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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

  • truazn8948532truazn8948532 1332 replies180 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    We've been asking our most famous graduate, Mr. Barack Obama to be our class day speaker now for what, the past 3 years? (We're asking this year as well).

    He hasn't come yet. We'll see if he comes this year - but I definitely would not count on it.

    Anyway, a great resource for prospective students:

    http://www.wikicu.com/War_on_Fun
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  • MrMeursaultMrMeursault 192 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior 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.
    You mean larger than Y and P right?
    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.
    Oh. The "I would be surprised..." and "I would be astonished..." signified that you weren't trying to express a viewpoint?
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don't think Obama is our most famous graduate. And not even our most famous nobel prize winner.

    Want a Rhodes Scholar? How about Ben Jealous, or were you not a fan of him being a graduation day speaker either.

    Does the War on Fun article talk about the resurgence of greek life, and how the actual new alcohol policy involves greeks monitoring greeks? No. Truazn giving a partial story, what a shock. Or the fact that Columbia has fewer alcohol reported incidents than all the other ivies (far fewer than dartmouth) - which either means columbia students are less fun (though my anecdotes tell different), or enforcement at columbia is not as strong. Perception problem, perhaps?

    Keep the half job coming. You're just serving up softballs.
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  • inquiringinquiring 29 replies13 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    As a parent of a current Columbia student, I can tell you that there are a number of opportunities to get involved in organizations, clubs and other things that are part of a community at Columbia. My impression when talking to my child is that there is great sense of community if you would like to be part of it. If you are not the type to get involved on campus then you can always go into the city. Granted that not every one goes to the football games because the field is not on the campus, but there are many community events on campus that other schools do not have. The core is wonderful, the opportunities presented to students are fantastic particularly because of Columbia being in NYC. .... and then there is NYC to explore, the museums, the theater. It like having the best of both worlds - a great college in a great city. As many others pointed out - it is not for everyone, if you think that you would like the core and enjoy living in a big city, then Columbia is definitely for you.
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  • truazn8948532truazn8948532 1332 replies180 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I find it a bit amusing you're getting so defensive. And I'm really not sure why. I made it abundantly clear in my first post that there are positives about Columbia, and there are negatives.

    I'm also not sure why you're "selling" Columbia to students. There's a reason why respectable institutions don't run TV ads like Geico.

    Bottom line: Prospies, before coming to Columbia, just be cognizant of what it is you will be getting, and missing out on. As with any decision - there are benefits and costs.
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  • pbrpbr 1004 replies14 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Mr. Mersault, please read my post again. I stated that I would be surprised and astonished IF YOU HAVE RELIABLE DATA... My statement remains true.

    inquiring, as a fellow parent, I agree 100% with your point of view. (My son would too.)

    truazn, I don't sense that anyone is defensive. All opinions are valid. Some posters, however, are trying to prevent the perpetuation of dated generalizations and implications that anecdotal outlying experiences embody the "true" Columbia experience.
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    agreed, i am not being defensive, slightly annoyed, perhaps, though certainly doing what you are doing too - contextualizing the other side. Of course the reality is that there is some middleground analysis that hopefully folks will form from our ebate. But that middle ground analysis, I hope you agree, would still say Columbia is one of the best universities in the country to be an undergraduate. There are only a handful of universities that offer something comparable, and depending on who you are, what you want, and where you see yourself going, you could attend any one of them and find happiness, including Columbia.

    I just want to clarify that Columbia should be in that league. And just as a student is admitted to HYP and C should look seriously at HYP and decide if they would rather go there, I think the student who gets into H should look at Columbia seriously as well.
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  • almamateralmamater 57 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Admissionsgeek how do you discount the fact that I had almost the exact same experience as truazn. In conversations with my friends I would say our viewpoint is the majority. We had a great time at Columbia, but it is not an ideal undergrad experience for students looking for undergrad focus or community. I deeply wish Columbia were more of a community, but lets call a spade a spade.
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  • beard taxbeard tax 243 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    admissionsgeek, you're argument just demonstrates that Columbia's climate is changing, but it's not the right place for a lot of students. Sure, advising is getting better and they finally have a central office for all the advisers. Before, the advisers were scattered around campus in Broadway Residence Hall, Schapiro Residence Hall, and Carman Residence Hall. I can speak for engineering advising, and it is quite honestly terrible. The advisers, who by the way are charged with a specific major (Applied Mathematics, Operations Research, Chemical Engineering, etc.) actually must refer to the bulletin in order to give advice on what sequence of classes to take and have no idea who is teaching the course or whether any professor is good. An advising dean even mentioned that I should just check CULPA - Columbia Underground Listing of Professor Ability for information on professors. I actually feel that no one in the administration "has my back". I've spoken to my adviser recently about my classes and some of the problems that I've been experiencing, and while she's been supportive, she has no idea what activities or resources to tap into in order to expand my network.

    Furthermore, in SEAS at least, the school is so unreceptive to the student's needs. First, it's almost impossible to study abroad, because the SEAS study abroad advising position is being permanently removed in order for Dean Pena-Fionsky to focus the school's resources on research. That means fewer resources for undergraduates and more resources for research in order to make Columbia a top ten engineering school. Furthermore, if you are experiencing difficulties, it's impossible to take 1 semester off because of the sequencing of classes. You must leave for at least 2 semesters. Combine that with the fact that you can't study at peer institutions in the US for credit, this means that it's impossible to leave campus for anything less than 1 year. Good luck to anyone having difficulty at school who wants to leave for 1 semester and still have any semblance of a social life.

    Honestly, truazn and I aren't here to bash Columbia and give it a terrible name. To be quite honest, when we become alumni, it's in our best interest to help students gain a sense of alumni community that we never had. I want to respond to e-mails from Columbia students with questions when I become a professional and I want to give them guidance, something that is so lacking from the advising office or the Center for Career Education. I think I continue to contribute to this thread because I know many students in the same position I am; we're not socially inept,but we find it difficult to fit into Columbia University. It's not an uncommon problem and it's a large risk for any high school students thinking about attending university. There is a relatively high proportion of people (I would estimate around 10-20%) of the undergraduate body that has trouble socially. I PM'ed truazn and he gave me a great message about how to have a fulfilling social life at Columbia. Here it is:

    "Anyway, the social life here is *highly-fragmented* and revolves around three things:

    1) Which dorm/floor you lived on freshman year and who you met
    2) Which club you joined freshman year
    3) Fraternities

    So if you, like many people I know, lived on a floor and made a few friends but not many, joined some clubs but decided to quit later on because you realize most of them are complete BS organizations, and did not join a fraternity - then it's pretty much good luck to you.

    There are a lot of parties on campus. Problem is they are always invite-only, and by "invite" I mean the same 15-20 people who always hang in the same "circle" (i.e. the model UN club, the debate team, the athletes, the asians) etc.. As you know... the lack of space at Columbia really murders the campus-wide social scene here."
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  • ShruggingSheepShruggingSheep 155 replies9 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    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.

    That this puts us at a disadvantage (relative to other schools) is a sad commentary on the recruiting process itself.

    By the way, I don't see how this makes us any different from Princeton. From what you said, it sounds like their alums are chummy only with those from the same eating clubs, not just any random kid that happens to go there. How is this different from Columbia, where the frat bros/athletes help each other out on WS?

    Edit: Point is, how can you argue that HYP are any less "cliquey" than Columbia? You would still have had to join the "right" clubs and meet the "right" people to build the WS network you sought. No offense to you, but it is entirely possible that you would have faced exactly the same problem at HYP if you aren't WASP-y enough (or whatever it is you need to be to get into these WS networking circles).
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  • truazn8948532truazn8948532 1332 replies180 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @ShruggingSheep - That's a good point. There is naturally is selectivity to an extent within Princeton and other schools itself. We all like to help people that we can identify strongly with.

    Princeton upperclassmen have a strong commitment to heir eating clubs, but there is also a stronger sense of community across the campus at Princeton in general. The Princeton administration is famous for the amount of attention it devotes to its undergraduates (with an endowment of $1.5 million per student and no grad students, that's what happens) - and consequently, everyone comes out just having enjoyed themselves a lot more.

    People don't really romanticize about their days at Columbia as much due to the lack of a cohesive community. Consequently, when you see another Columbia alum, and your only connection with him/her is having attended Columbia, the feeling of familiarity with that person is diminished. If you really didn't feel like you connected with the whole campus when you were an undergrad, why would you feel any more connected to just another person who attended the school that you didn't particularly have a great time at?
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  • pbrpbr 1004 replies14 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    beard tax, truazn's message may have some merit. My son's experience (as one isolated data point) is that his freshman dorm floor mates, sports club team mates and fraternity brothers provide an almost overwhelmingly robust social scene. Some of his many close friends belong to one group, many belong to two, and some belong to all three. Through the overlapping circles, he's made many friends who are not part of any of the three groups. Almost a year and a half into his Columbia experience, he's still enjoying the phenomenon of meeting new friends.

    Although the grass may appear greener elsewhere, I suspect most comparably-sized undergraduate communities are similarly unable to create a meaningful "campus-wide social scene" (unless one classifies unity around a successful sports program or a handful of party houses as a "social scene"). There are simply too many kinds of people with widely divergent interests and personalities. I'm not sure this is a bad thing. Part of the glory of a place like Columbia is that the wide diversity allows one to broaden perspective and learn that the world is a better place because we're all different.
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  • confidentialcollconfidentialcoll 2480 replies11 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My son's experience (as one isolated data point) is that his freshman dorm floor mates, sports club team mates and fraternity brothers provide an almost overwhelmingly robust social scene.

    you have another isolated data point here. I was completely disconnected from the frat scene, and completely disconnected from the sports social scene and definitely didn't need my freshman year floormates to have a great time.

    To Beardtax's point that you have to meet the right people freshman year: I didn't meet most of my closest friends freshman year, I actually disliked Columbia and wanted to transfer. but things fell into place with some mild initiative and resource pulling, my best friends today whom I still regularly either go back to campus to see came from all over the place. Some were from my dorm floors each year, some from clubs I joined, some from difficult classes I took, many were just friends of friends. but they were pretty evenly distributed throughout my 4 years, I wasn't doomed by any means because I didn't make many friends freshman year.

    perhaps my data point is isolated, but I knew surprisingly many people who took a little initiative and went far (socially), so perhaps it isn't.
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  • College GradCollege Grad 75 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    People are right. Columbia is not for everyone and nor should it be expected to be. However, you also have to realize that no school is perfect for each and every student attending that school. I am sure there are students/alumni at other schools that feel the same way about their institutions. I remember recently reading about a Dartmouth student who was not happy with her experience and refused to donate $$$ towards the school and jeopardized the school from receiving a matching gift. I am also friends with a couple of Dartmouth alumni, who also had less than stellar experiences there. Does it mean that everyone feels that way? Of course not. I also know some Dartmouth alumni who loved college. My brother graduated from another ivy and he expressed the same sentiments of not having too great of a time and hasn't been back to his alma mater in twenty years and has no intention of ever returning. Just as I had a wonderful experience at Columbia (and probably would not have enjoyed as much attending a school in the boondocks), I am aware of classmates who didn’t have as great a time.

    I think Columbia offers a unique experience in that being in NYC, it is more challenging to create a greater sense of community just given the dynamics. It also doesn’t help that our football and basketball teams make it harder to rally around a successful sports team. There are opportunities to meet people and make friends all the time.

    I do agree with Slipper1234 about the lack of attendance at reunions. I have been to two and the attendance was disappointing for my particular class year, although my class seems to be very apathetic unfortunately. I am happy to see just one entry in classnotes. ;-)
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    alma - your spade isn't mine, that is the thing.

    i know many students who speak as you guys do, and then my friends who do not. so what should i do with those data points.

    the thing i do know - when it is all said and done and you aren't involved (or as involved) with columbia anymore, i will be. i will be part of the culture that continues to improve things. and that is why i kind of dismiss your statements about being a graduate not because i don't take your criticisms to heart, but because it isn't likely that if i approached you to think about how to make life better at columbia you would care to help out. there are those of us that feel attached to columbia, and those that are not. and those of us in the former group are going to shape the way the university changes. and i want to be in that group.


    beard do you have proof that advising at other universities is more hands on than that? Andrew Plaa who took over engineering advising works very closely with Jack McGourty, F-M and Morts to set priorities on how to advise. he is a very good advisor, and knows his stuff about engineering, but more than that knows what are standards across the advising world and positioning columbia as a strong place.

    as i told truazn, i am sorry that you don't feel you know who has your back, but in a way whether it is at columbia or elsewhere you need to find that person and develop that relationship. i had many people at columbia who had my back i loved that part of my experience.

    i recognize in the end that it would be nice from purely a customer service perspective if folks felt that they didn't have to ask for support, it was just there. and that is something i know columbia is thinking about and working through.

    the one thing that is hard at columbia, harder than at other institutions, is that the uni can't fart without a letter being sent to General Counsel accusing them of some kind of breach of conduct. it is truly annoying. if you want to change the culture at columbia even more - find a GC that isn't as sensitive, or perhaps one that isn't as afraid of risk. though that could have its drawback over the long haul, maybe then we should just seek patience and be okay with the fact that change will take 5-10 years and not over the course of even your time at columbia.

    though i will say- columbia changed dramatically over the 4 years i was there. something i noticed and appreciated. and a lot of the changes came about because of columbia students pushing for things (i was part of the student conversations that led to CSA) and alums pushing for things as well.
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  • Take3Take3 389 replies27 threadsRegistered User Member
    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.

    You provide no support for the allegation that the cause of the number of Rhodes Scholarships won by Columbia is inadequate advising.
    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.

    Is it really surprising that you have to prove yourself to the recruiter? At best, being an alumnus of the same university as the recruiter gets them to actually read your e-mail and possibly respond. You still have to convince the recruiter that you're the right candidate for the job. Ultimately, the hiring process exists to find the best candidates, not to ensure that candidates from any specific university get hired.

    I'm also unclear on why you think that the junior candidates are owed anything by anyone.
    We've been asking our most famous graduate, Mr. Barack Obama to be our class day speaker now for what, the past 3 years? (We're asking this year as well). He hasn't come yet. We'll see if he comes this year - but I definitely would not count on it.

    Barack Obama is a very busy man. He may not have time to be class day speaker even at his own alma mater. Thus, this fact, even if true, proves almost nothing about the loyalty of Columbia alumni.
    ...we're not socially inept,but we find it difficult to fit into Columbia University. It's not an uncommon problem and it's a large risk for any high school students thinking about attending university. There is a relatively high proportion of people (I would estimate around 10-20%) of the undergraduate body that has trouble socially.

    Even if true and your estimated percentage range is correct, why is 10-20% of the student body having social difficulty atypical? Why do you believe the percentage is typically lower at other universities?
    almamater wrote:
    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.

    I don't claim to have firsthand knowledge about how campus social life operates at Dartmouth or Brown. But once you drop down out of the Ivy League and other elite schools, yes, it's quite normal for fraternity parties to be closed.

    Actually, it's often worse than that. When campus social life revolves around fraternity parties, the fraternities often selectively decide which independents attend. Independents without connections to specific people really are at a social disadvantage in that case. I've seen this firsthand. Trust me, Columbia is better off without it.

    And everyone socializing with everyone just isn't the way the world works. At a university with even 5,000 undergraduates, there's just no way to get to know them all. So it's normal to build friendships with people who you have something in common with. This is hardly unique to Columbia.

    At the end of the day, we all need to keep some perspective. Any of the Ivies and Ivy peers offer a vastly better experience, academically and otherwise, than the vast majority of non-elite universities.
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  • nitcompnitcomp 288 replies40 threadsRegistered User Member
    Enlightening thread.
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  • shockwaverideshockwaveride 173 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I'll speak firsthand about my experience with the social scene.

    First off, I'm in a fraternity (IFC) and a time-intensive club sport. (not pbr's son)

    From those alone, I've formed my own sense of campus "community" and have no complaints about the campus social scene. Within the Greek community, I've been invited to more events than I can attend and never have trouble getting into another fraternity's party. Once you're a part of the Greek community, it actually is a community and there IS a sense of social cohesiveness. I can confidently say that I have friends in almost every single IFC chapter and every single Panhell chapter and that this would not have been the case had I not joined. If there isn't any particular event going on, I know that someone in my contacts is down to chill and/or head to one of the many bars around campus.

    Greek life is a bit insular at Columbia but that's also in part due to the hostility that the general student body projects onto it. I know--I was once a freshman and until I pledged in the spring, just joined the herd in putting down Greek life...all the while trying to get into the parties for some free booze. As for the open parties, it's a raw deal for us. At campuses that are predominately Greek, a "what comes around goes around" system can function where parties are open and the burden of hosting the social life is shared. This also comes with a mutual respect for one another. At Columbia, because Greek life constitutes at most 20% of the student body, the system doesn't function in this closed loop. My house can host an open party, but chances are the same people who spend their time trashing Greek life in Bwog comments will also be the ones saying "hey, let's just go to XYZ, grab 6 beers to pregame and head to 1020 to meet so and so." We host invitation-only events for our friends (Greek and non-Greek) but see little reason to extend an invite to the segment of the student body that rarely supports our charity events and tries to use us as a stop for free drinks while contributing little to the Greek system. If you're going have a drink courtesy of my chapter, at least take the time to introduce yourself/say thanks to one of the brothers instead of huddling in the corner with your friends. Also, don't act like you're entitled to entry into any event. Look at how Dartmouth non-Greeks interact with the Greeks.... there's a small portion that is just opposed to the system as a whole, but the other unaffiliated students still take part in the non-free-booze events that are held by the Greek system. I'm pretty sure that this is the same at any other school where independents are welcomed at fraternity parties. It also comes down to space.. most of our houses aren't that big and noise complaints are really easy to get when hosting an open event.


    Even outside of the Greek system, there are robust social circles. Being involved in any club sport/team/club will instantly give you a social circle... it's just about finding where you fit in... and that's where initiative comes in. You just need to keep on looking for the set of people that you fit into (because there is such a socially diverse student body).

    Because there are so many "non-joiner" types attracted to Columbia, there's also going to be a greater than usual amount of people dissatisfied with the social scene... Guess what--you need to "JOIN" a group of friends if you want a social CIRCLE. To really spell this out for the still-clueless, you need to become friends with people who already know each other or take the time to create your own social circle by introducing people who you are friends with to each other. Otherwise, you just have a bunch of disconnected friendships between people who aren't JOINED as a group.

    .. and as for the 10-20% of socially awkward kids? They exist everywhere.. the problem is just magnified because there isn't a broad overarching community that they can superficially pretend that they are a part of.

    Probably didn't rebut many points, but I hope the perspective helps. I really think that the quality of student life at CU gets a bad knock on these boards because the social people on campus are well underrepresented and the miserable and socially awkward are always out in full force.
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  • iwanttobegandalfiwanttobegandalf 33 replies8 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    ummm @Take3... Obama was the speaker at the UMich commencement this year... (awkward silence)
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  • almamateralmamater 57 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Shockwaverider,

    You pretty much echo most of my points. There definitely are a lot of reasons why the greek scene is not open to the whole campus but regardless the conclusion is the same; the scene does not support a wider campus social life. At the other Ivies for some reason (space, wider acceptance, whatever) the frats are just much more open. Look at the first week of campus when all the frats are trying to get rushees. Remember how fun that week is? Then immediately all the frats basically close their doors. At other campuses like Dartmouth and Brown that week is every week.

    So that leaves the bars, most of which are really dark, aren't really that fun, and aren't centrally located. Basically have people stumbling around bars with no music or a real college vibe (maybe Havana Central is the exception?). If you want to see a fun bar scene go check out Brown where everyone is on Thayer Street, UNC, or Michigan where everyone is on University Avenue as a few examples.

    Then take the off-campus house/ dorm scene. Guess what? Outside of a few EC or Hogan parties from time to time it doesn't really exist. The culprit? Student owned space. It simply doesn't exist at Columbia which takes this staple of college life out of the equation.

    The result? An incredibly fragmented social scene, low attendance at reunions, and no sense of wider Columbia spirit. Sure we love our school (who doesn't) but the social flaws are pretty apparent to me. One caveat is some people like it this way. I just didn't.

    Fundamentally I think it all comes down to space. Luckily we have a lot more than NYU. But now that I'm at another school for law school and see the richness of undergrad life I can't help but feel that I missed something in College.
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