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Graduate School Opportunities

Actium94Actium94 Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
I have done a ton of research on Columbia's School of General Studies, and am, for the most part, convinced that it is the school I will attend in the fall. However, I've stumbled upon a few posts on various forums here that cast some doubt on my decision. Though these posts (and there are very few) are mainly centered on employers' perceptions of GS, I am concerned mainly with how graduate schools view this program. Again, I've done some research and have read about GS students going on to attend prestigious law schools, medical schools, etc. I guess I'm just looking for some final confirmation from users here that this is certainly the case. I'm fairly confident that GS is an excellent program, but remain a bit skeptical about the notable differences in admissions standards between the other two undergraduate schools at Columbia. On that note, has anyone that has attended GS ever had any issues with prospective employers or graduate schools? Have any of you also faced any discrimination from other Columbia students, or heard of any anti-GS sentiment on campus?

Replies to: Graduate School Opportunities

  • rcave13rcave13 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    Random messages on an anonymous forum such as College Confidential, particularly when those comments are not really substantive, should not drive your analysis in deciding where to attend college.

    I went to GS and graduated in 2013 Phi Beta Kappa/Magna. After graduation, I applied to several law schools, and I was lucky enough to gain admission to several top schools: Gerogetown, Cornell, and Notre Dame to name a few. I ultimately settled on Notre Dame because they offered me a very very generous scholarship.

    I have also applied forbseveral law jobs and each prospective employer was impressed with the fact that I went to Columbia. They have never asked/mentioned the distinction between any of Columbia's undergrad schools. To be honest, most people don't know about these distinctions, nor would they ever care to find out. To them, a BA from Columbia is a BA from Columbia. Indeed, this last point rings true for all of my interactions where questions come up about my undergrad experience. Even when I say that I went to GS and that it serves non-traditional students, it just sort of goes over peoples' head's. In short, nobody cares. A smattering of anonymous posts should not make you care either.

    Having said all that, if you plan on going to law school, I would recommend that you not attend GS. I can't speak to other grad programs, but in law school, nobody cares where you went to undergrad. Employers and people in general will only want to know where you went to law school. With that in mind, save your money and go to a cheaper school.

    Don't get me wrong. I learned a ton at Columbia, but the price tag is pretty high for a brand-name degree that people, at least in my experience, generally don't care about. A close friend of mine at law school went to a Cal State school, but did really well in law school, and now he's making $160,000/yr at a major law firm in NYC.

    Again, my advice is limited as to whether you choose to pursue law school. A BA is a BA in the law school world.
  • nickdrakenickdrake Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    @rcave13 I appreciate the response. You're absolutely right about not letting anonymous messages on these forums have an influence on what ultimately is an extremely important decision. I have just come to rely on several of these threads for the wealth of information they can often provide, and felt it was fair to at least consider some of the more negative perspectives on the school. Regardless, your experience with employers seems in line with those of many other GS graduates, and that is certainly reassuring.

    As someone that is seriously considering law school, I have also begun to reach some of the same conclusions that you mentioned above. It seems that although undergraduate GPA is heavily considered in law school admissions, the actual school at which the GPA was established doesn't carry much weight. At this point, however, the deadlines for other schools have passed and I am committed to GS. In your honest opinion, attending Columbia as an undergraduate had no influence on your admission to top 20 law schools? What were some of the other law schools that your peers were accepted to?
  • nickdrakenickdrake Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    BTW, @Actium94 is an account I made. I forgot the login/pw for nickdrake but was automatically logged in on a different computer
  • rcave13rcave13 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    Where you went to undergrad almost has zero effect on where you go to law school. Law school ad coms really don't care. Law schools have to report incoming GPAs and LSAT scores. These scores, whether rightly or wrongly, directly effect a law school's ranking. So law schools really just want to report the highest average score.

    If you went to Brooklyn Tech and majored in underwater basket weaving, but you had a 3.8+ GPA and a 170+ LSAT, you will get into pretty much every law school that you apply, likely even Harvard, and you will get scholarship money at most of those schools.

    Also, where you went to undergrad really doesn't have an effect on your success in law school. It's common for kids to come in from low ranked state schools and crush it at top tier law schools. In fact, there are a lot of students here at Notre Dame who went to undergrad schools like Northwestern, University of Chicago, Williams, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, etc. and not one of them, save for the Yale guy, made law review.

    As for GS, I know people who got into Harvard/Yale and low ranked law schools. It really depends on your GPA and, perhaps more important than that, your LSAT score. Law schools have an easier time finding high GPAs than high LSAT scores.

    In short. If you're set on law school. Go to a school that's cheap, pick a major that interests you (history was my choice) so that you'll excel, then crush the LSAT. Then you'll have your choice of top tier law schools, regardless of where you went to undergrad.

    Once you get to law school, you'll fully realize how insignificant where you went to undergrad becomes. Perhaps the only tangible benefit is the alumni base, but Columbia's alumni relations are notoriously terrible, and that's true for all the undergrad schools (CC, SEAS, GS).

  • pobox123pobox123 Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    I'm also very interested in this topic. @rcave13 Is what you just said (where you went to undergrad doesn't have much effect on law school application) true for other graduate program, such as Ph.D?
  • rcave13rcave13 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    Good question. To be honest, I can't really tell you one way or the other. Perhaps Ph.D. Programs have a more holistic application process where "softs" like where you went to undergrsd will play a role. Most Ph.D. programs list their Ph.D. candidates on each department website and provide a short bio. You can go to Harvard's history department website and see which PhDs in that department went to what school.

    In my experience with PhD candidate TAs at Columbia, they came from many different schools. But most of them were good schools.

    You pose an interesting question, but I suspect that where one went to undergrad is not all that important. Law school, on the other hand, is purely about stats. PhD programs don't have to report their incoming GPAs/LSATs to any rating agency like the ABA with law schools, so they can likely be more flexible with who they admit. I think for PhD programs, ad coms want to see if you're capable of, first being a TA, and then your ability to contribute some kind of scholarship.
  • nickdrakenickdrake Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    Is it not reasonable to assume that a student who attained their degree from Columbia will be better prepared for the rigor of a law school curriculum than someone who graduated from Brooklyn Tech? I am in no way disagreeing with you, as I clearly have no experience with the matter, but it seems like a fair conclusion to draw. Regardless, I appreciate the advice and it certainly gives me something to think about. Do you remember any of the other graduate programs that some GS students attended, outside of law school? Also, what was your undergraduate experience like at GS?

  • rcave13rcave13 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    edited April 2016
    The thing is, once you get to a top tier law school, everyone is pretty smart and most, if not all of your fellow classmates work really hard. They wouldn't be at the school if they didn't.

    More broadly, law school is not necessarily a gauge on one's intellengece or breath of knowledge outside of law school. 99% of incoming 1Ls, whether they went to Ivy League schools or low ranked state schools, won't know what legal concepts like "res ipsa loquitor" is, or know how the Model Penal Code relates to state statutes. We're all learning this stuff for the first time together.

    Success in law school really comes down to two things: understanding black letter law and being able to take a final exam on a given legal topic. You're entire grade will be based on this final exam. On the exam you will read a story (a fact pattern) and be asked to "spot" the myriad legal issues therein. If you can spot a lot of issues and do legal analysis regarding those issues (basically arguing both sides of that issue) then you will do well. That's it. Where you went to undergrad will not help you achieve any of this. You just need to learn the black letter law, and practice spotting issues and doing legal analysis.

    Perhaps the amount the amount of reading you'd do at Columbia will prepare you for law school, but that, in my view, is about it.

    GS was fine. I felt socially segregated. But that was primarily due to two factors: (1) I studied a lot. I was, ostensibly, a monk (I knew I wanted to go to law school so I put in the work); (2) GS students live off campus and a lot of Columbia's social life centers around dorm life. I was always proud that I went to Columbia while I was there, but there was almost zero school spirit. When I came to Notre Dame, it was like an awakening. People love going to school here, and everyone is really supportive. You can see why the alumni base is so strong here at Notre Dame. I never felt that at Columbia. And I had friends at other colleges within Columbia who felt that very same dissonance. It's a cold, somewhat awkward place socially.
  • nickdrakenickdrake Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    Ah I see, certainly makes sense when viewing it from that perspective. So a fact pattern will test your knowledge on legal issues taught in that specific course?

    I have unfortunately heard/read similar things about Columbia's social life. Were there many GS-centered extracurricular activities to get involved with? I tend to be quite reclusive myself, but am hoping to meet at least few people as an undergrad. I apologize for the line of questioning, but how was GS in terms of accepting transfer credits? I haven't received a credit evaluation yet and am eager to find out how long I'll be living in the city for.
  • rcave13rcave13 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    edited April 2016
    You can join any club, and you will accepted into whatever club(s) you choose with open arms. Clubs want members, they don't care what undergrad school you go to. You can be as active or as inactive as you desire. You can even do the whole Greek Life thing (I, personally, never saw the appeal of it).

    Heck, if you qualify with the NCAA, and you're athletic, you could even join a varsity team. A recent GSer was an all-Ivy league selection in baseball and was drafted by the Yankees last year.

    I went through my credit evaluation 6 years ago, so I'm a bit hazy in this regard, but they're fairly generous.
  • nickdrakenickdrake Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    My final question for you is regarding the transition into GS. What were your thoughts on University Writing, and was it difficult for you to adjust to the course load at Columbia? I appreciate the feedback.
  • rcave13rcave13 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    edited April 2016
    UW was a lot of, well, writing. I got an A, which took some effort. I was not prepared for the level of work to begin with, but I still managed to get a 3.7 in my first semester - that was my worst semester academically. You'll come accross some really really smart students at Columbia. You'll feel smarter just by walking around and talking to people. You'll look up at Butler library and see Socrates' and Herodotus' names etched on the building and feel like you're a part of some intellectual haven. It really rubs off on you. The education, from the top down, is top notch. You'll be able to go to the Met and look at a painting and understand why, from both an aesthetic and historical prospective, that that painting is hanging there (Art Hum).

    But, like I said, if finances are an issue, I would highly advice you not to go to Columbia. If you know you want to go to law school, it's just too expensive.
  • nickdrakenickdrake Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    Thanks again for the feedback @rcave13, it is greatly appreciated.
  • TajeliTajeli Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
    Hey @rcave13 do you know if this holds true for majors like economics and computer science, where undergrads may want to pursue an MBA or a similar professional degree? I'm considering transferring to GS to study computer science , however, I've recently completed a BBA in economics at Baruch college. Would appreciate your incite.
This discussion has been closed.