How to Get Into Columbia University: Acceptance Rate & Strategies

May 16, 2023

columbia acceptance rate, how to get in

As far as accomplishments go, getting into Columbia University in 2023-24 versus getting accepted into the NYC Ivy a generation ago are wholly incomparable. It would be like equating climbing Mt. Everest to meandering up a modest hill, and it only takes one quick glance at the historical Columbia acceptance rate figures to see that this analogy is far from hyperbole.

Here are the facts: The acceptance rate for the Class of 2027 was a menacingly low 3.9%. The parents of today’s applicants would have faced admissions odds roughly 9 times more favorable. That’s right, the acceptance rate at Columbia University for the Class of 1992 was 32% according to the school’s Office of Planning & Institutional Research. Even in 1997, when the acceptance rate had fallen to 17%, the average SAT score of an admitted applicant was 1346; today the average SAT score is in excess of 1500. All of this is to say—when it comes to Columbia admissions, the competition has never been more merciless, and the odds of success never more discouraging.

To give yourself the best shot possible, it is necessary to be aware of the following

  • Where is Columbia University?
  • Is Columbia an Ivy League school?
  • Columbia’s Class of 2027 early decision acceptance rate
  • Columbia’s Class of 2027 acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Columbia University applicants
  • Admissions trends from the Class of 2027
  • How to stand out on your Columbia application
  • Columbia’s system for rating applicants
  • A look at the demographics of current Columbia undergraduates
  • The percent of accepted students that attend Columbia (yield rate)
  • Tips for applying to Columbia
  • How to approach the Columbia supplemental essays
  • How to assess whether applying to Columbia is even worth the $85 application fee (for you)

Where is Columbia University?

Columbia University is located in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. More precisely, the campus is situated at West 168th and Broadway.

Is Columbia an Ivy League School?

Columbia is an Ivy League school that dates back to 1754 when it was known as King’s College. It was renamed in 1784 after the Revolution for reasons that will be obvious if you’ve seen Hamilton (who attended King’s College himself).

Columbia: Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2027

Columbia received 5,738 Early Decision applications for the Class of 2027. The Columbia ED acceptance rate was a touch over 11%. Clearly, the ED route gives you a far better route than applying to Columbia in the regular cycle.

Columbia Acceptance Rate – Class of 2027

Columbia received 57,129 applications for a place in the Class of 2027. 2,246 students were accepted. Thus, the Columbia acceptance rate is now 3.9%. This is down from the 6.3% clip for the Class of 2024, just three years ago. The last time that Columbia’s acceptance rate was in the double-digits was for the Class of 2012 (10.7%).

Columbia Admissions – SAT, GPA, and Class Rank

The mid-50% SAT range for enrolled students is 1490-1560 and the mid-50% ACT range was 34-35. An impressive 96% of admitted students placed in the top 10% of their graduating high school class.

Admissions Trends & Notes (Class of 2027)

  • The admitted class of 2027 included students from 50 states and 101 countries.
  • The 57.129 applications were the third-most in school history.
  • Admissions data
  • ED applications dipped 9% from the previous year.
  • The number of applications and acceptance rate were almost identical for the Class of 2025 and Class of 2026.

How to stand out on my Columbia application

One glance at the incredible list of Lion alumni and you’ll get a sense of what the university is looking for: the next generation of politicians (Barack Obama), award-winning writers (Langston Hughes, JD Salinger), entrepreneurs (Robert Kraft, Warren Buffett), and actors/actresses (Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal, Kate McKinnon). Your special talent might not ever make you as famous as the aforementioned individuals, but it’s important that you stand out somehow in any number of ways. Perhaps you are the best oboe player in your state, the top pole vaulter in your region, a top-finisher in a nationwide physics competition…you get the idea. It helps to be able to shine brightest among thousands of other individuals who also sport 4.4 GPAs and 1550 SAT scores—these are just a few of a million possible examples.

Additionally, there is a definite advantage enjoyed by athletes recruited to one of Columbia’s NCAA Division I sports teams. Approximately 775 current Columbia students are also varsity athletes. Of course, these athletes also have to be quite accomplished inside the classroom. In one recent year, an incredible 42% of Columbia athletes made the Dean’s List.

For advice about how to stand out on the extracurricular front, check out our previous blog entitled How Many Extracurricular Activities Do I Need for College?

Columbia Acceptance Rate – How Columbia Rates Applicants

Columbia engages in a holistic admissions process that will result in the university selecting “those that we believe will take the greatest advantage of the unique Columbia experience and will offer something meaningful in return to the community.” Toward that aim, there are six factors that Columbia considers above all others:

  1. Curriculum & grades
  2. Context (family and community circumstances)
  3. Extracurricular activities
  4. Character
  5. “Fit”
  6. Recommendations

Columbia uses a committee-based approach and no applicant is admitted without “discussion and examination” from more than one admissions officer. Lastly, the university “seeks diversity of personalities, achievements and talents, and of economic, social, ethnic, cultural, religious, racial and geographic backgrounds.” On that note, let’s check out the demographics of the Class of 2024.

Who Actually Gets Into Columbia?

Geographically, the states that sent the greatest number of students into the most recent class (for which data was reported) were:

  1. New York
  2. California
  3. New Jersey
  4. Texas
  5. Florida
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Illinois
  9. North Carolina
  10. Virginia

Like other Ivy League schools, an advantage can be had if you hail from a less populated state with fewer qualified applicants. Elite colleges value “geographic diversity” which means if you live in a remote area like Montana or Idaho, your admissions prospects will get a boost.

Next, we look at the 13% of international students in the most recent freshman class. The following foreign countries sent the most students to the most recent class:

  1. China
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. India
  5. Hong Kong
  6. Turkey
  7. Singapore
  8. South Korea
  9. Brazil
  10. Ethiopia

Columbia Acceptance Rate (Continued)

Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the freshman class was as follows (percentages do not add up to 100% as applicants can list multiple races):

  • White: 54%
  • Asian American: 28%
  • Hispanic: 20%
  • African American: 18%
  • American Indian: 4%

Looking at the category of possible first majors, entering freshmen intended to study:

  • Math and Natural Sciences: 26%
  • Arts & Humanities: 23%
  • Engineering: 24%
  • Social Sciences: 26%
  • Undecided: 1%

The figure that jumps out here is the extremely low number of undecided students. This tells us that Columbia is primarily looking for students with a strong academic focus. Of course, it also speaks to the professionally-focused applicant pool.

The gender breakdown of the freshman class was relatively even:

  • Female: 50%
  • Male: 48%
  • Non-binary and others: 2%

Columbia’s “Yield Rate”

Columbia’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted—is 67%. This places them above schools like Dartmouth (64%) and Cornell (64%), but behind schools like Yale (83%), Stanford (80%), and Penn (70%).

Tips for Applying to Columbia

If you plan on joining the 60,000+ Columbia hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • Applicants are not guaranteed an interview, but when you apply, your info will automatically be sent to an alumni interviewer in your area and will schedule between October and March each year. We encourage you to visit our blog—College Interview Tips.
  • Columbia does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays and short answers required by Columbia; they are quite extensive. In the 2021-22 cycle, they were as follows:

Essay Prompts

List Questions:

  • List the titles of the required readings from academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school.
  • 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.
  • the titles of the print or digital publications, websites, journals, podcasts or other content with which you regularly engage.
  • List the movies, albums, shows, museums, lectures, events at your school or other entertainments that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school (in person or online).

Columbia Acceptance Rate (Continued)

Short Answer Questions:

  • Columbia students take an active role in improving their community, whether in their residence hall, classes or throughout New York City. Their actions, small or large, work to positively impact the lives of others. Share one contribution that you have made to your family, school, friend group or another community that surrounds you. (200 words or fewer)
  • Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? (200 words or fewer)
  • 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)

For a detailed look at how to tackle these essays, visit our blog entitled: Columbia Supplemental Essay Prompts and Tips.

Should I Apply to Columbia?

Ultimately, if you fit the mold of the typical student accepted at Columbia then it is worth your effort and $85 to submit an application. At the same time, one has to keep in mind that the university rejects 96 of every 100 applicants that apply, and the bulk of these individuals have exceptional credentials similar to your own. Thus, it goes without saying that all teens applying to this or any other Ivy need to also have a proper mix of “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. Click here for more on creating a balanced a college list.