Mark Montgomery, expert on college admissions, talks about Columbia University. If you want to get into an Ivy League school, consider Columbia. In the heart of New York with an excellent core curriculum.
Hi, Mark Montgomery coming to you with more Great College Advice, and today we’re going to talk about Columbia University.
There are two things that you need to remember about Columbia University if you’re trying to figure out whether that’s the school you want to attend. Two things. The first is the core curriculum. The core curriculum, well, it could be really summed up by thinking about the old dead white guys. Columbia maintains this core curriculum that is grounded in the great books of western civilization.
The two courses that you take, it really takes up about a third of all the classes you will take in the first couple of years. They’re composed of basically two components. One is contemporary civilization, known as CC. This is political and moral philosophy, you read a lot of those classics of political philosophy, moral philosophy, to help understand what makes a good society and how to move that society forward. The second thing is literature and humanities. Which is again more of the great books in literature and more philosophy. But still more grounded in the literary tradition.
So these are classes that every single Columbia University student must take. It’s a little bit less rigorous if you’re an engineering student. But generally everybody else has got to take this core. So if that’s something that excites you and really makes you want to jump up and down when you go to class every day, Columbia is perhaps the school for you. I think it’s great, I did this when I was in college, and I don’t regret it a bit. I think this grounding in the western tradition is fantastic, but it is not for everyone.
The Big City
The second thing you have to think about is pretty obvious: New York City. It’s what attracts students to Columbia. But there a couple of things that you need to think about in terms of that city location. The first is that the university is almost 100% residential. 95% or so of students live on campus all four years in the residence halls. And while they’re small, it’s really the best way to forge a community with the people that you’ll be going to school with.
So that’s a great thing, but the other thing about New York City is it does tend to weaken some of the bonds that many other colleges are able to forge. So it doesn’t have the spirited ra-ra kind of fierce loyalty that other schools like, say, a Notre Dame, maybe a Georgetown, a Dartmouth, will create. Because you’ve got the city there. And so instead of necessarily being involved in the campus community where that may be the only thing there is for you to do, someplace like South Bend, Indiana, the city is your world, right? So you can go out with other students and participate and enjoy the Big Apple, and that becomes part of the whole campus experience, the whole student experience of going to Columbia.
You could think of it this way, too: whereas most other Ivy League schools have the playing fields right on the campus or adjacent to it, some of the playing fields are 100 blocks away, and you’re going to take public transportation or some sort of a shuttle or a bus to get to those fields. So it’s not forging the same kind of intense community that some of the other Ivies and some of the other top universities in the United States will create.
So again, Columbia, core curriculum, New York City. If you’re trying to figure out which Ivy League school is best for you, give me a call. I’d be happy to try to help. Or take a look at some of the other articles about Ivy League schools here on the blog. Thanks very much.