, consider CollegeVine’s College Application Guidance program for help on your journey.


Want more information on Columbia? Check out these posts for additional info:



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April Maguire
Blogger at CollegeVine
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A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.