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How to get into Columbia University?


Columbia is the fifth oldest university in the US, it was founded before the Declaration of Independence. It is located in New York City - this creates an atmosphere distinct from many of the other Ivy League universities which are situated in far more secluded areas. Columbia also has one of the most competitive admissions rates of the Ivy League schools with just 5.8% of applicants being successful. Can you beat the odds?

1) Work on Super-Curriculars

Columbia has never been short of good applicants. In fact, it had over 37,000 applicants for just over 2,000 places in the Class of 2021. More than 75% of admitted students scored 1490 or more on the SAT Reasoning and many of those had 3 or more SAT Subject Tests under their belt. Just having well-written essays, strong SAT scores, and an interesting all-rounder profile is not enough. Instead, Columbia is seeking students who have the so-called Super-Curriculars. These are activities at which a given student is competitive at a national or even international level. It is therefore vital that an applicant has one or perhaps two Super-Curriculars as part of their application. These Super-Curriculars - not the SAT scores - will be the deciding factor of winning or not winning a place at Columbia.

2) Sit the SAT/ACT exams

While Super-Curriculars are vital, no one said you don't have to do well in the standardised testing. Columbia requires everyone to have completed the SAT Reasoning exam (or the ACT as an alternative). While the writing component is not required, you really should complete the exam with the writing component as most of your competitors would have done it. What score do you need? Aim for 1550 and you won't be far wrong. A good free online tool is Khan Academy where anyone can practice the SAT for free.

3) Create a CommonApp profile

Virtually all of applications to Columbia are submitted via a portal known as the CommonApp. You can find it here. The portal requires you to provide detailed background information such as your name, age, and school details. You will also need to produce a number of admission essays. The questions to these essays are released on 1st of August of the year when you submit your application. We would recommended that you start drafting them in August so that you are ahead of everybody else and have more time to sort out other parts of your application.

4) Submit the App by 1st November

Columbia has 2 application deadlines: Early Decision (1st November) and Regular Decision (1st January). Hard data shows that applicants have an advantage applying in the Early round. We therefore recommend that you apply by 1st November to ensure that your application gets the best possible chance of being picked by Columbia admissions officers. There is a catch however. The Early Decision application round is binding. This means that if you are admitted, you must withdraw all other applications and are bound to attend Columbia. It is also worth remembering that submitting a complete application during the Regular Round is much better than submitting a rushed application for the early round! The admissions system is built in such a way as to ensure that if you are the right candidate for Columbia, you will be picked up regardless of the application round.

5) Continue to provide updates

Once you have submitted your application, it is imperative that you continue to provide the Admissions' Office with regular substantial updates regarding your progression as a candidate. Given the sheer number of people applying to Columbia University, the decision to admit a candidate is not always straightforward. Therefore, it is important to demonstrate that you are a candidate who continues to push themselves all the way up until the last day of the decision-making process. By doing this, you show that you are not someone who will just rest on their laurels. If they are down to two candidates for a place, they are more likely to award the offer to the person who provided updates (assuming the candidates are equal in all other areas). Examples of updates could be a recent internship you just completed, extra funding you secured for your charitable project, or an article you published recently.

How to apply to Columbia University?

1) Start very early. If you are leaving the preparation to a mere one year in advance, you are doing it wrong. Most admitted candidates will spend a minimum of two years working on their overall profile and the application. It is not uncommon for successful admitted candidates to start 3 or even 4 years in advance which means starting when you are just 14.

2) Register and complete the SAT Reasoning (or the ACT) and SAT Subject Tests. If you are applying from a country where English is not an official language, you may also have to sit TOEFL - the English language exam. Both SAT exams are not straightforward and take time to master. A perfect score helps but won't get you in on its own. Remember that if you are doing the SAT, you should always include the optional writing component. Similarly, while Columbia doesn't require the SAT Subject Tests, many admitted candidates will have completed 3 or even more of these. Do not skip the SAT Subject Tests.

3) Register and complete the CommonApp. This is a centralised portal through which you can apply to all of your US university choices, including Columbia. CommonApp requires you to complete a number of essays and it is best to start early. Essay questions are released each year on the 1st of August. The deadline for Early Decesion is 1st November and the Regular Decision deadline is 1st January.

4) Once you applied, be sure to continue communicating with the Admissions' Office and to provide them with regular updates.

Sophie, a current student at Columbia says: "Living in New York City is amazing and Columbia is the best place I could have ended up in."

If you want Allen & Jain to increase your chances at Columbia admissions, then fill the form below to get in touch with us. Our clients applying to the Ivy League+ universities have enjoyed a success rate of 82% last year. Get in touch to see how we can help you.

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