Columbia University, founded in 1754 as Kings College, is among the oldest universities in the United States. (For obvious reasons, the school changed its name change to “Columbia” after the Revolutionary War.)
Columbia is situated in northern Manhattan, although the campus itself does not feel urban, with its classic architecture and grassy areas. Because of this location, students are able to enjoy all that New York City has to offer, in terms of cultural events and museums, as well as real-life experiences, such as internships. The student body is diverse in ethnic and geographic background, as well as in talents and interests.
Columbia distinguishes itself academically with its core curriculum, which is rigorous and encompasses most of the first two years. The intent of the core is to provide “a foundation of intellectual thought”, and courses include: a writing seminar, “Great Books” class, contemporary civilization, foreign language, science, and non-western studies. (This is for the College of Arts and Sciences; the Engineering School has slightly different requirements, although still with a liberal arts base.)
There are approximately 5,700 undergraduates at Columbia, and with the graduate students counted, the total is close to 28,000. Barnard College, an all-women school across the street, allows its students to take courses at Columbia, and vice-versa. Students studying the arts can participate in programs at Julliard. Strong undergraduate departments include English, History, Political Science, Chemistry and Biology. Professors, for the most part, are said to be extremely accessible.
An attractive offering at Columbia is its Internship Program. There are (with rare exceptions) no classes on Fridays, and about 20% of undergraduates participate in an internship in New York City, in which the school acts as a liaison. Internships include assisting at Fashion Week, working in an investment bank, to working at a non-profit agency. Internships can be set up for the summer, as well. Perhaps because Columbia students feel that the school and the city have so much to offer, only about 20% of students go abroad during the four years.
Athletes at Columbia participate in Division I Sports. However, there are no athletic scholarships (an agreement among Ivy League schools.) The football stadium and most of the other athletic facilities are about 100 blocks north – students can take a bus or the subway. Intramural and club sports are popular. On campus, there is an underground gym with a pool for swimming, a basketball gym, and a workout area.
Columbia is a demanding school, for students who come to be challenged. The Admissions Office looks for academic rigor in high school, competitive test scores, a passion for reading and learning, and a well-expressed reason for choosing Columbia.