Ivy League schools require supplemental essay responses in addition to the basic Common Application essay. These elite schools try to gain a deeper understanding of the applicant through these supplemental responses. Think of them as your opportunity to explain how the school is a good match for you and vise versa. Your goal is to convey what is important to you and how the school fits into your future goals.
Note that starting with applicants for Fall 2017 admission, you can apply via the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Although the school has no preference, applicants can only submit ONE of the applications, and both must be submitted online.
As you prepare to respond to the supplemental questions, consider the overall character and focus of the school in relationship to your personal objectives. Begin with a visit to 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. Make sure to keep all of this in mind as you think about why Columbia might be the best educational experience for you.
The Columbia supplemental questions below ask you to reflect on your academic, extracurricular and intellectual interests:
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. Convey your enthusiasm! 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 educational 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 place to help you achieve your goals. What are the essential aspects of the program that are most unique and attractive to you?
In addition to essay responses, Columbia requests a number of 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. Each of your responses should represent something meaningful to you.
The following questions ask you to provide lists. You can organize your responses in any order (with or without numbers) and including author names is optional. It is not necessary to italicize or underline books and other publications.
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. It also reflects the content level at which you engaged a given subject. 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 and what you might find engaging.
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 and denotes the media sources that influence your perspective.
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! What do you find amusing or intriguing? 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 36,250 undergraduate applications for the class of 2019. Only 2,222 or 6.1% were offered admission and over 90% of students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class with average SAT scores of 745 in reading and writing, 750 in math and an average ACT score of 33.5. As you can see, your essays make you more than a number.
It may seem counter intuitive however, in this environment it is essential to remain calm and focused. 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. 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!
By Marie Todd, 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.