Columbia University is one of the eight Ivy League schools and is located in the heart of New York City, NY. The urban campus is the oldest college in New York state, and the fifth oldest in the country. Columbia is best known for being one of the top schools in the nation and for its vibrant location in New York City.
As one of the top colleges in the country, Columbia is extremely selective with undergraduate admissions. Columbia received over 40,000 applications in 2018, and the overall acceptance rate for the class of 2018 was 5.5%. This extremely low acceptance rate makes Columbia the third most selective college in the country.
Since admission into Columbia University is so difficult, your essays must make you stand out from the thousands of other qualified applicants that apply each year. Below are some admissions essay examples for Columbia written by a real student who was accepted by Columbia.
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Please note: all names, cities, and other personal information in the essays and supplements have been replaced to keep the authors' privacy.
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Columbia University Essays
Table of Contents
Common App Essays (1)
“Ice Cream Fridays”
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
(650 words max)
“Ice cream Fridays!” “Two hours of recess!” 500 middle schoolers stood and cheered, pounding their feet on the bleachers. [Chris] was the popular star quarterback and my opponent for school president. He looked like an adult in a tailored suit, gesturing with his hands, never checking his notes, casting looks at the girls sitting in the front row. He had long wavy hair, a smooth complexion, and charisma. I sat in my polyester blue blazer and rumpled khakis. I was becoming more emasculated and filled with self-doubt with each chant.
I had the best platform ideas and my aunt helped paint two dozen campaign posters. The year before, I carried the weight in student council while [Chris] skipped half our meetings. I was sure I could win. I clomped to the mic in my dad’s dress shoes. I read my long speech from my notes without enthusiasm. My only applause came from a couple of friends who felt bad for me.
Later, in high school, math and programming made sense to me — people didn’t. At a Model UN meeting, confident upperclassmen talked about the power of persuasion and public speaking. I felt like I didn’t belong, but their command of the stage made me want to be a part of it.
At my first conference, representing Brazil’s humanitarian policies, I had developed what I thought was a brilliant proposal. I was confident and was the first to raise my placard. I had so many ideas but when I took the mic, I didn’t know where to start. I rambled on about background and never got to my main points. I felt foolish for thinking I was going to be so effective. My highwater pants and my sleeves hanging over my fingers added to my insecurity.
I continued this pattern of my speaking skills not matching my confidence in the quality of my ideas. To compensate, I increased the intensity of my preparation. I’d fill a binder with hundreds of research documents, I immersed myself in my roles. I mistakenly assumed that good ideas alone would be enough to win. At one conference, two delegates asked me to join their bloc to get access to my ideas with no intention of giving me a meaningful role. They saw me purely as a policy wonk.
My fascination with geopolitical and economic issues were what kept me committed to MUN. But by the end of sophomore year, the co-presidents were fed up. “Henry, we know how hard you try, but there are only so many spots for each conference...” said one. “You’re wasting space, you should quit,” said the other.
Nevertheless, I persisted. My junior year I ran for club secretary. Automating attendance and quantitative projects were my inclination. But members saw me as a younger, less intimidating officer, and started coming to me for guidance. When [Samantha], a freshman, came to me for advice, I tried to pass her off to the co-presidents. She was terrified of speaking at conferences, and I didn’t know how to express my empathy. “They aren’t going to take me seriously, I don’t have charisma, I’m too short!” I saw my own insecurities in her. I didn’t feel like I was qualified to help, but I reminded her of the passion she had shown in meetings. Gradually, I became a mentor to her and many others. I was enjoying supporting them and was gratified by guiding their growth as delegates. One sophomore even anointed me “MUN soccer mom.”
On the bus to her first conference, [Samantha] was in a panic, but throughout the day I saw her confidence grow. When she won Outstanding Delegate, beyond anyone’s expectations, our whole row erupted in wild cheers. When my name was also called shortly after, it felt anticlimactic. I was far more proud of succeeding in my new role as a mentor than I was of my own award.”
Supplemental Essays (5)
Supplemental Essay #91
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.
Supplemental Essay #92
List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year.
(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 Bronte?
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
Supplemental Essay #93
List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year.
(150 words max)
A Most Incomprehensible Thing (the mathematics of relativity) - Peter Collier
Nausicaa? 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
Supplemental Essay #94
List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly.
(150 words max)
The New York Times
Reddit - /r/programming /r/machinelearning /r/lifeprotips /r/iwanttolearn /r/politics /r/science /r/physics /r/economics
The Washington Post
arXiv.org - arXiv-sanity.com
Supplemental Essay #95
List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year.
(150 words max)
Carykh (youtube channel)
Welch Lab (youtube)
Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell (youtube)
Pause and Select (youtube)
PBS Spacetime (youtube)
CGP Grey (youtube)
Now you see it (youtube)
Lessons from the screenplay (youtube)
Dreamlands (Whitney Museum of American Art)
Make Happy - Bo Burnham (comedy special)
The Decemberists (concert)
March Comes in like a Lion (anime)
The Eric Andre Show (tv)
One Punch Man (anime)
Cowboy Bebop (anime)
Your Lie in April (anime)
Rick and Morty (tv)
Game of Thrones (tv)
Stranger Things (tv)
Silicon Valley (tv)
Adventure Time (tv)
Castle in the Sky (movie)
Princess Mononoke (movie)
End of Evangelion (movie)
Your Name (movie)
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