Alice - Columbia University - Class of 2009

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Student comments gave me important clues. Columbia was described as "no handholding" and "independent." And when I got there, I did have to self-manage all aspects of my life.

My strengths in high school were equally in humanities and science. Because I had not decided on what to study in college, I became increasingly interested in a liberal arts education. I wanted to go to a school outside of Texas which valued diversity and offered many academic options.

Hometown: Sugar Land TX

High School: Private

GPA: 3.8

SAT: 1590*

Major: Undeclared

Goal: Liberal arts education

*Writing score not included

College

Status

Columbia University (ED)Attending
University of ChicagoAccepted
University of Texas at Austin (Plan II)Accepted
Freshman Year Update

I am enjoying taking interesting classes, joining campus organizations and taking leadership roles. At Columbia, you really have to take the initiative to make friends and find your social circle. And I was right to choose an urban campus. I love the access to museums and theater in NYC.

Sophomore Year Update

Aside from making progress in my major, sociocultural anthropology, my Art Humanities and Music Humanities courses made me realize how complex both subjects are and helped me appreciate art and music of all kinds. Leadership roles in Ballroom Dance and French Cultural Society introduced me to many people and involved me in lots of fun events. For 2007-2008 I'm studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. In keeping with the Columbia tradition, I really had to be persistent and take the initiative in order to receive advice or guidance.

Junior Year Update

I've been studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France this year. It's been a very good experience. I've been taking anthropology courses for my major, and courses on French culture and the immigrant experience in France. I'm adding a French major to my degree thanks to all the literature courses I'm taking. I'm living in a host family, which really helps my French. I've also done community service in a local school and a community center.

Senior Year Update

This year has been an interesting one, since the crash of the economy coincides with my graduation and attempts to find a job. As a result of my summer internships, I decided to go into marketing or consulting after graduation, so I've been choosing courses that can help make me more competitive for those jobs. The business classes are my first exposure to pre-professional courses, and I love how applicable they are to actual business problems and real life. The job search has been very tough, however, even for a Columbia student. I have spent much of this semester taking advantage of the networking opportunities Columbia offers. The advice I've gotten from alums is that having that support network is really valuable after graduation.

I discover I'm a city girl

When I began searching in the spring of my junior year, the number of colleges was overwhelming; I had no idea there were so many. Also overwhelming was the number of variables for choosing one. I kept a chart, but even that seemed too much to take in.

I finally narrowed it down to five, based on location and highly selective admissions. The five were Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Amherst, the University of Chicago and, of course, the University of Texas. My parents told me they would pay for a top-ten school. Otherwise, I would attend the highly selective and excellent Plan II program at the University of Texas.

Campus visits helped me realize that a huge school was not for me, and a small one was too limiting. I also discovered that I really needed to live in a city where there was plenty to do off-campus on the weekends.

An early decision from Columbia

I applied for an early decision from Columbia, my first choice. Originally I thought I wasn't enough of a Renaissance person to get into Columbia's liberal arts college, Columbia College. But the more I learned about its Core Curriculum, the more I realized it was exactly what I wanted to learn. The museums, performance arts, and theater in New York City complemented this curriculum. The connections Columbia has with large companies in every industry in the city were also very important to me.

I did not apply to UPenn or Amherst once Columbia accepted me. Amherst had a nice campus, but Columbia's location and opportunities were more important to me. I waited on UPenn because it didn't offer a core curriculum, and I prefer New York to Philadelphia. If I hadn't been accepted to Columbia early, I would gladly have applied to Amherst and UPenn, with UTexas and UChicago as safety schools.

My ups and downs

In my essay, I used a difficult experience having to do with my faith to show my individual thinking and decision-making style. The essay turned out to be a meaningful experience for me, one I highly value to this day.

The biggest challenge for me was trying to figure out which college was my best fit. If I visited a college at all, it was usually while they were on spring or summer break, so I didn't get a good feel for the student body. I relied on college guidebooks and asking as many college students as possible about their impression of schools.

What I learned

I applied early to get the admission process over with. I regret not having more choices and would strongly consider looking at more schools and doing regular admissions if I had to do it again.

College descriptions all seemed the same. I found that unusual words in these descriptions and in student comments often gave important clues. Columbia was described as "no handholding" and "independent." And when I got there, I did find that I had to self-manage all aspects of my life.

Students already going to my target colleges had the most accurate perspective on what it is really like to go there. I talked with these students and read student publications. They gave me a feel for the student body and what sort of direction the school was headed.

Look within yourself. What do you want to be? College is about becoming that person.

The money factor

My parents and a few small scholarships are covering the cost.

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