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Columbia University in the City of New York

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Columbia is a good school of course, butQuite BrightChemistry
Columbia is a good school of course, but there are some things to be weary of. Not all, but many students are very arrogant and very tough to approach (most schools have this). As far as facilities I cannot complain at all, there are an abundance of resources for all students to use and libraries are kept orderly and quiet. Bathrooms for the most part are well kept but not always. As far as school work, it's not as challenging as I thought it would be, but you still learn a lot. GPA's won't suffer as long as you are organized and allow yourself adequate studying time. In New York there is always something to do and plenty of places to go. Social life was great when you weren't swamped by work.
2nd Year Male -- Class 2016
Education Quality: A+, Collaboration/Competitive: D
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I love Columbia and think it offers aQuite BrightEnglish
I love Columbia and think it offers a college experience like no other university or college in the U.S.; that said, I realize that it's not for everyone. Here's what you should know before applying:

1) The campus is beautiful and safe (lots of police), but it's not a traditional campus in the vein of Yale's or Princeton's. Architecturally, most buildings have a beautiful Beaux Arts look (there are a few post-60s eyesores, as at any school), and I think Columbia's campus is more majestic than most. However, it won't offer total seclusion from the city (nor should it), and you definitely have to like urban environments to appreciate it. The dorms range from okay to pretty good (nothing too amazing, but the upperclass suites are nice), the libraries are outstanding, and the adjacent neighborhood has an academic feel that renders it a little quieter than downtown. (There are a lot of fun bars and restaurants right by campus that are perfect for college students.) All these factors make Columbia a wonderful hybrid of a more traditional campus and a stimulating urban environment. I'd say it's in the middle of a continuum that has Princeton on one end and NYU on the other.

2) The Core Curriculum, much like the campus, is distinctive and amazing, but not for everyone. The classes are small, most teachers are great (in my experience, anyway--but I've had some life-changing profs, so maybe I'm biased), and you will be highly fluent in Western culture after taking them. They'll amount to about 25-33% of your course work, so don't come to Columbia if you want to choose every course yourself. I came here because of the Core, and it hasn't disappointed me at all. Some texts were challenging, but I adored most of them right away, and I feel so comfortable analyzing any work of scholarship now (reading all of The Wealth of Nations will do that to a person). Core classes also allow for some nice bonding; I really like the perspectives that students from different majors bring to discussion, and it's nice to know that my friends and I are going through similar academic experiences, at least for the first two years. Beyond the Core, Columbia excels in just about every discipline, and there are plenty of star professors to go around. I've generally stuck to the humanities, where classes tend to be small, so I'm on great terms with my professors and have really bonded with some of them. That also means I've been able to avoid TA's, but I've heard they're not bad, and they generally are used to supplement large lecture courses. (From what I've heard, Columbia doesn't rely on its TA's to the extent that Harvard does.) I highly recommend Columbia for anything in the humanities and social sciences (I don't know as much about the sciences, but my friends who are so inclined seem content with their experience at CU).

3) I've made a lot of great friends here. Yes, there are some arrogant types, but most people are highly intelligent, motivated, and friendly. I wouldn't call us the warmest student body, and traditional school spirit (sports/frats/loud, inane cheering) is not our strong suit, but Columbia is ideal for aspiring urban sophisticates like myself. I will say that everyone here loves the city, and, while some spend too much time in the library, most like to explore the neighborhood and Manhattan and Brooklyn. This doesn't mean that our campus is dead (that's a popular myth--after all, we do see each other all week in class and at extracurricular events, of which there are many, especially if you're into performing arts), but it does mean that people don't feel limited to hanging around Morningside all the time, especially on Saturday nights. Bottom line: don't come to Columbia if you don't want to explore New York.

4) Advising is mediocre. Professors are very helpful in making up for this (just go to office hours), but it helps if you're motivated and a self-starter. Columbia offers amazing resources and places them at your finger tips--but it's still up to you to make us of them.

5) New York is amazing and offers more opportunities and fun things to do than any other U.S. college location. Morningside and Columbia serves as relatively calm home bases (certainly more leafy and not as dense as downtown), and the subway and cabs will take you anywhere you want to go. There are museums, concerts, restaurants, bars, historical sites, and stores on par with the those of greatest cities in the world, and you can enjoy so much of that even without spending a ton of money.Bottom line: Columbia is uniquely wonderful, but you can't try to make it something it's not. The academics are superb (but make sure you're interested in taking the Core); the campus is beautiful and buzzing with activity (but make sure you don't want rural solitude); the other students are some of the best people you'll ever meet (but make sure you don't want to go to a spirited jock school--and be prepared to deal with a few blowhards and people of questionable intelligence who somehow got in--unfortunately, you'll find some of these types at any top school); and the location is second to none. Personally, Columbia is the perfect school for me, and I love that I'm getting a rigorous Ivy League education in the most exciting city in the world.

2nd Year Male -- Class 2009
Education Quality: A+, Innovation: A-
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Columbia is an absolutely top-tier institution with solidQuite BrightHistory/Histories (art history/etc.)
Columbia is an absolutely top-tier institution with solid faculty, resources, and students. It is one of the most popular Ivies, and there's more to its appeal than New York City (honestly, if people just came for that, they could go to NYU). I've found that the University caters to a specific type of student: one who is fairly independent and will chart his own academic course. There's very little hand-holding after orientation, although advisers are fairly prompt about setting up meetings, and prospective students should know that this is not a communal liberal arts college. That being said, Columbia does have a self-contained, vibrant community for a mid-sized university.

As far as academics go, Columbia is challenging, but (like Harvard, Yale, Brown, etc.) getting in is almost the hardest part. Because people here are so motivated, everyone seems to do well enough, although it can get a little hectic around mid-terms and finals. People also aren't too competitive, and I've found it very easy to form cooperative study groups. A good thing about a school like Columbia is that students are very driven, and so the institutional culture brings about the best in you. Professors in seminars are very accessible (about two thirds of your classes will be on this scale), while TAs take the lead in large lectures (my TAs have been fabulous, though, and it's much easier to ask dumb questions to a grad student when you're feeling confused). Before you apply, know that the Core is a big deal here-- some students don't take that into account and find themselves overwhelmed by the requirements. In general, Core classes (most of which are fantastic) will take up one third of your classes, most of those occurring within the first two years.

The campus is very nice (yes, we do have a self-enclosed campus, one that will probably be doubled in size during the next decade). The buildings are, for the most part, attractive and centered around the main quads, although the University has swallowed a lot of property in the neighborhood. Our libraries are amazing (over eight million volumes), and it's really easy to take advantage of the different resources on campus.

Because Columbia has a distinct campus, it also has a strong sense of community/identity, especially given that it's an urban school. There are tons of student groups catering to all types, and this stems from the diverse student body. People come from all over (every state and many foreign countries), and our student body has the highest proportion of minority students in the Ivy League (between 40 and 45 percent). Most students exhibit a strong will to succeed, passion for their majors, and (for the most part) tolerance for different people (although most of us are liberal).

And then there's New York... simply amazing. You will not get the opportunities that the City offers at university of comparable excellence. There are so many restaurants, museums, clubs, concerts, political functions, and other events that it's impossible to see it all. What else can I say? I love Columbia and cannot imagine myself anywhere else. It's the greatest.

1st Year Male -- Class 2008
Surrounding City: A+, University Resource Use/ spending: F
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Columbia University in the City of New York
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