Admissionsgeek - my intention is to be objective about our institution. If find it incredibly hard to believe that you know a Princeton or Dartmouth that well if you consider the social differences between them and Columbia as marginal. My brother is a Princeton grad and he had a vastly different experience. Their whole student body is out in the campus vicinity every night (when has this ever happened at Columbia after rush week). He knows maybe 50% of his class by name, and he eagerly awaits reunions when classes across years attend for an entire weekend, residing in dorms, reliving their college days. Columbia's low donation percentage amongst its alums is revealing.
If you want to digress into the scholarly nature of the institutions, I would argue that "warm and fuzzy" has serious implications on an academic experience. At Columbia classes can be stupidly large (Chemistry | Columbia College), and advising is peripheral to the academic experience at best. Columbia doesn't offer its own study abroad programs like Dartmouth, and there is nearly ubiquitous knowledge of depth of the red-tape bureaucracy of our own Kent Hall.
I concur that Columbia is a very unique institution unlike no other in the world (with the exception of maybe Chicago). And its environment is ideal for many of its students. But I argue that "warm and fuzzy" does matter and a social life is a core part of the college experience for many students perusing college options. Some students might not place high priority on these aspects of a college experience, and might find themselves to be perfectly content having a more independent college experience centered upon fewer, more focused, friendships. And Columbia is not NYU - there definitely is some degree of a campus life. So the choice really comes down to priorities and what a student's own predilection for a college experience might be. Columbia is an urban school with less of a community that its peers, but it does offer unique access into NYC which is a trade-off many are willing to make. It has its strengths and its weaknesses but I think its a disservice to not put it all out on the table.
I'm not sure if you already answered this in a previous post, but I'm pressed for time so I'm just going to ask: what did you major in? If it was economics, which "path" did you choose to pursue as I believe Columbia gives you a few different concentrations to choose from (finance, math, business ect.).
Okay! Sorry, I just thought that since you got a job on Wall Street you might have been an econ major.
Oh and just wondering, would you guys say that the general attitude of most Columbia students, and the atmosphere of the university you guys keep expressing in your posts is known by the admissions officers? Would it be safe for me to refer to this attitude and atmosphere in my Why Columbia essay and have the admissions officer know about what I'm referring to?
alma - do you know what columbia colleges donation percentage is? or the momentum that has occurred over the past decade as giving has increased considerably?
a) columbia does offer its own study abroad experiences - in fact it runs 6 programs by itself or jointly. along with emerging summer internship programs that they have started, and various global centers (i have been to the one in beijing to hang out, and fully plan to take advantage of the one in latin america when it opens).
b) columbia has a smaller average class size than most of its peers, especially peers that are also large universities. if you ever tried holding an event on campus, you'd know that the registrar controls only 8 classrooms that are above 100 students, 15 classrooms that are above 60 students. the largest classroom is in IAB 417 (309 havemayer is smaller). your claim here is not substantiated.
c) i don't understand the claim that advising is peripheral to the academic experience. what do you mean by this?
i'd say i knew every decently active person on campus, and those in my major fields. i knew folks throughout engineering because of friends i made. i knew most of the students of color (whether asian, latino, black, etc.). i knew students in the greek community, and student athletes as a result. i can't put a percentage on it as your brother could, but in a class of 1400 students, i'd say i knew and had some kind of relationship with a lot of folks. so i don't think that your brother's princeton experience is somehow particularly unique to princeton.
will far more students at columbia not have my experience? i will concede that. but were there people like me and my example itself enough to suggest that you might just be on the other side of the normal distribution than i am? i also believe this is the case.
i think princeton/darmouth experiences are marginally more warm and fuzzy especially in the grand scheme of universities and colleges. which means if you score columbia at a 7 for social scene, and princeton at a 9; you ultimately have to rely on other things to make your choice because it isn't substantially superior. and even if they give you a better chance to meet folks, is it a better group of people to meet? i find the pretentiousness at columbia to be in many ways ironic, whereas i found the same at princeton and yale to be sincere. that is, i didn't find myself meshing well with the crowd of princetonians i met, and still meet (some exceptions, but you'd be surprised just how many series of disappointments meeting princeton folk has allowed this view to stand). i'd take a marginally worse social scene for a marginally better social group.
Admissionsgeek- We must agree to disagree. I just cannot fathom how you can say that there is only a marginal difference between the social life at a Princeton or Dartmouth, where basically there are 5-10 parties where the whole campus attends plus NUMEROUS other campus and off-campus social options vs. Columbia which we both know is essentially almost dormant on the weekends (or active in various closed dorm rooms, frats). The only university wide open spaces are the bars and personally I found that to be unfulfilling in fostering a true collegiate environment. I would say social life Dartmouth/ Princeton 9, Columbia 4. The closest Ivy to Columbia socially might be Harvard, but even Harvard has the Houses to host University-wide parties on the weekends (I'd give it a 6).
And while Columbia might have sparing or new involvement in internship or study abroad programs, our peers have been running such programs for 30 years or more. Its just not the same. There is much more depth elsewhere. Is Columbia a great school. Yes. Does it offer access to NYC in a way other schools do not. Yes. Does the lack of student owned social space, a true "open" culture, or an involved and caring administration hamper the student experience. Yes.
i am fine with you giving columbia a 4 on your scale, that means you think it comparable to the Manhattanville Colleges of the world, but that is just your own thing cooking. in fact i am fine if dozens of folks like truazn give it a 4 as well, some people just end up not liking columbia (can't change that).
i would give it comfortably a higher score because i had a better experience (clearly) than you did. nor am i truly friends with folks that would rate columbia a 4 to Princeton's 9. so there it is the fact that there is a gap between my experience and yours.
so we are at a stalemate in how to rate columbia? sure. that's fine.
i just think we should contextualize the fact that your experience and my experience are equally possible. students when they arrive at columbia get to in many respects decide how they want to treat columbia. if you want to find enjoyment, it is certainly there. if you want to meet half of your class, it is possible. if you want to graduate with a sense of bitterness, that too is possible.
beyond frat life, there was hardly a weekend where there wasn't a party at hogan, woodbridge, ec, ruggles or claremont. the hardest part is that because i became used to being a new yorker they all felt so far away if even in the grand scheme of things they were not. perhaps fragmented, but you do have a space impossibility of cramming 1400 people into someone's suite, but the parties were there and i had a pretty ridiculous experience throughout my time at columbia that i cherish, enjoy and look back upon fondly.
about the only thing i truly lament is the loss of hot jazz, which was without question the event of the semester. if ADP ends up buying back its house and doing the necessary fire safety precautions, i think future generation of students will get to see just how much fun of a party it could be.
ADP just bought back its house btw, so all non-greek/hipster types might have a new sanctuary for social fulfillment.
you're pretty much spot on. Some people like to hate on greek life but honestly (especially if you are a guy) there's so much diversity AMONG the chapters that you'll find a place that suits you. Unless you're COMPLETELY against the idea of going greek, I would suggest that you check it out.
and by all means, don't try too hard. just be yourself (or an extroverted social version of it) and everything else will come.
I dunno. I get almamater's perspective. I mean, I don't think Columbia has the group identity that some may seek in college. I don't feel like I'm part of a university-wide family. But this is again comparable to NYC---obviously, there are virtually no similarities between the 10 million people that make up New York City, not even the same football or baseball team, but at the same time, as a New Yorker, I have a real, tangible commonality with those 10 million people that I don't share with anyone else in the world. Same with Columbia. The things that bind us may be subtle, but I think there's something special about the fact that 116th is my stop and hamdel is how I survive finals (side note: I have never gone to HamDel at night on a weekend or during finals and not seen at least one person I know in line).
Now, our sense of group identity isn't as... outward and expressive and obvious as with Yale or Princeton or Dartmouth. But I don't know that it's any less strong. I mean, Columbia is like that family that spends 99% of the time fighting, except the 1% of the time when somebody tries to fight the family, at which point everyone gets together to bash UPenn or NYU or a stupid bwog commenter or whatever.
I do disagree with the notion that somehow it's wrong to want the warm-fuzzy obvious group identity feeling. I think it's OK to admit that Columbia just isn't going to give you that, and that even very smart students who really want that warm-fuzzy obvious group identity and a degree of handling/coddling/nurturing from their administration, just shouldn't make Columbia their first choice. It's lame to think that we might lose great students and talented performers/athletes/debaters/administrators/whatever and fun people, but if you try to be all things to all people, you'll usually end up being nothing to nobody. And it's fine to discover that you're the kind of student that needs the communal identity. I mean, I discovered that I needed at least a campus to feel like I was part of something larger, which is why I ended up not applying to NYU. Columbia ended up being the perfect balance between NYU-style "collection of buildings" and Cornell-style "life begins and ends on campus" for me, and I think it is for a lot of people.
So, summary, I think it's wrong to say that you can't have as good of a social life at Columbia as at other schools. You can still go to a party every weekend at Columbia like anywhere else. You can get wasted as much as you want, hook up as much as you want/can, have a nice conversation in a lounge as much as you want, even go to football games and have some other people to cheer with (...or so I hear). You can make just as many friends and be popular, or make a few really close friends, just takes a tiny bit of effort. What you can't get is that rah-rah, we're all in this together, I identify totally with my school collective identity that you might get at Dartmouth or Duke, or the administrative nurturing you might get at, I dunno, Princeton maybe. And I understand that's a dealbreaker for some.
But still, to the people considering Columbia, unless you're dead set on a strong collective identity that is expressed frequently, publicly, and unironically, don't let the complaints about social life at Columbia deter you from applying. You have no greater or lesser chance of finding your niche at Columbia than anywhere else. And if you're the sort of person that sees life as a bit of a challenge to be met, Columbia is certainly as good of a challenge---with as many rewards well within reach---as any school I know of (which is not to say that everyone is constantly fighting with each other either).
beyond frat life, there was hardly a weekend where there wasn't a party at hogan, woodbridge, ec, ruggles or claremont.
Amen. Just ask three to five friends what they're doing on a given weekend, and someone will invite you somewhere. And on an average weekend, you'll get at least two suggestions, say you'll go to both, only go to one, and briefly feel guilty about it when you talk to blown-off friend the next day.
haha yeah I'm def joining a frat. A couple of graduates I know all joined the lampda __ epilson or something frat, which is supposedly an all asian frat haha, and they all want me to join that frat lol.....so i guess it won't be too much of a diversity but still.....lolz
BTW, all you pro's...I have a question
1) the core curriculum...I heard it was like really small classes that foster learning...so is it divided up into a lot of parts(f.x 10 lit humanity or contemp. civilization classes) or something like that?
2) although a large portion of Columbians are from new york and knows the city pretty well, I can say the majority doesn't come from ny right? Like personally I never been to new york. And a lot of ya'll are saying NYC is the reason Columbia doesn't have much of a community....so like does a lot of ppl, once entering Columbia, just leave campus for the action? I mea, I know that I won't be able to do that for awhile, since NYC will prob be like a foreign country for me....I would have no idea where all the partays and the action is lol...any thoughts on that?
3) for all freshmens, when you first enter campus for at least, you know, a couple of month, the people youre gonna end up with are the ones closest to you (roommate, floormates, etc.) right (since your classmates chances are you won't meet them very often with a class of 1400 kids?)?
4) how important are roommates (i mean, obviously ya'll have to be compatible) but i mean does he/she end up being your best friend? Cuz I have like 2 or 3 buddies that also got in Columbia, and we're thinking about rooming, but I kind of want to get to meet new ppl and get to know them well........
5) frat life - how is it? I hear how if you join one frat, other frats hate you....personally I don't really care about that, but how's the interactions within that one frat you joined? is everyone chill and stuff? or is there a lot of tension and not a lot of cohesion even within frats?
The Core is a series of classes and distribution requirements. The classes that everyone (in the College, but not SEAS) must take consist of: LitHum and Contemporary Civilizations (small discussion classes focusing on literature and philosophy), Frontiers of Science (a lecture and discussion class that tries to teach you to understand scientific methods and critically evaluate science), University Writing (a seminar class where you practice writing different types of essays and papers), ArtHum (history of art discussion class), and MusicHum (history of music discussion class). The distribution requirements that must be fulfilled are the Science Requirement (2 science-related classes), the Global Core (3 classes dealing with a non-Western culture), and the Phys Ed Requirement (2 PE classes and the swim test). More information is available here: The Core Curriculum
Regarding NYC, the majority of students do not come from the city or even the surrounding area. I think a plurality of students come from the tri-state area. But there are almost as many from Cali, a bunch from the South, a couple from the rest of the country, and a great deal of international students. Seriously, Columbia is VERY international; around 20% of the class, I believe, is composed of international students. Columbia is definitely not only a school for New Yorkers, but you become a New Yorker by attending Columbia. Don't worry; you'll get acquainted to the city through NSOP week and the rest of freshman year. By the time you're a senior, you'll be a real New Yorker.
Some students do go downtown every weekend, but the majority don't. When I (and I believe silverchris as well) say that Columbia doesn't have a tight-knit community owing to its location in New York, I mean that it's affected by the sensibility of the city. Manhattanites tend to be independent; New York is not a small town where everyone knows everyone else and people stop strangers on the street to chat. It just isn't. That sort of decentralized atmosphere, where everyone is friendly but not intimately close with one another is also true at Columbia.
People meet others in all sorts of ways. Most will meet people during COOP (if they go) and NSOP, and also become close to the people on their floor, in their first-semester classes, and in their extracurricular activities. You may only see your classmates in class, but you can always call them and organize a study group or time to just hang out.
About half of the freshmen (including me) live in singles, so they don't have any roommates. If you do have a roommate, I imagine you'd become close to them and their group of friends. It can be a great way to meet new people and expand your own network. Whether you want to meet new people and/or keep your friends from high school depends entirely on your personality. I know some people who are extremely social and love meeting new people, and others who have a core group of best friends that they've known since high school. There's a lot of variety. And don't be misled into thinking that you only have one shot and then your friends are set for the next four years. As long as you have the will, you can always make new friends and meet new people, even after NSOP week!
I can't really tell you much about what the frats are actually like. There are a variety of frats, some of which are closer to the Animal House stereotype and some of which are...not. I know that the frats are pretty close-knit and the people involved in that community seem very happy and satisfied with it. Your average (unaffiliated) student at Columbia, though, is apathetic toward the frats and a small but vocal minority absolutely despise them. Some think they're an embarrassment to Columbia's prestige, while others are concerned about their allegedly heteronormative and misogynistic practices. Personally, I've met many cool brothers and pledgees and strong, driven sorority women. I have a healthy respect for Greek life, even though I myself would never pledge. It's just not my style. But if you're interested, definitely ignore the haters and go for it.
hey man, thanks so much for the post. I have some followed up questions to that, if you don't mind lol
1) yeah I'm acquainted with the classes but I was just wnodering, since the Core is divided up so much, there really isn't much chance of you getting to know other ppl well through classes right, since most likely you won't be in, say, two classes together or something like that?
2) cool stuff
3) wait, let me get this straight....so you and some other ppl that say columbia doesn't have a community, its NOT because ppl just wander off into the city and forget about campus activities, but rather because ppl bet abstractly imbibed with nyc mentality? how does that work? I mean, how does kids from the south (like me) go to columbia, and without checking out nyc, become all of a sudden ... new york-like? (do you get what I'm asking? sorry if its sounds long and kind of stupid lol)
4) whoa what is COOP and NSOP? some kind of orientation?
5) really? 50 % live in singles? that's weird I thought all college dorms have roommates....lol shows I'm a noooooob. Although, would having a roommate be a big disadvantage over singles?
6) oh haha I had no idea greek life was so intricated. I always thought it was just a club sorta where ppl get really close (friend wise...lol) and partay all day haha
LPhiE (the frat your friends were talking about), the rest of the asian frats, latino frats, black frats are all organized under the MGC (multicultural greek council). The "normal" frats (plus ADP) are under the IFC (interfraternity council).
MGC frats dont really have much contact with IFC frats (partially because none of the MGC frats have houses and are all stuck in EC suites) and thus never have many issues. MGC sticks to socializing with MGC, IFC sticks to socializing with IFC.
I know from a friend that LPhiE always has issues with PDPsi (the other asian frat) because they're always jockeying for the same guys to join and control of the various asian-centric clubs. Similarly, SigEp and DeltaSig (the two big non-athlete frats) have a bit of hatin' going on cause they target the same prospects. Other than that, there really aren't any major issues between houses.
I'm not going to go into detail about the particulars of my fraternity just for the sake of keeping some shroud of internet-anonymity (if you really wanted to, you could probably figure out who I was or at least narrow it down to a handful of people already). Within a brotherhood, there can always be issues, especially election time. Some houses that attract social climbers will be prone to have those issues. Some houses are a bit more chill and aren't as prone to inter-chapter beef. Regardless, almost every house has an internal standards/judiciary board to mediate if anything really serious becomes an issue.
Also, I'll encourage you to take a look at all of the houses before you accept a bid and sign papers with anyone. By take a look, I mean actually go to an event or two and meet a couple of brothers. You can go to collegeacb or wherever and catch a lowdown on the reputations of everyone but those arent always correct and almost always biased. I came from a different position in that I didn't think I was going to go Greek, but the point is the same--what you want and who you want to associate with will change ALOT. This is especially true for your first semester of freshman year.
vis a vis question 1, I've found that a class by itself is not a great cementer of friendships, but a class plus some other reason to interact can lead to a friendship. Or if you're sort of friends with someone, being in the same class will mean you see each other often enough to keep the friendship going.
And for 3... it's not that people are running out into the city, nor that they are imbibing NYC. More like Columbia has imbibed NYC and students imbibe Columbia. And it's not like each individual student is new york like (although many people do pride themselves on being city-savvy. Like me and my friends make fun of the stupid people who like, walk through Riverside Park at 3am by themselves and then are all shocked when they get mugged, or the idiot who walked into the bank at 5am while walking back from Harlem near Morningside Park.) It's just that the culture in general is very NYC-ish, with the whole "we don't always make a big show of our school pride" thing.
Also, agreed that you'll be a New Yorker by senior year. You'll be navigating the subway, you'll understand the bus lines, and you'll refer to the place where you live as "my building" along with everybody else.
NSOP is the orientation program (mostly lame), and COOP is a pre-orientation program involving hiking, rowing, or biking (I think) that has a magical power of creating cultlike friendships and will automatically get you invited to at least one party during NSOP and one or two parties a semester (or so it seems). I didn't do COOP, but people are obsessed with it, and I kind of wish I had.
As far as singles vs. doubles, in my experience, how tight-knit your floor is had absolutely nothing to do with rather it's in Carman (doubles) or John Jay (singles), so ultimately having a roommate isn't an advantage or a disadvantage. It has more to do with what you want/what you're most comfortable with.