Older Student

Looking for some advice, or possibly guidance on my chances of getting into Columbia University’s Masters’s program. A little back history. I just recently completed my undergraduate degree in Environmental Planning and Design at Rutgers University. Being in my early 50’s it was a serious challenge but made it happen. With that said, I am sitting on a 3.1 GPA and it’s no secret that the Ivy’s wouldn’t even look at or consider me. That aside, I have a sob story that could be of some sort of merit when applying. In my first 2 semesters ( some 32 years ago) I had a 0.7 and a 2.0 collectively. My parents had lost both their jobs at the time and the tensions took a huge to toll on me, which trickled down to my academic performance. Going forward, I put my nose to the grindstone and made a drastic turnaround ( maintaining nothing lower than a 3.5 for 16 additional semesters) . Additionally, I’ve established two very successful, award-winning Environmental Planning businesses. I spoke with an admissions counselor at SPS, and voiced my concerns about my GPA being a deciding factor, despite my business and other endeavors successes. The counselor said, “We look at everything holistically”. I heard those speeches before when my daughter was applying to colleges, and it was basically just semantics. It would be nice to put a cap on my life’s adventures and accomplishments with a degree from Columbia… and wanted to get some “real” advice from current students, or some faculty if it is even worth applying, based on my GPA. Thanks in advance.

If you want to do it, it’s worth applying. All you will lose is the application fee.


Go for it!

My understanding is that Columbia University’s SPS is viewed as a cash cow for Columbia University.

Your chances for admission are higher than you think. I would be surprised if you were not accepted.

P.S. One web site showed the acceptance rate at 68% for Columbia University SPS master’s degree programs. Minimum GPA is 3.0.

I heard they play ole switcharoo on you. They give non-traditional Ivy students hope ( whether it be advertising on Facebook or other media outlets) by saying they will accept anyone who is well rounded. Giving false hope in a sense. That’s why I reached out to people who are in the “know”. Also, expanding on your “cash cow” excerpt. One of my son’s friends applied to Columbia, Fordham, and I believe NYU for either an MPA or MPS. He was accepted to both Fordham and NYU. He was set on Columbia and they dragged him down to the wire. Low and behold, he was accepted to Columbia, but it was for a Post Bac., which is basically a glorified certificate. They gave him encouragement that it “looked promising” for him to get in and really put the screws to him. Essentially leaving Columbia as his only choice, because he deferred enrollment to the latter 2. I thought that was a really unethical move on their part. That’s why I reached out to see it is even worth it.

pretty sure that’s not what they say.

ALL Masters programs are cash cows for their universities. Their relative value comes from what goals it helps you meet.

Is fine as a goal - as long as you recognize that basically you are looking to pay for the equivalent of a very expensive vanity plate.

No, it’s just that the range of things that there are to look at ‘holistically’ for an 18 year old are wildly different than those of a 50 year old. Your thirty year old grades vs your recent grades + decades of direct experience in a relevant field is a material difference.

What you will need is an essay that gives a better reason than “I want an Ivy diploma to show all those people who said I wouldn’t make it” for being part of a Masters program. For most people in the program there is more than ego at stake: they really care about moving ahead in their field, and the student cohort is one of the most important aspects of the experience.

(my bona fides: relevant life experience both from applying to grad school as a “mature student”, from being on admissions committees for grad school applicants, and from having current gradschoolkids ).

1 Like

Columbia University’s SPS masters degrees are a source of controversy in the Columbia community due to their lack of sufficient academic oversight.

It is not difficult to get into any of these 17 master’s degree programs.

I think you’re overanalyzing my objectives and clearly don’t know what my intentions are. But you get an A+ for being an armchair therapist.