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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

  • calmomcalmom 20615 replies167 threads Senior Member
    Thank you monydad -- I think you might have answered my question to almamater posted in #113 -- I didn't understand the point of the comment that "Columbia doesn't offer its own study abroad programs like Dartmouth" in post #91. Obviously, it would enhance the sense of bonding & community for a college to create its own study abroad experiences, restrict them to their own students, integrate them tightly into the curriculum, and discourage participation in programs administered by other colleges through erecting cost barriers as well as limits on number of transferable units.

    But I don't think the comparison of Dartmouth to Columbia in that context makes much sense, except to point out the stark (and obvious) differences in respective environments. One school is small and isolated, situated on a spacious rural campus; the other is a large research university occupying a small parcel of city blocks in the largest, most vibrant city in the U.S.

    I would note that as much as a Columbia (or Barnard) student might feel a sense of social isolation, I would think the problem would be much worse for the student who finds Dartmouth to be a poor social fit. The Columbia student has the option to make friends and socialize off campus, with very little effort. The Dartmouth student has nowhere to go. So it is very possible for the Columbia student to have a vibrant, active social life -- but not with their fellow college students. That student may feel a lack of cohesion with their college, but their college experience would not necessarily be the same as their overall life experience. The student might socialize regularly with students attending other colleges, or with non-students met through internships, volunteer work, or other outside activities. That doesn't mean the student is unhappy with their college -- it just is a difference balance between college & personal/social life.
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  • CollegeAppsAhhCollegeAppsAhh 6 replies3 threads New Member
    Speaking of social life at Columbia, can anyone tell me the top locations students hang out at? Like areas where I guess you'd find students playing the guitar with their friends or just socializing in general?
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  • almamateralmamater 57 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Calmom, I agree that Columbia offers access to NYC and for some that is worth sacrifices on the campus community side. I totally concede that, for example, someone really into Music might have the benefit of being involved with Lincoln Center or someone very into a specific ethnic scene might have those alternatives at various clubs in New York. Where I am laying my claim is that for many students that is not what they are looking for in a college experience, rather they want to very actively know their classmates and like the fact that they reside in a "bubble" of sorts for their 4 undergraduate years.

    I think the "student owned space" issue is my biggest gripe with Columbia. Not having common places to go to makes it so people end up at a few local bars (which aren;t that fun, have no music, and are dark) or in fragmented social situations (whether its a frat, an EC suite, or a group party downtown). Whereas Harvard will have huge residential house parties everyone goes to, Dartmouth will have 3-4 huge theme parties a night plus lots of off campus parties, Princeton has off campus parties and the eating clubs, and Brown has a huge street of off-campus parties as well as totally open frats. Virtually every top school has campus-wide events almost every weekend that create a vibrant social scene. As a Columbia alum I feel as if I missed out on this.
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  • calmomcalmom 20615 replies167 threads Senior Member
    I suppose that if you are into a party scene, that could make a difference. But keep in mind that many people prefer to socialize in more intimate settings, with smaller groups of friends. Large, loud parties can be very disconcerting to many people -- that is, if a social life is built around that sort of gathering, it can leave individuals who are naturally introverted even more isolated, since they are uncomfortable at the parties. This can be particularly difficult for individuals who are uncomfortable with heavy drinking or other substance use.
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  • WuchuWuchu 318 replies19 threadsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    this has to be the most dense thread i've ever seen on CC. first, i read pretty much every word (that was for the first few pages). then i skimmed a few pages. then i find myself on page 6 with these absolutely ginormous paragraphs that i can't even bring myself to skim. and there's still 3 more pages after that.

    anyway, this was a nice thread to read/skim =)
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  • calmomcalmom 20615 replies167 threads Senior Member
    LOL.... I think the main point is that Columbia is a large research university in a major urban center -- so it has some of the issues that you would expect to encounter in many universities fitting that description.

    It brings up some important issues for students to consider about college choice -- but you could probably substitute the name of any other large urban-centered university and get the same sort of comments.
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  • pwoodspwoods 1078 replies18 threads Senior Member
    The discussion regarding the study-abroad programs is phenomenal, because it provides evidence of the very different "sensibilities" of Dartmouth and Columbia, and (more generally) those of liberal arts schools and major (urban) research universities. They each have their respective advantages and disadvantages, and neither is a better fit for every student than the other. The only thing you can really say about them is that they're fundamentally different.

    Columbia gives you access to a ton of programs, but doesn't administer most of the programs. You (with some help from the advising bureaucracy that controls study-abroad) have to research the various programs, decide on a program, and then go on that program. You might go with some friends, but in general you'll be on your own, and have the opportunity to spend time in a truly foreign environment with interesting people from all over the world. The program might be great or it might suck, but that's why you research it ahead of time.

    Dartmouth, on the other hand, makes it easy and painless for students to study abroad by running the programs themselves. Since Dartmouth professors teach the courses, and the other students in your program are Dartmouth students, the program is guaranteed to be both familiar and of good quality. Of course, you don't have much of a selection and you won't get the chance to meet people outside of Dartmouth, but then again that's kind of the point. Isn't it better to stay in your college's bubble instead of signing up for a random program run by some other institution that might turn out to be terrible?

    Your answer to that question depends on whether you're a better fit for Dartmouth or Columbia. Some people prefer institutions that support them instead of leaving them to fend for themselves after taking their tens of thousands of dollars in tuition money. Others prefer institutions that recognize they're adults and allow them to choose from a wide variety of world-class programs instead of coddling them and forcing them to go on the study-abroad equivalent of a "field trip".
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  • gshak13gshak13 100 replies10 threads Junior Member
    After reading almost every post on this thread (I know, I have no life), Columbia is still my #1 choice(applying RD for Fall 2011). But I realized that my consistency in opinion could in fact be a direct result of my "innate" new yorker attitude. I feel that it would be an easy task for me to hold down a social life at Columbia(from what I have heard here).

    Do you think New Yorkers (as opposed to out-of-staters or foreigners) find it easier to adapt to Columbia's environment? I feel like we have a get-it-yourself mentality instilled in us that is perfect for Columbia.

    So, to those that attend/have attended Columbia, what answer can you voice based on experience?
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  • WuchuWuchu 318 replies19 threadsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    gshak, you're very firm-willed. =] columbia got torn into pieces in some of the posts lol. if you're used to new york and the associated mentality that one must take, you'll probably be fine. of course i have not attended columbia or any college yet, so i'm not speaking from experience, just logic
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  • monydadmonydad 7846 replies158 threads Senior Member
    "I suppose that if you are into a party scene, that could make a difference. But keep in mind that many people prefer to socialize in more intimate settings, with smaller groups of friends."

    The ability to socialize in more intimate settings is not inhibited at these other places simply because they can more easily also socialize otherwise. As far as I can tell it is likewise enhanced in D2s situation.

    "Do you think New Yorkers (as opposed to out-of-staters or foreigners) find it easier to adapt to Columbia's environment?"

    In D2s case I think it worked the other way around. There was some less-than-perfect aspects they all agreed they were putting up with, but her roommate stayed with the program because being in New York City was such a new experience, it was a big, special thing for her, school or no school. For D2, on the other hand, the NYC part was a big yawn, same 'ol, same 'ol, was not special or new to her, so did not provide an effective counterbalance to what else was going on. To her the city seemed more a negative, since she was paying her own out of pocket expenses and it contributed to everybody taking off all the time.
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  • calmomcalmom 20615 replies167 threads Senior Member
    gshak -- I really think it is an individual thing. Don't base your expectations on anecdotal reports from other people. The real question is what do you want from college life? Do you envision a strong sense of college camaraderie, with your social life based around campus and campus events, your best friends being fellow Columbians? Or do you envision yourself making new friends, but keeping old ones as well as old habits for socializing in the city?

    There are many students who are more outwardly focused who find the traditional college life on a small campus to be suffocating -- they may find various college events to be lame, typical student social behavior embarrassingly childish (drinking games, freshman hijinks, etc. ), and very much want a social life that is more diverse than always hanging out with other privileged 18-20 year olds. (Even kids from poorer backgrounds become "privileged" when they happen to be attending an Ivy League college on full financial aid -- so by "privileged" I mean the twin elements of not having to work full time and attending an elite college on someone else's dime).

    So those students might be much happier at an urban campus like Columbia, precisely because they can leave and continue to enjoy a broader social network.

    There may also be students who want a more campus-centered social life who also opt to join frats or sororities, and they probably find the social connection they are looking for in Greek life. So that may be a good option for some.

    Hopefully as an RD applicant you will have some great choices in the spring (including Columbia) and can make your decision then. Even if Columbia is your 1st choice and you get in, take a serious look at your other schools before making a deposit.

    I think a thread like this one is good because of the honesty. Too many kids arrive at their "dream" colleges with rose colored expectations and then are disappointed when they are confronted with the less-than-perfect reality. A student who arrives at any college with a more nuanced, realistic perspective - having considered the possible drawbacks and then chosen that college despite them - is likely to have an easier time coping with any areas of disappointment.
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threads Senior Member
    agreed calmom,

    it is great to get other perspectives, but it is also important to tease out biases and motivations from all posters in here (truazn, almamater and mine). that is to say no two posts are the same, and no two posts are written with the same degree of nuance. further that it follows there are a variety of perspectives at any school - you shouldn't just read all perspectives for columbia, but seek out all perspectives for every school.

    where i differ from most is that i think columbia's stresses are actually advantages, which is why i push for it fully knowing its imperfections; indeed there are few institutions that are as open about and celebratory of conflict (consider our constant sense of '68), and fewer yet that recognize its imperfections in a way to see the good even in the bad.

    my goal is to state that independence is a virtue and a vice, a fuzzy friendly community is a virtue and a vice (it can lead to an unrealistic understanding of the world, and manages to bubble students away from the problems of society). and though i agree there are things that students think they care about - they often do so because people tell them they should care about it, and not because it comes from self-reflection and critical perspective. in this regard i believe columbia is a great place because it plays off of so many binaries, exposing students at once to the viciousness of the real world and the comforts of a closed campus, the promise of intellectual rigor and the practicalities of real world experience.

    columbia isn't a school you feel comfortable at, not because it is a bad experience, but because it is precisely the exemplar of the nuanced, and often leads us to try to peg it into a hole and find ourselves incapable of doing so. that is what is exciting about columbia, and frightening. it means you don't know what to expect, and even the plethora of experiences expressed on here are but a small glimpse into what is possible when you go to school at columbia. there is so much you can do at columbia, it is quite remarkable.

    we often ask - who is right for columbia. i don't think someone is made right for columbia, but certainly there are folks that respond better to this kind of environment, and since most of us have so rarely experienced total freedom it is hard to predict who amongst the lot will actually do well in a columbia-like setting. i think there is a sense that there are students that can take better advantage of columbia, but the truth is that columbia is quite the big tent and can appeal to students of wide stripes and with wide intentions. who does well is as much a product of luck as it is of personality. but i gather that the student that chooses columbia, especially when there are more traditional options out there, are taking a leap of faith in going to columbia. it is a self-selecting pool then that chooses columbia in the end even amongst those that columbia chooses (i predict it will never attain the yield of HY because of it). but again it is all well and good because it means folks have chosen to attend in the end, limiting the number of people that will probably be too scared to go.

    in the end despite the differences 98% of students stick it through after freshman year, most find their own niche, many find things they love, and increasingly most find columbia as a place they want to form a lifelong relationship with.

    happy new year all. rawr.
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  • WuchuWuchu 318 replies19 threadsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    admissionsgeek, may i ask when you went to columbia?
    you seem to care a lot for just a college. kudos. maybe i don't know what it's like to become attached to a place that assigns you work everyday because i'm still in high school

    happy new year =]
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  • collegeftwcollegeftw 532 replies10 threads Member
    ^ lolz congrats @ Cornell '15
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  • biobladebioblade 398 replies10 threads Member
    College is more than just 'a place that assigns you work everyday'. It's not high school.
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  • WuchuWuchu 318 replies19 threadsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    @collegeftw: congrats @ columbia '15 =]
    we both joined the summer before junior year lol. that's when i started prepping for the sat and discovered this website

    @bioblade: that's good. hopefully cornell will be very nice. =]
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  • admitoneadmitone 374 replies3 threads Member
    I almost went to Columbia but didn't because I was really worried about the community. My host for Days on Campus seemed to really echo this concern, he didn't seem totally excited on the place. I ended up visiting for a weekend this fall (actually Thursday-Sunday) and while I had fun for sure, it definitely was pretty quiet and the social scene seemed to be all bars, none of which seemed that great. The college I attend now (Brown) and other Ivies I have visited on various road trips during my time at Brown (Princeton, Yale, and Dartmouth) seem much more active socially.
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  • beard taxbeard tax 243 replies4 threads Junior Member
    bump, still relevant
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  • almamateralmamater 57 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Its been another year or so of law school and I've gotten to know grads at almost every top 25 school, and many from the Ivies and others. To be bluntly honest I wish I could go back in time and go to undergrad somewhere else. I just can't believe how the Dartmouth and Princeton grads have such a bond - its like they are part of a family. Even the Harvard kids seem more connected to their undergrad.

    My friend who went to another Ivy the other day was like "almamater" what were you thinking when you went to Columbia. My honest answer was "I didn't know anything about colleges when I applied." I wish I knew then what I know now.
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  • iggs99988iggs99988 139 replies22 threads Junior Member
    Is it really even that big of a deal? I mean, honestly, when you're middle-aged with a family--wife, kids and all--and you're having your backyard barbecues with your law firm buddies and what not, are you really going to look back and say "shucks, I should have gone to Yale!" ? I think not. I'm not criticizing anyone's nostalgic regrets but I'm not sure how much it matters in the grander scheme of things. Unless you are the type to maintain LIFE long friendships with college cohorts which I think is really rare. In any event, any Ivy school equips you with adequate academic tools to succeed and IMO the personal-social relationships you establish at your employer can be just as rewarding , with the same longevity, as any you make it college. just my opinion
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