Accepted to Columbia: Now What?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

front building of Columbia University with female statue at the very center

Accepted to Columbia: Now What?

Though the “Big Three” of the Ivy League is made up of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, one school that is giving all three a run for their money in terms of prestige and selectiveness is Columbia University. Located in the heart of Manhattan, New York, Columbia has boasted one of the lowest acceptance rates in the entire United States. A tiny percentage of students who have applied to this school have actually been accepted to Columbia.

For that reason, if you have been accepted to Columbia, or simply want to know more about how Columbia admissions work before you officially apply, then gathering as much information as possible is certainly going to help you!

While there is no tried and true way for any student to guarantee that they will get into one of the top schools in the country, no matter how accomplished they are, how great their grade point average in high school was, or how high they managed to score on either the SAT or ACT, there are definite ways that students can improve their chances of getting in!

One of the best ways for students to improve their chances of getting into their top schools is by learning about the specifics of that schools admissions process and what that school looks for in students – both in terms of what kinds of students they are and what kind of individuals they are outside of the classroom, and then by molding their own application around that knowledge. This could be seen as overly strategic, but in the end enjoying a successful application experience can all come down to strategy.

Just like you will one day have to learn how to mold your professional CV and interview style to the kinds of jobs that you want, you also need to learn how to make it clear that you belong at the schools that you are most interested in going to.


front building of american university

That means proving that you can deal with the academic demands while also contributing positively to the culture, history and legacy of the school. That is especially true if your dream schools are part of the Ivy League, as no schools take their history and legacy more seriously than these eight prestigious institutions!

That is where AdmissionSight can come in to help! As admissions consultants, we make it our primary goal each school year to help the students that we are working with put themselves in the best position possible to get into the schools of their dreams. For some students, this means working with us for years to help establish the best high school curriculum, identify what extracurriculars to invest most time and energy in and more.

For other students, it simply means working with us throughout the application process to make sure that the application itself, personal essays, letters of recommendation and more reflect as positively as possible on the student!

Our dedication to this job is one of the many reasons why 75 percent of the students that we have worked with have ended up getting into either an Ivy League institution or a top-10 school out of the Ivy League such as UChicago or MIT.

So, if you are wondering about how Columbia admissions work or what to do after getting accepted to Columbia, well then you have absolutely come to the right place! Let’s get into breaking down some of the most important things to know about applying to and getting into Columbia so that you can be prepared for the exciting and demanding journey.

How Columbia admissions work

When it comes to schools in the United States, the admissions process for undergraduate students tends to look fairly similar from one school to the next. However, when you take a closer look, it becomes quite clear that schools – especially schools at the top of the list in terms of competitiveness and prestige – put their own spin on the admission process to make sure that they are offering the most deserving students who are also the best fit at the school spots in the incoming graduating class.


Columbia University Butler Library at night

That can absolutely be said for Columbia! For that reason, we want to spend some time going over how the admissions process at Columbia works. That includes important factors like how your application will be reviewed by the schools admissions committee as well as what the school looks for specifically in a student’s application.

How is your application reviewed?

As the school’s official site states, Columbia’s entire admissions and application process is geared towards identifying students who the school believes will thrive most by studying there. For that reason, the application review takes many different forms. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind.

The process is holistic

This is a word you are likely to see a lot as you prepare to apply to schools all over the country, and it is an important one to make sure that you understand. Essentially, the term holistic names that every aspect of a student’s application to Columbia will be used to help inform the school’s ultimate decision.

Columbia does not have a cut-off grade point average that students need to hit, and the SAT and ACT are currently optional to apply to Columbia. In fact, one of the most important aspects of any student’s application at Columbia is believed to be the applicant’s personal statement, as it gives admissions officers important perspective into how the applicant engages with the world around them as both a student and person.

The process is contextual

Columbia also wants applicants and potential future applications to know that the review process of applications is always contextual. What this means is that the factors on a student’s application are put into context in terms of how that student upbringing, socioeconomic background, community resources and more may have played a role.

With that in mind, the school is always looking for students who found ways to take best advantage of the opportunities that were presented to them either by their school or greater community. Columbia is always looking for students who are able to make the most out of the classes offered at their schools as well as the opportunities available to them outside of the classroom.

The process is need-blind

Another really important aspect for students thinking about applying to Columbia to know about the admissions process is that the entire evaluation process is need-blind. What this means is that, at no point during the process, do admissions officers at the school think about whether an applicant will need financial aid or not.

The school considers the student regardless of their level of financial aid, and when students who do need financial aid are accepted, the school makes it a priority to give them the financial assistance that they need.

The process is committee-based

At some schools, the admissions process is somewhat like color by number. Meaning, that if students have the right grades and test scores, they will get in. Columbia’s process is far more involved. As the school states:

“We approach each file as if we are assembling an important and unique puzzle, and every piece is evaluated carefully. Understanding the ways the pieces fit together enables us to gain a better sense of who you are and what matters to you.

“Furthermore, Columbia Undergraduate Admissions uses a committee-based approach for decision making; no candidate is admitted to Columbia College or Engineering without discussion and examination of the application by multiple admissions officers. Our team is dedicated to considering each applicant as an individual person.”

What does Columbia look for in your application?

As previously mentioned, the top job of an admissions officer at Columbia is identifying the students who seem best prepared to not just survive but thrive within the schools demanding academic structure as well as the unique culture that the school has fostered over many years.


Unidentified student writing on a table.

While there is no equation that any student can follow in order to ensure that they are accepted into Columbia, the school does make it clear what they look for specifically on a student’s application:

  • Academic preparedness: One of the most important things to be able to show on your application is that you took part in difficult and wide-ranging topics in your classes in high school. Not only is a high GPA helpful to any student looking to get into Columbia, but so too is taking advanced courses such as AP, IB, Cambridge A Levels, National School curricula and more.
  • Pronounced curiosity: The best students are those that go above and beyond to learn about things and grapple with topics that they are naturally curious about and interested in. Students who are able to exhibit deep curiosity are known to thrive within the Columbia style of teaching and are often looked up quite positively by the admissions officers analyzing their applications.
  • Community engagement: Columbia is something of an academic oasis nestled into the hustle and bustle of the greatest city in the world: New York City. For that reason, people who are considered best fits at New York are those who are able to reach out and engage with others proactively. People who are able to display leadership abilities, dedication, integrity, kindness and a collaborative spirit tend to do best at Columbia.
  • Unique point of view: For many years, the Ivy League schools consisted primarily of affluent students from upper-class communities. In recent years, all eight schools have made a priority to bring in students from different backgrounds so that they can add their unique point of view and make the greater school community that much richer. But it isn’t all about background. Anyway, that you can show you have a unique approach to life and living, and that your voice and beliefs set you apart, you will certainly be helping yourself in your attempt to get into Columbia.

Things to do after getting into Columbia

If you have been accepted to Columbia, congratulations! You have accomplished something that the vast majority of applicants were unable to achieve, and you should be more than thrilled at this life-altering accomplishment. It is important to know that there will be several things that you need to have on your schedule after you are accepted. Here is a general list of what to do after getting accepted to Columbia.

  • Submit the Acceptance Reply form and deposit
  • Make plans to attend your orientation
  • Take part in the “Jumpstart Series” to hasten your comfort and knowledge of the Columbia University community
  • Activate your University ID (UNI) and LionMail email account
  • Confirm or waive the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan
  • Submit a photo for your Columbia ID
  • Complete the new student required trainings and tutorials
  • Complete your immunization documentation
  • Learn about placement exams and the American Language Program essay exam

Now, to wrap up what we hope has been a really enlightening and interesting piece, we thought that it would be a good idea to. Break down some of the most common bits of wisdom and recommendation that we have gotten from current and former students at Columbia University.

This is more of a list of things that students who get in and end up attending Columbia should keep in mind! Take a look!

Get out of your first-year bubble

While living in New York City and near the Columbia campus is a dream come true for so many students, there is also no doubt that there can be a bit of a culture shock. Living in such a massive city and surrounded by so many intelligent students on campus can be overwhelming! Because of that, some incoming freshmen will tend to start spending a lot of time with the first people they meet at orientation or in their classes. This can lead to freshmen not taking full advantage of the opportunities that Colombia has to offer.


Young woman working in front of his laptop.

One of the best ways to gain greater comfort in the Columbia community is by reaching out and trying to get to know some upperclassmen. While Columbia is absolutely a competitive environment, a lot of the school’s upperclassmen will be happy to offer a freshman a helping hand. After all, they were just like you at one point.

Upperclassmen are a fantastic resource on campus when it comes to telling you what courses to pursue, filling you in on goings on around campus and around the city, and just helping you feel at home at Columbia.

Take care of your mental and physical health

Starting an undergraduate education can be a bit of a shock for anyone at any school. After all, for the vast majority of students, this is the first time that they are living on their own and in charge of the day-to-day of their lives.

They won’t have mom and dad to wake them up and make breakfast, and they won’t have a principal making sure that they are getting to class. They also won’t have anyone making sure that they are eating healthily enough, getting enough sleep and exercise and so much more.

So, while it is totally okay to be excited and want to take everything that Colombia has to offer all at once, don’t forget to take care of your physical and mental health always, but especially during your first few months as you continue to acclimate to your new environment.

Make sure that if you feel the need to speak with a professional about any negative emotions that you have been feeling since arriving on campus to do so! There is nothing wrong with having complex feelings about your entry into Columbia, and there are trained professionals and fellow students who know how to help.

Define your college experience for yourself

One of the very best things that Colombia has to offer its students is the ability to make their educational experience finely tuned to their strengths and interests. It can lead to an incredibly unique and gratifying experience, but only if the student is willing and able to really take an active role in their own education.


Female student looking at his laptop while attending an online course.

For that reason, you need to be sure that even from the very beginning of your education at Columbia, that you are listening to yourself in terms of where you want to pursue your passions inside and outside of the classroom. The world really can be your oyster while at Columbia, but you have to work hard to make it so!

Congrats on your Columbia admission!

Getting into Columbia is one of the hardest things a student applying to colleges and universities can do! For that reason, it is absolutely a time to celebrate and look forward to your future education. However, the work is far from over!

If you are interested in learning more about what to do once you get in, or simply want to figure out how to best improve your chances of getting accepted to Columbia, contact AdmissionSight today to schedule a free consultation.




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