You Oughta Know
The cluster system. Even for people as talented as Columbia students, the experience of being dropped into the midst of a class of more than 500 students (or about 200 in the J-Term) could prove intimidating. So, like some of the other larger schools, Columbia uses a cluster system to make it more manageable and to promote opportunities for building relationships among a smaller subsection of the class. The class is divided into 11 clusters of about 65 students each, with eight clusters in the September start and three in the J-Term. Clusters are also assigned second-year student mentors to help navigate processes and protocols. Within each cluster, first-year students are divided into learning teams of about five people from diverse professional and personal backgrounds. Students work in the same learning team for most of their core courses.
Course selection and enrollment. Students use the Business Online Selection System (BOSS) to bid for courses. During bidding rounds a student can bid, change the bid, or drop the bid as many times as desired. Once the round closes, the final bids are processed, and the student’s point endowment is modified accordingly. The process is similar to that of many top business schools that use some form of bidding or point allocation to determine spots in the most popular courses.
Grading. Columbia students are a talented lot, but graduate school grading can still come as a bit of shock to people with fond memories of being praised throughout college. Instead of using the A–F scale, Columbia uses the pass system, although there are different shades of passing. A forced curve has been adopted by the faculty for core courses only, with 20–25% of the class receiving an H (honors), 50–60% receiving an HP (high pass), and the balance receiving grades of P (pass), LP (low pass), or F (fail). This curve does not apply to elective courses.
Grade disclosure. In 2011, the student body voted to support a nonbinding policy of grade non-disclosure, meaning that students are encouraged not to disclose grades to recruiters until they have already accepted a full-time position. The Career Management Center also encourages recruiters to respect this norm by not asking students about their grades. We suspect that a handful recruiters and students may not abide this policy, but Columbia students have pointed to it as a key factor in changing the cutthroat culture that Columbia was once known for