Columbia University in the City of New York
New York, NY, USA

Reviews

Columbia University in the City of New York
4.00 Average Rating

Anon from NY

accepted here and planning to attend soon
16 people found this review useful
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Will learn a lot
I feel that Columbia's Core Curriculum provides a nice, well-rounded education that many people pursuing engineering (or specifically strong math and sciences) may lack. A core useful for all students since I feel it could open up your mind about many different issues.
Will enjoy being here
I love New York City and Columbia's setting in the vibrant Morningside Heights neighborhood. There are plenty of on-campus activities and even more to do just a short subway-ride away. The city pass allows for amazing prices to cultural shows around the city, like broadway shows and museums.
Bang for the buck
I think that since Columbia offers great financial aid, especially with the new donation to financial aid, it is economically efficient and you get a good bang for the buck. Most Ivies are a good bang for the buck though since they generally are more generous than schools slightly lower in rankings and are good schools.
Tips for prospective students
I know this sounds cliched, but do extracurriculars you are passionate about. I had many leadership positions in my activities since I love doing them and work hard for the clubs.
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from NJ

accepted here and planning to attend soon
13 people found this review useful
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Will learn a lot
You can't go wrong with Columbia, it's a name everyone knows and it's great in everything. You'll be taught by world renown professors even as undergraduates. As much learning occurs inside the classroom as outside. There are too many clubs to count. Being in NYC allows you many internships and opportunities to learn about your future career path.
Will enjoy being here
It's in NYC, the city that never sleeps. You can't be bored in NYC, there's ALWAYS something to do. Plus, if you want to escape from the chaos of the concrete jungle, just stay on campus. Campus is relatively closed off from the city (campus gates and the way it's designed, with buildings around the perimeter helps to keep out the chaos of the city, unlike NYU campus that is integrated into the city). There's definitely something for everyone.
Bang for the buck
Columbia does give financial aid but it's need based, so how much you get depends on your family income and situation. But you do get a really good deal, Columbia provides incredible opportunities, an amazing education, and it's in NYC, so it allows you access to all the wonderful things in NYC.
Tips for prospective students
Get those grades and SAT/SAT II scores up. Participate in clubs/sports. Be a leader, challenge yourself and take it upon yourself to put yourself in leadership positions, be it in a school club or in something outside of school. Volunteer and give back to the community. Apply early if you can, your odds are better. Get good recommendations (build relationships with your teachers!) and spend time on your essays, they DO matter. If you can, visit the school, and if offered an interview, TAKE IT. Apply elsewhere too, so this way you won't stress out as much when waiting to hear a reply.
Great for these types of students
It's great for those interested in having a broad spectrum of knowledge (for example, if you are an ancient languages major you will still have knowledge of math, biology, major European literature, east Asian history) because you will have to take the core. You can choose various courses to take, so for example you could take a variety of literature classes, you are not limited to major European literature.

It is also great for students who love the city because NYC is so much a part of Columbia as Columbia is so much a part of NYC. Neither is complete without the other.

Intelligent individuals who are eager to learn from the world's finest.
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Krizia from Fort Bragg, NC

a current student here
12 people found this review useful
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In three sentences
Columbia University is extremely challenging and therefore extremely rewarding. It does not allow you room to be average or mediocre because it encourages excellence. CU will show you what you are made of.
Tips for prospective students
Best tips would be keep up with your work and reading. Make sure you attend all classes no matter how tired or busy you are, they are all very important. Do not allow procrastination to bring you down and always keep good communication with your professors.
Academic Rigor
There is no room at all for laziness and you will be graded in comparison to some of the best minds in the world by the best minds in the world.
Dorm Life
Can't say because I live in my own apartment since I am a military veteran but when I lived on off-campus housing it was very nice. NYC, what can you say!
Food and Dining
Whether you eat healthy or not, you will find anything that pleases you. I am gluten-free and I never have to worry about finding something good. Naked juices, salads and great coffee are available in almost half of the buildings including study areas and libraries. They also provided complete nutritious and delicious meals in cafeterias but if you want more exotic foods then just walk a few steps from your room and you will find anything you want.. NYC, what can you say!
What to do for fun
NYC! Anything and everything is available here and you can always find great deals so no need to break your piggy bank. Who is your favorite artist? Yeah, they perform here. Want to watch a movie? Find many that are not available anywhere else, oldies and new ones in theaters too!
Bang for the buck
The education is so good you WILL learn something and to get a diploma from here is priceless. They offer so many opportunities like study abroad and you will be on the top of most employers lists simply because you graduated from an Ivy league school.
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
There are so many, you will see something interesting going on every week and you will want to participate in them all but you won't have enough time, don't be discouraged there is always something else.
Great for these types of students
This is a great school for people who are high achievers and for those who want to be high achievers.
Clubs and Activities
So many so little time to participate in them all. From belly dancing and swing dancing to religious and political, there is something for everyone.
Greek Life
Many sororities and fraternities and they will definitely be helpful since making friends here can be hard and having study groups and support groups will help you achieve much more. Do join if you can!
Campus Safety
You will find campus security in every corner, they even have shuttles to take you to your room in case you stay studying late.
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Eurick from Yonkers, NY

a current student here
12 people found this review useful
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Am learning a lot
Columbia is easily one of the most intellectually stimulating universities in the north! While the core may seem stifling and constricting at first, you'll undoubtedly learn quite a bit concerning the roots of the Western literary tradition and philosophy; there's also the wide array of tongues available, so if you’re tired of Romance languages give Arabic a try! I personally enjoy it when the different disciplines and schools of thought intersect: sociology, philosophy, and literature your main interests? Feel free to take a class concerning all three in conversation!
Am enjoying being here
You might think that, being an Ivy, many of the students here would be snooty or rather pompous, but you'll find fairly quickly that that's not the case. Everyone here is generally rather laidback, amiable, and down to earth. It’s a strongly positive aspect of the Columbia community, as friendships tend to form fast and last long--and you can take my word for it that these friendships keep you afloat during the harrowing occurrence known as finals! The bonus, too, is that many share your value in intellectual pursuits!
Bang for the buck
Columbia's pricey, there's no doubting it; at nearly 60k a year, it’d be fallacious to say that it isn’t. And, sometimes, as a result of the confusing grant packages, this might leave you in some awkward financial situations scrounging up money. Even given that, though, it's really an amazing institution to be for the sake of knowledge, genuinely interesting people, and a fantastic urban setting. People grow at college, it’s inevitable, but you’ll be surprised by how quickly you’ll grow as an individual here; not simply intellectually (though this, too, of course!), but pragmatically as well. It’s what the city teaches you.
Tips for prospective students
The most immediate bit of advice, I'd wager, is to visit the campus if you're able; this often gives students an idea of the ambiance of the place and whether they'd like to genuinely consider the option. (Also, as an aside: you'll hear people complain about the dining hall food quite a bit, but it's honestly exaggerated and more for the sake of Columbia tradition than anything else; and if just so happens that you don’t find the food to your liking, say hello to the cheap supermarkets down the street!) If you do choose Columbia, don't be shy to explore any possible adventures of the Big Apple--being in the heart of New York is part of the perk, after all.
Great for these types of students
Columbia's got a myriad of character types, from your bubbly extroverts to your timid introverts to your fanatic hair-dyers to your loud club hoppers to those happy enough to just quietly snuggle with a book--and often, people tend to be a mix of all these, depending on the day! As aforementioned, it's rather easy to find a niche here, even for the socially awkward (possibly because we’re all socially awkward are some inherent intermingling level somewhere?), and often these ‘niches’ overlap. As for personal and intellectual interests, be thankful that Columbia has a diverse community of organizations to cater to your curiosity!
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Nina from Baldwin, NY

a current student here
106 people found this review useful
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Am learning a lot
The amount of learning that takes place in one semester at Columbia is truly amazing. I have learned more in such a short period of time than I would have ever thought possible. As much as we may all complain about how extensive the Core Curriculum is, it really is one of the aspects that makes a Columbia education so unique. I love sitting in my Lit Hum class, surrounded by students majoring in literature, physics, anthropology, math, and even the engineering students, discussing the literary merits of Lysistrata and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Aside from learning about the great literary works of the ancient world, Columbia has taught me so many other valuable lessons that have nothing to do with academia. Living in Morningside Heights has taught me how to live and function in one of the most urban places in the entire world. I have become an expert at navigating the NYC subway system. I have learned how to walk the streets of NY with the confidence of someone who has lived in the city their entire life. I have learned the location of some of the best places to grab a slice of real NY pizza. Columbia's status as an Ivy League institution is well deserved, in that it provides an excellent education in regards to not only academia, but to life as well.
Am enjoying being here
As happy as I am to be home for winter break, I cannot deny how much I miss my life at Columbia. Everything about the college experience at Columbia is amazing. There is something about the atmosphere of Columbia that is indescribable. It's hard to feel angry or upset while there. It's impossible to feel irritated when you walk outside and you see Butler Library, or when you look at all the students congregated on the steps of Low, or when you see all the trees lit up along College Walk. Columbia’s enclosed campus in Morningside Heights truly allows for the development of a sense of community and the creation of a family with your peers. This connection that is felt to the school extends to NYC as well. There are so many things to do on campus, but there is literally an entire world outside the Columbia gates filled with so many things to do. Making midnight runs to Tom’s diner after watching an episode of Seinfeld or grabbing a jumbo slice of Koronet’s pizza are two events that make the Columbia experience unique. Columbia’s incredible atmosphere, in combination with the tremendous amount of freedom and excitement that comes with living in NYC, makes Columbia an amazing place to learn, socialize, and experience life and all its changes.
Bang for the buck
Everyone always talks about how expensive living in New York City is, but in reality, it doesn't have to be! Columbia is great in the sense that it allows for students to take full advantage of all the cultural opportunities available, whether it comes in the form of free tickets to the best art museums in the world, access to amazing concerts, and more. I was lucky enough to receive a free ticket to see the NYC Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. Not many people can say they had that chance! While Columbia is expensive in regards to tuition and the expenses that come with living in NY, all the opportunities that Columbia provides definitely make up for it!
Tips for prospective students
Don't be afraid to take chances. If you're thinking of applying to Columbia, but are hesitant because you don't think you'll have what it takes, apply anyway. You may just surprise yourself. Taking chances is one of the most important actions that has to be taken at a university like Columbia. The work is hard, but you need to be able to take risks and challenge yourself, because it is the only way in which you’ll succeed at Columbia. In connection to taking chances, remember where you are, and take advantage of every opportunity that Columbia has to offer. Columbia has so many different resources for jobs, internships, and research opportunities, and it is so important to put yourself out there and try to make a name for yourself. While a Columbia degree can get you many places, it will only go so far; the career placement opportunities that Columbia has can definitely help you go so much further.
Great for these types of students
Columbia is the perfect school for any student that has an interest in diversity. So many different types of people attend Columbia, and they all have their own unique interests and talents, and it is great to see how we can all come together in one classroom. Columbia is the perfect school for anyone who thrives in an urban setting, because no other city can compare to New York. Columbia is great for anyone that is passionate about learning and knowledge. There is nothing better than knowing that you are surrounded by people who love to learn and work hard to achieve their goals, because this only helps make your own goals seem more feasible.
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Nathan from Cincinnati, OH

a current student here
32 people found this review useful
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In three sentences
Between the Common Core and the city of New York, it is difficult to conceive of an education more intellectually stimulating than that which Columbia provides. The Core allows students to engage with the great thinkers of the past, while New York City provides a wealth of cultural opportunities both historically oriented and contemporary. The result is an environment which enables students to conceive and accomplish important work.
Tips for prospective students
1. Approach everything with intellectual curiosity, or else experiences which are potentially tremendously rewarding will become long slogs of work which you will find meaningless.
2. Extracurriculars at Columbia are people by the most passionate, intelligent people you will ever meet. Get involved. You will learn that there are beautiful things which you never knew existed.
3. Get off campus at least once a week. You live in New York, not New Haven. If you're not paying attention to the city, you're missing a big part of your education.
Academic Rigor
The work is intense but I would say upwards of 90% of it is meaningful and contributes to understanding/growth. The professors are excellent. The courses offered will make you weep because they are so multifarious and interesting and you can only take so many.
Dorm Life
Many of the dorms are very comfortable and even homey. Some are gross. Because it's New York, nobody really moves out of the dorms (or other school-related housing like a frat) unless they have a billionaire parent or two, but on the plus side, housing gets exponentially nicer as you get older. By the time you're a senior, your dorm is basically an apartment in Manhattan.
Food and Dining
First-years are required to have meal plans. Dining hall food is tolerable. You won't starve. You won't gain the freshman fifteen unless you really try. Get off the meal plan and enjoy the many delicious foods of Manhattan as soon as possible. Kitchens in dorms are ample. Restaurants are just fantastic.
What to do for fun
It's New York City. Things that are the greatest in the world here: museums, theaters, bookstores, parks, movie theaters, restaurants, music venues, libraries, galleries, etc. Consume culture, wander beautiful city streets for hours. However, you will also spend a lot of time not even going anywhere because you will be so amazed by the wonderful people you will meet that you will just talk to them for hours on end.
Bang for the buck
Columbia is more expensive than comparable institutions, because Manhattan is more expensive than the cities where comparable institutions are located. However, financial aid is very good. Many people say that Columbia turned out to be their cheapest option after financial aid. But the sticker price is higher, and all financial aid is need based.

That is the buck. The bang cannot be overstated.
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
Don't tell anyone, but you can usually sneak into classrooms during off hours and use the projectors to watch movies on a big screen.

The marching band are very funny and play traffic cones.

Between Butler Library, Avery Library, and East Asian Library, you will become so used to studying in beautiful places that you will wonder how your high school self did all that work while not surrounded by beauty.
Great for these types of students
For the love of God, just be actually interested in things. It doesn't matter what, just have a genuine and voracious desire to learn and think and work and discuss. If you are open-minded, the people you meet here will expand that desire from the things you're interested in to the things they're interested in, and before you know it the whole world will actually seem like an interesting place. Come here if you want to both experience and contribute to that.
Clubs and Activities
There are very many clubs at Columbia, and they tend to be comprised of people who are passionate and knowledgeable about the focus of the club. Participating in basically anything seems to be incredibly personally enriching, and will open up new worlds for you. WKCR is the student radio station. If you like music, join WKCR. If you do not like music, listen to WKCR until you like music and then join WKCR.
Greek Life
It exists. Nobody pays it much attention, so far as I know. <10% of undergrads are involved, it's not really a presence on campus, the fact that Columbia is in New York sort of eliminates both the impetus for and possibility of serious frat life, but their houses are mostly pretty.
Campus Safety
I've never heard of anybody getting mugged on campus or anything. There were some robberies of academic buildings last semester though.
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ESTEBAN from Fullerton, CA

a past student here
30 people found this review useful
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In three sentences
It can be the best four years of your life and make all your dreams come true. However, there are MANY obstacles that will try and stop you from achieving this. In this end, it all depends on how forward-thinking, mature, in-the-moment you are and your general outlook of life.
Tips for prospective students
You are no longer in the top 5%, you are no longer the class president, you are no longer the "nerd" with a super high GPA, in fact, you are no longer smart. Everyone there has 9.00 GPAs, knows how to play at least two musical instruments, is good at least at one sport, and is richer than you and probably hotter. If you haven't grasped the concept of humility yet, get cracking. (Which I hadn't and it hit my right in the face so hard it knocked me out for a year.)
Academic Rigor
You assigned so much to read that a lot of people don't even try to read some of it. Spark Notes, Cliff Notes, research papers, reviews, and academic journals can be your best friend. Or you can take a rice cooker to the library, a bag of rice, toiletries, change of clothes, and half of the books on reserve and live 4 years in Manhattan without ever having been to Times Square... up to you.
Dorm Life
The first year is the best. It's when you will meet most of your friends that you will be with until graduation, and it's just one giant party. Senior year is pretty good because you get to pick housing first and live in awesome suites or townhouses with all your friends. Sophomore and Junior year suck for housing because you get last pick and the worst dorm.
Food and Dining
Only freshman year and only if you live in John Jay will you have an incredible dining experience that first year. The dining hall is just downstairs and JJ's is in the basement open until 4 am with the greatest junk food ever for those Freshman 15. After that, it sucks and you're far from the dining area so you probably won't get a dining plan, and a tiny sandwich is $10 and the grocery store is far and expensive and you have to actually do stuff and make it yourself... meh.
What to do for fun
Ok, it's MANHATTAN. An Ivy League school with a gorgeous campus with it's own subway stop in the capital of the world. Everything and anything you want is right outside the front door. No Harvard, Princeton, or Yale will EVER.... E-V-E-R.... be able to give you such a life-changing experience.
Great for these types of students
All types. Nerds. Geeks. Bums. Sluts. Alcoholics. Evangelical Born-Again Christians. Leaders. Losers. Overachievers. Underachievers. If you're not rich, try to not be in a circle of friends where they're all millionaires (I know you can't help that) cuz that's probably the one thing that will make you feel like crap.
Clubs and Activities
EVERYTHING. SO. MANY. CLUBS. TOO. MANY. IT'S GROSS.
Greek Life
If you want it, it's there. However, Columbia is known for not having a big Greek population. (Mostly because of space issues.) You'll never really get what all the other college kids are talking about when they go on about their sororities or frats... but hey, whatever. I didn't miss it one bit. Not then, not now. What's a frat?
Campus Safety
Campus has it's own safety. This is good in two ways. First, there are always guards patrolling the grounds all the time and in any emergency will respond with a team of officers in 5 seconds. Also, if you get in trouble, it won't be with NYPD... but with Columbia safety... which means instead of going to jail for getting caught doing or smoking something you shouldn't be... you'll get probation instead.
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Natalie from Seattle, WA

a current student here
30 people found this review useful
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Am learning a lot
Although I've only attended Columbia for one semester, I have yet to meet any professors or grad students who haven't provided an informative and unique perspective on their chosen field. To me, this is the main benefit of attending an Ivy League institution - the faculty. The Core Curriculum not only guarantees a strong liberal arts foundation for all students, but provides the context for an unusually dynamic intellectual community within the school: everyone will get your references, and discussions become that much more meaningful when everyone in your freshman class has the same intellectual background, but are also able to offer their own meaningful perspective. Also, you have all of New York City to supplement your education with the best of every field imaginable.
Am enjoying being here
How is it possible to live in New York City, on a beautiful campus, with 5,600 other intellectually curious students (including SEAS), and not enjoy Columbia? Although an oft circulated complaint is that there is a lack of community within the student body, I would beg to differ. It takes a different form, because there are so many things to do off campus that it would be foolish not to take advantage of, but activities such as the spontaneous school-wide snowball fight that happened during the first blizzard refute that complaint. Like at any college, you'll get more out of your Columbia experience if you reach beyond your previous experience and actively participate in campus life and the city. But if you do that, you will inevitably make great friends and have a spectacular college experience.
Bang for the buck
Like other reviewers have said, the cost of college is generally obscene. And living New York will always be expensive. But Columbia has many options for financial aid, and if you're going to invest in a college education, you may as well do it at one of the top universities in the world.
Tips for prospective students
If you're interested in Columbia, definitely do your research. There are many required courses, which is something that most students have strong feelings about, and there are some aspects of the school (the food, the housing etc.) that don't always live up to people's expectations. But if you want to live in the city, but be on a campus, and have a set of required courses (but have them taught by the world's preeminent scholars), then Columbia would probably be a great school for you.
Great for these types of students
If you are curious, have a variety of interests (both academic and extracurricular), and are independent and self-sufficient enough to fully experience the city of New York, then you will truly benefit from a Columbia education.
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James from Atlanta, GA

a current student here
21 people found this review useful
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Am learning a lot
In terms of academics, the most interesting and unique part of the Columbia curriculum is the Core, a rigorous group of required classes for all students designed to last throughout all four years of study. It may sound daunting and restrictive -- and, on occasion, it is -- but on the whole, its purpose is to make sure that every student achieves a complete liberal arts education, and it succeeds well. Maybe the most fascinating Core class is Contemporary Civilization, a strangely named philosophical survey course in which you’ll read everything from Plato to Virginia Woolf. Like many Core courses, its effectiveness is largely dependent on your professor, but any class that is essentially an open discussion about fascinating philosophical topics is sure to pique students’ interest. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Frontiers of Science, a freshman course designed to introduce students to various aspects of modern science. That may sound potentially interesting, but in reality, it’s badly organized and remarkably dull. Maybe the biggest problem is that there’s an enormous gradient across the students in terms of scientific experience, and the course is often too difficult for those with a weak science background and a walk in the park for students more used to academic science.
But learning is about more than just academics. Even though the classes are generally fascinating, I have undoubtedly learned the most from other students, extracurricular activities, and simply living in New York City. Columbia is perhaps most remarkable for its diversity of students, opportunities, and experiences. Having friends of many different backgrounds means exposure to a neverending collage of perspectives, which has done as much to expand my own thinking as much as any class. On top of this, living in the City means that the City itself is essentially unavoidable – this can be a hindrance or the greatest resource in the world, and approaching it as the lat...
Am enjoying being here
As far as I can tell, college is extraordinary because it is a period of unprecedented – and probably unique – freedom in nearly all aspects of life. Of course, freedom has the potential for both great success and great failure, and so it all depends on how we utilize it. In my time at Columbia, I’ve tried to balance a challenging and engaging courseload with a variety of other pursuits and activities, and have enjoyed my college experience immensely as a result. I’ve found that the secret lies in making time to pursue what interests me most – for instance, I play a lot of music, and so I joined a band that plays all around the city. Of course, the primary goal is to learn, and a boring or overly easy schedule makes for a boring time at college, not to mention a waste of tuition. In addition, there is a neverending stream of possibilities in New York City, and it’s easy to be ceaselessly occupied simply by taking advantage of a small fraction of these.
Bang for the buck
Columbia certainly has a lot of bang, and in terms of the buck, my experience is that its financial aid has mostly been generous, especially since the Ivy Leagues instituted their expanded financial aid policies. In addition, should you get into other comparable schools that give you better financial aid offers, Columbia will often match them. I certainly have a number of friends for whom attending Columbia would have been impossible, were it not for some generous financial aid packages. However, living in New York City is extremely expensive, and even though there are quite a few opportunities for fairly well-paying internships and jobs on and off campus, simple living expenses can certainly build up.
Tips for prospective students
As a freshman, the dorm you live in can have a big impact on your experience at Columbia. Carman and John Jay are often considered the most social dorms. I lived in Carman in my freshman year, and had some wild experiences with my floor. I also made the majority of my close friends there. Wallach, Furnald, and Hartley are generally the quieter places to live, although it’s certainly still possible to have fun while living in any of these three – I knew several people who completed their work in their rooms in Furnald and came to Carman to hang out with friends. Above all, don’t be afraid to meet people and open up to new possibilities. Expanding your worldview is an integral part of being at college, and the only way to do that is to be open to it.
Great for these types of students
I have often thought that the principal reason that Columbia is unique is not because of its academics, but because of its students. Of course, the students at any good school will be bright and interesting. However, it seems as though many of the highest-ranked Ivy League schools attract a certain type of student: one who takes academics to be of the utmost importance, and anything else as nearly insignificant. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with this attitude, but such a large population of these students tends to make for a rather serious and homogenous student body. Whether it is because it is not one of the highest-ranked Ivy Leagues, or whether because it is situated in New York City, or perhaps for some other reason entirely, Columbia largely escapes this type of student, and as a result, nearly everybody here is intelligent, well-rounded, friendly, and, above all, different from everyone else.
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Esther from Bowie, MD

a current student here
18 people found this review useful
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In three sentences
The connections made with professors and instructors are great. The climate (in terms of the resources available) is perfect for the student who is itching to be independent and loves the city. However, it gets cold fast and stays cold for long periods of time - it snowed late April and was cold enough for coats in early May.
Tips for prospective students
Try to go to office hours. Sometimes that is the difference between you receiving a B- and a B.
Don't get caught up in the hype during orientation week, also known as NSOP (New Student Orientation Program). Many students, afraid of not making enough friends, add the phone numbers of almost every student they meet. However, this causes one to lose focus because they become worried about keeping up with acquaintances and hanging out. I follow this rule of thumb: Only add their number after you've had three real conversations. An example of a real conversation is talking about what state/country you guys came from, your family, finding study partners, or a 1-hour non-awkward conversation at Starbucks, not a fake conversation about favorite colors or matching outfits. That way you won't end up with 50 numbers of classmates whom you briefly saw twice at the beginning of the semester. And yes, you will at least meet 50 new students during NSOP.
Academic Rigor
Keep in mind that I am a Neuroscience and Behavior major (junior) in Columbia College of Columbia University. I have mostly taken science courses, and some literature courses.
The coursework at Columbia is fairly difficult. The level of difficulty depends on the professor and class. Some professors teach at a fast pace, forcing the student to rely heavily on self-studying to catch up or understand concepts. Some professors are amazing at explaining concepts with such clarity, but their assignments/exams are difficult and require that the student not recite basics, but apply the concepts they learned in a different context. Some instructors are terrible and have difficult exams, thus making it twice as hard for the student. Some professors are great at teaching and administer exams that are not too difficult, nor too easy. One also has to keep in mind that most professors have teaching assistants (TAs), and those professors who are especially preoccupied with their research tend to rely heavily on their TAs to answer questions, hold office hours, and grade assignments/exams. Be wary of TAs who are power-hungry. Your grade may lie in their hands.
If there is anything you must remember, it is that you can see reviews by Columbia students for Columbia students of professors, instructors, and some TAs at www.culpa.info. There you'll see what makes a professor/class good or bad and how heavy the assignments and how many exams that class has.
Dorm Life
During my first year, I dormed in a single in John Jay. There are four options for first-year dorms: very sociable doubles and quads in Carmen; somewhat sociable and more substance-free singles and few doubles in John Jay; quiet singles and doubles in Furnald; and somewhat sociable singles and doubles in the Living and Learning Center (LLC). Most first-years prefer Carmen and John Jay for their social climates.
For upperclassmen, there are dorms located nearby, but off the main quad, as it is a bit harder to get housing as an upperclassmen conveniently on campus.
Food and Dining
The food is great. Anywhere you go will have better or worse amenities. Some students complain the food is not as good as what they eat at home, but the food is fine to me.
Columbia has three main places that offer food: for early morning breakfast, late brunch, pizza, salads, stir fries, and pastas head to Ferris; for late brunch and home-cooked dinners head to John Jay dining hall; and for late night/ after midnight snacks, pancakes, omelets, hamburgers, fries, etc. head to JJ's Place.
Columbia also has other cafes on campus that offer snacks and cold/hot drinks for purchase with Dining dollars, Flex dollars (both purchased from Columbia and only valid on campus and select locations, such as the 24/7 Morton Williams grocery and Chipotle), or cash/credit card.
What to do for fun
Student Organizations throw parties more so at the beginning of the semester and near the end of the semester. Students can go sight-seeing (at the Brooklyn Bridge, in the Met, etc.) or peruse through nearby Harlem (yes in Harlem, but during the daytime, as I did). Students (of legal age) can visit 1020 or Mel's for a drink and hangout.
Bang for the buck
New York City, especially Manhattan, is known for being very expensive, but the benefits of being a Columbia student can be found at the TIC (Ticket and Information Center) and their website at artsinitiative.columbia.edu, where students can access discounts to museums, Broadway shows, and other attractions in the city.
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
At the end of every semester Columbia's marching band follow a tradition called Orgo night. They play on campus on the way to Butler library on the Thursday before Finals at midnight and deliver a comedy show for students to unwind and laugh before finals begin.
Another tradition is Scream night. One night during Finals, students head over to the middle of campus (on Low Library's steps) or just open their windows to lean outside and at midnight, they scream as loud as they possibly can.

Both options are nice stress relievers ^_^
Great for these types of students
Independent students: One thing I love about Columbia is her location. New York City is littered with train stations and buses. And although any public transportation system is not that reliable in terms of punctuality, I still value my ability to travel to various places and not have to rely on owning a car or begging for a ride. A trip one way, anywhere in NYC is $2.50 and Columbia has a train station (named after her) at 116th St & Broadway.
Students who want/love diversity: If there is one thing I was unprepared for before college, it was diversity. All of my schooling prior to college involved mostly interactions with other minorities like me. Upon coming to Columbia, I developed friendships with people of various backgrounds, both nationally and internationally. I've met students from Turkey, China, Florida, Ohio, and many other places, but also found other students with similar backgrounds as mine. It may take a while, but you will eventually find your niche here.
Clubs and Activities
Because of the diversity of the student body, there are hundreds of clubs and groups to join and Columbia encourages the creation of more student organizations for students who may feel that they aren't represented. There are dance groups, acapella groups, science organizations, engineering and math organizations, debate teams, ethnic organizations and much more. Like I said before, it may take a while, but you'll eventually find your niche here.
Greek Life
There are some fraternities and sororities here and some of them have housing near campus. For some students, rush week and pledging are easy ways to make very close friends for a lifetime but some students have had their share of disappointments in the process. It's hard to tell if a certain sorority or fraternity is worth joining, and I would suggest talking to an individual who may have left the one you want to join, but it may not be easy to find someone who has. So the best way to join a fraternity/sorority is by making sure your big brother/sister (assigned to you when you pledge) is truly someone you would count on as a close friend. Or you should join with another close friend whom you've known very well. Greek life can be a blessing, in so far as a student benefiting from relatable and dependable friendships, or a nightmare, in which misunderstandings can cause friendships to fall apart.
Campus Safety
The headquarters for Columbia's Public Safety are on the first floor of Low Library. In most dormitories, there is a guard at the desk to swipe IDs and sign in visitors. Each student is allowed a maximum of 5 guests. Each must provide a form of ID (e.g. school ID, driver's license, etc.), leave it at the desk during their visit, and pick it up when they leave.
If you are somewhere in Manhattan and feel unsafe heading home alone or with public transportation, you can call Public Safety and ask them to send an escort or you can catch a Public Safety bus, if you are near a pre-designated stop.
Usually during emergencies involving Columbia students, when someone calls 911, the emergency operator might transfer you to the Public Safety office because if something unfortunate happened to you on campus and you need help immediately, the police, who are less familiar with campus buildings/locations than Public Safety is, may take longer to get to you.
One assurance is that CAVA (Columbia Area Volunteer Ambulance) has several ambulances stationed on campus and various streets around campus to get to you as quickly as possible. Also, St. Luke's Hospital is literally in Columbia's backyard, right across the street from John Jay (a first-year dormitory) on 114th St & Amsterdam Ave.
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