Among Ivy League universities, Columbia received the third highest number of applications for a spot in their Class of 2026. Of the 60,377 applications received, just 3.73% were accepted, the second lowest mark in the Ivy League (Harvard was the lowest). At a school where 96 of every 100 applicants are rejected, and the vast majority of those applying have near-perfect/perfect grades and test scores, you may be asking yourself, “How do I separate myself from the pack?” This brings us to the topic of this article–the Columbia supplemental essays…

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into Columbia? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into Columbia: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

Fortunately, Columbia’s extensive supplemental section affords applicants an opportunity to forge a personal connection with an admissions officer and also demonstrate what makes them uniquely qualified for admission. Columbia requires answers to two “List Questions” as well as four Short Answer Questions.

Below are Columbia’s supplemental essays for the 2022-23 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one:

2022-2023 Columbia Supplemental Essays

Columbia’s List questions

1) 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)

Per the school’s own directives, you don’t need to worry about formatting here. Thus it is not necessary to italicize or underline titles. You can also skip subtitles and author names, if you wish (although most applicants do include the latter).  In the real world, one way human beings connect is through a shared love of stories, true or fictional. In the application world, this Columbia prompt can facilitate some level of connection between you and an admissions reader. The goal is not to appear as well-rounded as possible. If you happen to be a person with wide-ranging interests, that’s cool—feel free to share your eclectic tastes. However, if you tend to favor books about World War II, for one example, it can be great to communicate this primary passion by unleashing a list of a dozen books on that lone topic.

2) 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) 

Continuing with our advice from part 1, the media we consume and the live events we attend can be incredibly connective. Entire communities pop up around a given podcast, musical artist, or social media personality. Share the resources/outlets that you are genuinely obsessed with the aim of painting a fuller portrait of who you are as an individual. Ideally, an admissions officer will come away from this section thinking, “This sounds like a really interesting person that I’d like to know more about.” Of course, you might get lucky and happen to adore the same obscure film, podcast, artist, etc. as the admissions reader which certainly can’t hurt your admissions odds.

Columbia Short Answer Questions

1) 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. (200 words or fewer)

We presently exist in an extraordinarily polarized culture. It feels like there is little room for constructive dialogue between individuals with competing viewpoints. This is a chance to show that you are an open-minded, intellectually curious young person who is willing to engage in conversations/debates with people who hold opposing positions on important topics. You can also discuss how you have engaged with your high school local/community. Highlight what you have learned from interacting with people of a different ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual identity, etc. Draw on past evidence of your commitment to being a positive force in your community. Further, speculate how that is likely to manifest on Columbia’s campus. Feel free to research and cite student organizations, local nonprofit groups, or anything else you are drawn to.

Take advantage of the wide-open nature of this prompt. You are essentially invited to talk about any of the following topics:

  1. A perspective you hold
  2. An experience you had
  3. A community you belong to
  4. Your cultural background
  5. Your family background

2) 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)

In this essay, admissions officers want to see evidence of your drive, passion, and intellectual ambition. Additionally, you should highlight any specific plans for academic engagement while at Columbia University. Great things to highlight here include:

  • Specific courses offered in your discipline of interest at Columbia.
  • Columbia professors whose work/research/writings you find fascinating and how you might want to connect with them as an undergraduate.
  • Student organizations at Columbia.
  • Undergraduate research opportunities in the summer or during the school year as well as independent research you would like to conduct under faculty supervision.

This prompt opens the door to discussing opportunities outside of the classroom as well. You could include study abroad programs or NYC-specific opportunities for internships, culture, and connection.

3) 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)

We all have a story of what drives us to pursue a certain academic pathway and career. How did your interest initially develop? What was the spark? How have you nurtured this passion and how has it evolved over time? If you desire to go into engineering, this is a chance to talk about everything from your childhood fascination with how things work to your participation in an award-winning robotics program at your high school. Share a compelling narrative about how your love of your future area of study has blossomed to its present levels.

4) 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. (35 words or fewer)

This one is new to Columbia for the 2022-23 cycle. What brings you glee, exuberance, jubilation, delight, elation, bliss…joy? There are a multitude of universal and highly relatable experiences that bring joy to one’s soul. For example, it could involve children, pets, scenes of natural beauty, literature, travel, etc. However, you could also talk about dreams for the future, more bittersweet moments, abstract thoughts, moments of glorious introversion, or a time that you unexpectedly felt joy.

How important are the Columbia supplemental essays?

There are a whopping 8 factors that Columbia considers to be “very important” to the evaluation process. These are: rigor of secondary school record, test scores, character/personal qualities, class rank, GPA, recommendations, and extracurricular activities. However, the most relevant to this blog is, of course, the application essays. The essays undoubtedly play a significant role in the admissions process at Columbia University. They can help the committee decide who to admit when choosing between similarly-credentialed (GPA, test scores, etc.) applicants.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

In conclusion, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Columbia supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.