What does Columbia look for?

The admissions process at Columbia is a holistic one, which means that every part of the application matters to help inform our judgment. We read personal statements to try to understand each candidate and what motivates them. We read teacher recommendations carefully to understand a candidate's contributions in the classroom and what that candidate might offer their Columbia classmates.

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.

A profile of the current first-year class is available on the Admissions Statistics webpage. 

How does the review process work?

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.

How does the committee make a decision?

We take a holistic approach when evaluating applicants for admission. A variety of factors inform our decision on a candidate.

  • Curriculum and Grades
    We hope to see that a student is avidly pursuing intellectual growth with a rigorous course load. Whether a student is applying to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering, we advise preparation across disciplines. For students applying to Columbia Engineering, we strongly recommend coursework in Physics and Calculus.
  • Context
    Family circumstances, secondary school, community, interests and access to resources.
  • Extracurricular Activities
    The quality of a student's involvement in activities beyond the classroom.
  • Character
    A student's personality, and the impact they will make on our diverse, residential campus.
  • Fit
    The student'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
    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.