Does Columbia Interview Everyone?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Columbia university library with a statue in the main stairs.

Does Columbia Interview Everyone?

When it comes to students applying to the top schools in the United States, it’s no secret that the eight schools that make up the Ivy league often make up the top of those students’ lists. Without a doubt, one of the most prestigious and competitive schools in that already incredibly prestigious group of schools is Columbia University.

Columbia, located in Manhattan, New York, is known as one of the best research universities in the world and has been home to young men and women who have gone on to achieve incredible things.

Much like the rest of the Ivy league, Columbia does interview undergraduate applicants as part of its admissions process, but does Columbia interview everyone?

If you are planning on applying to Columbia – either in the upcoming application cycle (2022-23) or in a couple years – then you are definitely thinking the right way by trying to learn more about the admissions process at this school. The truth is that, learning as much as you can and preparing as best as you can for applying to Ivy Leagues and other great schools in the United States is only going to improve your chances of actually getting in!

That is where AdmissionSight can come in and help you with the process every step of the way. As one of the premiere admissions consultants in the industry, we know exactly what kinds of information, tools, strategies and more students need in order to accentuate the strengths of their application profile and get into even the most competitive of undergraduate programs.

That’s why 75.0 percent of the students that we have worked with in the past have gone on to get into either an Ivy League school like Columbia, Harvard or Yale, or a top 10 school that is not in the Ivies such as Caltech, MIT or Stanford.

So, if you are curious about how Columbia admissions works, or want to know how much a Columbia interview matters or how you can really prepare to meet with your Columbia interviewer, then you have definitely come to the right place.

There is a lot to learn, and we’d be thrilled to teach you! Let’s get started.

Does Columbia give interviews?

This is really the first question that anyone should be asking when it comes to learning about the interview process at Columbia. While interviewing applicants is typically reserved for the most competitive and prestigious undergrad programs in the United States, it does not necessarily mean that all such schools do participate in the practice.

For that reason, it is important for any student interested in applying to and one day attending Columbia to know the answer to the question, “Does Columbia interview all applicants?” is no.

Here is what the school has to say about its interview practices as well as why not all students who apply to Columbia should expect to hear back about an interview.

“Interviews are conducted throughout the world on behalf of Columbia Undergraduate Admissions by select student interviewers and volunteer members of Columbia’s Alumni Representative Committee from October to March every year,” the school says. “However, because we have a finite number of alumni and current student volunteers to interview the many thousands of candidates, we are unable to grant interviews to all of our applicants and can provide absolutely no guarantee that an interview will be available.”

Female teacher teaching something to a male student.

It is also important that the school does not offer interviews on the school’s campus or with members of the school’s admissions committee. Furthermore, the school makes it clear that it does not “solicit or accept” external interview reports conducted by private or independent agencies.

When it comes to just how many students apply to Columbia these days, keep in mind that in order to join the graduating class of 2026, a grand total of 60,377 students applied. It marked just a slight drop from the previous year, which saw the biggest pool in the history of the school at 60,551. In the 2021-22 application cycle, the acceptance rate was just 3.73 percent. When it comes to interviews, it is likely that somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 of the total applicants were offered the opportunity to take part.

So, does Columbia interview everyone? Absolutely not! That may have you wondering how much the Columbia interview matters. If that is the case, simply continue reading.

How much does a Columbia interview matter?

Now that you know the truth that somewhere between one third and one half of the students that apply to Columbia in a given year won’t even be offered the chance to take part in the interview process, you might be wondering if not getting the chance to interview reflects poorly on your application, or if it perhaps would offer some insight into your application not being seriously considered at the school.

This is actually a very common misconception that a lot of students hold about the process. At Columbia, just like at the majority of undergraduate programs, the interview aspect of the application does not have a major impact on a student’s chances of getting in, not getting offered an interview is not a reflection of the status of your application, and not being offered an interview will not hurt your chances of getting in.

College consultant taking to two people.

Columbia takes time to make it clear that this is the case. Additionally, the school makes it clear that students should not, under any circumstances, take it upon themselves

“Candidates who are not offered an interview are not at any disadvantage in the admissions process,” the school says. “Because the actual assignment of interviews is not conducted by Columbia Undergraduate Admissions, we respectfully ask that you do not call or write to inquire about receiving an interview. You will be contacted directly if an interview is available to you.”

On the flipside of this, it is really important to state that in the event that you are offered the chance to interview at Columbia, you should absolutely do what you can to take part. Even though there is no advantage or disadvantage to not getting an interview, being one of the lucky students that is offered one, only to state that you are not interested, may reflect poorly upon your application. At the very least, it could signal to the school that you are not as interested in attending Columbia as you are in attending one of the other schools that you are applying to as well.

Beyond that, knowing just how competitive Columbia is these days (from the previously mentioned acceptance rate), you should already have a good idea of the fact that any little thing, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be, that you can do in order to boost your chances of success at the school, you should do it. And that includes the interview process.

So, when it comes to the question, “How much does a Columbia interview matter?” The answer is a bit more complex than just “a lot” or “not at all.” Perhaps the best way to put it is that if you are offered one, you should absolutely take the school up on the offer, but if you are not, you don’t have to spend too much time worrying about it.

What are Columbia interviews like?

Now that you have a better idea of what is at stake if you are offered an interview at Columbia, you are probably interested in learning a bit more about what the Columbia interview process is like, who your Columbia interviewer might be and more. Well we’ve taken the time to break down some of the most important information related to that question.

Female student holding her book while in the school grounds.

First of all, it is important to know that your Columbia interviewer is either going to be an alumni volunteer or a student volunteer who is currently studying at the school. There is no importance put on whether or not your Columbia interviewer is a student or alumni, and both have their pros and cons!

Here are some of the most important aspects of the interview process at Columbia:

  • Interviews are only conducted virtually (not in person) regardless of country or regional-specific guidelines for in-person interactions. If you, as a student, ever face a circumstance in which your interviewer appears to insist on in-person contact, you should cease communication immediately.
  • Interviews should occur with a secure and accessible mode of communication, and take place at a time that is agreed upon by both the applicant and the interviewer. That time should respect both parties’ commitment to school, work, other responsibilities and family obligations.
    • Acceptable platforms for video chat include, but are not limited to: Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, Zoom, Teams, WhatsApp, WebEx, BlueJeans, Duo (and most similar office platforms)
    • If using video chat, the following platforms are not allowed: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (and most other social media or paid services)
    • Students without regular access to the internet or whose participation in their interview would be negatively impacted by the use of video conferencing technology should feel empowered to request that their interview be conducted by phone without penalty.

Beyond that, Columbia has actually published some of the rules that it offers to its volunteer interviewers to create an effective and positive interviewing experience for everyone involved.

  • Interviews should take place outside of scheduled school hours (7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. local time)
  • Interviews should not be recorded in any way by either participating party
  • Interviewers and applicants should seek to create a safe and mutually respectful environment and interaction throughout the interview
  • Interviewers should not create any impressions or expectations, positive or negative, about the applicant’s probability of admission.
  • Interviewers should not initiate conversations that may make a candidate uncomfortable or that are excessively personal, whether with regard to the candidate or the interviewer.
  • Interviewers should use appropriate language.
  • Interviewers should not make disparaging comparisons of secondary or post-secondary institutions or ask the student where else he or she is applying.
  • Interviewers should give the student appropriate lead time before an interview and should not schedule the interview one day in advance.
  • Interviewers and applicants should provide each other with appropriate contact information prior to the interview in case of an emergency.

Finally, one question we often get from students is what kinds of questions they can expect to get from their Columbia interviewer. It is important to know that all interviews are a bit different, and some of the questions might pertain directly to you, your interests and your accomplishments both in and outside the classroom. With that in mind, here are six example questions that Columbia interviewers are offered as examples of useful interviews to ask during the process:

  • What are your interests besides your school work?
  • To which of your nonacademic activities are you most committed? How has this affected your academic coursework?
  • What do you have in common with your closest friends? How do you differ from them?
  • How important is diversity in the type of educational environment you seek?
  • What is appealing to you about Columbia in particular?
  • What specific book, article or journal have you read in the last year that had a significant impact on your thinking or perspective?

These are just examples, and you may be asked all of them or none of them. Still, they should be a good benchmark in terms of what you can prepare for generally.

Tips to prepare for your Columbia interview

Another really big question that we often get from students who are interested in applying to Columbia or other top schools has to do with how much they should really prepare for their interview. After all, this is likely the most important interview that you will have taken part in thus far in your life and you want to make sure that you do as good a job as you can throughout the process.

Young woman typing in a table.

Getting information just like this is one of the many reasons why we think working with admissions officers like AdmissionSight can be so beneficial to you. Even though you may not know someone personally who has gone through an Ivy League interview process before, we have, and we can help you prepare to make sure that you are making the most out of the opportunity.

Keep it business casual

Even though your interview will likely be over a video-conference app such as Zoom or Google Hangout, you should still make sure to keep it professional in terms of what you wear and how you look. Don’t just roll out of bed and throw on a wrinkly t-shirt. You’ll want to wear a nice button-up shirt or a blouse to look the part of a grown-up and mature student on their way to an elite college or university in the fall.

Focus on making a connection

One of the most important things any student should focus on during their undergrad interview is to try to make a connection with the person who is interviewing you. You don’t have to ask them to tell you their life story, but trying to find common ground when it comes to interests, passions and more can only help your case.

After all, a big part of the interview process is to determine whether you would be a good cultural fit on Columbia’s campus. What better way to prove that you would be other than connecting with a current or former student at the school during your interview?

Just like you should spend some time preparing for the questions that your interviewer might ask you during your Columbia interview, you should also take some time thinking about some questions that you want to ask your interviewer about their experience at Columbia.

Don’t brag, but make it clear you believe you belong at Columbia

No one likes someone who speaks too highly of themselves, so make sure that you are able to remain humble and introspective throughout your interview. Don’t be afraid to talk about failures or struggles you have faced, especially if you managed to overcome them and grow from them! Finally, it would be wise to ultimately try to steer the conversation back to why you believe Columbia is the best place for you as a person and as a student to grow and learn in the future.

Succeed in the Columbia interview

While taking part in a Columbia interview is not going to be the single deciding factor in whether or not you end up getting into the school, a great interview can certainly help your chances! If you want to learn more about how to prepare for your Columbia interview, or any of the other aspects of the application process, contact AdmissionSight today to schedule a free consultation.



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