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University Review: The IVY in NYC

  • Published at 09:18 pm September 5th, 2016
University Review: The IVY in NYC
Columbia University ought to be introduced, first and foremost, as President Barack Obama’s alma mater. Established in 1754 by George II of Great Britain, Columbia is one of the oldest, largest and most dynamic Ivy League institutions, encompassing 20 individual schools, including the undergraduate liberal arts college, School of Engineering, Business, Medicine, Architecture, Dentistry, Social Work, Journalism, Public Health, Teaching, Law and Arts. Columbia has much to offer to Bangladeshi students. In fact, Columbia has long taken several Bangladeshi students in its undergraduate degree program, business school, engineering school, school of architecture, and above all, its policy school, the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) which trains students for a career in diplomacy and policy administration. Columbia also has a very visible club for Bangladeshi students called Club Bangla. Situated in Manhattan, the financial, business, and some would say, the artistic capital of the world (no offense, Francophiles!), the university’s location in a scenic neighbourhood called Morningside Heights, means that the campus has a flourishing eco-system of businesses, bookstores, cafes, restaurants, stores, parks, lakes, and a variety of other recreational facilities in walking distance. Columbia is a racially diverse school with over 50% students identifying themselves as persons of color, about 40% identifying themselves as minority, 28% born outside of the United States, and 26% with a family income below US$60,000, making it one of the most socio-economically diverse colleges in the US. There is a spirit of activism on campus and students are empowered by the administration and faculty to pursue activism through formal and informal channels. Overall, such demographic realities translate to Bangladeshi and other foreign students finding it relatively easier to adapt to Columbia than many other universities in the West. There is no mistaking that this is a very selective college. With an overall acceptance rate of 6.04%, Columbia is the third-most selective American college after Stanford and Harvard. After all, the campus is the first North American site where the uranium atom was split, the birthplace of FM Radio and the Laser, and the alma mater for Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Barack Obama, Madeleine Albright, Alan Greenspan, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Warren Buffett, Vikram Pandit, Milton Friedman, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Isaac Asimov, in addition to 82 Nobel Laureates, 26 Foreign Heads of State, 3 US Presidents, 123 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 16 current CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies, 3 of the 25 richest Americans, 20 Billionaires, and Five Founding Fathers of the US. So what does a Bangladeshi applicant to Columbia do to increase his or her chances of getting in? Are good SAT scores, a strong personal statement, recommendations, and high school transcript enough? Do O’ and A’ Level grades count? What else does one need to do? Of course, you need to check all the above boxes to get your foot in the door. Your SAT scores need to be solid, usually well above 700 in each of the three components. Since you will be an international student, the Writing score will matter much more. In fact, getting into Columbia without taking your SAT II’s is unheard of, and combination of Math, Physics or any other science subject, and Writing is your best bet. Your college application essay should bear in mind Columbia’s values and the internationalist perspective it has adopted. So if you are an applicant, you would do well to illustrate how well you understand your country, your own ambitions (however embryonic), how you intend to use the Columbia learning for the benefit of your country, and so forth. Lastly, your O’s and A’s will count much more for Columbia than for other Ivies, especially because their admissions office, given their internationalist commitment, is well-versed with O’s and A’s. Last but not least, Columbia likes its applicants to know about Columbia. It has a vaunted Core Curriculum program that Columbia takes very seriously, and you would be well-advised to understand it and how you relate to the components of it – in particular – courses on ethics, humanities, literature, and classics. The Core Curriculum reading list is available online and you would do well to glance at it before you apply.  
Sajid Amit is Director, CES, University of Liberal Arts (ULAB). He is an alumnus of Dartmouth College, SOAS University of London, and Columbia University. 
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