Navigating the college admissions process can be a challenge.
There is a lot you have to stay on top of. Deadlines seem to appear out of nowhere. Personal statements require multiple rounds of revisions. On top of all that, applicants can feel afraid of the mounting tasks before them.
And for major universities like Columbia University, the process can be very competitive. You don’t just need to meet the deadline. You need to stand out from all the other applicants vying for the same spot as you.
Thankfully, there are many resources to help you with the application process, including this guide. We’ll share everything you need to know about the Columbia University application process and the requirements to get accepted.
With this resource, you’ll be well-equipped to compile a meaningful, comprehensive application that presents you in the best light.
Before we dive into the application process, let’s take a deeper look at the university and how many people are admitted each year.
About Columbia University
Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in New York City. Columbia has a history rooted in tradition. In fact, it is currently the oldest university in New York and the fifth oldest in the U.S.
The university positions itself as “one of the world’s most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields.”
Columbia was founded in 1754 by King George II of England, and it withstood the American Revolution.
It has attracted some of the best scholars in the world. Leading research breakthroughs have been conducted at the university. The esteemed alumni network is made up of notable lawyers, business executives, researchers, and even world leaders.
The prestigious school has numerous famous alumni, including Barack Obama, Allan Ginsburg, and Julia Stiles. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, also attended the university, showcasing the profound impact its students have had on the fabric of the country.
The campus is made up of a wide array of notable buildings and community learning spaces.
The Low Memorial Library sits in the epicenter of campus. College Walk is the quintessential town square for students and a meeting place that connects all the different parts of the vast campus.
The Sherman Fairchild Center for the Life Sciences and the Morris A. Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research are two newly constructed buildings.
They add to a prominent skyline made up of the Columbia University Medical Center, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Mary Woodard Lasker Biomedical Research Building, and numerous other buildings.
Collectively, these buildings make a bustling city campus that is full of undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a wide variety of majors and courses.
Here is Columbia University by the numbers to show the competitiveness of the admissions process:
Now that you know a little bit more about Columbia University, let’s take a look at some of the requirements you need to meet to apply.
Columbia’s undergraduate application requirements
College applications are a multi-step process. There are often numerous documents you need to compile before you’re ready to click submit.
By breaking down the application process into bite-sized steps, you make the entire experience more manageable and enjoyable.
The first step is to understand what is required in your application. Once you have this information, you can make an organized plan to gather or create the supporting documents you need in order to apply to Columbia University.
While application requirements vary by program, there are standard components of a Columbia undergraduate application. These components will typically include:
This refers to the basic information about yourself, including your name, address, email, high school, GPA, graduation year, intended area of study, and more.
You can usually fill out this identifying information quickly — just make sure it’s accurate.
Be prepared to compile a list of your achievements, extracurricular activities, and employment experience while in high school.
Each item should include a description of what it is as well as any leadership positions you held or direct contributions you made as a part of the experience.
The personal essay is your opportunity to tell your story.
This document is typically around 1,000 words, and it highlights your motivations and aspirations. You can explain how your professional background makes you an excellent candidate for a program at Columbia.
High school transcript
This is the formal document submitted from your high school that outlines all the courses you took and the grades you earned in each one.
If you attended more than one high school, you’ll need to submit a transcript from each.
Letters of recommendation
Applicants need to provide at least one recommendation from a high school counselor and one from a high school teacher.
These recommendations are useful for the reviewing board to see your academic achievements through the eyes of administrators who know you well.
This report highlights your current status and grades as a high school student at the time you’re applying to Columbia.
It indicates that you are on track to graduate and earn respectable grades that meet the benchmark required for Columbia students.
SAT or ACT Scores
Standardized test scores are required in order to be accepted into Columbia.
Accepted students’ average scores are a 33-35 on the ACT and a 700-770 for reading/writing and 740-800 for math on the SAT.
All of these different components will make up your application. Each part is important in the admission process. You need to have each element filled out as accurately, professionally, and thoroughly as you can.
Doing so will position you in the best possible way when your application reaches the reviewing board. With a complete and thorough application, you will have done everything that you could to present your case before the admissions counsel, and you will be eligible for consideration.
Now that you know all the different elements of the application, let’s take a deeper look at the undergraduate application process, key deadlines, and other important things you will need to know as you begin applying.
Starting your application process
Before beginning the application process, you should have two important dates memorized.
First, the early decision application deadline is November 1. This is for everyone who knows that they want to apply to Columbia University and are prepared to submit their application early.
By submitting your application before November 1, you will be eligible for an early review and notification of your status as an applicant.
The final deadline for regular decision applicants is January 1. This is the absolute last day to apply for the upcoming academic year.
As with any major submission, we recommend not waiting until the last minute to apply. By submitting your application early, you can deal with any issues that may arise.
Missing these deadlines would bump you to the next application cycle and eliminate your chance of attending Columbia University during the upcoming academic year.
Be sure you have ample time to prepare your application so that you aren’t rushing as the deadlines quickly approach.
Columbia’s graduate application requirements
If you have already completed your undergraduate degree and are interested in Columbia’s graduate program, there are a few differences in what you’ll need to apply.
Every graduate program at Columbia has a different application process. Each has its own requirements, making it critical that you begin the research stage of your application process early to ensure you have ample time to apply and that you submit the necessary information.
However, some requirements are commonly requested regardless of the program you’re applying to. These requirements include:
This document shows your undergraduate course load and performance in each of your classes. If you attended multiple colleges or varying programs, you should submit individual transcripts from each program in order to reflect your entire academic history.
Letters of recommendation
Applicants should plan to submit multiple letters of recommendation from professors, advisors, and counselors involved in their journey through their undergraduate program.
A copy of your standardized test performance data should be mailed directly to the university.
Depending on the graduate program you’re applying to (such as Columbia Law or Columbia Med School), you may need to take the GRE, GMAT, or other related tests.
You can view the respective programs’ applications to understand the specific testing requirements for admittance.
Most graduate applications at Columbia have a non-refundable $120 fee that is due at the time of submission.
Now that you know the different components of the application, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make sure you select the right graduate program for you.
Selecting your graduate program
Selecting the right graduate program to fit your interests and career aspirations could be one of the biggest decisions of your life. Thankfully, Columbia allows prospective students to apply to more than one program.
You need to know which programs you want to apply to before beginning the application process. But how can you make this decision?
Consider these tips to help you decide which program is right for you:
Review the programs, courses, and curriculum to see if it matches your career aspirations
Check out notable alumni and see what they are doing in their respective fields
Plan a visit and speak to faculty about the program
Let’s dive into some of the largest graduate colleges at Columbia.
Understanding Columbia’s graduate colleges
From attending law school to getting your MBA, there are many different programs you can pursue at Columbia University.
In fact, Columbia offers more than 13 graduate and professional schools for students studying a variety of disciplines:
There are two distinct groupings of schools at Columbia: the Morningside Graduate and Professional Schools and the Medical Center Graduate Schools.
Approximately ten schools make up the Morningside Graduate & Professional Schools, while only four schools are a part of the Medical Center Graduate Schools.
Four of the largest schools across the Columbia University campus include the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia Business School, and the School of Professional Studies.
Let’s look at each one and see what they have to offer prospective students.
Today, the college serves as an international hub for the university with eight global satellite partners, providing unique access for students conducting research with people all around the world.
More than 40,000 students make up the Columbia Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ alumni network. It is one of the oldest graduate schools in the country, making it an even more significant place of higher learning.
The school offers courses in humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, with 47 master’s programs and 31 Ph.D. programs — the largest of any graduate school at Columbia.
The application to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences opens in September of every year. Letters of recommendation, transcripts, and standardized test scores are all required to submit an application to this school.
Total # of applicants
Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
The school was founded in 1864 and has made incredible contributions in the fields of engineering and technology since. It has even won many notable awards, including the No. 1 graduate engineering school in the Ivy League and the No. 1 school for online graduate degree programs.
Nine departments make up the school: Applied Physics and Mathematics, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Earth and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.
In order to apply to the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, you’ll need to submit your transcripts, three recommendation letters, GRE test scores, a personal statement, and your resume. You’ll also need to pay an $85 non-refundable fee.
Total # of applicants
Columbia Business School
The Columbia Business School was founded in 1916, with 61 students graduating through its first program a few years later. The school’s mission is to “develop leaders and builders of enterprises who create value for their stakeholders and society at large.”
The school offers MBA, MS, Ph.D., and Executive Education programs. Specific Master of Science programs include Accounting and Fundamental Analysis, Business Analytics, Financial Economics, Management Science and Engineering, and Marketing Science.
Each program at the Columbia Business School has its own application and deadline. Information sessions are available to learn more, or the admissions office is available to answer any specific questions about your application.
Undergraduate degrees in business are typically preferred. You can get involved with undergraduate business organizations or apply for business internships to build your resume.
This type of experience will be invaluable on your resume and in your application to Columbia Business School.
Total # of applicants
School of Professional Studies
The Columbia School of Professional Studies’ mission is to “provide diverse, innovative programs to enable students to succeed in their educational and professional development.”
The school provides programs to get your master’s degree in Actuarial Science, Applied Analytics, Bioethics, Construction Administration, Enterprise Risk Management, Human Capital Management, and more.
More than 30,000 alumni who graduated from the School of Professional Studies exist around the world.
Interested applicants should know that some programs within the School of Professional Studies require a video application. Take the time to review the requirements carefully with ample time to spare.