In this article, we cover the ins-and-outs of the Columbia University Career Services. For more guidance on the college search and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

The College Search Process and Career Services

When navigating the college search process, it can be easy to overlook the career services offered at each school. Since you aren’t in college yet, it might seem premature to start thinking about your future career. However, the college you choose should suit your goals both academically and professionally.

What if I haven’t even settled on a major yet, much less a future career? No need to fret. Nearly 75% of American students enter college undecided or switch their major throughout their four years. College is the time to explore your professional interests and intended field of study. For now, just consider whether a college will equip you with the resources to eventually land your dream job.

I searched for a college with resources that coincided with my long-term career goals, and found the perfect fit at Columbia University.

Columbia University: Advising and Center for Career Education

The summer before matriculation, Columbia University pairs you with an adviser in the Center for Student Advising. They will advise you throughout your college career on course scheduling, academic resources, and career planning. Once you declare a major in your sophomore year, you can seek advice from a faculty member in your department. However, for pre-professional and career advising, students look to the Center for Career Education (CCE).

What’s especially neat about CCE is that they offer curated resources and advising for students of color, as well as those who are first-generation, low-income, international, women, LGBTQ+, veterans, or have a disability. Students of these identities bring a unique set of assets to their careers, and CCE’s advising acknowledges this.

CCE offers students the opportunity to meet with a career counselor for a 30-minute one-on-one session. Alternatively, students can drop in for a 10-minute session to receive a resume review or find out about upcoming events. I had my first meeting with a career counselor this summer, as I wanted to get myself acquainted with CCE’s resources before entering my sophomore year. In my session, the adviser provided an overview of the extensive resources available to students. I left the advising session feeling prepared and inspired to take the next move in my professional path. I’ve highlighted some of the standout resources below.

Center for Career Education Resources

  • Design Your Next Steps: Columbia University’s career guide is the ultimate place to start your job hunt. Design Your Next Steps allows you to narrow down your interests and identify your core strengths. Additionally, it helps you prepare all the necessary materials and competencies for landing an internship or job.
  • Big Interview: Columbia students receive complimentary access to Big Interview. This platform prepares you for interviews with common behavioral questions tailored to your industry, skills, and competencies. You can then review your videos with a CCE counselor for feedback.
  • Vault: Columbia students also receive complimentary access to Vault, a one-stop guide for every industry and career you can imagine. I found the employee reviews on each company page and the Vault Career Guides most helpful. These guides are probably the most comprehensive sources of industry knowledge I’ve seen compiled on any site (even Forbes lauds them as the “CliffNotes for Careers.”) To give you an idea of how all-encompassing these guides are, I’m interested in entering consulting — and Vault has eight downloadable ePubs on everything from cracking the case interview to the top ten technology consulting firms.
  • What Can I Do with This Major? and Columbia’s Majoring In resources: See what recent Columbia alumni are doing with their major post-grad.

On-Campus Recruiting and LionSHARE

Columbia University has various on-campus recruiting events, including on-campus interviews, career fairs, and industry showcases. We have relationships with employers spanning a wide variety of industries, from policy and social impact to investment banking. If you’re interested in any one field or organization, the chances are that Columbia can connect you to a recruiter or alumni there.

LionSHARE is our online database where you can apply to jobs and internships, as well as register for recruiting events. Some of these opportunities are exclusively available to Columbia students and alumni, due to an employer’s distinct relationship with the university and CCE. There are also on-campus jobs and research opportunities available on the platform for students who aren’t on work-study. Even as a first-year student, I found the platform incredibly helpful in finding job opportunities, company information sessions, and more. I’m currently doing two internships, both of which I applied to on LionSHARE.

Student Organizations at Columbia University

I’d say that Columbia University doesn’t have as much of a predominant pre-professional ethos as compared to other universities, but we do have a wide variety of pre-professional organizations. I am currently involved in The Women’s Network, Columbia Consulting Group, and 180 Degrees Consulting. Columbia has everything from Delta Kappa Alpha (our professional cinema society) to Alpha Kappa Psi (our co-ed business fraternity). These organizations host events to connect with alumni, speakers, and organizations. These events are also opportunities to explore career paths and hone in on industry skills and knowledge. In the past year, I attended a handful of events hosted by student organizations. I’ve been attending even more events this summer, as they’ve all gone online.

Connecting with Alumni

One of the most valuable resources Columbia has to offer is its alumni network. From Barack Obama to Jake Gyllenhaal, Columbia’s vast alumni network spans disciplines, professions, and the globe. You can find Columbia alumni in every field imaginable, and many are eager to connect with current students. Columbia offers innumerable opportunities to build relationships with alumni: LinkedIn groups, alumni networking events, our Practice Interview Program, Columbia Exploration Externship (CEE), and mentoring programs, among others.

CCE Alumni Mentoring Program (CAMP) connects students who’ve secured a summer opportunity to an alumni mentor in their desired field. I’m currently in CAMP, and I have to say, CCE does an incredible job of matching you with a mentor. My alumni mentor works in internal communications at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and previously worked at two consulting firms. I hope to become a consultant or work at a financial services firm in the future, so his experiences align perfectly with my professional interests. I’ve learned so much from him through stories of his college experience and career journey. He’s also given me great advice on making the most of my virtual internship experiences and advancing my professional development. One piece of wisdom — most people are willing to help out students.

The key takeaway here is: don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re looking to hear about someone’s experiences working at an organization (or in the more immediately relevant case, attending a college you’re interested in). Not only will you gain valuable wisdom, but you can also end up forming lifelong connections with these individuals.

Going Beyond the Columbia “Bubble”

Lastly, you can’t talk about Columbia University without mentioning New York City. Our prime location in the city means that opportunities abound, both professionally and otherwise. A great deal of Columbia alumni stay in the city post-grad, so you can always reach out to connect over coffee.

Whether it’s Columbia or a different college, I encourage you to take a look at the career services offered. And while this article focuses on professional opportunities, I want to emphasize that college is not merely a pathway to a career. The college experience is so much more than taking courses and preparing for the workforce. It’s a time to discover your passions, form lifelong friendships, and figure out what makes you, you. Ultimately, you’re going to remember the Nutcracker Ballet you watched at the Lincoln Center before finals, and not how you ended up doing on those finals (from personal experience).

So while it’s valuable to make use of career resources, don’t fixate on attaining your dream job. You’ll get into the college that is the best fit for you, you’ll get a job, and you’ll have as fulfilling a college experience as you make of it.

This informational essay was written by Juliana Furigay, Columbia University ‘23. If you want to get help writing your Columbia application essays from Juliana or other Admissions Experts, register with today.