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How to Write the Columbia University Essays 2016-17

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Check out the Columbia University Application Essays for 2019-2020


Columbia University, located in New York City, is a highly appealing school for students who want both a big-city experience as well as the opportunity to attend a prestigious Ivy League school.


It’s no secret that earning a spot at Columbia is notoriously competitive. It’s most recent admissions cycle for the class of 2020 had an acceptance rate of 6%. The average SAT score was 2250 on the old scale ( 1490 on the new SAT scale), and the average ACT score was 33. Although there is no reported average high school GPA, strong grades are also a very important factor in a Columbia application.


As a result, the struggle for any applicant will be differentiating oneself from the rest of the applicant pool — and the writing supplement is a great place to do that. Nonetheless, the Columbia experience can be immeasurably rewarding to those who are truly cut out for life in New York City as an Ivy League student.


The CollegeVine Essay Team has prepared a guide on how to write the Columbia University essays for this application cycle. Although there are a lot of questions, each of them is relatively short. This means that you should not take the extra space for granted but focus on being as concise as possible when answering each prompt. Read on!


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.


Brief Intro to Columbia University

Founded in 1754, Columbia remains one of the United States’ oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher learning. Columbia is known for its vibrant intellectual atmosphere and students who are passionate about a variety of social, political, and educational issues.


Columbia’s undergraduate liberal arts education is also well known for the Columbia Core, a set of common courses that all students must take. The Core provides every Columbia student with a journey through the Western intellectual tradition and serves to bind the university together as an intellectual community.


What aspect of the Columbia community, outside of the classroom…


What aspect of the Columbia community, outside of the classroom, would you most want to impact and why?


The first prompt, which asks you to describe what aspect of Columbia you want to impact and why, is a chance to show passion about a particular subject or achievement. Columbia students are well known for their individual passions and strong dispositions on certain subjects.


The best thing to do here is to pick something that you actually are the most proud of and connect that passion and interest to the aspect of Columbia that you would influence the most. For example, if you were a competitive debater in high school, consider mentioning what you would bring to Columbia’s debate team or how you would seek to influence the campus tone on intellectual disagreements.


List the titles of the…


List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or fewer)


List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or fewer)


List the titles of the print and electronic publications you read regularly. (150 words or fewer)


List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainment you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or fewer)


For the next few prompts that begin with “list the titles,” this is a chance to show personality and depth. Don’t stress too much about these sections — they are not going to deny you admission based on your music and film taste. They’re looking to see if you’re an intellectually curious person and to get a glimpse of who you are outside the classroom.


It’s important to note that although your specific choices in music, literature, and art are not that relevant, it is a good idea to show a breadth of tastes and interests. This is an opportunity to showcase personality. And at a liberal arts school such as Columbia, demonstrating a variety of interests shows that you’re a good fit for Columbia.


The only word of caution we have to add here is to avoid listing any books, movies, etc. that are clearly controversial or questionable. Nonetheless, whether you’re an aspiring engineering student who also loves to play the piano and is highly involved in politics, or a potential economics major whose favorite hobbies include opera and paper mache, this is a chance to showcase your external interests! The only thing to avoid in this prompt is listing any books, movies, etc. that are clearly controversial or questionable.


Why Columbia?


Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why. (300 words or fewer)


Perhaps the most important of these prompts is the one that asks what you value most about Columbia and why. Generally, most applicants will discuss New York, Columbia as an Ivy League School, and Columbia’s Core Curriculum. Given that the majority of essays will reference these, we at CV would encourage you to do some in-depth research on Columbia and really try to find something unique that speaks to you strongly about the school.


Or, if you want to write about either New York City, the Ivy League, or the Core Curriculum, try to adopt a creative or outside-the-box take on them. Unless you can make a response about any of these topics extremely unique, you’re probably better off looking for a more personalized or specific reason you’d like to attend Columbia.


Additional Essay Responses for Students Applying to Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science


If you are applying to Columbia College, tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time. (300 words or fewer)


If you are applying to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. (300 words or fewer)


The last two prompts ask you to connect something from your current or past experiences to why you want to attend Columbia College or the engineering school, SEAS. This is an opportunity to expand on a narrative of yourself that you have crafted already on your Common Application. The key here is to continue to be specific and personal and connect the unique opportunities at Columbia with your passions and goals. Again, the aim here is to prove that you have done your homework about the school and that you convey a strong sense that Columbia is the best place for you.


For example, if you were highly involved in creative writing in high school, it would be worth mentioning how much you would be able to grow in that subject at Columbia. Your best move is to mention specific professors in that subject, the work that they have produced, and the unique aspects of the major at Columbia that really speak to you to demonstrate that you care enough about attending Columbia to have looked carefully into their offerings beforehand. If your essays only reflect a surface-level look at Columbia, that can work against you, because admissions officers tend to admit applicants who have demonstrated serious interest.


The Columbia writing supplement is a great way to showcase both your individualism and unique experiences, as well as serious interest in the school. Given the highly competitive admissions pool, it is wise to optimize every part of the application to showcase yourself as an ideal applicant. Columbia offers a truly unique college experience of living in New York City while at the same time learning alongside the best and brightest in the nation. Students lucky enough to earn admission here will have a truly unique opportunity for personal growth and learning.


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