Columbia University

New York, NY: I was very nervous when my mother said she wanted me to consider Columbia in my college search. Apprehensive about the possibility of being rejected, I tried every possible excuse to avoid seeing the campus. I told her I could never get into this Ivy League school, so she shouldn’t get her hopes up. I informed her that the school is located in the middle of Harlem hoping to scare her enough to tell me I didn’t need to apply. Finally, after a friend visited Columbia and loved everything about it, I decided at least to look at the school.

When I first stepped onto the admittedly gorgeous campus, I had a less than desirable feeling. The huge buildings and large, grassy knolls made me feel small and insignificant, rather than strong and proud, which I’m sure is what Columbia’s architects were aiming for. I didn’t feel like I would be able to relax at all if I went there. My mother’s impression of the architecture was that of a strong, solid and substantial school, but I was very turned off.

I decided not to be too judgmental and went to the information session. At the beginning, the admissions counselor had a current Columbia student answer our preliminary questions. He was quite informative and responded to our questions with a good sense of humor. He described a normal day at Columbia, comprised of classes, studying, one of his four extracurricular activities, and his part-time job, explaining that this was similar to many students’ days.

After 15 minutes, the admissions officer came in to talk more about this prestigious university. He was witty, although you had to listen carefully to pick up his humor. One memorable anecdote he told was that he hated to see that students wanted an “Ivy League” education when asked why they wanted to attend Columbia. He explained, “The Ivy League is just an athletic conference of eight schools, in which Columbia competes against seven lesser schools.” (Columbia offers 29 intercollegiate teams that compete in NCAA Division I.)

He also poked fun at the fact that our parents are getting older. He advised students not to leave unfinished applications lying around the house “because that stresses parents out, and parents are at a point in their lives when stress can be dangerous to their health.” The admissions officer explained the admissions process, constantly reminding those in the room that Columbia was a very selective school which matriculates about 23,000 graduate and undergraduate students.

After this information session that felt like it would never end, our tour guides appeared, ready to split up the group and show us around the campus. My guide was a frat boy who wasn’t too helpful. Instead of talking about the quality of the Columbia experience, he focused on which fraternities had the best drinking parties. It took all of my might to stay with him for the hour-long tour, knowing for sure now that Columbia University was not the school for me.

A little disappointed that Columbia did not live up to its impressive reputation, I left the campus excited to find a school that did meet my expectations.

Reviewed in 2004