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The best thing about Columbia is the opportunities that it can provide for one's career. However, this is probably due to it...
The best thing about Columbia is the opportunities that it can provide for one's career. However, this is probably due to its great location rather than a function of the school itself. There are a number of things I would change, but the first would be to address the needs of students and revamp the deteriorating state of Coumbia housing. The school size is just right; it is small enough not to feel lost in the crowd, but big enough to always be able to meet new people. People generally react with a good response when I say I go to Columbia, although more conservative people are likely to disapprove. I spend much of my time in Butler Library, the Student Center (Lerner Hall) and my dorm. New York City is by no means a college town, and neither is the Morningside Heights neighborhood. Columbia administration is rooted in corrupt beaurocracy and tends to do little for its students. The biggest recent controversy (and there are always quite a few) was probably the hunger strike to stop the Manhattanville Expansion or the visit by Iranian President Ahmedinejad. There is absolutely no school pride; I have never attended a Columbia sporting event nor do I intend to. There are many things that are unusual about Columbia because it provides such unique opportunities for its students since it is in New York. For instance, students can get fairly priced tickets to Broadway shows and attend them and be back on campus within 20 minutes after the show ends. One experience I will always remember is the Ahmedinejad visit because there was such a media and campus frenzy about the whole thing and I have never experienced such tight security. The most frequent student complaints have to do with the administration's lack of focus or concern with students.
Columbia is very very diverse with all kinds of groups. Unfortunately, there were a string of racist slander at Columbia last semester, though I have never felt that anyone is particularly targeted outside of these crimes. Some students get very dressed up for class, but most don't and no one really cares. Different types of students are forced to interact in discussion-style classes. The dining hall tables are always mixed, but always composed of freshmen because no one renews their meal plan unless they are an athlete. Most Columbia students are from the East Coast or California, but all 50 states are usually represented in each class, as well as a large contingent of international students. Columbia students are usually upper middle class, but all financial backgrounds are represented, and it is definitely the most diverse in the Ivy League. Students at Columbia are the most politically active/aware that I know of, and are predominantly left. Students often talk about how much they will earn, and they will probably earn a great deal of money.
The disconnect between administration and students is dead on. Although the Columbia student body is liberal, the very-liberal-bordering-on-Communists are a very small number of people but tend to be portrayed in the media, perpetuating the stereotype that Columbia is a hotbed of liberalism.
In some classes, professors know my name and my favorite color, but these tend to be discussion-based. If you make the effort in large lectures, the professor will attempt to get to know you. My favorite classes have been in the core curriculum: Literature Humanities and University Writing. I also enjoyed 20th Century Comparative Literature. My least favorite class was the required Frontiers of Science and Intensive Chemistry Lab. Students study all the time and the library is always packed. Class participation is common throughout all classes, required in seminars, and even found in large lectures. Columbia students have very intellectual conversations outside of class generally encompassing policy, politics, finance, and academics that they have in common. That isn't to say that they only have serious conversations. The economics department at Columbia is one of the most renowned in the world and some of the professors are absolutely amazing. The department provides lots of resources for its students to excel and the advising is pretty good. I spend time with professors outside of class by attending office hours and some teachers conduct class trips and host dinner parties. Columbia's academic requirements are rigorous, but worth it because you come out knowing a lot more than students of other schools. The education at Columbia is definitely learning-based, I can't think of learning anything that I could practically apply to a job.
There is no one group that is "most popular." Greek life is popular, as well as the several student councils and political groups. I am involved with Kappa Alpha Theta Women's Fraternity as well as Panhellenic Council, which is an interesting take on Greek life. Columbia Greek life is completely different from the stereotypes and from other schools since the student body is so diverse. Although Kappa Alpha Theta is a predominantly white, Southern sorority, our chapter at Columbia is very diverse and has a very high average GPA. It depends on which dorm you live in to know if doors are left open, but John Jay, McBain, and Carman are usually welcoming. Athletic events are unattended. Guest speakers, depending on how controversial, are well-attended, and always here. Theater is important, and shows like XMAS and VARSITY SHOW are traditions. The dating scene for straight and gay men is fine, due to the existence and proximity of Barnard College and the large gay community. For girls, the dating scene isn't as great. I met my closest friends from my freshman year floor. On Tuesday at 2 am I am probably talking to a friend or working on homework. Some traditions are primal scream before finals, 40s on 40th day before graduation, Glass House Rocks student group party, Columbia Community Outreach Day. People party everyday if they want, but usually Thursday and Saturday are big nights. Frats and sororities are important if you are involved with them, but not so much if you aren't since they can't really have parties due to space and regulations. Last weekend I went to a party for my sorority and went downtown to ice skate. You can do anything you want on Saturday night...go to a show, go downtown, go to a play on campus, etc. Off campus I explore NYC.
Columbia is thought of as a school that doesn't generally take into account the needs of the student body and there is a huge disconnect between the administration and students. Columbia students are thought of as extreme liberals and pretentious for the most part.
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