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4 Years Later: Reflections of a Columbia College Senior

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Replies to: 4 Years Later: Reflections of a Columbia College Senior

  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    how do you define strong community?
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  • Take3Take3 389 replies27 threadsRegistered User Member
    Witness the way frats function at Columbia - the doors seem most often closed to non-brothers and rarely do you have the whole campus "circuiting" around different parties, frats, off campus parties, etc the way you do at other Ivies.

    I don't know how things work at other Ivies. But at many universities which aren't Ivies, it's not like there are usually parties at which the whole campus is welcome. Instead, you usually have to know people and/or be Greek to get into parties. (A notable exception is that at many schools, women can readily get into most parties.) So the situation you describe at Columbia, even if true, is actually common at many universities.
    Witness Columbia 5 year reunions - a 20% attendance is a good year. Dartmouth and Princeton bring in closer to 80% - Brown and Yale around 60%. That's a substantial difference which I think is truly indicative of the differences in culture.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc...

    If Columbia tends to attract independent people who aren't joiners by nature, is it possible that they wouldn't be hugely interested in the alumni community regardless of where they eventually attended? If it's caused by who the students were before ever setting foot on campus, it's not because of "differences in culture".

    In fact, someone who is independent might feel more connected to an institution that allowed them to be independent than one which tried to force them into a predefined notion of what "community" means. After all, there are worse things than lack of community. One example is the existence of a community from which you're excluded.

    And again, I don't know how things work at other Ivies and at top liberal arts colleges. But frankly, you don't have to go too far down the academic food chain from either before "community" is often in reality a twisted, degenerate version thereof. Rather than being genuinely inclusive, it's about excluding people who don't fit in. And more than anything, it's a vapid excuse to get drunk. (Really, anyone at any Ivy or any Ivy peer probably doesn't realize how good they have it compared to being at other schools.)

    For those of you who don't know my story, I'm a prospective Columbia GS student. I've known dozens of Columbia students and live near campus but have not myself attended at this time. Instead, I've attended McGill and a community college, the College of DuPage in Illinois. Both were growth experiences, academically and personally, despite not having the campus community typical of four-year US universities. Both did in fact have ways to get involved on campus if someone chose to do so. I've also attended four-year universities in the US which had the typical campus community. My experiences there were overwhelmingly negative. So I'm just not convinced that the traditional campus community at US universities is necessarily even a positive thing.
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  • lizzy2009lizzy2009 144 replies23 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Well i'm a first year, so i guess i have a lot to learn but last night was nice...a lot of people gathered in front if low library in the cold, drinking hot chocolate, eating nuts and listening to acapello groups....then the countdown till the trees on college walk were lit. I really love the people on my floor they're quite friendly(n.b i live in John Jay which some people claim destines you to a lonely freshman year). I really love Columbia U.......Roooooaaaarr lions Roaaaaaaarrrrr!!!!!!!
    Also im in two totally different student groups who have Columbia alumni who still attend the clubs even though they don't go here any more.
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  • enagelCC12enagelCC12 7 replies0 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Let's clarify one thing straight away:

    Columbia is not Yale. I did not want to go to Yale. I wanted to go to Columbia. While they may be on par academically, they are very, very different schools. For one thing, New Haven is not New York. I have friends at a ton of other colleges, and they're all happy because they found schools that worked for them.

    I can't say that Columbia is the perfect place for everyone. It's not. And I don't want people to come to Columbia who won't be happy. I think all of this comparison is getting competitive in a way it doesn't need to be. If you're looking at colleges, you should be looking at the qualities that make a school unique, and how they compare to your personal values. I don't know what other schools have because I don't go to other schools, so I'll stop comparing. If you want to hear about a Yalie's experience, don't ask a Columbian, ask a Yalie. Here's what I can tell you about Columbia.

    1. There is always something to do on campus. Whether it's a Monday night dumpling study break or the First Friday dance we have the first Friday of every month or a student performance of sorts, there is always something going on on campus.
    2. We live in New York City. There is always something going on in the city, and it's rarely a trick to grab a friend and go downtown to see a movie, a show, go to a museum for free, or just wander around a new part of the city.
    3. We have Greek life. Student groups, and students, host parties. If that is the type of scene you're interested in, you can find it here.
    4. If it's not, no one's going to make you. Your Columbia experience, because there is such a diversity of options, is what you make it. You can do anything you want, really.
    5. Columbia's core, and traditions like The Varsity Show, Orgo Night, Tree Lighting, Homecoming etc. are what brings Columbians together. It's not always that you'll find people painting their faces blue and white, but it happens - it's slightly more expected that someone may break out into "Roar Lions Roar" or "Who Owns New York?"
    6. You don't have to bond with your floormates. Though... if you didn't... that would probably be sad. I said before I loved my freshman floormates. I still do.

    Community is absolutely here at Columbia, and my peers are probably the biggest reason I love going to school here. And that's not in comparison to any other institution, that's just the straight up, honest to goodness, truth of my experience.
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  • almamateralmamater 57 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Hi, I stumbled upon this forum last year when I was applying to law schools and have browsed it time to time but this thread made me actually want to register and chyme in.

    I graduated from Columbia and have many thoughts on the school. To start, without a doubt I am incredibly happy where I landed for law school but not for a second do I think it would have been different if I went to a school like Brown, Dartmouth, or Duke.

    I have amazing friends from Columbia - and on this basis alone I have nice sentiments about Columbia. But without a doubt I feel as if I missed out on something. My friends at other Ivies (I know many now that I'm at grad school) seemed to have a much better time. Here's the lowdown on Columbia

    - Its cliquey: Its not a cohesive campus environment. Frats aren't very social outside themselves (people who think this is normal check out Dartmouth or Brown where everyone is welcome at any party). People of similar types tend to stick together more-so than at other schools because they simply can. At a more campus-y school people have to know each other - not here.
    - Its not social: I don't think random East Campus dorm parties or hanging out at 1020, The Heights, or Havana Central make a social life. If you are used to New York, are fine with having a few close friends, and like going downtown then Columbia is fine. If you are a social person looking to know lots of people don't expect the local Columbia environment to foster an actual nightlife.
    - Undergrad Emphasis: The core is AWESOME. I loved Lit Hum and CC and its nice to have the common academic experience across the class. BUT I feel as if Columbia is lacking outside of this. I personally like the idea of being coddled, and undergrad elements such as grants and special study abroad for majors just aren't here the way I've heard they are at Dartmouth or Princeton for example
    - Its nerdy: I love this. People are genuinely incredibly nice because of this.


    Overall would I do it again? I'm not sure. I loved a lot about Columbia but after visiting friends at Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown I totally feel like I missed out on College in some way.
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  • Silence1113Silence1113 614 replies50 threadsRegistered User Member
    I am grateful for hating parties :D
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  • goestowashingtongoestowashington 89 replies11 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I think it's pretty accepted on both sides that if you like being coddled, Columbia is 100% not for you.
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  • truazn8948532truazn8948532 1332 replies180 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Alright let me clarify something here - the word "coddled" is thrown around here with an extremely condescending tone.

    If by "coddle" you mean your advisor actually *advises* you on classes, if by *coddle* you mean that Columbia instills the feeling that the administration cares about your experience, the feeling that your alumni feel some sort of obligation to help you out, the feeling that you'll leave your four years at Columbia with *great* memories and loyalty to the school - then you are absolutely right. There is none of that "coddling" going around here at Columbia.

    I think where this manifests itself most is when it comes to elite Scholarships. By which I am referring to the Rhodes, Marshall, Gates etc. (i.e. the most elite academic programs in the world). Columbia is now ranked the #4 University in the country - I do not for a second doubt the quality of the student body. So how do you explain these numbers:

    Rhodes Winners this year:
    Harvard - 4
    Stanford - 3
    UChicago - 3
    Princeton - 2
    Yale - 2
    MIT - 1

    I can count on 1 hand how many Rhodes Columbia has won in the past ten years. Why? The advising here is inadequate. I'll leave it at that.

    I have no grudges against Columbia. I will graduate with a near 4.0, paid no tuition (faculty benefit), president of two clubs, and a job offer in hand. These things are all great - but I would trade any of these for the social experience and network I would've gotten at other schools. So again, Columbia is undoubtedly one of the best Universities in the world. But for those of you talented high-school students starry-eyed looking forward to college, if you do get into Harvard/Princeton/Yale (well you should definitely choose these places), and even in terms of Dartmouth/Penn, think long and hard before you choose Columbia over one of these. Just be cognizant of what you will be missing. You deserve it after working this hard for 18 years.
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  • pbrpbr 1004 replies14 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My suspicion is that Columbia does not fare as well in the Rhodes/Marshall/Gates arms war because its graduates are more interested in $150,000 starting incomes than academic graduate schools.
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  • truazn8948532truazn8948532 1332 replies180 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Maybe - but Harvard, Princeton, UChicago also outnumber the number of Columbia students who get investment-banking jobs.
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  • pbrpbr 1004 replies14 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^I would be surprised if reliable data exists to support that assertion. I would be astonished if reliable data exists to support the assertion that the percentage of Harvard, Princeton and Chicago students who both seek and obtain investment banking jobs exceeds the percentage at Columbia.
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  • truazn8948532truazn8948532 1332 replies180 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Alright well, I'll give you some. I was a summer analyst and will be joining one of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan for full-time in New York. My summer analyst class breakdown:

    Out of a class of roughly 100 summer analysts (they pass out a "facebook" the first day of training):

    Harvard: 11
    Princeton: 9
    UChicago: 6
    Columbia: 4

    This is across all IBD divisions (i.e. coverage teams, M&A teams, ECM/DCM/leveraged finance i.e. capital markets, research, sales and trading)

    And some schools were especially well represented. Dartmouth had 9 as well, and Georgetown had 14.

    In investment banking, your alumni network matters *a lot*. Here's how investment banking recruiting works. Each "target school" has a school captain (usually a managing director or a director) who leads a bunch of juniors. The school captains fight it out with each other to allocate space. For example, Harvard Managing Director fights Columbia Managing Director to say "I want 15 Harvard spaces this year", and they bicker back and forth (ultimately, who gets how many spaces depends on the market, the relative standings of the captains, and how many alums you got in the firm) - this is also the reason why Dartmouth and Georgetown are overly represented - their alums are *extremely* loyal and watch out for juniors.

    Let me describe to you the experience of trying to reach out to a Columbia alum, trying to get a legs-up on that recruiting process (i.e network). If in the off chance he replies to your email, you chat with him - you get the sense that he does not give you the benefit of the doubt. You have to *prove* yourself to him. I suspect this is because, again, due to the culture of Columbia, no one really helps anyone (i.e. no school loyalty), so the people who do make it into IBD are very aggressive independent. As such, they don't feel like they owe the junior candidates anything. If anything, they want to see that independence/aggressiveness - which is what happens.

    Let me contrast this with my friend from Princeton who did recruiting. One of the BSD managing directors from the firm, asked HR to dedicate an entire "What is Investment Banking? Day" only for Princeton candidates. Before the interview, the alums from Princeton went on campus several times, dined with their students in their respective eating clubs etc. (i.e. reminisced about the "old days"). After securing offers and throughout the summer, the Princeton summer analysts consistently were invited by their Princeton alums to go out for dinner, drinks, chat etc. THis also held true from what I observed for Georgetown and Dartmouth.

    This was not the case for the Columbia interns.
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  • pwoodspwoods 1078 replies18 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I can definitely understand what truazn and beard tax are saying, though I tend to believe in enagelCC12's words as well. I think that Columbia offers students a ton of potential, whether academic, extracurricular, or social. But you really have to go out and network in order to take advantage of it. As long as you make good friends, you can have a great time exploring the city, hitting the local bars, or just going to parties and chilling out. You can do everything from just chilling in dorms late at night to going to random parties and hooking up. But again, you have to know people. If you don't have anyone to call up and hang out with, you're probably going to miserable. So you have to make the effort to connect with people and basically establish a social network. The social life at Columbia is probably requires more activity on the part of students than does the social life at other schools, probably owing to Columbians' fierce independence and the atmosphere of the city.

    Does that make Columbia "cliquey"? Depends on your definition of the word. It's not like "Mean Girls", where there are groups of popular kids who exclude and abuse the less fortunate. But people do construct their social lives around groups of friends and acquaintances. In that sense, Columbia's social life is similar to that of its city. In the city, you need to find groups of friends and maintain relationships in the city; it's not like a small town where everyone knows and has social relations with everyone else. At Columbia, it's very similar, but easier to meet people since you have classes with your fellow students, see them on campus and in common areas, and are involved in extracurricular events with them. So long as you make the appropriate effort, are friendly and engaging, and are patient, you'll be able to find things to do and people to hang out with.

    The real problem at Columbia is that you have so many options that it's tough to decide what to do. Paradoxically, this can lead you to choose and do nothing (and get a good night's sleep), but as always, the potential for fun is there. Sometimes, you might need to be a little overly self-righteous, calling up people you haven't seen since NSOP and inviting them to go downtown, or showing up to an EC party that you heard about on Facebook, but you can always find something to do. And you can always meet new people and build new networks. Again, it just takes a little initiative and a willingness to be determined.

    I can fully understand that some people would prefer to have an ostensibly more natural social life, one that relies more on community and less on networking. Even students who are otherwise perfect fits for Columbia and want to be independent may have reservations about the social atmosphere, and that's fine. It's also OK if you get to Columbia and freak out that you haven't made any close friends in the first few weeks, or even the first year. Columbia isn't high school; you can always make new friends, though it might take some work.
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  • pbrpbr 1004 replies14 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    truazn, based on your logic, Georgetown is the place to go for future investment bankers.
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  • truazn8948532truazn8948532 1332 replies180 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    No - I think the Columbia brand name still carries more weight than Georgetown's. If you wanted to enter investment banking, or have a chance at all for Blackstone/KKR/Carlyle (Private equity firms that pay even more than banking), you go to Wharton.
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    truazn - i thought you weren't going to post anymore?

    this really is the lowest of low blows.

    1) dean pippenger is an upstanding guy, who knows the rules of the rhodes/marshall, etc., and guess what columbia does have a marshall scholar.

    2) the rhodes scholars from columbia i know were folks i really didn't care for, folks that looked good on paper, but lacked other qualities; in fact i have a very low esteem of rhodies as a result. there is always another way to interpret 'objective' data.

    3) columbia has more advisors per capita than all the other schools you've listed. this being part of a new $10m campaign to improve advising. saying columbia's advising sucks is spouting off something without knowing the true extent of things. i know many advising deans, i know how hard they work, i know what they want to get out of their experience, and if you have a problem - you really ought to talk to Dean Riniere, because she (having run advising systems at Princeton and Harvard) really is open to suggestions about how to make things better.

    4) i felt plenty coddled at columbia. maybe that was my experience because i became close with professors and administrators; but it certainly got to the point where if i wanted to try something i knew the right person to ask, if i was in trouble, i knew someone who had my back. this has certainly remained the case since graduating where i retain a very strong network of allies in the administration.

    As you post more and more, it just makes my job easier to show just how poorly it seems you have taken advantage of your resources available. You have easily one of the most incredible array of professors, and in a league only with Harvard, Berkeley and Stanford a strength across departments that most universities do not have. In a league with just HYPSM in terms of the ability to fund students - both in terms of financial aid, but also free monies to do things over the summer.

    Pick a problem you're having - I know the person you could talk to about it, and get it improved. I could tell you what your peers actually face in other institutions, and I could perhaps give you perspective when you pretend that your friends at other places have it so good.

    And ultimately the real reason I heart Columbia is I have a thing for underdogs; I could've chosen another school back when and perhaps had things handed to me at a ready whim, but there is something about being part of a school that is in the midst of a rebirth that is far more exciting. The Columbia you moan about is far better than the Columbia I first encountered, and will be irrecognizable to the Columbia that the students that are being admitted next week for early decision will sense when they finally depart Morningside Heights. That is what is exciting about being part of Columbia that is on this really remarkable upswing.

    Making presentist arguments for people who must make future decisions is not helpful, and indeed myopic.

    Unless you are aware of how things have transformed, and how the university has bettered; anything you say now - anything Slipper1234 says about backwhen - is anachronistic.

    Learn more about the place you attend before you make brash and uneducated statements.

    And the real question then - why didn't you apply for the Rhodes? Because Pippenger wouldn't let you and you feel bitter? You do realize that LitHum core teachers are part of a series of initiatives Pipp started to seek to define possible candidates early in college; he starts tracking kids as soon as they get to campus and works with them.

    And so long as we are making wild accusations about things - how do you reconcile that for the 2000s Columbia had more Fulbright IIE fellowships than any other academic institution? Is Columbia horrible at that too? How do you justify that Columbia makes up the 4th largest contingent at Yale Law school each year only behind HYP? Or that Harvard Med is a top 5 destination for Columbia graduates going to med school each year?

    Anyway you want to spin it - Columbia is elite and in the company of very few universities. So you had a bad time - I'm sorry, regret it for the rest of your life, never donate to Columbia, make a boatload of money, go to HBS, do whatever you want to do to make peace with your bitterness. Meanwhile, I'll still be working to do something for the university, make sure that folks know the good things, make sure that the admins know the bad things. It isn't about being coddled or not being coddled, it is about feeling a sense of attachment strong enough that you care when someone bad mouths your school, even if that person also attended your school.
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  • MrMeursaultMrMeursault 192 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    ^I would be surprised if reliable data exists to support that assertion. I would be astonished if reliable data exists to support the assertion that the percentage of Harvard, Princeton and Chicago students who both seek and obtain investment banking jobs exceeds the percentage at Columbia.
    Look at SA Class Lists at any major BB... The most well represented kids at these bulge brackets hail from H, P and Wharton, and to a lesser degree S and Y. Then you've got UofC, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT and other schools of similar caliber right below. I don't understand why you think that the number of Columbia students seeking IB jobs would be less than that of H/P/Chicago students, care to explain?
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    and truazn -

    let's move away from IBD to other 'elite' job placement opportunities. i got tons of interviews at consulting firms coming out of college precisely because i knew the BAs or associates in the firms who vouched for me, this wasn't pulling some network that goes into MDs or higher, but talks about how the friendships you make on the ground can certainly help you. they also couched me on the interviews, told me about the culture, introduced me to other columbia alums.

    i have tons of columbia friends at PE shops, one who got a job at a PE place right out of undergrad because it was started by two columbia alums and they thought he would work well for them. when i moved away from new york, i emailed dozens of columbia alums, all of whom were receptive and open to my questions and have helped me transition.

    these are experiences that are not meant to diminish how bad your experience was, but to limit the demagoguery of them.
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    pbr - percentage is a good way to think of it - columbia's class (seas and cc) is grossly smaller than Harvard's (by nearly 800 kids), smaller than YP, and slightly bigger than uchi.

    though truazn, have you been to uchicago? are you sure you want to make the basis of your argument about how great the university of chicago is vis-a-vis columbia?
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  • pbrpbr 1004 replies14 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Mr. Meursault, I have no thoughts whatsoever about the number of Columbia students seeking IB jobs. You've created that inference on your own. I simply get frustrated by attempts to present anecdotal data as proof of an assertion.
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