Columbia University in the City of New York

48 Columbia Essay Examples

Updated for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle.

About Columbia

Located in the Big Apple, Columbia University is one of the eight Ivy League institutions. Its access to New York City affords Columbia students (affectionately called Lions) outstanding academic and research possibilities, as well as a unique and lively environment to explore and grow. With over 20 undergraduate schools, several graduate and professional programs, and a flourishing alumni network, Columbia’s web of connections runs deep; students have access to world-class teachers and cutting-edge facilities. The school is also known for its emphasis on its unique core curriculum, which stresses an exploration of the humanities and great works of literature and philosophy. Overall, Columbia University is a great location for students looking to develop into well-rounded, enthusiastic professionals capable of making a positive difference in the world.

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New York, NY

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Real Essays from Columbia Admits

Prompt: A hallmark of the Columbia experience is being able to learn and thrive in an equitable and inclusive community with a wide range of perspectives. Tell us about an aspect of your own perspective, viewpoint or lived experience that is important to you, and describe how it has shaped the way you would learn from and contribute to Columbia’s diverse and collaborative community.

Model United Nations is traditionally an activity where students diplomatically represent a country to solve real-world problems in a simulation of the UN. However, my school’s chapter focuses on another facet as well: culture. Each year, we organize a community-wide event called Ethnic Expo, filled with exhibits on other cultures, myriad foods to try, and ethnic performances from local talent.

While my town is known for being diverse, we often forget to be inclusive. Simply being aware of others’ cultures and traditions isn’t enough; cherishing them brings us closer together as a community, hence, the Expo. The idea behind the Expo is to facilitate an environment where everyone can feel comfortable learning about others’ backgrounds. Spearheading the Ethnic Expo as President has shown me that a true leader is one who connects.

At Columbia, I want to continue developing inclusive settings. Through organizations like the Society of International Undergraduates at Columbia University, I will work to cultivate a campus where anyone can feel proud to showcase their cultural passions with everyone. I am committed to leading with a global mindset and fostering an environment where all can feel proud of their heritage and truly welcome in the Columbia community.

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Essay by Dev A.

Incoming first-year @ Harvard | Former Speech and Debater

Prompt: Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia.

Interestingly enough, my dad once worked as a taxi driver in New York to help pay for college. I remember asking him about his time in NYC and he emphasized on one aspect of the city: its opportunities. Like the city it is based in, Columbia has so many avenues to greatness. Though I haven’t yet stepped foot on Columbia’s campus, the research I’ve done has told me that this school is a place of personal advancement and collaborative problem solving. 

The $1+ billion and over 200 research institutions that work to get to the bottom of the world’s biggest issues have pulled me into Columbia’s research programs. The Columbia Translational Neuroscience Initiative (CTNI) is an organization that prioritizes the utilization of neuroscience research in the most clinically applicable way possible. Because my dream is to become a neurosurgeon, I have aspired to become a part of a team that creates solutions to currently unsolved problems concerning the brain. Columbia’s CTNI does just that.

Becoming a part of Columbia’s diverse community would be a full circle moment for me and my family, as well as open up the door to the opportunities available in NYC, the capital of the world. For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the areas of study that you previously noted in the application.

It’s a random elementary school day and my 4th grade teacher, [Name Redacted], is playing Gifted Hands on the TV. The movie shows the rise to neurosurgical greatness of Ben Carson. I watched the TV screen in awe; it was extremely empowering to see another African American kid do such great things. Because I saw so many similarities between Carson and myself, watching Gifted Hands propelled me to emulate his journey but in my own way. The courses I’d choose to take in highschool were influenced by the goal of one day becoming a brain surgeon. 

I participated in HOSA’s regional Extemporaneous Writing competition during my sophomore and junior years of highschool, winning 2nd and 1st place in each respective year. Those experiences opened my eyes to how in- depth the medical research process is and inspired me to do similar activities in areas related to neuroscience and biochemistry.

Biochemistry incorporates two of the most prominent subjects in neuroscience: biology and chemistry. Becoming more knowledgeable in the way these two subjects relate to one another would be of great aid towards my goal of eventually becoming a neurosurgeon. I believe that taking Columbia’s Neuroscience and Biochemistry courses will do exactly that.

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Essay by Ugo

Aspiring Neurosurgeon with interests in Computer Science and Chemical Engineering at MIT

Prompt: 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.

Engineering/Physics/Math: Practical Electronics For Inventors, Probabilistic Robotics, Small Unmanned Aircraft, Ignition!, De Architectura (in Latin), Visual Complex Analysis, Lost In Math, The Lazy Universe

History/Geopolitics: SPQR, Cicero, Augustus, 1491, Guns, Germs, and Steel, First Principles, Washington, Napoleon, What Hath God Wrought, Team Of Rivals, Titan (about Rockefeller), The Wisdom Of Crowds, The Perfectionists, Energy For Future Presidents, The New Map.

Fiction. Sherlock Holmes, Imperium, Munich, The Hunt For Red October, The Martian

Prompt: 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.

Websites: Pinterest; YouTube (guitar tutorials); MuseScore; Ultimate Guitar; Tumblr (magick posts); TikTok

Social Media Accounts: @milkstrology and @earthdombaby (Twitter); @academiaa.a (Instagram); @werenotreallystrangers, @waterrcolors, @theberryvillage, @booksofrose, @sunnysmiles666 (Pinterest); Drew Gooden, Kurtis Conner, Danny Gonzalez, nickisnotgreen, Chad Chad, Tara Mooknee, Yoga With Adriene, Vinheteiro (YouTube)

Music: @kayaauden's playlists (my Apple Music account)

Movies & Comedy Specials: Inside; Dead Poets Society; New In Town; The Comeback Kid; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; Goodfellas; Pride and Prejudice (2005)

TV Shows: The Great British Baking Show; Criminal Minds; Supernatural; Love Island UK; Downton Abbey; Kitchen Nightmares US and UK; Hell's Kitchen; Reign; Bojack Horseman; Alice in Borderland

Newspapers: The Week; The New York Times

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Essay by Kaya

Hey! I'm a freshman at Princeton and a prospective neuroscience major and computer science minor. Also, I love to cook.

Prompt: In Columbia’s admissions process, we value who you are as a unique individual, distinct from your goals and achievements. In the last words of this writing supplement, we would like you to reflect on a source of happiness. Help us get to know you further by describing the first thing that comes to mind when you consider what simply brings you joy.

Ironically, color — even though I’m partially color blind. Fireworks, rainbows, and murals come to mind. Or colorful roses I paint and pick for my mom. Or nature’s cycles, emblematized by Autumn and flowering cactuses.

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Essay by Víctor Gabriel Domínguez

i love everything cities <3

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