Columbia University Panel
Interested in applying to Columbia University and want to know more? Join CollegeAdvisor.com Advisors and Columbia Alums as they share their stories!
Alums Lynn Dao and Jade Justice will share their application process and experiences at Columbia, during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.
In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered, including:
– What is the application process for Columbia?
– What are the academic expectations?
– What extracurricular activities can I participate in?
– What is life like on campus?
Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-10-03 – Columbia University Panel
Hi everyone. Good evening. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a Senior Advisor at CollegeAdvisor, and I will be your moderator today. Welcome to tonight’s webinar, which is a Columbia University Panel. Before we get started, I just wanna orient everyone with the timing of the webinar. Our presenters will each share their perspectives and experiences at Columbia, and then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar.
You can download our slides under the handouts tab and you can start submitting questions in the Q&A tab whenever you get ready. Now let’s meet our presenters, Lynn and Jade.
Lynn, do you wanna start and just introduce yourself? Yeah, of course. So my name is Lynn Dao. I, um, graduated from Columbia in 2020, so right at the start of the pandemic. Um, and I’m also a third year doctoral student at Teachers College studying health education, which I can dive into a little bit more about.
But, um, I know this is really geared towards the undergraduate experience, so I’m very much have been at Columbia for quite some time. So, um, anything I can share and be of help. Um, I love to answer your questions, but um, yeah, that’s a little bit about me,
Yeah, absolutely. So I graduated from Columbia this past May. I started in 2018 and had the full pandemic experience of the institution. Um, but this past May, I graduated with my bachelor’s in human rights, specifically specialized in English, and I also concentrated, which is essentially minoring in sociology.
Awesome. Well, we’re excited to hear from the two of you today, but before we get started, we wanna do a quick little poll. Um, so for those in the room with us, let us know what grade level you’re in, um, so that it can help us kind of direct today’s conversation while we’re waiting. Lynn and Jade, I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and so I’m very, very particular about my pizza.
So I’m wondering where for you all, uh, was your favorite pizza spot in New York? Uh, I was watching a lot of videos. I didn’t know this was gonna be the question. Um, not being a native New Yorker myself, having lived here for almost six years now, I would have to say Joe’s, I, I know it’s like, it, it’s just, there’s, they’re, they’re always around the city and it’s.
Really good and really cheap. So I’d say Joe’s, that’s a solid answer. , no worries. No judgment. No judgment. , . I think for me, I’ve had a lot of incredible pizza in the city. Um, my answer is gonna be based mainly on convenience, so I’m going to go with Kott just because it’s right by campus. It was there for me whenever I needed a slice, whether that was a missed homework or after hanging out with friends late at night.
I feel like that’s also, it’s my dependable answer. That’s fair. I mean, there’s so many places. I, I feel it was an unfair question cuz I would feel hard pressed to pick a favorite, honestly. And then it’d be like, what kind of feed is Sicilian versus traditional? So, um, No worries. I appreciate y’all indulge me in that.
All right, I’m gonna go ahead and close the poll, um, and share the results really quickly. So, um, about 22% of the folks in the room are 10th grade, 33% are in 11th grade, and another 33% are in 12th grade. The, um, rest of folks, there’s some eighth graders, there’s some ninth graders, there’s some other folks in here, but the majority of folks are, are in 10th through 12th grade.
So we hope that you’ll find this conversation helpful as you all work your way through researching and applying to schools this year. All right. Well, I will stop talking. I will hand it over to you too, and I’ll be back for another poll in a little. Sounds good. Thank you. Um, so I would just like to share, um, about a little bit about myself and my Columbia experience I, and what my college art process was like.
I think, um, you know, that’s a lot of the 10th through 12th graders and kind of understanding what, um, to really highlight and how to really, um, stand out in that application process. So I’m originally from Portland, Oregon. I, my parents, we immigrated here from Vietnam. I am first generation. Um, I come from a low income background, so going to college was always an expectation.
It just never, it was understood that I was going. It’s just all of how to get into college and how to pay for college. We never. Questions that I asked, it was always like a given. Um, so I really had to navigate that process by myself. Um, and I actually never got to visit Columbia until like I was admitted and, and went through the process, um, or a little later.
So, um, a little bit about how, um, my process went and how I really just, um, navigated it myself and then. Was able to learn of a college access program supporting students like myself. I went to Princeton University this summer after my junior year, so this was the summer before my senior year. And I, uh, through a program, a national program called Leadership Enterprise for Diverse America.
I lived on Princeton’s campus for eight weeks, um, free room and board, and was able to learn and improve my SAT scores. Um, really learn about the college admission process. We got to visit a lot of colleges on the east coast. It was my first time on the East Coast. Um, uh, and I really started drafting my essays and had an instructor that really supported me, um, from that summer.
Throughout my, and then throughout my senior year from, um, the personal statement to the supplementals, to even my scholarships. So, and because that was a very important thing that I, um, had to navigate and identify. But through LEDA, I was able to apply to 12 schools, uh, two of whom were, um, Ivy Leagues.
And I can discuss, um, in particular, but I would want to caution that I did go to Barner College, which is the Women’s College of Columbia. It’s one of the four graduate, um, colleges. And Jade will talk a little bit more about her Columbia College experience. But I, when I was applying, I knew that I, coming from a mid-size city in Portland, um, and, you know, moving coast to coast, I really valued, um, being in a smaller.
Um, environment and Barnard really had, um, in terms of the academics, what I really was looking for. Um, but I know this panel is about Columbia, but I’m also a Columbia graduate student. So, um, there’s definitely a lot of, um, trends that I, and in patterns that, um, is very fluid in my experience that I’m happy to share more about, um, in particular to Columbia.
But, um, I applied to fall schools. I didn’t get into half of ’em and I got into half that I didn’t think I would’ve gone into which, um, the college process is a very, um, very unique to everyone and I think you never really can, um, guess what was going to happen. And I think that while that is stressful, in the October or in September the fall, like months, uh, it’s definitely very, um, it’s very exciting.
It’s, and you never know what’s going to happen. And I think I was really holding onto that hope that, you know, Wherever I get into, um, is where I’m supposed to be. And that’s kind of really how I approached that process and really trusted that I was, you know, going, I had a handful of schools, um, my reaches, which were the ones that, like, through my dream schools, I never was really hung up on like one particular school.
I was very open to. And I was going to be happy going to all of my 12 schools. Um, but six of ’em didn’t accept me. So, um, it was, um, 50/50. And I think that’s kind of, um, and everyone’s co process is going to be different. But, um, after I submitted all those, they were all regular decision. I wasn’t able to, and my SAT scores were quite low.
And at the time, um, it wasn’t test optional, so I still had to submit my low SAT score and, um, it was out of 2,400. And I remember just recognizing that, you know, my SAT score and, and I recognized I have test anxiety and I, you know, stressed out about standardized testing and, um, that’s not going to be the tiebreaker.
And I didn’t want that to define who I was and what my experiences were. And so, um, I kind of just, uh, just really had to, um, put my, and really put on my applications what really was going to stand out and highlight my experiences, which I can talk a little bit more about. And, um, uh, if there were any other questions.
But I, once I applied, I knew that coming from a first generation low income background that I would’ve qualified for, um, full scholarships, however, um, I wouldn’t have been sure if I’d gotten to those schools. Um, so I really, after I submitted all of my applications in January, I started working on my, um, scholarship applications and I was able to, um, I was the last cohort to receive the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, um, scholarship, uh, at the time.
The last year. So they had started it in 1996, and that was class of 2016. So I got, um, full funding for my undergraduate and my, and now my, uh, graduate. Um, and so I really, um, I really was able to use a lot of the essays that I wrote. And I think that’s one thing I’d say about your college essays is that when you write one, you’ve kind of written, you know, a good handful of them.
It’s just depending on how you tweak and how you, um, rework it to a specific school. And so to kind of sum up like in just in general, the college application process is, like I said, I applied to 12, I only got into half. Um, but there were a lot of factors that were out of my control. Some, maybe it was my SAT score, um, then it wasn’t a good fit for me.
And it’s always about fit and it’s always, for me, it was always at the end of the day where I was going to go regardless of, was it Barner Columbia? Um, Princeton or Dartmouth can talk a little bit more about the schools I applied to, um, in a bit. But it was always, who was going to be the best fit for me and who really recognized my experiences and was going to invest in that.
And so, um, , while it was sad hearing that I didn’t get into the other half of my school, which were the ones that let me know first, um, I definitely, uh, really will say that trusting the process and trusting your experiences and just, you know, your. You are your best advocate. And so what you really have control over is your essays and what you really, and I knew that coming with, you know, a very low test score.
I’m not afraid to say I had 1330 with my SAT out of 2,400. Um, not to say I didn’t work really hard and even I had private SAT tutoring from some, one of the top, um, companies in New York City, um, through LEDA. I, I just, I just am not a good test taker and I recognize that and it’s okay. I’m still in graduate school now, still stressing out about a midterm that’s coming up in three weeks.
So, you know, I think it’s, it’s just testing is different for everyone. And if you’re in that boat, I’d be happy to connect or, you know, talk more about that. It, it’s okay. Your test scores do not define you. And I had to really believe that and trust that. And there were other things going for me. Um, but I didn’t wanna spend too much time talking about that.
So in terms of the Ivy Leagues and what made me decide on Columbia, I um, actually applied and got into Princeton and Dartmouth. Um, Princeton being that I had spent a lot of time there and that I was really, um, it’s a beautiful campus, , but I was really excited to really, um, and I was leaning more towards like health policy and foreign affairs at the time when I was applying to college and Dartmouth, um, as was well, had a smaller community, I was really looking for community and I was really looking for college towns that, um, wasn’t quite as big as Columbia and Barnard.
But, um, I didn’t know that, um, at the time when I was applying that. When, when I got, you know, decisions that, that’s where that shifted for me. Um, but uh, Princeton, I would’ve loved to have gone to Princeton or Dartmouth. And Dartmouth had a, um, you know, a different academic schedule where they were more flexibility for internships and research, um, because they require you to.
Take, um, a, your sophomore summer, I believe. Um, and you have to take classes there. And then you have like your junior year of your, your fall of your junior year, like off. And you can do internships, you can do whatever it is you study abroad. Um, so that’s what really drew me. But really, I really landed on barn Columbia in particular because it was in New York City and because it was the best of both worlds, um, and.
I really had those opportunities to, um, pursue internships to, um, network, to volunteer, to really, um, and, you know, coming from Portland, it wasn’t, you know, quite as vague, but I, I knew that I wanted to be in a city that was diverse, that had a lot of opportunities, that there were so many different people that I could meet and, um, interact with both on and off campus.
So that’s really what drew me to Columbia and Barnard and in particular, um, the, what I wanted to study. Um, so I came in undecided. I was an undecided major , and I had a low SAT score. I was, you know, it was like, who is this girl from Portland, Oregon? You know, not really, you know, And I think there’s a lot, um, for undecided, I really wanted.
Highlight that. Not that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but there were a lot of interest and I couldn’t narrow it at the time when I was applying. And so I, I applied undecided. I didn’t really land on a major until and had to declare at the very last minute of my sophomore, uh, spring. Um, and it was really difficult because I kind of came in wanting to do public health.
And public health wasn’t a major, it’s a concentration at Columbia. And so then I couldn’t get into any of the urban study classes because my eyes were on public health. And so I didn’t really get into the urban study classes until my sophomore year. But luckily for me, after my freshman year, uh, Columbia, uh, I threw a club at Columbia that I joined.
Um, I was able to, uh, be fully funded for an internship, uh, working in Uganda for a month, looking, uh, working with an NGO there, um, really understanding human rights. Um, especially among women living with HIV and AIDS. So I was able to be in Uganda for that month and in trying to really be exposed to, um, global health and I was, that’s what really drew me and kind of when I came back to New York City for my sophomore year, it was really understanding, you know, how can I combine?
And, you know, I never didn’t know what I really wanted to do. I always knew, but I didn’t know how, what, what path or, you know, uh, what really what that career would look like in public health. And I still don’t even in my third year of my doctorate and my dissertation. Um, but, and it’s all to say that I have had these experiences and I came back from Uganda really wanting to understand, um, Urban development and really wanting to understand global health.
So Barnard, um, even if you are a Columbia student, the urban studies department is at Barnard . And that was really, um, what was really exciting for me because I, um, a lot of people, uh, come into Columbia, uh, not knowing that some majors have, you are requiring you to write a thesis. So I wrote , I, Urban Studies is one of them.
And I really particularly wanted to write and do research, um, early on. Uh, cuz I always knew that grad school was on the horizons for me, um, given the funding that I had gone through Gates. Um, but it was more about how do I prepare myself as a scholar? How do I prepare myself for research? And I really knew that, um, ha having that thesis and writing it and going through that.
Um, my senior year was something that I really wanted to challenge myself with. So public health, um, was in a perfect addition because I was able. Um, combined that, uh, with urban studies in my concentration and a lot of my courses that I took when I was abroad in my junior year and I studied abroad in Jordan, I was able to knock out a lot of my public health classes.
And so, um, ended up being a women’s college within the broader Columbia community and in New York City. It really, um, Barnard really ha, having housed that urban studies department, um, really gave me the advising and the, the, the skillset as the researcher and be able to help me, um, set me up for graduate schools.
So that’s kind of partly why I landed on urban studies and public health and, you know, being able to study New York City streets and different neighborhoods was really, was really unique as well. And that was an experience that I really think back to and I’m really grateful for. Um, and so I think that kind of caps off my experiences and, um, just why I landed on urban studies and why I chose Columbia.
Yeah. Thanks so much, Lynn. Uh, we are excited to hear from you and, and I’m, there are already some questions coming up, um, in the chat. Uh, specifically I’ll, I’ll ask before we transition, someone asked if you could repeat the name of the program in Princeton that you attended. Yeah, so I attended the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America.
It was a, um, college access program. They’re based in New York City, but they have a very unique relationship with Princeton. So every summer they bring a hundred students from across the nation, um, to Princeton’s campus, and really, um, it’s free of charge. Um, and the applications actually open right now, , um, just a plug, but, um, it, uh, it’s, it’s a wonderful program and some of my like greatest friends in the world are like, were from that program, so, and we all, um, were coming from the same background.
So it was something that I, um, were very grateful for. But, um, that was, yeah, that’s called LEDA, LEDA for the acronym, but Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America is. Okay, thank you. Um, so before we hand it over to Jade, I do wanna take another poll just to see where folks are in the application process.
So everyone should answer, but this is mostly for our 11th and 12th graders. Let us know how far into the application process you are and I’ll pose another New York City. What’s your favorite park? Um, do you have a favorite park or if it is Central Park, do you have a favorite place in Central Park , um, that you like to visit?
I loved a lot of the parks in New York. Um, I think probably also because of location. My favorite park was Morningside Park, which was right to the right of Columbia’s campus. I also have a favorite spot in Morningside Park. If you go down a somewhat half beaten path, there’s a spot that takes you to allege that overlooks the pond that’s in Morningside Park, and you can sit there, you have a beautiful view.
You can see the little wildlife in the park moving around if you sit there for long enough. And that was definitely a place of reprieve for me, for all of college. That’s a good choice. , but mine is just on the other side of campus too. Um, it’s Riverside Park. It was there for me as well. But the convenience, um, you know, I Central Park.
It’s great. It would’ve been an open answer you probably expected from me, um, given my answer for Joe’s. But, uh, Riverside Park, there’s so many different bike paths and the Hudson River, it’s like beautiful views. I like run, I bike. It’s even when I was a student. So, and, and still now. So Riverside is, um, my answer.
They’re two great parks. I thought I thought those were gonna say Central Park, but um, maybe that’s like the obvious, the obvious answer. Um, but I love, I love both of those parks on Riverside. I, I would probably lean in that direction, but that’s cuz of where I lived, but , um, Alright, well thanks folks for, thank y’all for answering that question.
Thanks folks for taking the poll. I’m gonna go ahead and close it and just let you know that, um, about 20% of folks haven’t started and that’s totally okay. If you are in the eighth through 10th grade, you should not have started. Um, it’s totally fine. Um, 35% of folks are researching, which is great. Um, continue to do that.
20% of folks are working on essays, 22% are getting their application materials together. I hope that’s all the seniors in the room. Um, and 5% are almost done. So good luck. Congratulations. We know that, uh, November 1st is coming up for Ed e a. Um, so we wish you all the best of luck if you, um, Ah, yeah, if you are planning to submit that early.
All right, thanks so much. And I, I’m gonna stop talking again. I’ll be back for the Q&A, but we’re gonna hand it over to Jade to hear a bit more about her experience.
All right. Hi everyone. So a little bit more of a background about me. I am born and raised in Massachusetts, so not too far from Columbia, but definitely a very different environment. I grew up in a somewhat rural, if not just a local town environment, very small. I went to a very small high school, so Columbia is obviously, uh, a far away place from all of that.
Um, when I started doing my application process, I applied to nine different institutions, most of which, if not all of which were in the northeast somewhere. And I ended up getting admitted to seven. I was convinced at one point that I was getting admitted to zero, but I made out all right. Um, And I think for me, my college application process was really, I know it says it on the slide, but it was really self-led.
I had transferred high schools my junior year for reasons, way unrelated to the college process, but I did end up at a different co um, different high school. So I didn’t really know anyone, I didn’t know any admissions officers. I didn’t have stable connections with faculty who I was meeting for the first time when it came to starting to really think about what college would be for me.
So a lot of the process became my own to take on, to do a lot of research, to do a lot of digging, deep diving. Um, my mother is the only one in my family who went to college before me, so I had her guidance, but when she went to college, it was all the paper applications. It was a little different. So I was learning the new tools for doing the college process and really doing so by myself.
Um, with that being said, I think the application process. It took a lot of time, but it took a lot of time that I needed to give it so that I had the space to really figure it out, to figure out how to self navigate. And by the time I was hitting submit on my applications, I had a year to build connections with my faculty to ask for references and all of those things that you kind of need to have from your community.
Um, I definitely focused on the quality of my applications. I applied to nine, which is obviously not a small number, but it’s not the biggest number you could imagine. Um, and I did that intentionally. I took a lot of time to figure out what a balanced list was for me. And similar to Lynn, I was also really, really focused on fit.
So talking about an academic fit, a financial fit, a social fit, all of those categories were really important to me in shaping my college list. So while I only applied, only applied to nine schools, I would’ve been truly so over the moon about going to any one of them. When I got my decisions back, it was a really difficult decision to make to pick Columbia, but I think that’s a product of having a really strong list that I crafted very intentionally, knowing that there would be a place for me if they were to accept me at each of these institutions.
Um, that also meant having spreadsheets be my best friend when it came to doing the essays and the supplementals and keeping track of all the dates and deadlines my senior year. There are a lot of supplementals that you may encounter depending on where you are in your college process, and a lot of the material is reusable.
There is a lot that you can identify about yourself and write and revise and reshape into several different directions for several different essays. Keeping track of it all, building a strong foundation and organizational system was really, really important for me, especially as I was learning to navigate the process on my own.
Um, I also had no clue what I wanted to study when I got to college. I knew my interests were really in journalism and the written word, which you may see somewhat reflected in my degrees, but they’re definitely not at the heart of my programs. Um, I had a lot of extracurricular experience in high school doing editing work and a lot of writing, but I wasn’t sold on pursuing that for my major necessarily.
And I knew I wanted the time to figure out what I wanted to study in a college environment. I didn’t want to go into a program where I was declaring my major upon entry. I just knew that wasn’t going to work for where I was in my process. So I researched a lot into liberal arts institutions that allowed me to explore different options before I declared a major to kind of figure out where my interests aligned and what I could pursue going forward.
The last thing I’ll kind of emphasize about my college application process is that college visits were a huge, huge factor for me. I know it’s not feasible for everyone, and I don’t think they need to be a huge factor for every person in the college process is your process. But for me, applying to schools in the northeast and being from the Northeast, I did have the capacity to have all of my schools be a drive away.
Whether that be a long or short drive is a different question, but they all were within driving distance. I didn’t also actually get to see Columbia until after I was admitted. But I think seeing it before I made my decision was a huge factor in making my decision. Um, and just feeling the energy of an institution and the environment and getting to actually step foot on it if possible before you hit and roll.
Um, I found to be really helpful. It helped me assess. Very easily what schools I could see myself at versus not see myself out when it came to shaping my college list. And that definitely came into play again when it was time to make my decision. So speaking a little bit more about my decision, I was mainly toying between Columbia and Dartmouth at the time of my acceptances.
There were a few other schools I was contemplating, specifically NYU and Georgetown, but Dartmouth and Columbia were really at the top there for me at, I inevitably went to both accepted students weekends. Um, I was really quite truthfully throughout my application process, leaning towards Dartmouth. I knew less about Columbia.
I didn’t get to see it. I am from a small local town. Like I mentioned, Dartmouth felt a lot more like home. It felt very familiar. It felt. in some sense, the bigger version of my high school where I, I knew how to be comfortable in that environment and it seemed like the campus there really lended itself to having a strong sense of community, which I did really want in a college experience.
I also really loved Dartmouth because of their emphasis on the undergraduate student. They really push forth the idea that their faculty are there to really help and aid and mentor their undergraduate students. It’s not a graduate oriented university, which was a really tempting prospect of someone who is pursuing undergraduate education.
Um, and Columbia on paper kind of seems like the inverse of Dartmouth, or it did to me at the time. It was in New York City, which I had very little experience with up until my enrollment, um, you know, big city. Less of a campus than Dartmouth because it’s not a college town. Although, I will say Columbia does give you the best of both worlds in terms of having a campus in a city, which is a really, really unique experience, to have quite literal gates that allow you to enter your campus and experience college life, and then you can step out of them and get on the subway and go downtown and do whatever you wanna do in the city.
Um, I inevitably chose Columbia after my accepted students weekend. I just, I really felt like I loved it. I, I know there’s no perfect science to telling that, and there were a lot of tangible factors that also influenced my decision, but being on campus was an experience for me that I just couldn’t talk myself.
Um, I also felt like Columbia, there was a lot of capacity to, for growth for me, I was able to push myself more in terms of adjusting to a city, building a life for myself, um, while also having the comfort of a campus that I don’t think I would’ve had as much at Dartmouth feeling like I was more in my hometown, even though I not from New Hampshire, just the energy there was way more similar.
Um, there’s also just the capacity for growth more in a city. There are so many opportunities for you to experience culture, employment, anything, internships, whatever you really can imagine is there in New York at your fingertips and that Columbia gives you that opportunity to experience both Columbia University and New York City and reap the benefits of both.
Um, that kind of plays into the idea that Columbia’s just a way bigger institution than Dartmouth. And being a bigger institution means you have more access to resources and your. Kind of geographic positioning also helps in that. Um, for me too, that kind of helped inform my major, which was human rights and specifically specialized in English.
I will break down that construction because that is very specific to Columbia. Um, so specifically within Columbia’s human rights department, you pick any one of their other freestanding majors to specialize in and that means you complete actually part of that program’s major as well. So I completed the full human rights major and part of the English major.
And then my senior research specifically was a conjoined. I conjoined the two into studying the use of narrative reporting in both narrative journalism and human rights reporting. And I did a comparative analysis between both disciplines, their histories, where they stand today, their impact. Um, I also concentrated in sociology.
and I didn’t know I was gonna be doing any of the, any of these things when I enrolled at Columbia. My first two years were really, really focused on Columbia’s core curriculum. Every student plans out the core curriculum a bit differently, but it is extensive and some students choose to space it out across all four years.
I personally chose to really tru as much as I could into my first two years of college. There’s no right or wrong choice in that capacity that it was just what worked best for me, especially in allowing me to explore a lot of different types of study to help guide me towards my major. Um, I think it’s also worth noting that I declared my major in March of 2020.
So right when the pandemic started going on, um, we all went home, left the institution, went online, going online, actually delayed my declaration of my major. Um, So we were really in kind of a public health crisis and like a social justice crisis throughout that entire spring, and I think I would be remiss to not acknowledge what subconscious impact that may have had in my human rights program.
I knew I loved journalism from many years of experience, and I knew I loved English, I loved the written word. I knew I would find a way to work that into my degree. But the type of journalism I always cared most passionately about reading and engaging with was that that reported on human rights and social justice issues.
Columbia doesn’t specifically have a journalism undergraduate institution, only a really, really renowned, incredible journalism graduate school. So studying journalism at Columbia wasn’t an option for me, but studying the content that I cared about was, So I chose to really, really in the peak time, lean into.
The human rights education that Columbia could offer me. I was also writing at the time and editing for the Columbia Spectator. And I think using a human rights framework of mind also allowed me to do really, really impactful journalism work throughout my time there. So I think your program also can have an impact on your extracurriculars as much as your extra extracurriculars can have an impact on your interests.
Um, so those worked really, really well together for me. I did most of my program online. I went back into the classroom the fall of my senior year. So my entire junior year and half of my sophomore year were conducted through Zoom. And I will say that is a unique experience and everyone feels differently about it and everyone learns differently.
But I will commend Columbia’s human rights department every time for how able they were to make students engaged and to have us show up into the accommodating in a difficult time, but also really using what was happening in the real world to inform my education. And to inform the human rights program made it significantly more fulfilling and made me feel way more equipped to walk out of Columbia’s Gates into the real world with a human rights degree afterwards.
Um, I don’t know what specifically I will be doing from this point forward. I do know that I really do want to continue to pursue a graduate education, not this year, but in the next few years. Um, and the human rights degree also left me with the capacity to take that into law. I could go to law school or to take that into journalism or into a different kind of public policy field thereof, a wide breadth of opportunity with the degree.
And I think while that may have not been my deciding factor in the beginning, that is definitely one of the things I’m most thankful for walking out of it. Um, I will be happy to answer any more questions if anyone has them, about my program, Columbia, the Core, anything like that. But I think until then I will pass it back over.
Awesome. Um, thank you so much Jade, for that perspective and for sharing your story. Um, it was great to hear about it and I, I like that you could not find journalism at Columbia, but then figured out how to pursue the content that you wanted to, um, pursue in order to make sure you were still tracking towards your long term goals.
Um, that creativity and ambition is important, um, as you think about college in general. Uh, well that is the end of the presentation, part of the webinar. I hope you found. Jade and Lynn’s story helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. We’re gonna move on to the live Q&A, so the way that it will work, I will read through the questions you submit through the Q&A tab, and again, please submit them through the Q&A tab and not through direct chats.
I will pace them into the public chat so that others can see them, and then Ill read them aloud for our panelist to give you an answer. As a heads up, if you are not seeing the Q&A tab, uh, you might just wanna double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email address and not through the CollegeAdvisor dashboard.
You might have to log back out and log back in in order to get that in if you are not able to submit questions. All right, let’s dive into the questions. The first one that came up in three different iterations, , um, was how would you describe student life at Columbia? So dining halls, dorms, general campus vibes, et cetera.
I can start on that one. I think. Student life is what you make it, and I think every person has a slightly different experience of what student life is. I will say your first year as an undergraduate, the university really sets you up for success. In terms of building a student life on campus. There are several different first year dorms with kind of different personalities as the dorms, um, several different dining halls.
Student life provides a lot of opportunities for you to meet, to mingle, to connect with people on campus, whether you meet them in class or sitting next to them in the dining hall or in the library, or anywhere else. For me, a lot of my social experience then translated outside the gates of Columbia. I continued to make connections from friends all four years of college, but once I had my solid group, my solid friends who I could call on and depend on, We really wanted to make the most of exploring the city.
So then for us, that meant going to museums, going to poetry slams into art shows, and finding discounted and free opportunities that Columbia actually helps you get access to, to explore the city, to kind of really indulge as much as possible in our experience. But I know that’s also different for everyone.
I know there are a lot of people who really consider the campus as their hub and their home, and there are a lot of people who choose to view the rest of New York City as their home.
I would definitely echo that. Um, the dining, the dining halls, I think is really where I spend a lot of my time. Would always feel like I studied in dining halls. It was just like a place where you could always socialize, um, and take breaks. Um, study breaks. Um, but Columbia has all four year guaranteed housing for all four years, which is very important to recognize because New York City rent is really expensive.
But not just that, there are a lot of just different requirements. So knowing that Columbia had guarantee housing for four years was something that you knew that a lot of students, um, would always have, um, access to campus housing and a lot of, uh, students would have dining plans if they were living on campus.
And a lot of my social activities and was through dining halls, through coffee shops, um, on campus, but also being able to be, um, just a few stops away from downtown Manhattan was also a huge perk that, um, was already touched on with museums. But, um, it really is joining. The, the right. Um, groups and clubs and really finding your people and really being able to, um, cultivate those interests and really, um, both on and off campus.
I think definitely, um, how you would strike that balance cuz they think someone asked about balance as well. Um, so, um, I hope that, yeah, I hope they answered the question. Columbia’s, I don’t know if anyone knows this, but we’re nu, we’re ranked number one in dining hall, food . And so we had like a huge party.
I remember it was really cute. Like they bought these like cupcakes and it was like a cake. It was like number one dining hall in the country. So they’re very proud of it. And the food is really great. There’s a lot of different options. Um, vegan, halal, kosher, um, vegetarian. So there’s, there’s anything you can possibly think.
And if it’s not there, you can always, I would always send Columbia dining of Facebook message. They’re very accommodating. Um, they really want to hear from students and so, um, and what they want and how to shape their campus experience and that environment. And if it’s just a dining hall or, um, you know, I remember not saying like, especially being at Barnard, I would always see pads or tampons and not having that at Columbia.
And in the bathrooms, I would just say like, To Columbia facilities, like why weren’t there like pads or, you know, tampons in the bathrooms at the library. Um, cuz uh, Butler library is 24/7, so I would always spend a lot of my time there. Um, and so just, you know, those things are important to, um, keep in mind and Columbia is always open to hearing from students and what they want.
Um, so that’s just, um, my experience. Thanks. Um, we kinda anticipated this question before everyone started, but a, a student asked, is the core completely unrelated to your major? So I think Jade, you were gonna talk a little bit more about core and give some context to that. Yeah, absolutely. So the core is generally unrelated to your major unless you choose to pursue a major that’s adjacent to the core.
And by that I mean the core focuses on giving you a well rounded kind of liberal arts introduction. and it also focuses on some specific courses, masterpieces of Western literature, art, music, humanities, and so on and so forth, in addition to a language requirement, um, a global kind of study requirement.
So there are a lot of different components to the core for me that was fully disparate from the human rights program. For others who may go on to major in classics, for example, the literature is a large overlap between the two. So that really can only be answered specifically to your interest. But the core is generally separate and it’s encouraged to help students from all different walks of life with all different interests, meet each other and learn how to engage in an academic discourse about really pivotal texts and entities that have shaped where the kind of field of academia and the art world stands today.
Um, while I did not go on to pursue anything that I studied in the core, I will say that engaging in those kind of seminar style courses really allowed me to hone my capacity to engage in academic debate and to do so effectively and to really stand by my argument while also being really open minded to other perspectives that are being brought to the table.
I walked away with a lot more tangible skills for myself as opposed to content, but that is, again, major dependent.
Thank you. Um, so a question for the both of you, uh, and just kind of relating to a little bit more about student life, but did you feel a sense of competition with the other students, or did you feel supported by them? I think, I think there’s a belief that Ivy’s are particularly competitive. So does that competitiveness follow you into your day to day interactions with your classmates?
I felt I always was my own competition. I always, um, just coming from a low income background and always oftentimes having, you know, being at a disadvantage. Um, having attend public school all my life, I, I came into Columbia really experiencing imposter syndrome. Um, always questioning . How did I, again, how did I get here?
Um, every time I’d walk through those gates, it was, you know, and having, having those thoughts and those doubts, um, I always knew that I was going to, I was going to make my experience how I wanted it, and I sought out. Peers that, um, not only just came from similar backgrounds as myself, but um, also just, uh, being able to talk, be very honest and open with my professors, and really open to constructive feedback on my essays.
Um, to, I had never, I took AP English, um, both my junior and senior year of high school. But, um, , it was a lot of writing in urban studies and a lot of my classes, I, all Columbia classes, I feel like even if you’re stem, there’s writing , you write a discussion post or you write, um, even just I was stressed out about writing an email to my professors and setting up a coffee or, you know, accessing them over outside of class.
I always, always felt, I always felt that I was my own competition and, um, I never felt there was, you know, I, I had to compete with others. While that may be, um, something that I feel was, you know, my imposter syndrome, but it was, I, I knew that I was there for, um, I was there for a reason that I was there for myself and that I was really just competing with myself.
And what I really was putting into it was what I was going to get out of my education. And so, um, and it was a very supportive community, um, especially with the first generation and low income group, but also just with professors, um, and being able to, uh, really be honest with them about my experiences and what I was really struggling, um, with.
And, um, asking for extensions, . And when I. Uh, was afraid that they wouldn’t give it to me. Um, and you know, oftentimes going to an Ivy League, you often feel that, um, these deadlines are, are deadlines. And I’m not saying deadlines are not deadlines. I’m saying, you know, it’s really worthwhile to really, um, be how those on your radar.
But also if something comes up and the pandemic happened, it, we, I was on, I was in, I was on spring break, um, when the pandemic hit March of 2020. So, you know, um, writing a thesis, uh, and wrapping that up and having to ask for an extension, I was, and moving home to Oregon. So there was just circumstances, um, even beyond that, but, um, even earlier in my undergrad years, but never felt a sense of competition with my peers, was really a competition with myself.
I was just very quickly, completely agree at that sentiment. I found that my peers and my professors were so incredibly supportive. I think I had to cross the hurdle of learning how to ask and to advocate for myself. But in terms of feeling supported versus competition, I never felt like I was competing against the people sitting next to me in class.
We were all there to really help each other make the most of it. And I think that was also true from the perspective of engaging with professors and asking for deadlines, but also just asking them questions about their careers or the the class material. And I think I also found that my advisor was equally supportive in helping advocate for me as I was still learning how to advocate for myself.
I love that perspective. Thanks y’all. I think the Ivy’s get a bad lead of, get a bad rep for, um, not being supportive spaces, but they, there really is a lot of support from classmates and from professors, so I appreciate y’all for sharing that perspective. Um, before we move on, for those in the room who aren’t already working with us, we know how overwhelming admissions process can be.
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All right, back to the questions. Um, an interesting question that kind of relates to professor support and community support was how is the after college support network in terms of job opportunities and networking?
I can start on this one. As a recent graduate, it is daunting, I think, to move beyond college life and into whatever comes next for you, particularly when you’re not immediately pursuing edu another level of education. But for me, I will say that Columbia has been very, very helpful. I am still to this day receiving emails consistently from the Columbia Center of Career, career education.
They, I’m still as a graduate or recent graduate invited to all of their job fairs or webinars. They’re still accessible to me. Um, I think it’s the same kind of thing that I was mentioning where you need to learn how to advocate for yourself and to reach out, but the support is absolutely there if you indicate your need for it or that you want it.
Um, the Center for Career Education was really, really helpful for me during college in terms of, Resume building and learning how to write a cover letter and interview prep, and all of those really important things that go into setting yourself up for success after college and even now as a graduate, I would say they’re equally accessible to me should I feel that I need them.
Yeah, I would echo that. So graduating, um, right in 2020 and not having a graduation, but then soon, um, starting my doctorate. Right. Um, in the September of 2020, I didn’t really get to explore the network, but every time I, I ever wanted to consider, um, just, I’m like a different pathway that is, Public health, that’s not research, that was academia.
I always knew that the Columbia network had so many different alum doing so many different amazing and incredible things, not only in New York City, but um, in the world . And I feel like I even, you know, I always see Columbia merch everywhere. I get so excited when I see the Columbia Blue and it’s a very obvious Columbia Blue, um, which is like my class, uh, sweater now, um, from 2020.
But I get really excited to see, um, alum and that, you know, alum really are supportive. And even if it’s just like, Oh, let me buy you a coffee like you’re a Columbia, you know, student. Or like, you just like down, like you just see Columbia people like everywhere in the city or even when I was, you know, in Europe or when I’m studying abroad in Jordan, I saw like a Columbia sticker
So it’s like, it’s the very. Like a network that is very connected globally. And I, that was why, what really drew me to, um, come to New York City, but know that that network extends beyond New York. And if you’re not pursuing graduate work in New York or, um, going, uh, doing, you know, pursuing full-time jobs in New York, that there are alum living everywhere in the world.
And that was really something that, um, I knew that was really attractive about Columbia. Yeah, I can still see that Columbia, I call it baby blue, maybe it’s sky blue, um, all over the straits that I live in Oakland. So, um, definitely stands out. I have two questions, um, for Jade, really quickly. So the first question, Jade, is, is it necessary to be your in the liberal arts in order to specialize in English?
No, it is not well to specialize. Yes, specializing is specifically something that is to the Human Rights Department. I think some programs have a little bit of a similar construct, but in terms of studying English, you can also concentrate, which is the minor. You do not need to be in human rights or in the humanities to do that.
It is its own freestanding program at Columbia that works with other programs in its own ways. Specializing specifically was something that happened through the Human Rights Department, but I think each department has some level of equitable connection with the English department. Thank you. And then another question that’s a little bit broader is, you mentioned that you transferred high school, so how did that affect, um, your leadership and involvement and your extracurriculars on your application?
Yes. So it was a bit tricky. I will say I did somewhat throw myself in the deep end of extracurriculars when I transferred my junior year. I, and that was less about doing it for my college application. I truly loved that high school. I loved the connections I made with my peers and my mentors there. So being immersed in that community felt really natural to me, and I think that did help.
Um, but I think the main part about transferring wasn’t, I didn’t have a four year or longer track record to show commitment to one place. At that point, I had to transfer high schools for personal reasons, and I just, that longevity of history wasn’t there on my application. But what was, was a consistency of interest for me.
I always knew that I loved English, I loved writing, I loved the written word, whether that be journalism or poetry or narrative or. Memoir and so on. So I think that type of commitment to a passion or an interest showed throughout my application, even though I didn’t get to do it all in one place.
Thank you for that. Um, and there’s a question around financial aid and Lynn, you’ve been kind of open about your, you know, status as a first gen student. Um, and so I’m wondering if you could, I guess, walk us through your experience in the financial aid application process. One specific question that’s here is, how would you say the school works with you to build a financial aid package that will allow you to attend and not be in huge debt in your first or your second year?
Um, I know that’s a complicated question, so I’m saying, I’m simplifying to say, just talk about your experience with the financial aid process. Yeah, that’s a great way to, um, kind of talk about financial aid. I really, I would spend, so through LEDA, I, they had compiled a list of financial aid and like scholarships and a merit and like, need based.
Um, and just to be aware that Columbia is a need based school. So, um, Columbia’s financial aid really depends on, um, where your family circumstances and what, um, they believe that you can afford and they really work with you. Um, but when I was looking through scholarships, , um, it was scholarships.com. Um, if I had to be completely honest and just really putting in, you know, my demographics and really, and just spending the time, like even if it was just in bed or just, um, uh, In between my classes in high school, I would always just Google, you know, new and keep up on different scholarships that were being posted.
And, um, having my spreadsheet, um, and I knew that even, and I always approached the scholarship. I never really thought I would’ve gotten the gates because I knew it was the last year. It was very competitive. There were over 56,000 applicants. Um, that year was, since it was the last year, they only select a thousand.
Um, and , my, I, it was really a shot in the dark. Um, but there were 10 essays and I, I started those early. And the thing I would say about what scholarships and financial aid is no, that the earlier you start, the better off you are. And those deadlines really come and know, have those deadlines in the back of your mind because, Definitely did.
I, I, I say that now, but I didn’t take that advice when I was applying. I wrote those 10 essays during winter break and it was not fun. Um, and I remember just, you know, knowing that I couldn’t afford to pay for college. And what was really, and what’s really interesting about the Ivy’s is that, um, if you get into another competitor school, I would show for instance, like financial aid to other schools and was like, You’re my top school.
You know, like, would you match my offer? And so I kind of played that kind of scenario out. But in terms of scholarships is really. Use all those resources that you can, both at your high school, the counselor’s office, um, just looking at, um, various different websites and don’t always go for the big ones.
Um, that was my o my biggest approach was I even applied for like a $200 one or like a $500 one. While that may sound small in the, you know, in just how expensive college is. They really do add up. If you can score a handful of them, then that helped me pay for my textbooks. Um, that helped me pay for my winter jacket when I got to New York City.
So those small ones really can add up and they can make an impact. Um, even though they are not as big as the, the big, the big ones that I, um, know that it’s like you just, you just still apply. And I think that was kind of my process was that you never know, and that was my approach in applying for scholarships is, uh, there’s just so many out there.
And, um, just have your spreadsheet, you know, those deadlines be on top of those recommendations. Make sure they’re submitted by a day before those deadlines. Cause waiting until the last minute could be really stressful. If it’s, you know, you’re on Pacific Standard Time and it’s due on Eastern Standard Time, one minute can really make a difference in those deadlines.
Um, so really, um, be, uh, Meticulous in recognizing, um, just deadlines and, um, having those essays and a lot of those essays for scholarships. You’ve already, already have written some shape or form in your college supplemental essays or your personal statement. So my 10 essays, I feel like I really wrote like three like over winter break, but a lot of ’em I had tweaked and recycled and, um, they, they came out to be 10, but they weren’t, you know, and I think that was where I was just like, I don’t know, with scholarships, so many people are applying and you kind of just apply to them all.
That’s actually, that’s my advice is apply to them all if you can with the time that you, um, have and track those, um, those deadline. And I, I, yeah, that’s how I approached it. But in terms of, um, getting Columbia to, um, help you in your first and second year is, I was really honest. I, they, Columbia has student contribution.
They expect students to start contributing to their education after their freshman year to be more financially responsible for their education. And because they had paid for my internship and paid for me to go Uganda, I wasn’t making money, but I was, you know, in Uganda, I was really honest with them. I just was like, I, I, I didn’t have a summer job, or I didn’t have a summer internship.
So you really, um, really share just where you are. And they, and just, I was best friends with the financial aid, um, director, let’s just say Um, always, and I, and I always believe in this, always ask the worst case is they say, And that’s okay. But you still asked, still asked for one of my lap. I spilled coffee on my laptop.
They said yes, but I didn’t know they were gonna say yes. So you always ask. Um, but it’s nine or it’s eight, so I wanna be mindful of time. Yeah, no worries. Um, lightning, I guess really quickly, what is your favorite thing about Columbia? I’m gonna let you take that first. Oh, that is such a difficult question and I will be quick, but I assure you that if I had the time, I would absolutely ramble about this question because there are more than one thing.
But I think for the sake of time, the people I walked away with some really, really incredible connections, both with peers who I know will be lifelong friends and with mentors who I know will be lifelong mentors. So really the, the community itself mattered most to. I would say the professors so similar to peers, but my professors pushed me to think more than I possibly thought I could with my brain and, and even in the pandemic.
And so my professors were some of the best and most supportive, um, professors that really met me where I was. Um, All right, well, we will have to end it there. Uh, but thank you to everyone for coming out tonight. Thank you to Lynn and Jade for being great panelists. That is the end of the webinar. We hope you gain some tips and strategies, um, for thinking about Columbia.
Also, we hope you’ll join us for other webinars. We’re gonna continue with, uh, a panel of our admissions officers talking about early action and early decision applications. Tomorrow I’ll be moderating a deep dive into the FAFSA for folks who have lingering questions about financial aid on the fifth. And there will be a merit scholarships essay writing session, speaking to a lot of the essays that Lynn was referring to on the 10th.
So we hope to see you soon. Until next time, have a great evening everyone.