Columbia University

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mattclynch
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#1
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#1
Would anyone be able to talk me through the application process at Columbia University NYC for UK applicants with A-Levels? Is the process different to UK universities?
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alleycat393
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#2
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#2
(Original post by mattclynch)
Would anyone be able to talk me through the application process at Columbia University NYC for UK applicants with A-Levels? Is the process different to UK universities?
Yes very much so. The website should have info. What have you found so far. Moved to the international study forum. This is a UK site so you may not get many responses.
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theholychilli
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#3
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#3
Yes, the process is very different. US universities not only take into account your grades, but also your extracurriculars, your personality, your whole character basically. Also, you and your parents are expected to contribute towards your education, however Columbia offers good financial aid and meets 100% of your demonstrated need. For Columbia, the average award for international students who apply for and receive financial aid is $57,727. (Columbia is also need-aware, which means they take into account how much they have to give you into the admission decision).

For Columbia you'd typically need really good GCSEs and A-levels. (Mostly A*s and As)

You use something called the 'Common Application'. There you fill out details about your extracurriculars, honours, write your personal essay, write supplemental questions for the university, invite your teacher and counsellor recommendations. There are some guides for the Common App available online -- maybe check EducationUSA or the Fulbright UK-US website.

You also need to do the ACT or the SAT, you can Google when and where these are held (bear in mind it costs to take these). You can also buy books to help you with them. If you do the ACT, I would recommend trying to get a minimum of a 33 on your ACT (it's scored out of 36), as the range is 32-35 and the average is 34. Obviously it's not all about your ACT score, but a higher score definitely helps (for example - I got in with a 30, and the university's range was 33-35!)

You'll also need some good extracurriculars and honours to talk about on the common app. Good ECs generally include leadership positions such as Youth Parliament, leader/founder of a club/society at your school, etc., also sports, music, computer programming, politics, work, volunteering, NCS; there are loads of things that are considered a good extracurricular. You can google some examples of ECs (do not lie on your application!). Honours are typically academic honours, e.g. you received a national award for an essay, or a school award for getting the best grade in GCSE maths, or even something like Oxford UNIQ or the Cambridge Shadowing Scheme. Again, you can google examples of what they are.

For your personal essay, there are some guides online to help you with this.

You'll also need a counsellor and 2 teacher references. Your counsellor submits your transcript (all grades from official exams you've taken: GCSEs and A-levels/A-level predictions) and also a counsellor letter of recommendation and also a school profile (again, I'm sure you can find lots of info on this through google). Your 2 teacher references will also need to submit a letter of recommendation each. LoRs tend to be very different in the US, and I'm sure there are lots of help online.

You'll also need to fill out the CSS profile with all of your parents finances (its very detailed!) and whatever else Columbia requires.

Columbia is very hard to get into, and not everyone -- even the best students -- are able to get in. Please bear that in mind if you choose to only apply for Columbia. But my advice is to apply to a range of schools: there are loads of fantastic universities and liberal arts colleges (don't forget about these, they're fantastic) in the USA.

This short guide is not only for Columbia -- but it can be applied to lots of other unis and colleges. Good luck!
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mattclynch
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#4
Report Thread starter 4 years ago
#4
(Original post by theholychilli)
Yes, the process is very different. US universities not only take into account your grades, but also your extracurriculars, your personality, your whole character basically. Also, you and your parents are expected to contribute towards your education, however Columbia offers good financial aid and meets 100% of your demonstrated need. For Columbia, the average award for international students who apply for and receive financial aid is $57,727. (Columbia is also need-aware, which means they take into account how much they have to give you into the admission decision).

For Columbia you'd typically need really good GCSEs and A-levels. (Mostly A*s and As)

You use something called the 'Common Application'. There you fill out details about your extracurriculars, honours, write your personal essay, write supplemental questions for the university, invite your teacher and counsellor recommendations. There are some guides for the Common App available online -- maybe check EducationUSA or the Fulbright UK-US website.

You also need to do the ACT or the SAT, you can Google when and where these are held (bear in mind it costs to take these). You can also buy books to help you with them. If you do the ACT, I would recommend trying to get a minimum of a 33 on your ACT (it's scored out of 36), as the range is 32-35 and the average is 34. Obviously it's not all about your ACT score, but a higher score definitely helps (for example - I got in with a 30, and the university's range was 33-35!)

You'll also need some good extracurriculars and honours to talk about on the common app. Good ECs generally include leadership positions such as Youth Parliament, leader/founder of a club/society at your school, etc., also sports, music, computer programming, politics, work, volunteering, NCS; there are loads of things that are considered a good extracurricular. You can google some examples of ECs (do not lie on your application!). Honours are typically academic honours, e.g. you received a national award for an essay, or a school award for getting the best grade in GCSE maths, or even something like Oxford UNIQ or the Cambridge Shadowing Scheme. Again, you can google examples of what they are.

For your personal essay, there are some guides online to help you with this.

You'll also need a counsellor and 2 teacher references. Your counsellor submits your transcript (all grades from official exams you've taken: GCSEs and A-levels/A-level predictions) and also a counsellor letter of recommendation and also a school profile (again, I'm sure you can find lots of info on this through google). Your 2 teacher references will also need to submit a letter of recommendation each. LoRs tend to be very different in the US, and I'm sure there are lots of help online.

You'll also need to fill out the CSS profile with all of your parents finances (its very detailed!) and whatever else Columbia requires.

Columbia is very hard to get into, and not everyone -- even the best students -- are able to get in. Please bear that in mind if you choose to only apply for Columbia. But my advice is to apply to a range of schools: there are loads of fantastic universities and liberal arts colleges (don't forget about these, they're fantastic) in the USA.

This short guide is not only for Columbia -- but it can be applied to lots of other unis and colleges. Good luck!
Thank you so much, this was really helpful!
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bant_bus
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#5
Report 4 years ago
#5
(Original post by mattclynch)
Thank you so much, this was really helpful!
Hi, UK Student and Columbia Class of 2022 over here!!! Any questions, just shoot, or private message me.
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username4402946
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#6
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#6
(Original post by bant_bus)
Hi, UK Student and Columbia Class of 2022 over here!!! Any questions, just shoot, or private message me.
Hi, I got 3A* and 7As in GCSEs (roughly 4.0 Gpa), A*AA predicted grade, have a pretty good personal essay/recommendations (as I was told by Colorado CU) what kind of ACT and A-Level score would I need, and what sort of chance would I have of being admitted.Shiloh
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bant_bus
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#7
Report 3 years ago
#7
(Original post by usprospect7)
Hi, I got 3A* and 7As in GCSEs (roughly 4.0 Gpa), A*AA predicted grade, have a pretty good personal essay/recommendations (as I was told by Colorado CU) what kind of ACT and A-Level score would I need, and what sort of chance would I have of being admitted.Shiloh
Yes, your grades are good, but it really depends on the type of colleges you're aiming for. If we're talking Columbia/Princeton/MIT/Stanford then you need pretty much all A*s at GCSE (they don't convert GCSEs ---> GPA btw) and most;y A*s at A-level. A*AA is far too weak the colleges just mentioned. For these colleges you also need superb - not just good - recommendations and personal essays. Which is why I ask - what unis??
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username4402946
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#8
Report 3 years ago
#8
(Original post by bant_bus)
Yes, your grades are good, but it really depends on the type of colleges you're aiming for. If we're talking Columbia/Princeton/MIT/Stanford then you need pretty much all A*s at GCSE (they don't convert GCSEs ---> GPA btw) and most;y A*s at A-level. A*AA is far too weak the colleges just mentioned. For these colleges you also need superb - not just good - recommendations and personal essays. Which is why I ask - what unis??
Thanks, I didn't know that they don't convert GCSEs as if they did I'd have a 4.0 gpa lolI've put down Uni of Penn and the Colorado SU in my common application though I intend to add more.Where would you recommend I look at, by likelihood of acceptance and amount of financial aid.
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artful_lounger
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#9
Report 3 years ago
#9
(Original post by usprospect7)
Thanks, I didn't know that they don't convert GCSEs as if they did I'd have a 4.0 gpa lolI've put down Uni of Penn and the Colorado SU in my common application though I intend to add more.Where would you recommend I look at, by likelihood of acceptance and amount of financial aid.
Don't bother looking at anywhere that isn't need blind unless you are ready to pay your way - I highly doubt CSU (or CU? They aren't the same institution) is need blind. Most need blind colleges are the "upper echelon"; Ivy league, MIT/CalTech, Stanford, maybe Berkeley or Chicago (?). Those are the colleges which will pay the difference in of your financial "need" as they calculate it, for you to go there. They're also the most competitive colleges in the country (for example, Harvard had an average acceptance rate of about ~5% over the last 5 years; Cambridge has an average acceptance rate of about 20% by comparison) generally...if you aren't a strong prospect for Oxbridge/LSE/Imperial here, it's unlikely you'll be a realistic applicant for those colleges (and anywhere else will cost you an arm and a leg and be no better than most top ~30 universities over here anyway). The only caveat there is due to the difference in how they assess you, if the only reason you'd be a weak applicant here is due to unfocused PS/application, lack of "supercurriculars" etc, that's not necessarily so important over there (since it's more "general well rounded" students they're looking for, rather than highly motivated/prepared students for a single specific degree programme).

Also bear in mind not all colleges use the CommonApp, some still require you to apply directly to them (although I believe it's a minority now). Additionally, some of the aforementioned colleges require you to sit SAT subject tests as well as the main SAT or the ACT. There are few exam centres in the UK for this, and places in them fill up very quickly once you're able to book onto the test, so you will want to book it sooner rather than later. Assuming you're in year 12, I'd recommend trying to take the main SAT (or ACT, if you can even find a centre) in the summer session, so you know what you're looking at well in advance of applying; this gives you enough time to retake it in the fall session if needed, or to take the subject tests if it's very strong and you want to target those colleges which require them.

NB if you want to study law or medicine, aside from jurisdictional/accreditation issues, these are graduate degrees in the US, so you wouldn't be able to apply to them until after getting an undergraduate degree in something else. Thus if working in medicine or law is your aim, there is even less reason to apply to the US...
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bant_bus
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#10
Report 2 years ago
#10
(Original post by artful_lounger)
Don't bother looking at anywhere that isn't need blind unless you are ready to pay your way - I highly doubt CSU (or CU? They aren't the same institution) is need blind. Most need blind colleges are the "upper echelon"; Ivy league, MIT/CalTech, Stanford, maybe Berkeley or Chicago (?). Those are the colleges which will pay the difference in of your financial "need" as they calculate it, for you to go there. They're also the most competitive colleges in the country (for example, Harvard had an average acceptance rate of about ~5% over the last 5 years; Cambridge has an average acceptance rate of about 20% by comparison) generally...if you aren't a strong prospect for Oxbridge/LSE/Imperial here, it's unlikely you'll be a realistic applicant for those colleges (and anywhere else will cost you an arm and a leg and be no better than most top ~30 universities over here anyway). The only caveat there is due to the difference in how they assess you, if the only reason you'd be a weak applicant here is due to unfocused PS/application, lack of "supercurriculars" etc, that's not necessarily so important over there (since it's more "general well rounded" students they're looking for, rather than highly motivated/prepared students for a single specific degree programme).

Also bear in mind not all colleges use the CommonApp, some still require you to apply directly to them (although I believe it's a minority now). Additionally, some of the aforementioned colleges require you to sit SAT subject tests as well as the main SAT or the ACT. There are few exam centres in the UK for this, and places in them fill up very quickly once you're able to book onto the test, so you will want to book it sooner rather than later. Assuming you're in year 12, I'd recommend trying to take the main SAT (or ACT, if you can even find a centre) in the summer session, so you know what you're looking at well in advance of applying; this gives you enough time to retake it in the fall session if needed, or to take the subject tests if it's very strong and you want to target those colleges which require them.

NB if you want to study law or medicine, aside from jurisdictional/accreditation issues, these are graduate degrees in the US, so you wouldn't be able to apply to them until after getting an undergraduate degree in something else. Thus if working in medicine or law is your aim, there is even less reason to apply to the US...
MIT is the only one from that list that is need-blind
You have no idea how much a college will give you so just apply to the college you want.
I got into Columbia (need-based) and MIT (need-blind) and got much more aid from Columbia.
Not applying to a college because it is not need-blind is the biggest mistake you can make.
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wrightearnest
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#11
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#11
Sorry I know this is an old thread, but I had a question. I am looking at doing a grad degree at Columbia in Journalism. Do you think GCSEs and A Level grades will matter significantly as I have a 2:1 undergrad degree? I don't have all As in previous qualifications. Thanks.
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bant_bus
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#12
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#12
(Original post by wrightearnest)
Sorry I know this is an old thread, but I had a question. I am looking at doing a grad degree at Columbia in Journalism. Do you think GCSEs and A Level grades will matter significantly as I have a 2:1 undergrad degree? I don't have all As in previous qualifications. Thanks.
GCSEs and A level will not be looked at it. They'll expect for you to have achieved so much to even have space for those qualifications
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Monis mazhar
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#13
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#13
(Original post by bant_bus)
GCSEs and A level will not be looked at it. They'll expect for you to have achieved so much to even have space for those qualifications
Hi i know this is probably an obsolete thread now but I'm applying to Columbia this year. My GCSE's 5A* 1AAnd a levels 3A* 1A. And have done quite a lot of leadership/ volunteer work at my school. I was wondering if you could give me a rough idea of my chances for Columbia and if you don't mind sharing your grades too. Thanks
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kamara41
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#14
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#14
(Original post by Monis mazhar)
Hi i know this is probably an obsolete thread now but I'm applying to Columbia this year. My GCSE's 5A* 1AAnd a levels 3A* 1A. And have done quite a lot of leadership/ volunteer work at my school. I was wondering if you could give me a rough idea of my chances for Columbia and if you don't mind sharing your grades too. Thanks
Not the person you're asking but it's impossible to give you an answer as it's a much more holistic admissions process than in the UK. Without knowing the details of your extracurriculars (i.e. achievement and commitment as well as leadership), your Common App essay, your Columbia supplements, and your three letters of recommendation, as well as what the rest of the international applicant pool looks like, it is impossible to give you an answer.

What I can say is that A*A*A*A at A-level makes you an academically competitive applicant who should definitely apply if you're interested in attending.

Did you only take 6 GCSEs?
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bant_bus
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#15
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#15
(Original post by Monis mazhar)
Hi i know this is probably an obsolete thread now but I'm applying to Columbia this year. My GCSE's 5A* 1AAnd a levels 3A* 1A. And have done quite a lot of leadership/ volunteer work at my school. I was wondering if you could give me a rough idea of my chances for Columbia and if you don't mind sharing your grades too. Thanks
A level carry 90% of the school grade weight. Grades are good for Columbia. Grades are also merely 30% of the whole application. Columbia rejects 75%+ of kids that apply with A*A*A*A and 34 ACT...
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kamara41
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#16
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#16
(Original post by bant_bus)
A level carry 90% of the school grade weight. Grades are good for Columbia. Grades are also merely 30% of the whole application. Columbia rejects 75%+ of kids that apply with A*A*A*A and 34 ACT...
Where are those statistics from?

The "A level carry 90% of the school grade weight" is definitely not true. Your GCSE and predicted grades make up your transcript, which for US students is your grades from Y10, Y11, Y12 and some the beginning of Y13. Whilst the majority unis will place slightly more weight on predicted A-levels (though not all according to some international admissions officers) as they are more recent just as US unis will place slightly more weight on Y12 (junior year) grades as they are the most recent, it is definitely not 90% predicted A-levels. It is probably, at the very most 60/40, but I wouldn't like to put a number on it and it is just my estimate based on the conversations I've had with international admissions officers - none of whom have given it a number.

If your GCSEs are a bit on the weak side (though still academically competitive) then very very strong predicted A-levels (creating an upward trend in grades) would definitely help, but if your GCSEs are academically uncompetitive then there are no A-levels which can make up for it.
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Monis mazhar
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#17
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#17
(Original post by bant_bus)
A level carry 90% of the school grade weight. Grades are good for Columbia. Grades are also merely 30% of the whole application. Columbia rejects 75%+ of kids that apply with A*A*A*A and 34 ACT...
Ok WOW thats a bit shocking. So if you could please guide me on what you focused on and how you got into Columbia that would be awesome as its my dream school and you have given the same system of high school exams as me and you got in.
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Ethane_the_pug
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#18
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#18
man this thread helps with my college aspirations. now i know a lot more about grade weights. cool!
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bant_bus
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#19
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#19
(Original post by kamara41)
Where are those statistics from?

The "A level carry 90% of the school grade weight" is definitely not true. Your GCSE and predicted grades make up your transcript, which for US students is your grades from Y10, Y11, Y12 and some the beginning of Y13. Whilst the majority unis will place slightly more weight on predicted A-levels (though not all according to some international admissions officers) as they are more recent just as US unis will place slightly more weight on Y12 (junior year) grades as they are the most recent, it is definitely not 90% predicted A-levels. It is probably, at the very most 60/40, but I wouldn't like to put a number on it and it is just my estimate based on the conversations I've had with international admissions officers - none of whom have given it a number.

If your GCSEs are a bit on the weak side (though still academically competitive) then very very strong predicted A-levels (creating an upward trend in grades) would definitely help, but if your GCSEs are academically uncompetitive then there are no A-levels which can make up for it.
From a columbia student and employee.
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bant_bus
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#20
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#20
(Original post by Ethane_the_pug)
man this thread helps with my college aspirations. now i know a lot more about grade weights. cool!
dm me
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