Want to know how to get into Columbia University in New York City? You're not the only one. Columbia is one of the most famous ivy league schools globally, and its reputation is well deserved. It is a renowned research university with a rigorous undergraduate curriculum, located in one of the world's most famous cities. It's no wonder that thousands of students submit their applications every year and hope to be admitted to this excellent university. With that kind of competition, you need to put your best foot forward if you want to get in. So, in this blog, we go over everything you need to know to make sure you are a competitive applicant. So whether you're on your journey from high school to medical school or you're only looking at a particular undergraduate degree, you'll find a lot of useful information below. 

Please note: although we have made every effort to provide the most accurate information, admissions information changes frequently. Therefore, we encourage you to verify these details with the official university admissions office. You are responsible for your own results. BeMo does not endorse nor affiliate with any official universities, colleges, or test administrators and vice versa. 

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Article Contents
8 min read

Columbia’s mission statement Columbia’s undergraduate curriculum Columbia’s admissions statistics Columbia’s admissions process Acceptance and waitlist Columbia’s contact information FAQs

Columbia’s mission statement

Columbia University is one of the world's most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the University to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.

Columbia’s undergraduate curriculum 

True to its mission statement, Columbia's undergraduate programs are designed to support research and teaching on global issues. The school offers over one hundred different majors or concentrations, but the real star of the show is the core curriculum. This core curriculum is the cornerstone of a Columbia education. It is essentially a series of courses that all students are required to take while completing their degree, regardless of their major or concentration. The core curriculum's content and the way it's taught are designed to emphasize active intellectual engagement. It does so by exposing students to various disciplines, like literature, philosophy, history, music, art, and science. Furthermore, the courses are taught in small, discussion-style seminars to encourage debate and interaction between friends and classmates who hold different opinions. 

Many students, especially those who are interested in STEM fields, think of his curriculum as the "liberal arts" requirement, but much more than that. The school has designed the courses in such a way that they actually help students develop the skills that they will need as they progress in their university careers. 

Students in their first year are required to take the following classes in the Columbia Core Curriculum:

In their sophomore year, they have to take a year-long course called Contemporary Civilization.

After that, students can choose to take the remainder of the Core Curriculum courses at any time. These requirements include:

Would you like more info on how to get into an Ivy League school? Take a look at this video:

Columbia’s admissions statistics

Much like many other world-renowned colleges, Columbia does not have a "cut-off" GPA or test score for admission. That said, it is a very selective school. The SAT scores of matriculants tell us that you need to have an impressive academic background to get into Columbia University. To put that into context, take a look at the numbers below: 

Matriculants statistics: 

  • Columbia acceptance rate: 3.9%

  • Accepted students in the top 10% of their high school class: 95%

  • Admitted students SAT score range: 1510 to 1560
  • Academic area of interest: Arts and Humanities (23%), Engineering (24%), Mathematics and Natural science (26%), Social science (26%), unknown (1%)

Matriculants demographics: 

  • Self-reported gender identity: 50% female, 48% Male, 2% Non-binary or other
  • First-generation college students: 17% 
  • Foreign citizens: 13% (82 countries represented)
  • Financial aid recipients: 43% 

Want to see a quick overview of some info from above you'll want to know? Check out this infographic:

Columbia’s admissions process

Columbia’s admission process is famously holistic. As you’ve probably gathered from the numbers we shared earlier, they are looking for candidates with a solid academic background. Columbia accepts all secondary school curricula (e.g., AP and IB, Cambridge A-Levels, National School curricula, etc.), with no preference for one or the other. However, they do prefer students who have strong academic performance across subjects and effective written communication skills. This tells the board that you are equipped to handle the rigorous course load that comes with the school’s curriculum.

Academics are not everything, though. The admissions board will look at your application components, including the college essays, activities section, and supplemental documents, to better understand your academic preparation and what you can contribute to the school - both in and outside of the classroom and school. These application components also allow them to gain insight into your intellectual interests and the ways your expressions of curiosity and sense of community might translate to Columbia’s campus.

Columbia gives future students the option of applying regularly or using the Early Decision plan. The Early Decision process is only recommended for students who are sure that Columbia is their top choice. Applicants who have chosen this process have to submit their application earlier, and they also hear back from the school before the other students. In exchange, you have to sign a formal agreement stating that if admitted to Columbia, you will be withdrawing all pending applications to other universities. This agreement is legally binding, and the only way students who can be released from it are those who cite financial reasons for not attending after consultation with Columbia's Financial Aid and Educational Financing department.

Application timeline

Below is an application timeline to give you an idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that these dates are subject to change, so check the school’s website for the most up-to-date deadlines. We also recommend putting them in your calendar so that you can keep track of them. 

Application requirements

Columbia is one of the schools that use the Common App and the Coalition Application or the QuestBridge Application. All three of these are centralized systems that allow you to apply to multiple universities at once. They have different sections where you will need to input autobiographical information, lists and descriptions of your achievements, activities, employment, and summer activities, a personal essay and college letters of recommendation from your teachers.

In addition to the information above, Columbia also has a writing supplement section that students need to answer. It includes three list questions and three short-answer questions that we can call supplemental essays. For list questions, the school asks that applicants list individual items, separated by commas or semicolons. You do not need to number the items on the list, put them in a specific order, or provide explanatory text. It really just needs to be a simple list. 

Currently, these are the questions that students are required to answer: 

List questions:

Short answer questions (200 words)

These questions are subject to change from one year to another, but they are usually posted on the school’s website months before the applications are due, so you have enough time to work on your answers. We recommend giving yourself at least four weeks to work on them. If you’re not sure how to write a college essay, you should definitely consider investing in the services of a college essay advisor because it’s an essential component of your application. 

Looking for more on college essays? This video is for you:

You should also be aware of the Supplementary Materials that can be submitted with your application. While they are not a required part of the admissions process, they can enhance the admission board’s understanding of your application, thus increasing your chances of getting admission. Please refrain from sending collections of awards or certificates to the school, as they have explicitly asked that applicants not do this. 

Instead, you are encouraged to include your extra-curricular pursuits in the common app activities section or the admission application that you’ll be using. If you have completed research with a faculty member or mentor, you can also include a one- or two-page abstract as a supplement to your application. You may upload your abstract in the Columbia-specific questions to the Common Application or on the Uploads page of the Coalition Application. You will also need to answer a few short questions about the duration of your involvement, your specific role in and contributions to the research project, and the contact information of your research mentor.

Finally, if you’d like to submit a creative portfolio for Architecture, Creative Writing, Dance, Drama and Theatre Arts, Film, Maker, Music, or Visual Arts, you will need to do it through Columbia’s SlideRoom portal. In each portfolio, you will be required to list the name and contact information of a reference who may be contacted to corroborate your depth of talent and dedication to your creative discipline. This can be a club or activity supervisor, in-school teacher, private instructor, internship or job supervisor, or mentor. 


Columbia interviews applicants domestically and internationally through their Alumni Representative Committee, but not all applicants are interviewed. The school makes it clear that those who are not selected for an interview are not necessarily at a disadvantage, but for those who are asked to interview, acing the interview can go a long way towards improving your chances of admission. 

If selected for an interview, you’ll be connected with an interviewer after submitting your completed application materials. The interview will be virtual regardless of your location and it will be scheduled between November and March, outside of school hours. To avoid being caught off-guard, we recommend reviewing Columbia interview questions and some common college admissions interview questions as you prepare your application, just in case you do get an interview. You can also reach out to college admissions consultants for additional support. They can help you prepare for video interviews and teach you strategies that will help you impress the interviewer. 

Need to prep for a video interview? You won't want to miss these tips:

Acceptance and waitlist

For those who applied under Early Decision, there are three possible outcomes:

  1. Accepted: This outcome means that your place at Columbia is secure, pending the completion of your senior year. You should withdraw your application from any other university. 
  2. Deferred: This outcome means that your application will be reviewed again within the context of the regular decision pool of applicants.
  3. Denied: If you are denied admission under Early Decision, you may not reapply under the Regular Decision plan during that same year, but you are welcome to improve your application and apply again next year. 

Regular decision applicants will be notified of the admission board's decision by the end of April. There are three possible outcomes:

  1. Admitted: Congratulations! You've been offered a place at Columbia.
  2. Waitlist: Being waitlisted is not a rejection. It usually means that you meet most of the requirements, but the admissions board isn't ready to admit you just yet for one reason or another. Keep an eye on your emails, as students from the waitlist have been offered admission in the past.
  3. Denied: Unfortunately, this means that you did not make the cut this year. You may reapply the following year.

Admitted students will have until May 2nd to notify Columbia of their decision to enroll. 

Columbia’s contact information 

Columbia University Website

Email: [email protected]


1. Is Columbia University a good school?

Columbia's rigorous curriculum, ivy league status, and location in the heart of New York City, make it one of the best universities in the country. That said, it doesn't necessarily make it the best university for you! We recommend learning about the school's vision and values to make sure that they align with yours.

2. How competitive is admission to Columbia?

In short, very! Columbia receives thousands of applications every year, and only 3.9% of them get admitted.

3. What is the core curriculum at Columbia?

Essentially, it is a series of wide-ranging courses that all undergraduate students are expected to take. It allows students to explore various perspectives on significant ideas and achievements in literature, philosophy, history, music, art, and science.

4. What GPA do you need to get into Columbia?

There is no minimum GPA requirement, and the school does not share the average GPA of its matriculants. That said, it is worth noting that 95% of admitted students at Columbia graduated in the top 10% of their high school class.

5. What SAT scores do you need to get into Columbia?

SAT scores are currently optional at Columbia, so you do not need to submit your scores. However, if you choose to include it, you should ensure that it is 1510 or above.

6. Does Columbia have college interviews?

Columbia holds alumni interviews for select students. They are not required, but we recommend that you try to schedule one as a good interview can improve your chances of admission.

7. What does Columbia look for in undergrad applicants?

You need good grades to get into Columbia, but that is not all. Their holistic admissions process aims to find students who are open-minded, curious, and who have a sense of community.

8. How can I strengthen my application to Columbia?

You can maximize your chances of admission by taking the time to research Columbia and understand what the school is looking for, preparing your application components early, and working with a college advisor.

Disclaimer: BeMo does not endorse or affiliate with any universities, colleges, or official test administrators. The content has been developed based on the most recent publicly available data provided from the official university website. However, you should always check the statistics/requirements with the official school website for the most up to date information. You are responsible for your own results. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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