columbia essays that worked

Columbia Essays Examples

Are you interested in applying to Columbia University? If so, Columbia essays examples are a great way to start considering your own essay strategy. 

As with any top school, essays are a critical part of the application process. When you read Columbia supplemental essays examples, you can learn more about the Columbia University requirements and admissions criteria. In this guide, we will take a look at several Columbia essays examples. These examples of Columbia supplemental essays—and Columbia essays that worked—can give you useful insight into what Columbia looks for. 

More details about Columbia

Columbia University is an Ivy League school that ranks #18 in National Universities by U.S. News. Located in New York City, New York, Columbia is one of the top schools in the nation, with an acceptance rate of just 3.73%. 

Although Columbia has a low acceptance rate, tips from these Columbia essays examples can help you stand out in the Columbia application process. They can also help you show the Columbia admissions office what makes you a unique applicant. 

The Columbia-specific application questions give students an opportunity to highlight their extracurriculars and personal accomplishments. After all, to boost your chances of acceptance, you will want to submit stellar essays. 

In this guide, we will first review the Columbia University requirements and examples of Columbia supplemental essays. Then, we will dive into some Columbia essays that worked, including some Columbia supplemental essays examples, Why Columbia essays examples, short essay examples, and extracurricular activities essay examples. We will also offer tips on how to write your own Columbia essays that worked.

How many essays do you have to write for Columbia?

columbia essays that worked

Before diving into Columbia essays examples and how to write Columbia essays that worked, let’s first look at the Columbia University requirements for essays.  

Students applying to Columbia University will submit their Common Application or Coalition Application, which requires an essay. In addition to this essay, Columbia requirements separately include Columbia-specific list questions and short answer questions. We’ll later look at Columbia supplemental essays examples. 

For the list questions, applicants will simply list each individual response using commas or semicolons. So, there are no formatting guidelines, and applicants shouldn’t explain their responses. 

The short answer questions, however, require a more in-depth answer. Students should prepare their answers so that they answer all parts of the question in the most powerful manner. 

The value of crafting strong Columbia essay responses

Columbia-specific questions tell the admissions office more about your academic, extracurricular, and intellectual engagements. These questions provide valuable insight to your application. Moreover, they allow you to distinguish yourself within the large pool of competitive applicants. Remember, Columbia’s acceptance rate is very low, so you have to put your best foot forward.  

We will go over many different types of Columbia essays examples and Columbia essays that worked, including short essay examples, extracurricular activity essay examples, and examples of Columbia supplemental essays to ensure you have all the guidance you need. Let’s first go over Columbia essays examples and some Columbia essays that worked. 

What are the Columbia supplemental essay prompts?

Here are the current prompts for the Columbia supplemental essays examples. You can familiarize yourself with the formatting and requirements so that you can write your own Columbia essays that worked. 

Columbia Short List Response Essays:

For the following questions, we ask that you list each individual response using commas or semicolons; the items do not have to be numbered or in any specific order. No explanatory text or formatting is needed. (For example, it is not necessary to italicize or underline titles of books or other publications. No author names, subtitles or explanatory remarks are needed.)

  • 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)

Columbia short answer questions:

Please answer the following questions. 

  • A hallmark of the Columbia experience is being able to learn and thrive in an equitable and inclusive community with a wide range of perspectives. Tell us about an aspect of your own perspective, viewpoint or lived experience that is important to you, and describe how it has shaped the way you would learn from and contribute to Columbia’s diverse and collaborative community. (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)
  • Please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the areas of study that you noted in the application. (200 words or fewer)
  • In Columbia’s admissions process, we value who you are as a unique individual, distinct from your goals and achievements. In the last words of this writing supplement, we would like you to reflect on a source of happiness. Help us get to know you further by describing the first thing that comes to mind when you consider what simply brings you joy. (35 words or fewer)

It’s important to remember that the prompts change each year. However, you can use these Columbia essays examples to help you address any future prompts you might encounter. 

For example, from these Columbia essays examples, you can learn the formatting, requirements, and themes so that you’re prepared to write your own essays. Below, we will provide Columbia essays examples from various categories. These include Why Columbia essays examples, short essay examples, examples of Columbia supplemental essays, and examples of Columbia essays that worked.  

Columbia Short Essay Examples

Columbia Essay Examples

Below are some Columbia essays examples and short essay examples of previous list questions. For these Columbia supplemental essays examples, students list their responses using commas or semicolons. So, there is no need for any explanatory text. 

Check out these Columbia essays that worked and examples of Columbia supplemental essays:

List a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community. (150 words or less)

Open to new experiences, perspectives, and people

Encourages a balanced lifestyle where relaxation and a social life is equally as important as schoolwork

Diversity in academics, where I can pursue minors and interests in subjects unrelated to my major

Evident school pride on campus

Open line of communication with professors and university staff

Focused on the advancement of society and outreach to communities in need

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 or less)

Response 1

Brave New World

 Henrietta Lacks

The Metamorphosis


“How a Frog Became the First Mainstream Pregnancy Test”

“Point of View Affects How Science is Done”, 

“The Science of Racism: Radiolab Treatment of the Hmong Experience”, 

“The C-word in the Hallways”, 

NY Times HERS Column by K.C. Cole on March 18, 1982,

 “A Troubled Silence”

Response 2 

The Crucible

The Scarlet Letter

Huckleberry Finn

The Awakening

The Great Gatsby

Death of a Salesman

The Catcher in the Rye

One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest

A Farewell to Arms

The Color Purple


All the Pretty Horses

Pride and Prejudice

An Enemy of the People

Wuthering Heights

List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or less)

Response 1

Angela’s Ashes, 

Pride and Prejudice, 

Animal Farm, 

If the Allies had Fallen,


The Crying of lot 49, 

Going after Cacciato, 

The Flute Book, 

Book Thief, 

Between Shades of Gray, 


The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 

The Outsiders, 

Anna and the French Kiss

Response 2 

And the Band Played On

Life of Pi

The Help

The Kite Runner

The Book Thief

The Bell Jar

Great Expectations

A Tale of Two Cities

East of Eden

The Golden Compass

List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly. (150 words or less)

Response 1

New York Times Op-Ed column, Buzzfeed, The Telegraph, NowThis,, Morning Brew

Response 2

The New York Times

The Journal News

Sports Illustrated

New York Post 

Daily News

Time Magazine

National Geographic

ESPN The Magazine

Popular Science

Sports Weekly Magazine

Tennis Magazine

List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or less)

Response 1

Good Will Hunting, 

Criminal Minds, 

The Men who Built America

Santa Clara Vanguard “Babylon”, 

Bluecoats “Session 44”, 

Gregory Porter Performance at Pittsburgh Jazz Festival, 

Of Mice and Men at Pittsburgh Hazlett Theater, 

Pride and Prejudice at O’Reilly Theater, 


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Pittsburgh Cast), 

The Nutcracker (PBT), 

Sam Rhine Genetics Conference Lectures,

“Adventures in Engineering: Lasers and Mechatronics” (Ben Campbell), 

“Crime Science: Science and Engineering” (Andrea Dammann), 

“All Around the World with No Fuel” (Paige Kassalen), 

Balcony Big Band performances

Response 2: 

Dr. Sobolevsky at Columbia University (Lecture)

Suits (Show)

Psych (Show)
MythBusters (Show)

The Great Gatsby (Film)

As with all of the Columbia essays, answer these list questions authentically. So, don’t try to impress admissions by adding publications that sound fancy and intellectual. Remember that the goal of college essays is for admissions to learn more about you. So, just be yourself!

Why Columbia Essay Example

Columbia Essays Examples

The Why Columbia essays examples are some of the most important essay examples to understand. Why is the why school essay so important? Well, because you’re likely to see it on most college applications. So, learning the format of this type of essay is vital. 

In a successful Why Columbia essay example, the student will demonstrate why they are interested in attending Columbia University. Strong Why Columbia essay examples will also highlight what the writer has to offer the Columbia community. 

Check out the following examples of Columbia supplemental essays: 

Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why. (300 words or less) 

Why Columbia Essay Example

Connected Humanity.” My group receives our assignment and begins brainstorming different ways to incorporate this idea into a home AI. Synchronization between extended family homes, daily local and national news updates, and the ability to join social groups through a unique network were some of our favorite ideas when creating a home AI through the lense of “Connected Humanity.” After presenting our ideas, we heard four other groups give their ideas through their assigned viewpoints. Sustainable, Healthy, Secure, and Creative humanity introduced new perspectives I had not considered when working on “Connected Humanity”, much less before attending CE2 at Columbia. 

What I value most about Columbia is its unique approach to engineering. From the CE2 program, I experienced engineering in an entirely new way. I always envisioned using engineering to help communities thrive and advance society, but Columbia presented an actionable outline on how to achieve that, something I have not encountered anywhere else.

Beyond the distinct approach to engineering, another area I appreciate about Columbia is the open communication between university staff and the students. At the CE2 program, every current student I spoke with praised the administration for correcting any issues brought to their attention. For example, after students requested an improvement in mental health services, Columbia introduced new resources and reforms to improve the services already offered.

Lastly, Columbia has the academic benefit of a “core curriculum.”  This will introduce me to interesting classes outside of my major and allow me to become a well-rounded individual by diving into other areas of study. Furthermore, it will facilitate the creation of friendships across majors, allowing me to form friendships with students outside of my major. Throughout high school, some of my favorite classes have been humanity courses. A college experience without this enrichment would be unimaginable.

The writer of this essay uses their experience in the Columbia Engineering Experience (CE2). Why does this work? Well, it’s extremely specific and it’s a program only offered at Columbia. The writer also mentions other areas of Columbia that are important to them such as open lines of communication and a liberal arts curriculum. 

Columbia Essays Examples – Extracurricular Essay Example

Columbia Essay Examples

Many of the Columbia essay prompts ask students to discuss their extracurricular activities. Extracurricular essay prompts give you the perfect chance to show the admissions office who you are beyond academics. So, use this essay prompt to display your interests, passions, and values. 

Below are some Columbia supplemental essays examples and extracurricular activities essays examples. Read our Columbia supplemental essays examples to learn more about how to approach these prompts. Then, you’ll see see what made these extracurricular activities essay examples and examples of Columbia supplemental essays so strong. 

Briefly describe which single activity listed in the Activity section of your Common Application represents your most meaningful commitment and why. (150 words or less)

Columbia Extracurricular Essay Example

It is not too often you get the chance to truly make a difference. After making numerous trips to my homeland, India, it was alarming to see how devastated some areas there have become. These trips opened my eyes to the value of community service and how even the smallest bit of help can truly make a difference. This is why I decided to run Make a Difference Rockland. With Make a Difference Rockland, it is my mission to engender a community devoted to community service. Via a massive community service fair devoted to and designed for service, I hope to facilitate the efforts of individuals interested in performing service by connecting them with service opportunities available to them in their area. For too long has enthusiasm to perform service been frustrated by a lack of organization. So, I have created this organization to address just that. 

This essay shows much more about the writer than what we could have known from just their activities list. That’s precisely the goal of this type of essay. Students should show the meaning, passion, and drive behind their choice of extracurriculars.

Columbia Essays that Worked

columbia essays that worked

Some of the Columbia essays will ask specifically why you’re interested in a particular field of study. Additionally, if you’re applying to a specific school, such as The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, you may have to write a particular essay for that school. This prompt may ask you to explain why you are interested in this field and what you have done to prepare yourself for your chosen program. 

As much as you are investing in your college education, Columbia is investing in you as well. So, the admissions team wants to know why you should be accepted to Columbia University. Highlight why you are a good fit for Columbia and what you have to offer the campus community. 

Now, let’s take a look at these Columbia supplemental essays examples and Columbia essays that worked. 

For applicants to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, 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. (300 words or less)

Columbia Supplemental Essays Example

“Some of you may wonder ‘When will I ever use derivatives in real life?’ Welcome to when.” My physics teacher, Mr. Welsh, described engineering as the “when” math and physics were applied to real problems. That is what is so attractive about engineering; it gives me the ability to apply intriguing concepts to fascinating projects.

During the Chain Reaction Contraption competition, my team and I created a Rube Goldberg machine to complete a certain task. I found a love for the hands-on, creative portion of mechanical engineering. The ability to step away from the calculator and notebook and get my hands dirty is the most enjoyable aspect of this profession. I also enjoyed how engineering combines creative freedom and mathematical certainty. In creation of each step, I could design whatever I desired and had a large degree of flexibility.

Afterwards, I would complete the calculations and see how math and physics concepts applied to a real-life problem. Finally, I would build the step, getting to experience a “hands-on” area of engineering. While I participated in other engineering activities in high school, this experience solidified my passion for engineering.

 However, other engineering activities also provided important experiences that contributed to my desire to pursue engineering. In my engineering design class, I enjoyed using computer programs like Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD to create my designs. In FTC Robotics, I discovered that in addition to building the robot, I also loved the programming aspect. 

Reflecting on these experiences with engineering, particularly mechanical engineering, I am certain that engineering is the best path for me.

This essay shows us that the writer is a critical thinker, applying methods learned in classes to other areas of life. They’re also curious, motivated, and passionate about engineering. Additionally, this essay does a great job of hooking the reader from the start. Remember that even though this essay is specific to the engineering school, it doesn’t mean that you can’t show of your writing chops!

How do you write a Columbia essay?

columbia essays examples

In our guide to Columbia essays examples, you’ve seen how other students have written stellar Columbia essays examples. These examples of Columbia supplemental essays each highlight what makes the writer unique. But how can you use what you learned in these Columbia University essay examples?

To start, each of these Columbia essays that worked have flawless spelling and syntax. So, like these examples of Columbia supplemental essays, your essay should have perfect spelling and grammar. Moreover, in the Columbia essays examples above, students demonstrated a proficient use of language. 

Spelling, grammar, and syntax errors can be distracting. So, be sure to revise your essay until it is free of mistakes. When you think you have finished, be sure to proofread and edit once more with fresh eyes. To be sure, have someone else read your essay and listen to their feedback. And, most importantly, make sure that you have adhered to all the essay format guidelines, including the word count and any other essay formatting requirements. 

Authenticity is key

Another crucial aspect of writing stellar Columbia essays is being true to who you are. So, take the time to write an essay that highlights why you would be a great addition to the Columbia community, like the Columbia essays examples we have discussed. Don’t get caught up in trying to impress the admissions officers. Rather, show them what makes you unique and what you have to offer. From these essay examples, you can see that the strongest essays are honest, authentic, and personal. 

Once you have prioritized what you want to say, start thinking about your essay’s structure. You may start by making a list of what the admissions team should know about you. How do you spend your time? What are your accomplishments? What are your passions? 

Finally, choose carefully the stories you include in your essay. You want the admissions team to walk away from your essay with a picture of who you are and why you’d succeed at Columbia.  

Short Essays vs. Long Essays

columbia essays that worked

The shortest examples of Columbia supplemental essays are the list questions. For these questions, students simply list their responses with no explanatory text or formatting. For these questions, there really is no “right” answer. The admissions office just wants to get to know you better. These questions require less writing than the short answer Columbia essays examples. 

The longer examples of Columbia supplemental essays require a bit more attention. For these questions, students will want to create an outline in order to respond to the prompt in a clear, concise, and organized way. Most importantly, use the Columbia short answer questions to distinguish yourself from the other applicants. You can do this by being honest and telling a story that not only answers the prompt but also shares new information about yourself. 

Our examples of Columbia supplemental essays address several themes. These include Why Columbia essays examples and extracurricular activities essay examples. Both examples of Columbia supplemental essays give you the opportunity to tell Columbia who you are beyond your academic achievements.

So, as you write, channel these examples of Columbia supplemental essays. Your work should honestly reflect your desire to attend Columbia University, just like we’ve shown you with the Columbia essays examples. 

What does Columbia look for in essays?

columbia essays examples

Just as much as you are looking for the best college for you, Columbia University admissions looks for students who best align with their values. The application is designed to give students an opportunity to put their passions, interests, background, and academic credentials on display. 

Additionally, Columbia admissions uses a holistic review process, meaning they consider the entirety of your Columbia application. In terms of the Columbia supplemental essays examples, Columbia University admissions hopes to learn more about your intellectual interests and personal values through your responses. 

Overall, Columbia University admissions looks for academic preparation, curiosity, engagement with others, individual voice, and knowledge of Columbia. Successful examples of Columbia supplemental essays will address these important points. 

More CollegeAdvisor resources about Columbia essays

Beyond our guide on Columbia essays that worked, CollegeAdvisor has many other Columbia essays examples and resources that can help you learn how to get into Columbia. 

If you want to learn more about the questions behind these Columbia University essay examples, check out our guide on the prompts for Columbia essays that worked. Along with providing explanation on the Columbia essays examples, this guide will also go into more detail on the essay prompts, Columbia application information, and deadlines.  

In addition, you may find the video from Columbia University admissions below to offer helpful insight into what Columbia admissions officers are really looking for in their applicants

Lastly, for more advice on completing your application outside of essay examples, CollegeAdvisor has webinars featuring recent alumni who answer frequently asked questions from hopeful applicants. You can also check out this webinar that gives students insider information as to what it’s like to attend NYU, Columbia, and Barnard. 

Columbia Essays Examples – 5 Takeaways

Columbia Essays Examples

Now that we’ve reached the end of our guide, you should have a better idea of how to approach your own Columbia essays. 

Here are five takeaways on Columbia supplemental essays examples and how to get into Columbia, one of the best universities in New York and the nation.

5 Takeaways for Writing Columbia Essays

1. Tailor the essay to the prompt

Some of your college essay prompts may be similar or even the exact same across different applications. While it may be tempting to reuse an essay for multiple applications, students should be extra careful about doing so. It is important that your essay response is specific to the prompt and university. As for Columbia, supplemental essays change year to year. However, common themes include community, extracurriculars, and academic pursuits. 

2. Get personal and be specific

Admissions officers agree that the most crucial aspect of a successful essay is highlighting a personal story with impactful details. So, use these supplemental essays to tell the admissions committee something they don’t already know about you. If your essay is a genuine, in-depth depiction of who you are as a person, then it will likely stand out.

3. Do your research

Demonstrate that you understand the dynamics of Columbia and its community. Moreover, always make sure your essays are specific to the school. Our Columbia University essay examples show how important it is to do your research on specific programs, extracurriculars, or even internships. Then, you can best convey how Columbia is a good fit for you. 

4. Think about the structure of your essay

Organize your thoughts as a narrative that ties together so that the admissions officers can follow your thoughts clearly and concisely. The best essays will use anecdotes and personal experiences to give life to facts and details about yourself. This will make your essay more interesting and paint a picture of who you are off paper. 

5. Be concise

Follow the formatting and word count guidelines by clearly and concisely getting your points across. Additionally, there is no need to include unnecessary information in your essay. Consider the requirements and make sure that your essays meet them. However, while being concise is important, remember that you should get creative with your essays. The essays are an opportunity to share more about yourself while also showing off your writing abilities.

After reading these Columbia essays examples, we hope you have a better understanding of Columbia essays that worked and how to get into Columbia. Students who want to attend Columbia should refer to this guide and our other CollegeAdvisor resources in order to construct a successful Columbia essay and overall application. With the right preparation, you can overcome the low Columbia University acceptance rate. 

Don’t forget that you can always schedule an appointment with our team for extra help with essay writing and any other aspect of the college application process. Otherwise, use what you’ve learned and get excited about those essays. Happy writing!

Columbia Essay Examples

This article was written by Bailey Bennett. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.