Columbia, originally called King’s College, was founded in 1754 by royal charter of King George II of England. Various groups competed to decide its location and religious affiliation, but New York City and the Anglican Church of England prevailed. After the first class was held in a schoolhouse in Manhattan with just eight students, the school quickly grew in size and influence. In 1967, just over 10 years after the college was founded, Columbia established the first American medical school to grant the M.D. degree. And before temporarily closing its doors due to the American Revolution, the college graduated Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, and John Jay, first Chief Justice of the US. After Great Britain was overthrown and the United States of America was founded, the school reopened in 1784 and was given a new name — Columbia — to demonstrate its support and commitment to the new Republic.
Columbia University is affiliated with many other schools and organizations in the New York area, including Barnard College, Juilliard, and several theological seminaries. The closest relationship is between Columbia and Barnard, as it dates back to 1889 when Barnard was founded. Though the schools are technically independent organizations, Columbia and Barnard undergraduates can take almost any course at either school and benefit from facilities, such as libraries and residence halls, on both campuses. Barnard remains a liberal arts college for women, but because of its partnership with Columbia, most of the classes are co-ed. College students who are artistically inclined can enroll in weekly instrumental, composition, and voice classes at Juilliard, and some even pursue a joint Bachelor of Arts/Masters of Music degree through the two programs. However, unlike at Barnard, students must apply to both Columbia and Juilliard to participate in this program.
Columbia’s Global Centers make the school a great option for students interested in studying overseas and experiencing rich cultural adventures. Currently, Columbia has eight Global Centers spanning five continents, including locations in Nairobi, Kenya; Beijing, China; Paris, France; Santiago, Chile; and Mumbai, India. From the Presidential Global Fellows Program, a highly selective summer abroad program for rising sophomores, to the Summer Ecosystem Experience, a global exploration of ecology, biodiversity and environmental sustainability, there are many scholarships and research grants available to undergraduates that put the world within reach.
Consistent with its global mission, Columbia is one of the most diverse and most international U.S. universities, with more than 50% of its student body members identifying as people of color. One of the three main pillars of student life, the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), provides a “multicultural resource that prepares students to succeed in a heterogeneous and ever-changing society.” The OMA not only supports international students, but also offers advising and other resources to students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. This diversity is also represented in student clubs and organizations, with over 500 opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in.
Academics and on-campus student life aside, Columbia is located in New York City! Students can explore the city’s amazing restaurant scene, head to Central Park on a sunny day, or take advantage of the many cultural, sporting, and entertainment events that happen every night in the city. Through student organizations like Urban New York, there are even opportunities for undergraduate students to score free tickets. In addition to all of the “fun” that comes with living in NYC, students can also take advantage of the many industries that are centered in Manhattan (finance, fashion, publishing, entertainment, etc.), with easy access to networking opportunities and internship interviews.