Read below to figure out how AcceptU’s team of former admissions officers would answer Columbia University’s writing supplement for 2023:

For the list question that follows, there is a 100 word maximum. Please refer to the below guidance when answering this question:

  • 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.

For the four short answer questions, please respond in 150 words or fewer.

List a selection of texts, resources and outlets that have contributed to your intellectual development outside of academic courses, including but not limited to books, journals, websites, podcasts, essays, plays, presentations, videos, museums and other content that you enjoy.  (100 words or fewer) 

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.

A hallmark of the Columbia experience is being able to learn and thrive in an equitable and inclusive community with a wide range of perspectives. Tell us about an aspect of your own perspective, viewpoint or lived experience that is important to you, and describe how it has shaped the way you would learn from and contribute to Columbia’s diverse and collaborative community. (150 words or fewer)

Columbia clearly prides itself on having a diverse, as well as collaborative, student body and faculty. In your response, be very specific and cite examples of how you have already benefited and learned from these types of experiences, if applicable. Describe the perspectives you’ve learned from others, or the results of a team effort; be sure to give the admissions committee an idea of what your role was in that team. 

And if you haven’t had experiences in diverse or collaborative communities, then you should explain what was missing or lacking. Explore this further – what do you think you will learn from others who are different from you? Why? How does that make you feel?

In college/university, students are often challenged in ways that they could not predict or anticipate. It is important to us, therefore, to understand an applicant’s ability to navigate through adversity. Please describe a barrier or obstacle you have faced and discuss the personal qualities, skills or insights you have developed as a result. (150 words or fewer)

You can consider any type of adversity that you have experienced: Was it related to your faith or sexual identity? Was it related to academic challenges, or maybe a speech impediment? Perhaps you’ve faced adversity in a social setting, where you had to deal with bullying, or even family disagreements and disputes.

For some, it could be difficult to come up with a challenge or obstacle faced. (If that is you, consider yourself lucky!) But once you decide on the obstacle that you want to describe to the admissions committee, the more important element in this essay is what you’ve learned from the experience. How did you grow or change or overcome that adversity? What about you is different now? How will you bring that resolve to Columbia?

Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia. (150 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.

What attracts you to your preferred areas of study at Columbia College or Columbia Engineering? (150 words or fewer)

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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