What Is It Like to Attend Columbia?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female student writing while looking at his laptop.

What Is It Like to Attend Columbia?

The Ivy League experience is one many students dream about, and attending Columbia University in the City of New York is no exception. With its rich history, academic rigor, and dynamic campus life situated in one of the world’s most vibrant cities, Columbia offers its students a unique, fulfilling and engaging university experience.

View of Columbia university.

Understanding Columbia University’s Prestige

Columbia University is often mentioned alongside the likes of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. This prestigious group of schools, known as the Ivy League, symbolize academic excellence, selective admissions, and a history of educating leaders in various fields. The prestige of Columbia not only lies in its Ivy League status but also in its rich history and notable alumni.

The History of Columbia University

Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in New York and the fifth oldest in the United States. The University has endured and adapted to significant social shifts including the Revolutionary War, the protest era of the 1960s and 1970s, and the technological advancements of the 21st century.

Throughout its long and storied history, Columbia has played a pivotal role in shaping the intellectual landscape of the nation. From its early days as a colonial college to its present position as a global research powerhouse, the university has consistently fostered an environment of intellectual curiosity and academic rigor.

One of the defining moments in Columbia’s history came during the protest era of the 1960s and 1970s. The campus became a hotbed of activism, with students and faculty advocating for civil rights, women’s rights, and an end to the Vietnam War. This period of social upheaval challenged the university to confront its own role in society and sparked a renewed commitment to social justice and equality.

In the 21st century, Columbia has embraced the rapid advancements in technology and has positioned itself at the forefront of innovation. The university has invested heavily in research and development, attracting top-tier faculty and students who are pushing the boundaries of knowledge in fields such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and sustainable energy.

Today, Columbia stands as a renowned research university, priding itself on the creation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge. Its commitment to intellectual exploration and academic excellence continues to attract the brightest minds from around the world.

Notable Alumni and Achievements

Columbia’s long history has produced many distinguished alumni. The roster includes Founding Fathers, Supreme Court Justices, Nobel Laureates, and influential cultural figures.

Among the illustrious alumni who attended in Columbia are president Barack Obama, founding father Alexander Hamilton, and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Herman Wouk. Their achievements, along with those of many others, contribute to Columbia’s prestige.

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, is not only a Columbia alumnus but also a testament to the university’s commitment to public service. His time at Columbia helped shape his worldview and laid the foundation for his future political career. As a student, Obama immersed himself in the vibrant intellectual community, engaging in rigorous debates and forging lifelong friendships.

Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, is another prominent figure in Columbia’s alumni network. Hamilton’s brilliance and vision played a crucial role in shaping the nation’s financial system and establishing its economic independence. His legacy continues to inspire generations of Columbia students to pursue excellence and make a lasting impact on society.

Students walking around the school campus.

Herman Wouk, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, is yet another example of Columbia’s ability to nurture creative talent. Wouk’s literary works, such as “The Caine Mutiny” and “The Winds of War,” have captivated readers worldwide and have solidified his place in the literary canon. His time at Columbia provided him with the intellectual stimulation and mentorship necessary to hone his craft and become a master storyteller.

These are just a few examples of the many accomplished individuals who have walked the halls of Columbia University. Their contributions to their respective fields and to society as a whole serve as a testament to the university’s commitment to fostering excellence and nurturing the next generation of leaders.

The Academic Experience at Columbia University

Academically, Columbia prides itself on a curriculum that cultivates critical thinking, engages global perspectives, and fosters intellectual discovery.

When it comes to academics, Columbia University is renowned for its commitment to excellence. The university’s rigorous curriculum is designed to challenge students and push them to their intellectual limits. With a strong emphasis on critical thinking and global perspectives, Columbia prepares students to become leaders in their chosen fields.

But what sets Columbia apart from other universities is its diverse range of programs and majors. At the undergraduate level, students can choose from over 80 areas of study, ensuring that they can pursue their passions and interests. From Political Science to Economics, Engineering to English and Film Studies, Columbia offers a wide array of options for students to explore.

Overview of Majors and Programs

When it comes to majors and programs, Columbia has something for everyone. The university offers over 80 areas of study at the undergraduate level, giving students the opportunity to delve deep into their chosen fields. Whether you’re interested in the social sciences, humanities, or STEM fields, Columbia has a program that will suit your interests.

But it’s not just the undergraduate students who have a wealth of options. Graduate and professional students at Columbia have over 200 programs to choose from, ensuring that they can pursue advanced degrees in their desired fields.

Popular majors at Columbia include Political Science, Economics, Engineering, English, and Film Studies. These programs attract students from all over the world, creating a diverse and vibrant academic community.

Regardless of their major, all students at Columbia are required to complete the Core Curriculum. This series of courses provides a common intellectual experience and embodies Columbia’s commitment to liberal education. Through the Core Curriculum, students explore a wide range of subjects, from literature and philosophy to science and mathematics. This interdisciplinary approach to education ensures that students develop a well-rounded understanding of the world.

The Rigor and Expectations of Columbia’s Curriculum

When it comes to academics, Columbia University is known for its rigorous curriculum. Columbia sets high expectations for those who attend, challenging them to think critically and solve complex problems.

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Assignments and projects as you attend at Columbia often require deep analytical thinking and creative problem-solving. Students are encouraged to think outside the box and explore new ideas. The university’s faculty members are dedicated to fostering a culture of intellectual curiosity and encourage students to push the boundaries of their knowledge.

But it’s not all about individual achievement at Columbia. The university also promotes active learning and collaboration. In the classroom, faculty members prioritize open dialogue and student engagement. Students are encouraged to participate in discussions, ask questions, and challenge their peers’ ideas. This collaborative approach to learning fosters a sense of community and encourages students to learn from one another.

Overall, the academic experience at Columbia University is one that challenges and inspires students. With a diverse range of programs and majors, a rigorous curriculum, and a commitment to intellectual discovery, Columbia prepares students to become leaders in their chosen fields.

Campus Life at Columbia University

Campus life at Columbia is as diverse and lively as its home city. Despite being in the heart of Manhattan, the University offers a traditional campus environment where students can engage, relax, and study.

Located in the vibrant Morningside Heights neighborhood, Columbia University provides an exceptional housing and residential life experience for its students. The University guarantees housing for all four years of study, ensuring that students have a secure and comfortable place to call home throughout their college journey. Living in this dynamic neighborhood allows students to immerse themselves in the rich cultural, entertainment, and professional opportunities that New York City has to offer.

The residential halls at Columbia foster a strong sense of community and belonging. They serve as more than just a place to sleep; they are spaces where students can connect, learn, and grow together. The diverse student body creates an inclusive living-learning environment, where residents are encouraged to share their experiences, engage in meaningful conversations, and broaden their perspectives. From late-night study sessions to impromptu jam sessions, the residential halls buzz with energy and creativity.

Housing and Residential Life

Columbia guarantees housing for all four years of study. Students can enjoy the convenience of living in the vibrant Morningside Heights neighborhood while also taking advantage of the countless cultural, entertainment, and professional opportunities in New York City.

The residential halls foster a sense of community where residents are encouraged to learn from one another’s experiences, creating a vibrant and inclusive living-learning environment.

Living on campus also provides students with easy access to a wide range of resources and support services. From academic advising to wellness programs, students can find the assistance they need right at their doorstep. The residential staff, including resident advisors and professional staff members, are dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment where students can thrive academically, socially, and personally.

Clubs, Activities, and Student Organizations

With over 500 student organizations, students who attended in Columbia have ample opportunities to develop their interests, make connections, and contribute to the community. The vibrant campus life is fueled by the passion and enthusiasm of its students, who actively participate in a variety of clubs, activities, and student organizations.

Students walking around the school campus.

Whether you have a love for journalism and want to join the daily newspaper Columbia Daily Spectator, or you have a passion for music and aspire to be part of the University’s renowned acapella group, The Kingsmen, there’s truly something for everyone. The diverse range of student organizations reflects the diverse interests and talents of the student body, creating a vibrant and inclusive campus community.

Student-led events play a significant role in shaping Columbia’s social culture. From thought-provoking guest speakers and engaging film screenings to cultural showcases and impactful service projects, there is always something happening on campus. These events not only provide entertainment and intellectual stimulation but also foster a sense of unity and shared experiences among the students.

Participating in clubs, activities, and student organizations not only allows students to pursue their passions but also helps them develop valuable skills such as leadership, teamwork, and time management. It is through these extracurricular activities that students form lifelong friendships, create lasting memories, and make a positive impact on the campus and surrounding community.

The Columbia University Community

Columbia’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity, and its role in the wider New York City community, form a key part of the student experience.

Diversity and Inclusion at Columbia

Columbia treasures its diverse student body, which represents over 150 countries. It’s this diversity that makes Columbia a global microcosm, offering students a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from peers with different cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds.

The university remains committed to building a diverse scholarly community and fosters a culture of inclusion and respect.

The Role of Columbia in the Greater New York City Area

Columbia doesn’t exist in isolation but as a part of the larger New York City community. The decision to operate within the city is intentional and strategic; Columbia thrives on the cultural dynamism, eclectic influences, and endless opportunities the Big Apple offers.

From internships and job opportunities to taking part in the city’s cultural and community events, Columbia students are deeply interconnected with the wider New York City area.

Financial Aspects of Attending Columbia University

Finally, getting a Columbia education comes with significant financial considerations. However, the university believes that financial constraints should not bar a deserving student from accessing an excellent education.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Columbia’s tuition is in line with that of other Ivy League universities. However, Columbia is dedicated to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of every admitted student. The impressive financial aid program ensures that talented students from a variety of backgrounds have the chance to benefit from a Columbia education.

Group of student smiling at each other while talking.

Cost of Living in New York City

Living in the heart of New York City can be expensive. At Columbia, students need to account for housing, food, books, and personal expenses. However, the university offers various resources to manage costs, from on-campus employment to budgeting assistance.

Despite the high living costs, many students find the exposure, experiences, and learning opportunities that come with living and studying in NYC unbeatable.

The academic rigor, the opportunities for personal and professional development, and the overall experience of attending Columbia University are unmatched. It’s a challenging yet rewarding journey that prepares students to make a meaningful impact on the world.



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