If you want to get into Columbia University in 2023, you can make sure you have the best chances of getting accepted by writing powerful essays.
In this article I've gathered 5 of the best college essays that got accepted into Columbia University to help you improve your own essays.
You can see how real students answered Columbia's writing supplement section and Common App personal statement.
This past year 60,377 students applied to Columbia and of those 2,253 were admitted for the Class of 2026.
That gives Columbia an overall admit rate of 3.73%, or in other words about 1 in 25 students are offered admission.
Admissions into Columbia is clearly highly competitive, but there's an upside:
The more selective a college is, the more your application essays matter.
This year, Columbia requires applying students to respond to several "list" questions, short answers, and short essay prompts.
Here are the Columbia writing supplement questions for 2023:
The questions on this page are being asked by Columbia University Applicants are asked to respond to Columbia-specific questions to tell the Admissions Committee more about their academic, extracurricular and intellectual interests. These questions allow us to better understand your intellectual curiosity, habits of mind, love of learning and sense of self. These questions also allow the Admissions Committee to learn more about you in your current community and why you feel Columbia’s distinctive experiences in and out of the classroom would be a good fit for your undergraduate education.
For the three list questions that follow, there is a 75 or 125 word maximum. Please refer to the below guidance when answering these questions:
- Your response should be a list of items separated by commas or semicolons.
- Items do not have to be numbered or in any specific order.
- It is not necessary to italicize or underline titles of books or other publications.
- No author names, subtitles or explanatory remarks are needed.
For the three short answer questions, please respond in 200 words or fewer.
For additional guidance, visit our website.
Please note that the third short answer question will not appear until you have selected Columbia College or Columbia Engineering in the "Academics" section of Columbia's application questions.
List the titles of the required readings from academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)
List the titles of the books, essays, poetry, short stories or plays you read outside of academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)
We’re interested in learning about some of the ways that you explore your interests. List some resources and outlets that you enjoy, including but not limited to websites, publications, journals, podcasts, social media accounts, lectures, museums, movies, music, or other content with which you regularly engage. (125 words or fewer)
A hallmark of the Columbia experience is being able to learn and live in a community with a wide range of perspectives. How do you or would you learn from and contribute to diverse, collaborative communities? (200 words or fewer)
Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia. (200 words or fewer)
For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the areas of study that you previously noted in the application. (200 words or fewer)
For applicants to Columbia Engineering, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the areas of study that you previously noted in the application. (200 words or fewer)
Here are 5 of the best essays that worked for Columbia University.
Below you can read answers to the 2022-23 Columbia writing supplement, as well as past year's prompts. I've also included personal statement essays from admitted Columbia students.
- Prompt: Ideal College Community
- Prompt: List Required Readings
- Prompt: List Non-Academic Readings
- Prompt: Resources and Outlets
- Prompt: Area of Study
Prompt: List a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community. (150 words max)
Filled with activity around the clock. A place to come home to.
Trying to get past locked doors (literal and metaphorical).
Offering intellectual freedom and curiosity, without forcing specialization. Accommodating students who are unwilling to wait to make a difference. Willing to look critically at itself.
Socially conscious and politically active.
Never taking its eye off the national or global stage.
Buzzing with so much life it flows beyond the campus into the outside world.
So much life that sometimes it intimidates, that it yearns for more hours in the day. With too many options to choose from, Too much to do in four years.
Filled with clever eyes that see new ideas in the lessons of history.
Diverse of origin, of culture, of opinion, of religion, of personality, Diverse like an international center of thought and ideas and passions. An urban wonderland.
Supporting of extraordinary ambitions.
Prompt: List the titles of the required readings from academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (150 words max)
Survival of the Sickest - Sharon Moalem
What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses - Daniel Chamovitz
The blockade of immune checkpoints in cancer immunotherapy - Drew Pardoll
The Physical Universe - Arthur Beiser
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
Sexual Politics and Religious Reform in the Witch Craze - Joseph Klaits
The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers - Paul Kennedy
The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli
On World Government - Dante Alighieri
Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 - Tony Judt
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Prompt: List the titles of the books, essays, poetry, short stories or plays you read outside of academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (150 words max)
A Most Incomprehensible Thing (the mathematics of relativity) - Peter Collie
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Hayao Miyazaki
Weapons of Math Destruction - Cathy O’Neil
Algorithms to Live By - Brian Christian
Giant of the Senate - Al Franken
The Sublime Object of Ideology - Slavoj Zizek
The Theoretical Minimum - Leonard Susskind
Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World - Tim Whitmarsh
The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller - Italo Calvino
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
The Feynman Lectures on Physics: Volume 1 - Richard Feynman
Meditations - Marcus Aurelius
The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov
Justice by Lottery - Barbara Goodwin
History: A Very Short Introduction - John H. Arnold
Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II - John Dower
Prompt: We’re interested in learning about some of the ways that you explore your interests. List some resources and outlets that you enjoy, including but not limited to websites, publications, journals, podcasts, social media accounts, lectures, museums, movies, music, or other content with which you regularly engage. (125 words max)
The New York Times
Reddit - /r/programming /r/machinelearning /r/lifeprotips /r/iwanttolearn /r/politics /r/science /r/physics /r/economics Hacker News
The Washington Post
whatif.xkcd.com arXiv.org - arXiv-sanity.com
Prompt: For applicants to Columbia College, 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. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time. (300 words max)
Studying computer science gives me the opportunity to be in a field that evolves so quickly I can always be on the forefront and do cutting-edge work. This summer at an ad-tech company, I moved the data science team’s analysis programs to a novel cluster-computing engine (Kubernetes), which can manage and distribute tasks across thousands of computers at once. Kubernetes is so new that barely any information has circulated about it. Because of this novelty, I was able to publish the first existing documentation of a data science pipeline in Kubernetes.
Computer science can also automate the manual drudgery of life. For example: to manage my clubs, I’ve written a program that checks for emails from members with excuses for missing meetings and automatically logs their absences.
Since computers have become the platform for every science, coding allows me to contribute to numerous fields. When I started at Einstein College of Medicine last year, I knew nothing about computational biology. Our project showed me that basic programming was all I needed to find fascinating results in the mostly unstudied mountains of genomic data.
As a person, I’m drawn to seemingly impossible challenges, in particular, the quest to teach machines and create mechanical consciousness. When I started taking online courses in AI, I became fascinated by the gradient descent method in machine learning. The method casts complex input data (e.g. photos) as thousand-dimensional surfaces and attempts to descend to the lowest points (minima) of those surfaces. It works best on data with underlying patterns, like pictures of human faces. This indicates that, in some way, the very nature of what a ‘face’ is, what unique structure is shared by nearly all faces, is found in the minima that AI models descend towards. My dream is to do foundational artificial intelligence research.
If you're trying to get into Columbia, you'll need to stand out from the competition. These 5 Columbia essays that worked showcase successful examples of responses to the Columbia writing supplement for 2022.
What did you think of these Columbia essays?
Ryan Chiang, Founder of EssaysThatWorked
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