- Class: Junior
- Major: Psychology
- Gender: F
- High School: The Derryfield School, Manchester, NH
- Transfer Student: N
The best thing about Columbia is opportunity. From Nobel-prize winning and world reknowned professors to award winning institutions (not just for the Grad students), a once-in-a-lifetime experience is common place here. Don't get me wrong, there are many things I would change at Columbia, especially some of their policies (both academic and social) which are excessive and only serve to make a student's life harder. The school size, just speaking for the undergraduate schools of Columbia College and SEAS, is just right. Its large enough to get lost in the crowd and meet new people all the time, but its small enough to create a strong community where you know or know of a lot of people (especially within classes). Its also the perfect size for our campus, which probably couldn't hold any more and would feel empty if it held any less. The campus is also gorgeous and well planned with buildings close together and almost all available in one section cut out of the grid-locked streets of Manhattan. I get many different reactions when I tell people I go to Columbia. The most popuar is the "Ooooh" response, where people seem to automatically think negatively about me and assume I'm pretentious. There's also the "Wow" response, where people are genuinely impressed and think positively of me. Another common one is a simple "Okay" response, which can be a toss up between indifferent and thinking I mean Columbia college in Chicago or University of Colombia in South America or have never heard of it. I tend to spend most of my time in the dorms, its where I sleep, where I cook, where my friends are, and where I study, which is basically all I have time for. I try to get out into THE BEST COLLEGE TOWN, the lovely city of New York on Manhattan, as much as possible, which is always fun and exciting. I've lived here for more than two years now and I still amazed that I live here, right on Broadway, and can hop a subway anytime I want to go explore the best city in the world. When I think of school pride, I tend to think of sports. Unfortunately, Columbia students, except for the athletes themselves, don't care about sports here. There are three reasonable explanations for this: (1) Our sports teams aren't considered very good among students, even though a handful of them are the best in the League, (2) They have too much else to worry about and don't have time or interest in going to a sporting event or joining athletics themselves, and (3) Many students resent the athletes who were recruited to come here because they feel Columbia has lowered their standards for them, which is rediculous because the athletes perform just as well academically as non athletes. I wish more people went to football games and basketball games and made it a big deal, but its the fault of the students for not caring and the administration for not doing enough to advertise or make them care about their school. Other than pride for sports teams, students feel great pride for the school itself, but probably only for its esteemed stature. Columbia is jam packed with news-making controversy every year. My freshmen year the big event was the Minute Men protest which made Bill O'Reilly officially hate us. My sophomore year brought one of the current most hated men in the world to speak on campus, Irani President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If Bill O'Reilly was thinking of giving Columbia another chance, this even definitely sealed his hatred for us. This event was history making and important to everyone in the world. I am extremely glad I was here to experience and was able to sit on a packed South Lawn with every other student and watch the "discussion" from a giant screen TV, I will absolutely never forget it. Ahmadinejad was definitely not the first controversial speaker Columbia as had and certainly won't be the last. I can't wait to see what boils up during my junior year!
Obviously academics at Columbia are top notch. They do a great job of hiring amazing and experienced professors and keeping the class sizes as small as possible. Class size and attention from the teacher really depends on your major. For Econ and PolySci majors, the majority of their classes will be in a lecture hall with over 100 other students and multiple TA's. For Language or English majors, the majority of their classes will be reasonably sized (less than 20), with no TA's. And generally for all students the class sizes get smaller when you start to take very specific classes for your major, usually during Junior and Senior years. In smaller classes, the teacher will definitely know your name, in lecture classes probably not. BUT, every teacher is willing to know your name and its your choice what kind of relationship you want to have with them. My favorite class has been Contemporary Civilizations (CC for short), which is one of the Core Requirements and is philosophy based. I didn't expect to enjoy this class at all, but it actually changed my life. Reading Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Nietzsche and other great thinkers enabled me to secure my floating thoughts of how the world worked or was suppose to work into my own personal structured beliefs and opinions. I was lucky enough to have an amazing teacher who really went out of her way to help me understand all the concepts and make sure my writing on them was up to par. The Core is definitely something students may be really interested in when they apply to Columbia but quickly realize how they really feel about it once they start taking it. On the whole, the majority opinion on the Core seems to be that students have a great appreciation for it and think its a great idea, but actually daily dread going to the classes. Some of the Core can definitely be eye-opening, and some can simply be another requirement for graduation. My least favorite class was Statistics, but thats only because I'm not a math person and found it very difficult. It took a lot of studying and a lot of work to get through it. All Columbia students are used to work, though, and tend to spend hours everyday studying. There's always a balance ofcourse just like any every other school. We have students who spend their week nights in the library til the wee hours of the morning or even do multiple all-nighters a week, and then there are those go a day or two a week without doing any work and still happen to do well. Students definitely participate in class. Usually theres always three or four that participate the most, but teachers really encourage it so you'll hear from every student a couple of times, and its definitely a very open atmosphere for discussion. Even more important than class discussions are the talks you have outside of class. I have without a doubt learned more from talking with my friends than I have in a classroom. We do have intellectual conversations about concepts we studied in class or current events, especially the upcoming election, and you can always count on hearing the SEAS students rambling off Calc equations to each other over dinner. But students are also silly and immature, down to earth and friendly, and any subject is fair game. Pop culture is definitely a huge topic that comes up all time since we're always bombarded with celebrity and entertainment news every where we go in this country. As a Psychology major I've only taken lecture course so far that have ranged from 200 students to 25. I've made the effort to get to know the professors and what they're looking for in a student, and they have in turn gotten to know me. I've really benfitted from having relationships with my teachers because its reveals more about the class that way. The subject of psychology is really interesting, though strenuous at times with a lot of memorization, and all of my professors so far have been visibly excited by the subject they were teaching. I highly recommend an intro psych class to everyone because you'll learn so much about how the human mind works! In my experience, professors are not concerned with your vague future job but are VERY concerned with your knowledge of the material they are presenting you. Professors know that they have students who just went to Columbia so they could own a Fortune 500 company someday, but they don't teach towards them, rather they teach for the students who are there to learn and to expand their minds. This style of teaching helps both types of students and is very rewarding.
Students are very friendly and helpful on campus and in class. Columbia definitely has its share of cut-throat competitive students, but for the most part students are willing to help other students and love to work in groups to lessen their load and feed off each other's information and knowledge. While I do know personally of 2 students who have had a bad experience/confrontation with another student in the context of race, religion, or another classification/belief, student to student direct issues are not a problem. There have, however, been multiple instances of bias and hate crimes at Columbia University as a whole, but in the fashion of crude writings on walls or other public displays of hate, never violence. The students here are very passionate about their beliefs which can be great or can be awful when those beliefs are unfounded and hurtful to others. Because Columbia is in the heart of New York city, the atmosphere is just as fast paced. I think that students from slower paced lifestyles, such as from the South or California, might feel out of place or overwhelmed and not used to city life. But there are definitely people from both areas who need to be here in order to remind everyone to chill out sometimes. Republicans may also feel out of place due to the extremely liberal city and campus, but they can join the College Republicans if they are in need of some solidarity. Again I stress that this is New York City, so the lifestyle is not as relaxed as elsewhere. In terms of fashion, students definitely know how to dress well. People take pride in their appearance on a daily basis in or out of class. Some people feel the need to take it to the next level, and some feel more comfortable rolling out of bed and going to class. I'd say its good to have a mixture of both to keep your sanity; respect yourself and take pride in your appearance, but wear a t-shirt and sweats whenever you don't feel like caring, no one will fault you for it, especially in a 9am class. The four main student types are SEAS, Stereotypical Ivy, Athlete, and More Relaxed. The SEAS students, who are typically Asian or Indian, are usually the ones in the library late at night, reading as they eat, and extremely stressed about classes. The Stereotypical Ivy Leaguers are the pretentious, competitive ones who either come from money or want people to think they come from money, and are really stressed about their future of making more money. The Athletes are dedicated to their sport, eat a lot to boost energy, loud and fun, but stressed out balancing practice and a full course load. The More Relaxed crowd is made up of the Frats and Sororities, Black and Hispanic students, Theater kids, and all others who aren't loners. The Greek students actually have a social life, the Black and Hispanic students are always full of life, loud, energetic, and know how to work hard and still have fun, the Theater kids are off being talented and artsy, and all of them combined with the others who are not loners are all stressed out because they are Columbia Students. (The loners aren't a separate type because there are few of them, but they're usually in SEAS) A lot of students are from the greater NY area. I here a lot of people say they're from Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas and the South, Midwest and California, and internationally from China, Korea, India, Europe, and the Caribbean Islands. I would guess that the majority of students are on Financia Aid or have some sort of grant or scholarship. Just in my group of friends theres one who struggles a lot with money, a few that somewhat struggle with money, a few that don't worry about money and are comfortable, and one that spends money like there's no tomorrow and can afford to do so. Even with such diverse backgrounds, most people are politically aware, and even international students are very aware of American politics, sometimes more so than American students.
The Best Things
The Worst Things