UPDATE: The Columbia supplements for 2021-22 applicants are modified slightly from previous years. See below.
How to approach these unusual supplements? First, supplemental essays are a kind of dialogue between the student and the university, particularly with colleges whose essays are demanding in certain ways.
Columbia and the University of Chicago are two such schools. If the supplemental essays don’t speak to you – don’t seem interesting to you – take that as information about whether this college is the right fit for you. If the answer is no, it’s fine — it’s good! — to move on and find a college that fits better.
I have worked with many students who apply to Columbia University’s undergraduate College — AKA Columbia College. I attended Barnard, the women’s college of Columbia, before Columbia College was co-ed, and I have taught creative writing at Columbia and Barnard. And I live a few subway stops from the campus and spend time on both campuses, at events of all kinds – lectures, films, and conferences.
Columbia is known for many things, among them the “Core Curriculum,” a required series (required even of engineering students) of five year-long, interdisciplinary courses that explore Western civilization from every angle – history, philosophy, literature and the arts. The classes are seminar style, and the reading lists are extensive. You can read about each course and see PDFs of the reading lists going from course to course. For example, this is literature course description and this is the reading list for that course.
Columbia’s supplemental essay prompts are designed to find students who are interested in this kind of education. The questions ask you to list books you’ve read for required reading in the last year and books you’ve read for pleasure. They ask for a list of the cultural events you’ve attended or participated in: museums, concerts, films, and other entertainments.
These prompts are designed to learn whether students might thrive in these courses and in this atmosphere. If these courses and this kind of reading are of interest to you, Columbia might be a good fit. If these areas are not to your taste, you might want to look for another college.
In this year of huge upsets and uncertainty, I’m grateful that Columbia has given us the supplemental essay prompts early — and that they appear to be unchanged from last year’s. Take a look and see what you think.
For the three list questions that follow, please refer to the below guidance when answering these questions:
- Your response should be a list of items separated by commas or semicolons.
- Items do not have to be numbered or in any specific order.
- It is not necessary to italicize or underline titles of books or other publications.
- No author names, subtitles or explanatory remarks are needed.
- List the titles of the required readings from academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)
- List the titles of the books, essays, poetry, short stories or plays you read outside of academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)
- We’re interested in learning about some of the ways that you explore your interests. List some resources and outlets that you enjoy, including but not limited to websites, publications, journals, podcasts, social media accounts, lectures, museums, movies, music, or other content with which you regularly engage. (125 words or fewer)
Short Answer Questions:
- A hallmark of the Columbia experience is being able to learn and live in a community with a wide range of perspectives. How do you or would you learn from and contribute to diverse, collaborative communities?
(200 words or fewer)
- Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia. (200 words or fewer)
- Please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the areas of study that you noted in the application. (200 words or fewer)
If you’re interested in applying to Columbia, or Barnard – which has a separate application and different essay prompts, please shoot me an email or give me a call – East Coast time zone. Liz@DontSweatTheEssay.com PHONE: 1-855-99-ESSAY.
And, most important, stay safe and sane.