October 25, 2018

Columbia University Essay 1

Columbia University

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

What’s the point of college (for you)? In other words, why bother at all? What are you hoping to develop in the next four years, and what are you hoping to DO with all that?

Once you’ve wrapped your head about where you are generally headed, now you’re in a position to say whether College Experience A is better or worse than College Experience B in preparing you for that future. This isn’t to say that you need to know exactly where you’ll be in five or ten years, but it helps to have at least a vague sense of even the KIND OF success you’d like to experience in life. What would be the ideal college community, to support all that? What stuff will make you flourish the most? What stuff will bring out your best? What stuff will propel you forward in the coolest, most exciting way?

It may be useful to think about some of the things you know to have the OPPOSITE effect. Where do you find your energy and intellectual curiosity and general drive… suffocated? What are the conditions you HATE? What are the conditions you know yourself NOT to succeed in? You can work backwards to find out what’s common to the environments where the OPPOSITE happens. The components of the environment that provide constant sparks that STIR something in you.

If it seems like you’re trying to write a love letter to Columbia here, it’ll be too obvious and get lost in the herd. If, however, it seems like you’re describing things you know to be true contributors to your INEVITABLE success, you will effectively FLIP THE SCRIPT and make it so that Columbia wants to NOT LOSE you to a competitor. This answer should be all about explaining in a very straightforward way what your ideal surroundings are, because as soon as SOMEONE ELSE can prove that they have those for you, that’s whom YOU will choose as your partner in crime over the next four years.

Structure-wise, this is one large paragraph or two crisp ones. You’ll wanna stay focused on two things: [1] Clearly establishing what environmental factors bring out the best in you, and [2] Revealing how exactly you’ll respond to those factors on Columbia’s campus. Do this a few times (a few separate examples), and you’ll end up with a taut 150 words piece.


You can also read through our team’s analysis of the rest of Columbia’s application essays.

Learn more and explore each step of Brown’s undergraduate application process here.

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