Writing a Successful Essay for Columbia

Lana Tanich
Lana Tanich

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As we all know college admissions process for an Ivy League school can be quite rigorous. Essays are a crucial aspect of your application and can often make or break your acceptance decision. Columbia, like other Ivy League schools requires their applicants to answer supplemental essay questions in addition to those posed by the common application. Below are specific questions for your essay for Columbia undergraduate applicants for 2018. Let’s break these down.

In 150 words or fewer, please list a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community.

What college admissions is looking for here is whether you will be the right fit for their community culture and vise versa. To understand the community feel, their values and beliefs it is vital for you to explore this first-hand.

Before beginning to outline your major points for this answer, go to the campus, visit the college fair, talk to current students, find an alumni who may be able to walk you through their own experience. Basically find any kind of means to truly understand what the Columbia community is all about. It is always best to do this in-person especially because you can ask questions along the way, and no one is a better expert than someone who lives it.

While walking the campus or speaking to students, take some mental notes of what you can genuinely identify with and then go from there in shaping your main points of this essay for Columbia.

Please list the following (150 words or fewer for each question):
  • titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year;
  • or titles of books read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year;
  • or titles of print or electronic publications you read regularly;
  • and/or the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year.

For the four lists above, make sure to keep the answers genuine. Don’t list only items that you think Columbia will want to see. The college admissions office wants to know that you are cultured, but at the same time they want to know your interests and understand the real person behind this application.

To better help yourself pinpoint items on these lists, try to think if you may have learned some sort of lessons from particular works, maybe one book or another inspired you on an emotional level, or perhaps you felt a strong connection to a character that you can relate to. These are the types of works that you should be including on the list.

The items you mention in these sections should always be something you enjoy even if it may not necessarily be related to your desired major. Do however try to include some things that carry the same message as what you may have mentioned in your other essay answers. Maybe if you spoke about or are majoring in art, include museums you went to or books that you may have read in relation to your specific interest.  

Please answer the following short answer questions (300 words or fewer for each question):
Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why.

In this answer you should connect the “college” and the “you.” Meaning you need to emphasize what it is about this specific college that matters to you and that no other college offers. Explain your values by giving a background to the reasons this is important to you.

Of course the first step to this should be lots of research. After all, if you don’t know anything about this college why do you want to attend it in the first place? You need to have something that you can truly identify with and value. This can be anything from the university’s history to course offerings, to their mission, to the type of community they aim to foster.

Remember to keep this authentic and allow the reader to understand your passions and values. Storytelling can be a great way to help your audience understand why something matters to you.

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.

This and the next essay for Columbia require a similar strategy…

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.

Again, be genuine! Don’t try to make something up or answer the question by including things you think your audience wants to hear. You may want to tell a story why you became fascinated with a particular field. Was there a certain event that had this influence on you? Maybe you’re interested in a field because someone in your life was saved by a breakthrough in science? Or perhaps a life-changing coincidence pushed you in a direction of this field? Think back to the events in your life that brought you to this decision.

Questions? Let us know!