Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university is located on a 36-acre campus in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. Founded in 1754, Columbia is the oldest university in the state of New York and fifth oldest in the United States. The university has 20 schools and is affiliated with Barnard College, The Julliard School, and Union Theological Seminary. Beyond its NYC campuses, Columbia has Nevis Laboratories, a facility for experimental particle and nuclear physics, in Irvington, New York, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, a leading research institute in global sciences. It also has centers in Amman, Nairobi, Mumbai, Istanbul, Beijing, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago. If that isn’t enough, Columbia has the distinction of administering the annual Pulitzer Prizes awarded in print and online journalism, literature, and musical composition.
Incoming freshmen can choose from three undergraduate schools, Columbia College – a liberal arts school offering B.A. degrees, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences offering B.S. degrees, or the School of General Studies for non-traditional students who can earn either B.A. or B.S. degrees. All schools operate on a two-semester academic calendar. Columbia offers 67 majors in 21 areas of study. The top majors by enrollment are social sciences, engineering, health professions, history, and visual and performing arts. Students can expect nearly 80% of their classes to have fewer than 20 students, and a student-faculty ratio of approximately 6:1.
Students can participate in research alongside some of the top researchers in their fields. Nine current faculty members are Nobel laureates. Departmental research sites include Arts and Sciences, Earth Institute, Engineering, Medical Center, Social Work, Business, and International and Public Affairs facilities. A student graduating from Columbia University will be in the company of many other notable people; three U.S. Presidents, 26 Heads of State, 43 Nobel Prize winners, nine Supreme Court Justices, 123 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 39 Academy Award winners, among many more distinguished alumni.
At Columbia, 94% of students live in campus housing. Through the Faculty-in-Residence program, faculty members and their families live in the residence halls of East Campus, West Campus, and First Year Area. Incoming freshmen make this choice to establish long-term mentoring relationships. Freshmen may also opt to live in more traditional residences of the Living Learning Center, Furnald, John Jay, or Carman. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors may choose special interest residential communities where students live and learn together around their commonalities such as sustainability, jazz, writing, LGBT, and more.
There are also over 500 student organizations where students can find their place at Columbia. Students are encouraged to become fully involved in campus life and support each other’s interests. Choices range from Alternative Break, where students form service groups and carry out projects over break to the Davis Project for Peace summer program. Live at Lerner presents entertainment events as well as academic and cultural events for students throughout the year. Urban New York provides students with an opportunity to attend NYC events with free tickets; past trips and events have included Broadway musicals, New York Knicks and New York Yankees games, a brunch cruise, a night at the Apollo Theater, a performance at the Metropolitan Opera, and many more.
The NCAA Division I Columbia University Lions compete in the Ivy League Conference on 14 men’s and 15 women’s sports teams. Columbia has seen some success in various sports throughout their history. Columbia athletes were the first to ever win the English Henley Royal Regatta in crew. Columbia also had a female runner set an Olympic world record in track, made the NCAA finals in men’s soccer, and produced Hall of Famers in baseball and football. Their primary rival has long been Princeton University, although a new tradition began in 2002 with Fordham University. Columbia and Fordham play an annual football game for the right to hold the Liberty Cup until the next year’s game.
Columbia University offers students 38 club sports from ballroom dance to Moy Yee Kung Fu. Students can participate in six intramural league sports: flag football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, team handball, or dodgeball. Squash is the only individual intramural sport. If you don’t want to make a long-term commitment, there are one-day tournaments in various intramural sports each semester. For those looking to stay fit, but aren’t interested in competitive sports, there are group fitness classes at Dodge Fitness Center.
Many Columbia University traditions have evolved over its 260-year existence. The first tradition new students are likely to engage in is First Year March, where they will be ushered out the back of Lerner Hall together to re-enter through the main campus gates and officially become students of Columbia University. Also specific to freshmen, the first to find the owl hidden in the Alma Mater statue is thought to become valedictorian. Varsity Show is another long-standing tradition, where students write a musical for Columbia students. Rodgers and Hammerstein participating as student writer/directors at one time. Other traditions include Take Back the Night, Tree-Lighting and Yule Log Ceremonies, Primal Scream, Orgo Night, and more.
If you are looking for a challenging academic experience in one of the most exciting cities in the world, Columbia University may be just what you’re looking for in a school.
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By Colleen Hill