What Does Columbia Look For?

We use a holistic review process when evaluating applicants for admission. That means admission to Columbia is not based on a simple formula of grades and test scores. Instead, we consider a variety of factors: the student’s academic record, extracurricular interests, intellectual achievements and personal background.

Columbia follows a committee-based approach; no candidate is admitted to Columbia College or Engineering without discussion and examination of the application by multiple officers.

Admission to both Columbia College and Columbia Engineering is broad-based but highly selective, and the Committee is able to offer admission to only a small fraction of all applicants. A profile of the current first-year class is available on the Admissions Statistics webpage.

How does the Committee review applicants?

We look at a variety of factors to help us inform our decision on a candidate including:

  • The student's curriculum and grades - we hope to see that a student is challenging herself or himself with a rigorous course load
  • The context of a particular candidate, including family circumstances, secondary school, community, interests and access to resources
  • The quality of a student's involvement in activities beyond the classroom
  • The character and personality of a candidate, and the impact she or he will make on our diverse, residential campus
  • The candidate's fit for the distinctive Columbia experience, which includes the Core Curriculum; a both traditionally collegiate and unmistakably urban campus life; and an Ivy League school where curious thinkers come to grow
  • Recommendations - which provide evidence of intellectual curiosity and promise, classroom and school and community participation, and overall potential for the candidate to make an impact at Columbia, in the classroom and beyond

How does the Admissions Committee distinguish among candidates?

The admissions process at Columbia is a "holistic" one, taking many factors into careful consideration. We do not rely on standardized testing and grades alone and instead look at all parts of every application to help inform our judgment. We read personal statements to try to understand each candidate and what motivates him or her. We read teacher recommendations carefully to understand a candidate's contributions in the classroom and what that candidate might offer his or her Columbia classmates.

Every part of the application matters. In the end our goal is to find the students who are the best fit for Columbia. Each year, there are many more qualified applicants than there are places in our class. With such an appealing pool of applicants, it is the job of the admissions committee to get to know all students and select those that we believe will take greatest advantage of the unique Columbia experience and will offer something meaningful in return to the community.

Advice from Students

Once you’ve compared financial aid opportunities, the majors available, the curricula, the requirements, and the activities, go with your gut. Just in the way that you should be authentically yourself in your application, let colleges be authentically themselves when you visit so you know the match is real.”

Marybeth S.

Check out the actual academic departments you are interested in. You may find that departments under the same name at different universities do very different kinds of work. ”

Steele S.