What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How Important Are Columbia’s Supplemental Essays?

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.


What’s Covered:



Columbia University takes its writing prompts very seriously. The school’s curriculum is built on the common core, which is an academic set of courses that are required for all students and cover topics of philosophy and interdisciplinary studies and teaches skills of writing and critical thinking. Columbia wants to see that you’re ready for a level of rigor in your writing. This is why they put a lot of value into their essays. 


How Important Are Your Essays?


Essays usually count between 25% and 35% of the admission decision, and they will be read over multiple times by multiple individuals. This means you need to be able to create a strong enough essay to impress multiple individuals on the committee in order to gain admittance into Columbia. 


Why Do Essays Matter?


One of the reasons why Columbia values supplemental essays is because the school receives so many applicants who have really good grades, test scores, and extracurricular resumes. The essay provides an opportunity to really set yourself apart from other applicants. 


Data and conversations with the admissions committee has revealed that in some cycles four or five students will look pretty similar on paper. The essays then help the committee differentiate between applications.


In other words, the essay is a tool for you to convince Columbia’s admissions officers to actively choose you over other applicants. This is why it’s so important to show off your personal qualities.


If you look similar on paper to another applicant, the admissions committee will pick whoever they think is a better fit for Columbia and whoever can contribute more to the student community.  


Tips for Writing Compelling Supplemental Essays


Writing a compelling admissions essay is actually very tricky to do and not the time for simplistic answers. You need to communicate something very complex: that you can think and write like a Columbia student.


1. Consider the Human Factor


One factor to remember is that the personal circumstances of the admissions officers are going to affect how they read your essays. Some may relate better or worse to the experiences you’re sharing.


An admissions officer’s political beliefs, politics, religion and even their alignment with Columbia’s mission and culture will affect how they read your essays.  


2. Think Carefully About Your Topic


Unfortunately, factors outside of your control will also affect how your essay is read. For example, the admissions officer’s state of mind and emotions at the moment they read your essay can affect how they relate to your essay. This is not to scare you! But keep in mind, not to cover polarizing topics in your essay. 


Because all of these factors come into play, there is obviously an element of luck when applying to Columbia. This is why it’s so important to write compelling essays to minimize the impact of the “luck” factor. 


3. Try to Be Unique


Another thing to think about is how many essays an admissions officer is reviewing. Your goal should be to pull an admissions officer out of the repetition that they’re going through. You want your story to be remembered from the stack of essays.