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Commuting to Columbia

want2bIvywant2bIvy Posts: 412Registered User Member
edited February 2008 in Columbia University
I am a prospective for the Class of 2012...and would be commuting to Columbia , if I am accepted. I've heard that the Columbia community lacks some of the cohesiveness of other undergraduate colleges, due to location and the prevalence of graduate schools all over campus.

How difficult is it to be a commuter at Columbia, and still be a part of the Columbia community? Is there a commuter organization, lounge, etc? Does anyone have any personal experience with commuting--and does having to commute each day make the workload more difficult?

I applied to both Barnard and Columbia, so feedback about either experience would be EXTREMELY helpful.

Thanks =)
Post edited by want2bIvy on

Replies to: Commuting to Columbia

  • mikesownmikesown Posts: 483Registered User Member
    I remember reading an exact article about this in the Columbia Spectator(found at Finding Spirit on the Subway | Columbia Spectator). Also, another article detailing this is Riding the Rails to Morningside Heighttts | Columbia Spectator. I am not a Columbia student(yet.... deferred ED!), but I get the sense that it's a bit lonely to be off campus. To quote the first article:
    It was this feeling that made me question the response that fellow students would give me when I told them that I was a commuter. "That's not all that bad," they would say. "At least you get to concentrate on your work. The campus and dorm life can be really distracting."

    Maybe they did not get it. Maybe they did not realize that the "distractions" that kept them from their work constituted a valuable part of campus life. Whether they chose to hang out in the lounge with their friends watching a big sporting event or award show; spent a Friday evening at the movies, a restaurant, a bar, or a club with friends; decided to forego some schoolwork to catch a performance by Six Milks; or chose to Take Back the Night, they were involved in a community. The everyday routine that a dorm resident takes for granted represents the very things that should make every student feel like a part of a greater community.

    Personally, I'd be in a somewhat similar situation if admitted(door to door to Columbia is like 1hr30mins... doable, but painful to do every day). I'd stay on campus - no question. Living on campus allows you to immerse yourself. I mean, do you really want to be living with your parents for four years during college? Don't you want to be able to walk over to a friend's dorm in five minutes? Don't you want to have the chance to immerse yourself in an intellectual environment 24/7? Financing should not be a problem; Columbia is fairly generous with aid and room + board is something like $10k per year which is a bargain for what you get!

    To address your concerns about the "cohesiveness" of the community, from what I have heard, the community is a type where you have a few really close friends, and you go downtown with them on thurs, fri, sat. But, there is a central campus(unlike NYU), and there is a community. Living on campus gives you the chance to make such friends. I would imagine, it would be much harder. Living on campus, you can just walk up to someone and say something to the effect of "Wanna go out to grab a beer?" While you can meet people in classes, it's generally much harder.

    So, in summary, my opinion is: Live on campus if you can.
  • ShrafShraf Posts: 2,403Registered User Senior Member
    if you put down that u were gonna be a commuter on your app it (from what i've seen) puts you at a disadvantage to begin with (at columbia, not at barnard)

    college just isn't the same if you commute....there is no way you can get the full experience, get the bang for your buck, and be able to do all the ECs you want and emerge yourself in the environment while commuting.

    I lived on campus all through undergrad but have moved back home for grad school....it has been one semester so far and its very annoying and isolating. And the 1hr commute is no walk in the park (i commute to the health sciences campus though).
  • Columbia2002Columbia2002 Posts: 4,529Registered User Senior Member
    Why don't you folks, like, worry about this if you so happen to get in?
  • want2bIvywant2bIvy Posts: 412Registered User Member
    I applied to a number of schools in the city, and the commuting issue would apply to all of them...so thats why I am hoping to gain some perspective before actually having to make the decision.

    Of course I would prefer to live on campus, whether it be at Columbia, NYU, Barnard, etc. But the financial strain of tuition would be pressing my family enough--asking parents for 10K extra per year seems selfish when there are other siblings, etc. to consider. I don't know if a school even would want to give someone alot of extra finaid, when they have the option to live at home for a lesser cost.

    Thanks for the insight, and the articles...they were very helpful.
  • ken285ken285 Posts: 3,871Registered User Senior Member
    I went to a different undergrad school, but also in NYC. The first year, I commuted, and it was fairly tough. If there were events at night that I wanted to go to, I'd hang around school doing work if I have a lot of time to kill. Starting my second year, I moved into an apartment with a few friends near school (no school housing was offered after freshman year), and everybody else more or less had an apartment in the same general area as well. Definitely quite a change from the previous year. It's so great to be able to spontaneously do stuff with your friends, instead of planning out things ahead of time so you can take the hour long subway ride to school.

    Now at Columbia as a grad student, I've moved back home and the commute is about 1 hour 15 minutes each way. It's not as bad as it seems because I only have classes two days a week this semester. As an undergrad, I don't think that's too common, so it'll be much tougher.
  • ShrafShraf Posts: 2,403Registered User Senior Member
    Of course I would prefer to live on campus, whether it be at Columbia, NYU, Barnard, etc. But the financial strain of tuition would be pressing my family enough--asking parents for 10K extra per year seems selfish when there are other siblings, etc. to consider. I don't know if a school even would want to give someone alot of extra finaid, when they have the option to live at home for a lesser cost.

    Well in the case of NYU, yes the housing is $10k and they are horrible with financial aid. As for Barnard, housing is, i think, approx $7k and even though they are more generous with the aid than NYU it will probably still come up short. In Columbia's case, housing is $6-7k and their financial aid usually fills in the gaps of what your parents cannot pay and they take living on campus very seriously so they naturally factor it into the financial aid package. As for your siblings, the number of dependents your parents have factors into what they can pay, along with their income which is of course the most important. Also, if you are in college at the same time as at least one of your siblings you get a huge boost in financial aid. If you will be taking out the federal loans that are offered to you, you are doing work study, and your parents are covering their EFC (expected family contribution) and columbia gives you a grant for the rest then you are in essence giving up free housing since columbia would extend the grant to cover it....IF you maxed out everything else.

    However, if your parents are making like $200-300k or something of that nature and your EFC is greater than the cost of attendance then your out of luck.
  • Columbia2002Columbia2002 Posts: 4,529Registered User Senior Member
    I applied to a number of schools in the city, and the commuting issue would apply to all of them...so thats why I am hoping to gain some perspective before actually having to make the decision.

    The "commuting issue" hardly applies to "all of them." Commuting to Columbia is a vastly different consideration as compared to commuting to pretty much every other NYC school.
  • want2bIvywant2bIvy Posts: 412Registered User Member
    I suppose that you are right, Columbia2002. The NYU commute would be very different than the Columbia commute, and I am sure that life for commuters varies at each school. The atmosphere of each school is different, as well, and this could also alter the experience. I still think, however, that the commuter perspective of any student gives insight to living off campus.

    Thank you to those who posted, your knowledge was very informative; it seems that each school deals with financial circumstances differently, and I will just have to wait and see about admission/finaid.
  • rkutzerrrkutzerr Posts: 47Registered User Junior Member
    What about living off campus? I know that Columbia offers housing all 4 years, but am considering moving to an apartment my sophomore year. Will this make me very disconnected from the social life? Thanks
  • confidentialcollconfidentialcoll Posts: 2,491Registered User Senior Member
    ^yes quite, columbia can be quite cliquey at times, but there is still a big advantage of the promixity of all your friend who live in campus housing. living on campus is also especially advantageous, because you're in a cocoon, shielded from the bustle of the city, it helps with the sanity.
  • ShrafShraf Posts: 2,403Registered User Senior Member
    What about living off campus? I know that Columbia offers housing all 4 years, but am considering moving to an apartment my sophomore year. Will this make me very disconnected from the social life? Thanks

    i think as long as your apartment is fairly close to campus it'll practically be like living in upperclass housing. however though, i dont think u realize the expense of living off campus. At $7184 (the most expensive dorms at columbia) for seven and a half months you'd be paying a bit less than $1000 a month....and don't forget that includes utilities and internet. There is absolutely no way you can beat that in the immediate area of columbia so i really don't see why you would want to live off campus. The only people who i've known who've lived off campus were either kicked out of housing or think they're too cool for the dorms (and typically have rich parents).
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