Tips for Answering Columbia University Supplemental Essay Prompts

New York CityThis post about the Columbia supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2015 Common Application supplement for Ivy League and other top schools.  

In addition to the basic Common Application essay, the Ivy League schools require supplemental essay responses. These extra essays help these elite schools gain a deeper understanding of the applicant. They are your opportunity to explain how the school is a good match for you and vise versa. These schools want to know what is important to you and how they fit into your future goals!

Note that you can apply via the Common Application or the Columbia First-Year Application. The school has no preference; however, applicants can only submit ONE of the applications.

When addressing each prompt, consider the overall character and focus of the school in relationship to your personal objectives. Visit the school website, read about their educational mission, and think about how the school supports your interests. Columbia takes pride in the synergy created between its diverse residential student population and its location in the heart of bustling New York City. It also embraces a rich educational tradition in its interdepartmental Core Curriculum that encourages creative critical thinking by encompassing writing, science, philosophy, literature, art, music, and history.

What single activity listed in the activity section of your Common Application are you most proud of and why? (150 words or less)

This is an opportunity to highlight one of the activities you listed on your Common Application. Select an activity that reveals something important to you. This may be something you have been involved with for years or an experience that exposed you to something novel. Whichever activity you select, make sure to convey your enthusiasm and what it reflects about you. If appropriate, tie your interests to opportunities available at Columbia and in NYC.

Please tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia and why. (300 words or less)

This is a very important question. You need to convince the admissions committee that Columbia is the best school to help you meet your goals. You also have to show them how you can enrich the dynamic educational environment at Columbia. Discuss what excites you most about the Columbia experience. They want to know what kind of student you might be at Columbia.

Columbia University requires additional essay responses for students applying to Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science:

If you are applying to Columbia College, tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time. (300 words or less)

If you are applying to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. (300 words or less)

Both of these prompts ask you to consider your interests and experiences that helped you determine your specific career path. If you are truly undecided, in the Columbia College response, focus on the areas you are currently interested in, what excites you about those topics, and your hopes for the future. These prompts ask you to think broadly about your life experience as well as provide specific examples of how these experiences affected your interests and propelled you toward a particular area of study. Your discussion should reveal your passion for the subject. Remember to include why the program at Columbia is the best match to help you achieve your goals.

In addition to essay responses, Columbia requests the following lists. As you select required readings, books, and other forms of media, think about the breadth and depth of your interests. Consider how your selections represent your identity, reflect your intellect and curiosity, relate to Columbia’s Core Curriculum requirements, and make you a good match for the overall educational experience at Columbia.

List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150-words or less)

This is an opportunity to showcase a particular area of interest to you. Consider classes, which you discovered something new and exciting, allowed you to explore a previous area of interest in more depth, or covered a topic that helped you see the world in a different way.

List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150-words or less)

The admissions committee wants to know the sorts of topics that you find interesting. What better way than to share your recent favorite books? They are trying to gain a deeper sense of who you are and how you might fit in at Columbia. This list sheds some light on how you spend your spare time.

List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly. (150-words or less)

The sources of information and media you engage with routinely provide insights into how you perceive the world. This list to some degree demonstrates what topics are important to you. It also indicates the modes of information exchange you find most comfortable.

List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year. (150-words or less)

This list is allows you to tell the admissions committee the sorts of activities you do for fun! Your responses suggest the kinds of activities that may appeal to you at Columbia and provide insight about how you engage the world around you.

The admissions website clearly states Columbia’s commitment to a holistic approach to the admission process: “every single application is given a thorough review, and there is positively no minimum grade point average, class rank, or SAT/ACT score one must obtain in order to secure admission to Columbia.” That said Columbia has a highly competitive applicant pool. It received 32,964 undergraduate applications for the class of 2018. Only 2,291 or 7% were offered admission and over 90% of students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class with average SAT scores of 2245 and an average ACT score of 33. Your essays make you more than a number.

In this environment it is essential to remain calm and focused. Keep in mind, while adhering to the designated word limits and deadlines, your goal is to distinguish yourself from your peers by sharing your personal examples, anecdotes, and perspectives. In short, by providing sincere insight into what makes you, you! And why you are a good match for Columbia! Be sure to allow yourself appropriate time to reflect on your educational goals and to convey your best self to the admissions committee through your essay responses.

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

Marie Todd By , Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.

Related Resources:

•  Tips for Answering Common Application Essay Prompts
•  Tips for Answering Brown University Supplemental Essay Prompts
•  7 Signs an Experience Belongs in Your Application Essay

  • Teresa

    When the supplements ask you to list ____, do you literally list the titles of books, films, etc, or should you elaborate on them in paragraph form?

  • Marie Todd

    Hello Teresa,

    Yes, if asked for a “list,” you literally list the titles of the books, films, courses, etcetera. Keep in mind the titles or examples you select will convey something about you (experience, interests, personality). Also make sure to adhere to the specified word-limits.

  • Daniel

    If we have nearly 100 words left of space in the 150-word questions of the Columbia app, can we include parenthetical blurbs for each of our books, movies,etc.? Thank you!

    • Marie Todd

      It is best to follow the directions and provide a list. There are other places on your application to express yourself in a different way.