How to Respond to Columbia’s First List Prompt
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Joseph Recupero in a CollegeVine Livestream. You can watch the full Livestream for more info.
- Stick to Written Content
- Show Your Personality Through Your Choice
- Subvert Expectations
- Be Aware of Changing Norms
This post will give you tips on how to answer Columbia University’s first list prompt:
List the titles of the books, essays, poetry, short stories or plays you read outside of academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)
This question is very specific as it gives you the parameters for the types of media you should be listing. You should not list podcasts or other virtual media forms in an effort to be creative. This prompt is meant to be straightforward.
Additionally, the prompt asks explicitly for written content that you have read outside of academic courses, so make sure you don’t forget about this aspect in your response.
Ideally, you want to mix one to two non-fiction or other academic books or essays with one to two fun books to demonstrate you enjoy reading and learning outside of school. This is to add a human side to your application and let some of your personality shine through.
This can be a good place to showcase that you have delved further into an academic passion beyond your high school curriculum. You could also use this prompt as an opportunity to highlight a personal interest or hobby that is completely separate from your academic profile.
Remember to think carefully about which books you chose, don’t list them randomly, but make sure there is intention behind each choice.
This is the place to subvert expectations. If there is a book that is predominantly considered to be read by men that you cite as a woman it may catch the admissions officer’s eye! Or if you’re more of a STEM person, but you’re suddenly citing the works of Emily Dickinson because you’re really inspired by poetry, it also makes a statement.
While this is a good opportunity to show the admissions officers at Columbia that you are an applicant with well-rounded interests, if you have not read much written content that would subvert their expectations that is fine as well.
You also want to be aware of changing norms and social progressivism at Columbia. For example, Harry Potter or Ben Shapiro could carry a risk. Harry Potter has carried the debate of the author versus the content, so you want to keep in mind that controversial items may not be the best option.
One more thing to remember is that this list is just a small factor in the supplemental essay section of the application. In general, this list won’t do much to get you in, but it can sometimes be held against you. As a result, you want to make sure that you are being very thoughtful about each and every entry that you include on this list.