One of the things that sets Columbia apart is its diversity. We have students from all over the country, all over the world, and from all different socio-economic backgrounds. That being said, one of the common stereotypes about our students is that we are all crazy workaholics, and in a lot of ways this is true. Columbia does not hold your hand, and you have to work hard to succeed here. Students will spend hours in the library on any given weekend, and one midterms come around, the social scene basically shuts down. Also, we are known to all be overachievers, and this is also pretty true. Every student here did something remarkable in high school beyond getting stellar grades. Some students started their own companies, some are published authors, and others are even math or science prodigies. However, not many people here are great at everything. Everyone is essentially good at everything, but each student has one thing that sets them apart from the crowd.
One stereotype that is often held against Columbia (and other top notch ivy league colleges) is that students are cut-throat and the competitiveness of its student body often gets out of hand. I find that, while this may be true in very rare and individual cases, the student body in general is very caring and respectful. There are multiple tutoring stations on campus, many ran by Columbia students helping out their peers. Furthermore, even in classes where the grading is curved, you can almost always find a fellow student willing to extend a hand and help out whenever possible. Furthermore, few students "brag" or "show-off;" most are humble and realize that each student has his or her unique talents.
If I had to give a simple description, it would be this: unique. Honestly, every student you meet at Columbia is going to be different, and it's something I really love about the school. We have students from a huge number of countries and nearly every state in the U.S., and everyone brings their own story and perspective to your classes and dorms. The tremendous level of diversity is one of the main reasons I chose to attend school here.
The 'Jock' stereotype is not so common but there are many dedicated and talented athletes. There is also a dedicated group of 'Frat kids' although Greek life is not so popular. The positive aspects of the 'Nerd'/'Geek' stereotype are everywhere!
People who are absolutely talented but also interesting. It's usually a mixture of people from different countries and have different background. Communication could be fun and helpful.
Brilliant, quirky, diverse, Type A personalities, Unpretentious nerds
Perceptions abound about what exactly constitutes the "typical Columbia student." To be sure, there are many kids who arrive in Morningside Heights determined to obtain a near 4.0 and will do anything to get it, including spending seven nights a week locked in Butler library. This stereotype is common not just of Columbia students, but of most Ivy League schools. However, I have found in my two and a half years at this school that there are all kinds of students that do not fit into this limiting stereotype. There are nerds, jocks, frat stars, stoners, people who go out five days a week, people who never go out, hipsters, liberals, conservatives (actually far more than I thought I would encounter when I entered Columbia as a freshman, as Columbia has a reputation for being a hotbed of liberalism), arts-y types, and people who do not fit into any of the above categories. In short, whatever your interests, there are bound to be several other students on campus who share them. Much has also been made during the last year of Columbia's "War on Fun." Although Morningside Heights is perhaps not the ideal community for those looking for the optimal social experience, I personally have not been wanting for fun during my time here. What matters the most is making friends with people you enjoy spending time with. If you can do that, the fun part will take care of itself, even if you feel overwhelmed by school at times.
Columbia students are very hard-working and very bright. This often means that there is a slight perception of elitism or "preppy-ness," considering we're an Ivy League school in the Northeast. Of course many students are seen as "nerds," especially in engineering. There is the perception that there are a fair amount of hipsters and hippies, due to the extremely liberal nature of the school. Obviously none of these are 100% accurate. The student body is incredibly diverse: one of the school's greatest strengths and most attractive features. Anyone can find a crowd in which they will fit, and flourish. And if you go looking, you can find almost any type of student here at CU.
The general stereotype of Columbia is that we are a school of radical liberals who are constantly protesting, smoking, and boasting about how "TOTALLY AWESOME" New York City is. On top of that, we've been named 2011's most stressful college by the Daily Beast. While the stress factor is definitely up there and we are a fairly liberal university, smoking is pretty unpopular and protests are certainly not as frequent as FOX news would like New Yorkers to believe. The NYC pride aspect is purely a product of the administrations advertising strategy. But hey, everyone knows that NYC is THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD, so why would they need to advertise that?
Columbia definitely doesn't lie when it calls itself diverse; besides the many different cultures and countries represented on campus, students also embody many different stereotypes. You have your classy hipsters, your grassy hipsters, your foreign bookworms, your diehard premeds, your very-recruited athletes... but the one thing we all have in common? Everyone thinks they're hot shit. Whether this be because you're rich, smart, athletically-inclined, musically gifted.. everyone here is good at something, and believe me, we definitely know it