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Are people happy at Columbia?

takorietakorie Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
edited May 2008 in Columbia University
Hi, I'm currently deciding between Brown (off the waitlist) and Columbia (currently commited). One of my concerns about Columbia is that students seemed to be a lot less happy to be there than at Brown, based on random bwog posts/comments, boredatcolumbia postings, cc posts, students I spoke to at DOC, etc. I visited Brown today to help with my decision and it happened to be Commencement. There were so many alums there that come every year and everyone I spoke to couldn't stop talking about how much they loved Brown and never wanted to leave. However, I love Columbia for its internationality and all the opportunities NYC offers. It also seems to be a bit more prestigious. For current students/alums, do you/did you absolutely love being at Columbia?
Post edited by takorie on

Replies to: Are people happy at Columbia?

  • collegegrad1collegegrad1 Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
    I graduated from Columbia not too far back, so I can provide you with my take. Firstly, I'd be careful about judging the happiness of a student body/college community based on a visit during commencement. These types of things typically foster a great deal of school pride: everyone's happy because they're graduating, families are there, etc. You'd likely find a similar atmosphere around Columbia at graduation time.

    With that said, Columbia's environment is not for everyone. The main question you want to ask yourself is whether you'd enjoy living in New York for 4 years. For some people, the city can get quite oppressive: there are a lot of unhappy people in New York, and that can be reflected in the atmosphere on campus at times. I would agree that Columbia is a bigger name than Brown. The school prides itself on its international focus, as it should given the fact that it's in the country's most cosmopolitan and important city. It's also a more significant research university than Brown.

    Ultimately, you can be happy anywhere as long as you make good friends and take advantage of interesting opportunities. So again..it really comes down to whether you think the New York environment will support or hamper you in that regard. On a final note, I'd say Columbia's got some big things going for it in the upcoming years. The campus is being improved with new buildings and renovations, and then there's the fact that the university will be establishing a new campus in Manahattanville (although you likely wouldn't be around by that time that's done). Anyway, my two cents...
  • 2008parent2008parent Registered User Posts: 17 New Member
    My D chose Columbia over others (including Brown) and will start in the Fall. One of the things that she likes about Columbia is the core (opposite of the make your own curriculum approach of Brown). She is excited about what she will be learning as part of the core (she probably would not sign up for some of the courses if they were not mandatory). One Columbia grad also told us that there is not much to do in Providence so a lot of kids end up partying a lot whereas (depending on your interests) there is SO much to do in NYC. My D looks forward to the plays, shows, museums.....
  • sacsac Registered User Posts: 1,547 Senior Member
    We just came back from our S's Columbia commencement. He was very happy at Columbia and is very unhappy to be leaving NYC. I'm not sure that helps you much, without knowing more about the type of person you are and the interests you have. There is no doubt the two schools have different cultures. Students go to Brown expecting to love it. Faculty at Brown expect to interact with undergrads. My impression is that it's less easy to get lost at Brown.

    On the other hand, students go to Columbia expecting to become New Yorkers, and they take pride in living at the exciting pace New Yorkers live. They also complain like New Yorkers. Faculty at Columbia expect to be in the forefront of research in their fields. They do interact with undergrads -- even the prize winners -- but it's not automatic. Students who want that interaction beyond the classroom must seek it out but, if they do, my impression is that they generally can find it.

    There is an excellent education to be had at both, obviously. But I think an excellent education is harder to avoid at Columbia because of the core curriculum. At graduation it was clear that there is a tremendous amount of alumni pride invested in that curriculum. There are also, as you mentioned, wonderful opportunities in NYC, and many Columbia students take advantage of them.
  • NightOwl1082NightOwl1082 Registered User Posts: 125 Junior Member
    Yeah, aside from the whole issue of being happy socially, it seems that being happy with the curriculum is very important. Since Columbia and Brown are so different in that regard, what are your thoughts? I'd be interested to hear how you've been weighing the Core vs. "Make Your Own"...what do you like and dislike about each approach?
  • takorietakorie Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    I'm sort of in the middle when it comes to both curriculums. I like the idea of Brown's open curriculum and its flexibility. Students there say they can change majors at the drop of a hat and since there are no requirements, they truly want to be in every class they sign up for. They also have pass/fail options to encourage more academic exploration. Brown seems to be a little less competitive and more relaxed. However, I'd likely sign up courses similar to the Core anyways if I went to Brown (except maybe FoS). I like Columbia's Core because it does unite everyone and you're not just taking classes with people with similar interests as you. Everyone who has done the Core also seems to appreciate it afterwards because it allows them to take classes they've enjoyed but never would have signed up for. At DoC, I sat in on a Lit Hum class and it was fantastic (although I'm sure this can vary).

    I was a little wary about Columbia because I'm pretty shy and I'd heard so much about its alleged lack of campus community. I come from a fairly small town, have had the same friends my entire life, and sometimes find it a little difficult to branch out. Yet, I hope to go into international affairs and journalism (and eventually go to law school) and NYC and Columbia have so much to offer in this regard.

    And I know it shouldn't matter, but being initially being waitlisted by Brown does make me feel disconnected from it. Basically, I have to let Brown know really soon, and I'm not sure what to do. I don’t really have a gut feeling. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. =)
  • DenzeraDenzera Registered User Posts: 3,371 Senior Member
    One thing to caution you about is the extreme amount of sarcasm in the general diet of every new yorker and every columbian. You won't, generally speaking, get a Columbian into a serious conversation about how much they like or don't like their school, overall. They will gripe about particular things, and you will read about it if you care to, on bwog or boredatbutler or whatever - sometimes as a way of procrastinating, sometimes because it happens to affect them personally, and sometimes because they're just entitled and like to whine. But by and large, caught in a moment of candor, every single one of them will tell you they love the school. I knew hundreds of people while I was at college and only one of them who really hated the place.

    Don't confuse lack of traditionally-expressed "school spirit" (i.e. rallies, big homecoming celebrations, huge attendance at football games, etc) with lack of actual caring. Columbia students have neither the time nor the inclination for pageantry, but by and large they all appreciate what the school has given them. That's my experience, at any rate.
  • viva_sweet_loveviva_sweet_love Registered User Posts: 433 Member
    Just had to add my two cents about the Pass/Fail policy....Brown is not unique in this regard, Columbia has a great, very generous P/F policy which I've taken advantage of the past two semesters.
  • sacsac Registered User Posts: 1,547 Senior Member
    Thanks for telling us a little more about yourself. The fact that you like the core curriculum and that your interests are in international affairs and journalism would make me think Columbia might be the place for you. NYC's internship opportunities are significant in both those areas. As a future journalist you will want to get involved in a campus publication. That is likely to provide much of your campus community, and might mitigate your shyness. Lots of Spectator alums go on to journalism careers. They also -- judging from their senior columns -- seem to be part of one the strongest student communities at Columbia.

    On the other hand, if you really see yourself at Brown, I wouldn't let the wait list issue bother you. That doesn't matter once you get there.
  • Columbia2009Columbia2009 Registered User Posts: 49 Junior Member
    As someone who was very involved in Spectator, I can attest that it's definitely a strong on-campus community. This can be a mixed blessing later on (as in any group, there are strange internal politics), but being involved in it as a freshman and sophomore was awesome because it allowed me to keep tabs on everything that was going on at Columbia (that's how I scored tickets to Ahmadinejad last fall). It also introduced me to a lot of smart, driven people who were usually a lot of fun. In social terms, I'd say it's a great opportunity for underclassmen.

    Despite its flaws (and there are some big ones), it's also one of the very best college dailies in the country, and it will connect you to people who know how to get the top journalism internships (usually because they know someone at a given publication--because that's how these things work...).
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