Columbia University Requirements and Campus Guide
School Name: Columbia University
School Location: New York, NY
School Type: Research University / Ivy League
Class of 2025
- Total Applications: 60,551
- Total Admitted: 2,218
- Total Acceptance Rate: 3.66%
SAT/ACT Score (Test Optional for 2021 Applicants)
- SAT: 1460 – 1550
- ACT: 33 – 35
- High Reach
- Early Decision: November 1
- Early Results: Mid-December
- Regular Deadline: January 1
- Regular Results: Late March
- Schedule: Semesters
- Curriculum Type: Core Curriculum
- Greek Life: Yes
- Athletics: D1 – Ivy League
Columbia University Requirements and Campus Guide
Here’s everything you should know before you apply to Columbia:
Columbia is an Ivy League university in the heart of New York City. Founded in 1754 by royal charter of King George II, Columbia is the oldest university in New York, and the fifth oldest in the United States. As old as it is, Columbia offers a college experience in one of the liveliest and most dynamic cities in the world, so that you learn from your peers and professors as well as from the eclectic and diverse people of New York. It’s one of the most competitive schools in the nation, and has a ton to offer. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Columbia and what is required to get into the University!
What is Columbia’s Acceptance Rate?
42,569 students who applied to Columbia College and Columbia Engineering’s Class of 2023. 4,461 of which applied in the Early Decision round. Ultimately, 2,247 or 5.28% of students were admitted. The early decision acceptance rate, on the other hand, was much higher, at 18.7%. Of the admitted students, 1,406 enrolled and started in the fall of 2019. So, it is a Columbia admissions requirement to have an excellent application.
Columbia admissions reports that the middle 50% of admitted students scored between 1480 and 1560 on their SAT, or 33 and 35 on their ACT.
How do I apply to Columbia?
The process for applying to one of Columbia’s undergraduate programs changes depending on whether you’re applying to Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, or Barnard College. Columbia College and Columbia Engineering use the same application, whereas Barnard uses a separate application. Information on the Barnard application (a women’s college affiliated with Columbia) can be found here. Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, and Barnard are all geared toward full-time students who are beginning college for the first time.
If you’ve taken more than a year off between high school and college, you should consider applying to Columbia University’s School of General Studies, a school created specifically for nontraditional students.
When you decide which undergraduate college is the right choice for you, you can apply through the Coalition Application, the Common Application, or the QuestBridge Application (if you are a QuestBridge finalist). In addition to the personal statement you’ll submit through one of these application portals, Columbia requires you to answer several short Columbia-specific application questions.
Along with your application, you will submit letters of recommendation, ideally from teachers who have taught you recently and can speak to your character and work ethic. If you are applying to the school of engineering, one of your letters must be written by a math or science teacher.
In addition to letters of recommendation, applicants have the option to submit supplementary materials. Students who have experience conducting research should submit a one-two page abstract about their project. Additionally, you can submit architecture, creative writing, dance, drama, film, music and visual arts supplements through SlideRoom.
Some important dates to keep in mind if you’re applying to Columbia or Barnard are:
- November 1: Early Decision Deadline
- November 15: Financial Aid Deadline
- Mid- December: Early Decision Notification
- January 1: Regular Decision Deadline
- Early January: Regular Decision Deposit Due
- Late March: Regular Decision Notification Date
- May 1: Regular Decision Deposit Due
What is required for Standardized Testing?
Standardized testing is still required. You don’t NEED to send SAT IIs or submit the essay section of the SAT. However, you can self report your scores at first and submit official scores once admitted. Superscoring is allowed.
Will I be interviewed by an alumni?
About 30% of applications are interviewed randomly. Interviews are important but not essential to the application process. If there are no interviews offered to you, don’t worry—you won’t be disadvantaged and it is not a Columbia University admissions requirement. However, if you are offered one, the more you can do to showcase your individuality and share more about yourself in the college process, the better.
Does Columbia have a Waitlist?
Columbia has a waitlist for compelling candidates whom they plan to reconsider after admitted applicants have responded with their admissions decisions. Depending on the number of admitted students who deny their offer, a number of spots will become available for waitlisted students. The number of students on the waitlist changes each year—there is no quota. The waitlist is not ranked, so all waitlisted students are reconsidered for admissions in the event that spaces are available. If you are waitlisted, you should send a letter of continued interest to your personal admissions officer.
What is it like to go to school in a big city?
Starting college in and of itself can be a culture shock. If you’ve never been away from home for a long period of time, it can take you time to adjust to the sudden increase in responsibility and independence you’ll experience at college. If you’re from a rural or suburban area and are moving to the largest city in the U.S., that shock could be more intense. But just because something is unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s bad. Living and going to school in New York means you’ll have access to more cultural capital than you would almost anywhere else.
Columbia is in Morningside Heights, located just north of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Morningside Heights strikes a good balance between college town and big city. It’s scattered with cute cafes, trendy restaurants, and a walkable distance to both the Hudson River and Central Park. Every neighborhood in New York has its own personality and you’ll have the opportunity to explore all of what NYC has to offer when you’re not in class. As a student at Columbia, you’ll also have access to tons of student discounts across the city and free access to more than 30 New York museums.
Is Columbia affordable?
Tuition at Columbia varies depending on the school you attend. Barnard and Columbia tuition currently hovers around $60,000 a year, with the added room and board cost of around $18,000 a year. Barnard is need-blind (meaning schools place no consideration for applicants on whether or not they will need aid) for U.S. citizens and permanent residents but need-aware (meaning schools take into consideration whether or not applications will need aid) for international students.
50% of Columbia students receive grants from Columbia and the average amount awarded is $52,073. It’s a big sticker price, but a great quality education. If you want to get a better idea of what your financial aid package would look like, you can use Columbia’s tuition calculator.
What is Columbia Engineering?
Founded in 1864 as the School of Mines, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science is the nation’s third oldest engineering school. Today, it’s home to 1500 students studying 16 majors. In 2019, 49% of incoming Columbia Engineering students were women. (which is pretty impressive given the fact that nationwide, only 13% of engineers are women.) Columbia Engineering reserves 400 research opportunities for students through the Student Research Program, meaning that over the course of four years, students will have a high chance of conducting research, not even considering the outside opportunities that will be accessible for you after you graduate. If you’re interested in the engineering college, but don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to take liberal arts courses at the College, you can enroll in the Columbia Combined Plan. Students from other liberal arts colleges can also apply to this program during their junior or senior year.
What is the relationship between Barnard and Columbia?
Barnard is an all women’s college founded in 1889. Barnard itself consists of just 2500 undergraduate students, but the women there have access to the classes, facilities, resources, and extracurriculars at Columbia College in the same way the Columbia students do. 30% of the students at Barnard major in STEM, which can be a reaffirming environment for women interested in those fields. Barnard has a higher acceptance rate than Columbia (16.7% as opposed to 6%), but that doesn’t mean the school is significantly less competitive. Given the smaller applicant pool, women’s colleges typically have higher acceptance rates.
While the resources available may be similar, Barnard College is the younger sister to Columbia and undergraduates will be exposed to different experiences. The major differences between these schools are that the admissions process is separate, there are two distinct presidents and separate teachers/administration, as well as distinct campus locations. Additionally, when you graduate from Barnard College you degree will say Columbia University, Barnard College. Nonetheless, being at Barnard College means you will have the opportunity to be involved both in a tight-knit community of strong women and a large, resource-filled Ivy League University.
Does Columbia have course requirements?
Columbia has a core curriculum, which is a set of common seminars all students must take at specific stages during their academic career. There are four core requirements: Science, Global Core, Foreign Language, and Physical Education. Certain categories of classes fulfill the core requirements; Frontiers of Science, Music Humanities, Art Humanities, Literature Humanities, University Writing, and Contemporary Civilization are also a part of the core curriculum.
Do I have to live on Campus?
At Columbia, housing is guaranteed for four years. In a place like New York where real estate is precious, it’s no surprise that 95% of students choose to live on campus all four years. If you end up being one of those students, you’ll have several housing options: singles, suites, halls or brownstones. First years have the option of living in Carman, Furnald, John Jay, and the all-class integrated Living Learning Center in Wallach and Hartley. Of course, each hall is as unique as the students that fill its rooms, so Columbia allows you to choose your residence hall preferences before you matriculate. There are both single-sex and coed floors.
However, for the fall semester of 2020, learning may be conducted virtually depending on the status of the pandemic.
How diverse is the student body?
According to Columbia’s mission statement, the university “seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions.” Columbia isn’t just saying that. The university has an impressive history of diversity — it was the first American university to enroll 1000 international students, the home of the first African American advocacy group on a multi-racial campus in the U.S and of the first gay-rights advocacy group on any college campus. Today, diversity remains a priority for Columbia. There are over 100 countries represented amongst the current undergraduates. 17% of Columbia students are the first generation in their families to go to college. As of Fall 2018, the undergraduate schools (Columbia College, Engineering, and General Studies) consist of 48% women and 51% men. 3,281 students are white, 1,165 are Hispanic or Latino, 1,514 are Asian, 611 are black or African-American, 44 are Native American or Alaska Native, 9 are Pacific Islander, 510 are mixed, and 209 are of an unknown race. The percentages vary across the undergraduate colleges, but overall Columbia College has 55% minority students, Columbia Engineering has 65%, and General Studies has 39%.
What extracurriculars does Columbia have?
Regardless of your interests, Columbia has an organization for you. They have excellent and abundant resources for students interested in the arts, whether it’s studying art history, attending shows in the city, or working on your own projects on campus. The arts are not the only way to engage with the bustling city surrounding Columbia. There are ample community service opportunities that will help you break the Columbia bubble and give back to the people around you. When you live in a city as socioeconomically diverse as New York, you have a responsibility to consider your privilege as a student at such an elite institution, and can make time in your schedule to participate in the greater New York community. In terms of athletics, Columbia is a Division I school that competes within the Ivy League. They have 14 varsity men’s teams and 15 varsity women’s teams. You can learn more about their athletics department here.