I have been admitted to GS for the fall and am really excited about it. However, as I've been reading forums on this and other sites, I've come across a lot of negativity about GS. Now, I know the stats -- I've read that GS students have the highest average GPA, that they receive the same degree, are an official Columbia undergrad college, and all that. My reasons for coming to GS would be to receive the most rigorous education possible and have the opportunities of NYC available to me, so I know that I would be getting that as a GS student. Therefore, my question here isn't whether GS is or isn't a great school. My question is: how much prejudice do GS students actually put up with, from other students and when seeking jobs?
I ask this because, although I am fairly sure that I want to attend GS, I do have other options. I could go to either UCLA or UC Berkeley for free because I qualify for CA need-based aid, but at Columbia I will be taking on some major debt. I think that the debt may be worth it for the type of education and opportunities I would get at Columbia, but if I am paying all that money I don't want to put up with stigma from the people who seem to be getting it confused with the school of continuing ed or calling it a "back door" to Columbia. To the people who consider it lesser than CC, is it still above Cal and UCLA? Is this the sort of ridiculous elitism that Barnard College attendees put up with, or is there a deeper mistrust of GS? Can anyone help shed light on this?
Congratulations on getting into Columbia GS and as for the part when you said that GS is basically a backdoor into Columbia, that is wrong because GS is a highly selective undergraduate part of that school. They take the same classes as with Columbia College students. Last year I applied to GS and got denied but however, I am here at UCLA and I enjoy it here. I am not being biased towards either school because you have fantastic choices between UCLA, Cal and Columbia. Go with what your heart says.
If you are going to UCLA's Picture in the life of a transfer day on may 11th, message me in collegeconfidential so that I can give you my email address. What community college in the LA area are you going to?
On campus nobody will care you're GS. There's some quiet *****ing online in bwog comments, but outside of that you're a full member of the community. Some small niche clubs are less welcoming than others, but that's true of any niche. The campus is generally a slightly cold place for all students unless they put effort into making connections, but if you do make that effort you'll find a wealth of friends in all four schools.
On the job market, it's a bit more complicated. Anyone who really knows Columbia well will know GS, and know that your degree is as worthwhile as a Columbia College student. Anyone who doesn't know Columbia won't care which constituent college you graduated from. It's the people who know just enough to be dangerous that should worry you. They certainly exist, as you can tell by the vitriol spewed online. GS graduates place in top graduate schools and businesses as you'd expect. Do they face some discrimination? Quite possibly. I think any student entering the job market via a nontraditional path will face unique challenges (and benefits).
In my opinion, the job market shouldn't be a worry. If you come to GS and do well, you'll succeed.
However I must say you should look very carefully at the debt. GS is VERY expensive, so be sure you really understand the amount of debt you'll be facing. The most grant money most new students were getting last year was only $7-$8k, when GS estimates the tuition, housing, and life expenses for a full time student at close to $60,000 for the year. Pell Grants and other forms of aid can help, but it's still an unfortunate situation.
Thank you both for your thoughtful responses. Though I know these internet trolls probably represent a minority, it's still troubling to me. It seems like a lot of the negativity comes from older alums who attended when GS was quite a different program than it is today, but there also seem to be some current students who feel that the quality of their education is being diluted by GS students. (Which is thoroughly ridiculous, and I am certainly not swayed by their arguments, but I also don't want to have to put up with that sort of elitism on campus.)
Campaigner, my only other qualm about GS is indeed the cost. I do qualify for the Pell grant, but $5500 isn't much when the annual costs are ten times that. On the one hand, it's hard to put a price tag on the quality of education and resources Columbia offers; on the other, since I do plan to go to grad school I'm a bit weary of taking on a lot of debt for undergrad. My major is Art History, so Columbia has a really spectacular program for that and unparalleled access to museums and culture; however, Cal and UCLA both also have AH programs ranking in the top ten, with Cal sometimes even being ranked higher than Columbia. What keeps pushing me toward Columbia is the thought that I'd be really putting myself in the most challenging environment available to prepare me for grad schools and having a totally different experience than I would have if I stay in CA. I feel like pushing my boundaries in that way would be really valuable. I'm going to come visit Columbia this month to check everything out, though, and see how it all feels.
Have you made a decision yet? I am facing the same dilema at the moment, and although I have visited all three schools, I have no idea what I am going to do. Did you find out anything else?
Go to Berkeley. In this economy, you're best off attending the best school at the best price.
Also, and this is just my impression, it seems like the people who have the most concerns about prestige tend to continue worrying about it indefinitely. You're probably always going to worry about reputation and stuff, so just go where you can best mitigate that.
jan has a decent point - GS is expensive. The reputation is, IMO, great. However I know many people worry about it. Frankly I'm proud to go to the school and proud of all the reasons it's unique. If an employer/etc doesn't care to understand GS I'm not going to be a good fit for them anyway, so screw 'em.
However it's an expensive risk to come here. Have you visited the school? That may help you understand whether it's right or not.
Olivia, I just graduated from GS with a major in Art History and loved every minute of it. Your professors will be the rock stars of their field. Over a two year period, I was the research assistant for one of the professors and met some of the most amazing scholars. I never felt unwelcome nor faced any prejudice as a GS student. My diploma says Columbia University on it, not General Studies. I applied to grad school and was offered a teaching assistantship at a large, well-regarded university. This included money and an opportunity to do a lecture series. As an undergraduate, I sat next to CC students and didn't do anything different to earn my grades. Same class, same hard work. We are an integrated university. Please do not make your decision based on what some people had to complain about on this and other forums. You may not have noticed that the same people are complaining about the Barnard students as well. There are some people that just love to complain; you find them in all aspects of life. I encourage you to make your decision based on the academics and the amount of student debt that you are comfortable to accumulate by graduation.
Have you made your decision yet? I am a vet (school paid for by Uncle Sam), just graduated from GS with an econ degree and was able to land an amazing IB'ing job on Wall Street at a bulge bracket firm. Although our stories are much different, I feel I can still speak to your dilemma and anyone else who may be facing the same problem.
I never once felt I was discriminated against while at GS - the only people at Columbia who are looked down upon are the ones who can’t hack it (you can find these people at any of the schools within Columbia). People earn their respect at CU not by what school they attend but by their GPA - and anyone who tells you different, never went to Columbia.
With that being said, I would choose Berkeley or UCLA hands down. If you have a full ride, I wouldn't pass it up. The Columbia degree does go a long way but not worth the 100k+ when compared to the opportunities Cal and UCLA bring.
On the other hand, if you had a different major and were thinking about working on Wall Street, my advice would be completely the opposite. Hope this helps - good luck!
GSGRAD. I'm a vet applying for the Spring '13 semester. How was your experience with your benefits? Columbia is an expensive school, and I know veteran's benefits don't cover all the costs. How much in personal loans did you have to take out? Do you mind breaking down specifically how you went about paying for Columbia?
Also, how old were you at graduation? I plan on majoring in Econ but was worried, particularly, about my age entering the Finance world (I'll be 31 if my plans come to fruition).
Hi there...I just got into GS, I really don't see anybody caring about CC/SEAS/GS while on campus. Its very well integrated with the rest of the schools, and all that matters is how well you are doing in your classes.
Columbia was completely paid for by the VA - I fell under the "grandfather clause." Going forward, I understand that if you only take 12 units a semester, you come out of pocket less than $1000 for that semester (I may be wrong, so please check).
As for the finance question, I was 29 when I graduated... We can have a whole separate conversation about the pluses and minuses as it relates to landing an IB gig in our situations, and I would like to put my info on this thread so we could chat but that’s probably not a good idea... haha. So I’ll leave you with this, the young guns are not going to like you and will feel threatened because you're not like them. However, the older Associates/VP's/MD's will love you. This will only matter during the interview process - recognize it fast and make it work for you.