What's the scoop on the Columbia "Academic Year College Edge" program?

Hi. Looking for more insight into the Columbia program where HS students take college courses along side current Columbia students during the academic year (this is different than the program where they take special summer courses where everyone in the class is a HS student). On his own, my son applied and was accepted to this program. They now want a $500 non-refundable deposit before he’s eligible to enroll in classes, before we know if there’s any real shot at getting into any of the classes he could take.

For context, we don’t live in Manhattan and attending a course at Columbia will likely be a 2 hour one-way commute each way by train and subway. They do offer a spattering of evening classes and he’ll likely need one that starts at 5:30p or later, which will limit his choices, particularly for the undergrad science survey courses he’ll want and be eligible for (that don’t have prereqs).

I’m trying to figure out a couple things:

  1. Assuming the HS students are prioritized behind freshman enrollment (which would make sense), are we going to pay this $500 only to get shut out of every course he could take except something in the middle of the school day he can’t do?

  2. More of a comment than a question, but it concerns me how Columbia markets this program so aggressively – is it really a selective program or just a money making scheme? My son was also accepted to a similar concept program where he can take a class during the school day at Princeton University, but that program didn’t market or seek open admissions at all. You had to be invited by the high school after completing the highest level course offered in the same subject (usually the AP) at the high school and there was about 20 steps to get in, including 5’s on the AP’s, etc. and you are only eligible in the subject matter you maxed out in. There’s almost no cost to the student. The only problem is that the HS students are last in line for the courses (rightly so) and it’s possible he won’t be able to get into any of the eligible courses after Freshman enrollment. But if he doesn’t, there’s been no financial loss. With Columbia sending him endless emails and marketing on FB, etc., I am concerned they just want money and it won’t bother them if he can’t find a course after payment. Also, if he does get into a course the cost is crazy – $2.2K/unit with the typical science course/lab being 4 units plus various other fees. They make it sound like a great honor to have been accepted and did require his transcript, letters of rec (which amazingly he tracked down in the middle of summer), but is it really or do they basically accept anyone with a checkbook?

  3. Bottom line, is it worth it? He wants to do it. It will suck up a lot of time commuting (though presumably he could study on the train).


After reading your post, it is difficult for me to understand why you are even considering the Columbia University program. What do you think that your son will derive from this experience ?

Plus, a 2 hour one-way commute is likely to affect adversely other areas of his life.

Why not just buy a Columbia sweatshirt ?

P.S. This is part of Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies which is probably similar to Harvard’s Extension School. Best to avoid this for one facing a one-way 2 hour commute. This is just a money-maker for Columbia.

To be clear, we/parents didn’t pursue this or want it. We’re trying to determine whether we should refuse to allow it, despite our son wanting to do it, particularly if the schedule constraints prevent participation in the Princeton one. It sounds like you’re reinforcing my gut that it’s a money grab more than a legitimate opportunity. (It’s disappointing they market to minors this way.)

You’d have to know our so to know there’s no convincing him on things like the commute adversely impacting his life – true or not, he’s stubborn in such opinions and would have a ten point argument ready on all the ways he would productively use it. And he’s defied expectations in other ways that give him some credibility in making his own choices that defy adult instincts. But in the end, we’ll say no if that’s the right call. Posting here is mostly about affirming our instinct (or hearing contrary evidence) that it is.

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