Read below to figure out how AcceptU’s team of former admissions officers would answer Columbia University’s writing supplement for 2021:

For the three list questions that follow, please refer to the below guidance when answering these questions:

  • Your response should be a list of items separated by commas or semicolons.
  • Items do not have to be numbered or in any specific order.
  • It is not necessary to italicize or underline titles of books or other publications.
  • No author names, subtitles or explanatory remarks are needed.

List the titles of the required readings from academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)

Pick out the books that you enjoyed most this year (and don’t fake it!). When brainstorming, pick out novels or essays that you learned something from or that had a meaningful impact on you in some way. Feel free to include academic texts from subjects that you’d like to study.

List 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. (75 words or fewer)

This cannot be a repetition of the list from the previous question. Columbia wants to learn more about you by seeing what you’re interested in reading outside of the classroom. Hopefully you’re an avid reader – that will reveal an intellectual curiosity about you.

We’re interested in learning about some of the ways that you explore your interests. List some resources and outlets that you enjoy, including but not limited to websites, publications, journals, podcasts, social media accounts, lectures, museums, movies, music, or other content with which you regularly engage. (125 words or fewer)

Again, be honest here (there are no wrong answers). You could list a newspaper, magazine, blog, cookbook or website. Try and show a connection between the particular publication and an interest or hobby you’ve discussed elsewhere in your application. A strong answer here can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, just as with the previous prompt. Stick to who you are and what you enjoy, whether it’s movies, music, theater or art, for example. The important thing is to continue to reinforce your unique interests and personality to the admissions officer.

Please respond to each of the three short answer questions in 200 words or fewer.

A hallmark of the Columbia experience is being able to learn and live in a community with a wide range of perspectives. How do you or would you learn from and contribute to diverse, collaborative communities? 

Be sure not to answer the second question: “Would you learn from … diverse, collaborative communities?” That is a yes/no question and your answer, if you want a chance at studying at Columbia, must be yes! That is, if you do not feel like you would learn from and contribute to diverse and collaborative communities, then Columbia is honestly not the place for you. 

But they’re giving you a very big hint with this question. Indeed Columbia must pride itself on having a diverse, as well as collaborative, student body. In your response, be very specific and cite examples of how you have already benefited and learned from these types of experiences. Describe perhaps the perspectives you’ve learned from others, or the results of a team effort, and be sure to give the admissions committee an idea of what your role was in that team.

Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia. (200 words or fewer)

Think about what draws you to Columbia – what specifically does the school offer that you see the most value in? What does it offer that no other school can? Additionally, how will you benefit from this? How will this add to your education as a student?

Columbia’s admissions officers are looking for students who will thrive as a result of the resources the school provides.

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.

Some applications simply ask the question, What do you want to study and why? Even if you’ve written this essay for another university, don’t just copy and paste it from that other application. Instead, think about how Columbia teaches that subject, or why that major is interesting, unique and different at CU compared to that same major at other universities. And, of course, don’t forget the actual question asked; that is, make sure you speak about experiences that led to your interest in this field of study. Perhaps you can cite not just advanced courses, but also summer activities, a summer community college course or a university course, a research project, an internship, relevant school (or external) clubs, or even a company you founded!

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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