A Guide to the Columbia Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

Padya Paramita

A Guide to the Columbia Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

Columbia University is without a doubt one of the most competitive schools in the world. Consistently ranked among the top five colleges, Columbia attracts a wide range of students from all over the world. With the knowledge that you’ve got your work cut out for you, it’s time to think about ways to distinguish yourself. If your application to Columbia stems from genuine enthusiasm towards the unique opportunities offered by the school, use the Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020 to solidify your candidacy. 

The Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020 are designed to understand your intellectual pursuits, interests outside the classroom, and motivations behind your application to Columbia beyond its esteemed ranking. Give admissions officers the chance to get to know you and help them understand why you believe you’d fit the mold for an ideal Columbia student by carefully answering the prompts below. To guide you through a smooth-sailing writing process, I’ve outlined each prompt, tips and tricks for answering them, and further advice to help you write your Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020

Prompts for the Columbia Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

Prompt 1

In 150 words or fewer, please list a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community.

The key to responding to the first prompt among the Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020 lies in making sure you reflect honestly about what is ideal for you. Don’t just take words used on the Columbia website or brochures and think that matching your answer with how Columbia describes itself will do the trick. 

Ask yourself what kind of setting you need to best learn and grow, and at the same time how they intersect with Columbia’s philosophy and community. What have been your favorite classes and clubs so far? What is your vision for your ideal learning environment? What do you look for in your teachers? Stay away from buzzwords such as “diversity” or “empowerment.” Instead try to be as specific as possible in your choice of words. If you provide the reader with an easy-to-picture idea of what you’re looking for through visually descriptive phrases, that’s even better!

Finally, note that the prompt asks you to “list” your words and phrases. Failing to follow straightforward instructions could cost you. Even though you have 150 words, don’t go into extensive paragraphs about what you’ve always dreamed of as an ideal college community.


Download Every Supplemental Prompt Here!



Prompt 2

For the four list questions that follow, we ask that you list each individual response using commas or semicolons; the items do not have to be numbered or in any specific order. No narrative or explanatory text is needed. It is not necessary to italicize or underline titles of books or other publications. Author names may be included, but are not required. You do not need to fill the entire space or use the maximum number of words; there is no minimum word count in this section, so please respond to the extent that you feel is appropriate.

Please list the following (150 words or fewer for each question):

  • The titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year
  • The titles of books read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year
  • The titles of print or electronic publications you read regularly
  • The titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year.

The instructions make it very clear that there’s no minimum number of titles you must include. That being said, don’t just insert one answer for each topic. For the first prompt within this question, don’t just mention the classics just for the sake of letting admissions officers know you’ve read them. They are aware of the usual high school reading lists, so they have a good idea of the kinds of books most applicants have read. Think honestly about what you actually enjoyed. It doesn’t have to be a novel - or even limited to your literature courses. It could be a chapter in your chemistry textbook, an essay on a historical event, or a particular poem that you’ve been unable to get out of your head. 

From your answers to the Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020, the university also wants to know what kind of topics and genres you enjoy outside academics. All of these could follow a particular theme - your answer to the latter three bullets could be a great way to show that you’ve pursued your academic interests through more than just schoolwork. Or, you could highlight a passion outside your intended major, such as sports or cooking, by mentioning relevant books or magazines.

Don’t list big-name publications such as The New York Times just because you think it sounds impressive. It will probably be one of the more common answers anyway. Go through your subscriptions, browser history, and think about which publications you’re always drawn to when at a newsstand or library.

Please answer the following short answer questions (300 words or fewer for each question):

Prompt 3

Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why.

Now we come to the “why this school” portion of the Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020. Remember that this essay isn’t about what makes Columbia a good school - admissions officers already know that it is! What do you find the most appealing about the university? How do these great features relate to your learning and future plans? The points you should try to get across are why the college’s resources are a good fit for you, how you will benefit from all that it offers, and the aspects of campus life where you believe you can contribute. 

The best strategy in answering this question is conducting research specific to your interests and goals, as Columbia wants to see an emphasis on what you “value.” Since you have a good amount of words, you can mention both academic and extracurricular offerings that call out to you. At the same time don’t go all over the place - stay within describing two to three of the most appealing factors and elaborate on them. What classes and activities do you currently enjoy that you hope to continue at Columbia? Which particular Columbia courses align with your ideal career? Is there a unique student organization that you want to join, such as Columbia Undergraduate Film Productions or the Columbia University Glee Club?

Don’t just think about the internal resources - but the external aspects of Columbia that make it great as well. You can mention the New York City environment - but within limit because remember the essay is about Columbia and not how much you love Manhattan! Are there ways in which this particular urban academic setting works better for you than a suburban or rural one? Use your response to the first prompt for clues about what you’re looking for from your college experience (but don’t be repetitive!) and articulate how Columbia is the perfect place to explore your aspirations.

Prompt 4

If you are applying to Columbia College, tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time.

Continuing from the “why Columbia” question, this prompt among the Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020 asks you to delve deeper into the academic aspect of your interest in Columbia. A memorable answer to this prompt should successfully tie in where your passion for the subject of your choice stems from, as well as how Columbia can help you explore further. 

If you’ve chosen Creative Writing, for example, think about when this interest started, how your love for the topic grew, and how you’ve honed your writing skills - if you participated in any competitions or creative writing clubs. Anecdotes outlining these should dominate your essay. If you have words remaining, talk about how Columbia’s Creative Writing department is the perfect place to help you as a budding writer. Is there a professor whose writing you’ve followed? Are there any specific courses that perfectly suit the genre you dream of mastering someday such as “WRIT UN2110 Seminar Approaches to the Short Story?”

No matter which field of study you’ve chosen, admissions officers should leave with no doubt of your dedication and commitment to the discipline. Columbia appreciates individuals who avidly pursue intellectual growth. Use your answer to demonstrate that you’re not just curious about the topic on paper.

Prompt 5

If you are applying to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section.

This prompt is the same as the previous one - but only for engineering applicants. Just like applicants to Columbia College, your answer to this question should focus on tying up any experiences you’ve had with engineering with the opportunities available to you at the Fu Foundation School. Don’t just write about engineering as a broad discipline. Think about the area you’ve chosen - such as Electrical Engineering or Earth & Environmental Engineering - and express how your curiosity about that specific field arose. 

Detail any specific instances where you worked with topics that fall under your chosen concentration. If you want to study Computer Science, for example, what specific experiences do you have with programming or app building? Was there a particular incident where you decided that this was the field for you? Then, connect your answer to the Fu Foundation School. Which courses under Columbia Engineering’s Computer Science curriculum fit with your plans the most? Is there a particular research program that perfectly augments your interest within computer science?

Your experiences and active persuasion of your choice of concentration should leave admissions officers with the confidence that you’re not just a good fit for Columbia, but for Columbia Engineering specifically. 

More Tips for Answering the Columbia Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

  • Let Your Personality Shine - The purpose of the Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020 is to get to know you. You can’t be a memorable candidate if admissions officers are unable to gauge who you are, sense what you’re passionate about, and identify your goals. Don’t just repeat your personal statement. Instead, exemplify each point as concretely as possible. Whether reading about your favorite books or learning about your interest in biology or history, the reader must be able to get a clear picture and learn new information from every essay. 
  • Demonstrate an In-Depth Knowledge of Columbia - The Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020 strike a balance between asking questions specific to your experiences along with queries about what appeals to you regarding the university. A lot of students apply to Columbia only because it’s an Ivy League school or because it’s located in Manhattan. Assure them that you’re not one of those students by showcasing a comprehensive knowledge of the school’s curriculum and resources, and demonstrating that you’ve done the research to understand how those opportunities specifically pertain to your aspirations. Your essays should convince the admissions officers that you and Columbia are a perfect fit for each other.
  • Think about Your Application Persona - A lot of the questions asked by Columbia want you to reflect on your chosen disciplines, so you need to stay true to your application persona in your responses. Your application persona is the overall theme of your application. You could be a student who’s worked with environmental issues throughout your time in high school. Or, you could be a budding director who has taken charge of all the school plays. Think about how your approach to the Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020 can convincingly harmonize with your application persona and portray authentic interest in your field of choice.

Your answers to the Columbia supplemental essays 2019-2020 should convey who you are through an exploration of topics you’re interested in and how you want to continue pursuing them in college. When reading your responses, admissions officers should clearly understand what your goals are and how Columbia can help you get there. By perfectly blending your passions with what appeals to you about Columbia, you should be able to write standout essays that help separate you from the rest of the impressive applicant pool. Best of luck!

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