Columbia University is one of the world’s most diverse institutions. Their school-specific application questions help create a class of students with different interests and backgrounds. The Columbia admissions officers want to picture how you will interact with your classmates and contribute to campus life. The questions below will help admissions officers understand your goals and picture you as a potential member of the incoming class! 

Let's take a look at the “list” supplement questions.

Consider the following question:

For the following questions, we ask that you list each individual response using commas or semicolons; the items do not have to be numbered or in any specific order. No explanatory text or formatting is needed. (For example, 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 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)
  • 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) 

Now, where to begin?

Many applicants wonder whether the lists they ask for need further explanation. However, the admissions officers truly just want a list! They want to see what you’ve read both inside and outside of school. 

I typically recommend that applicants try to diversify what they choose to show off in these lists. For instance, you would not want to solely list Shakespearean plays for what you’ve read and enjoyed outside of school. Instead, you’d want to maybe list a Shakespearean play, a Jane Austen novel, and your favorite poem. 

Also, keep in mind that Columbia University also has the Core Curriculum, which requires students to take a mix of art, literature, philosophy, science, and humanities classes. These list questions can help you show how you’d contribute to such discussions. Perhaps you’re an aspiring philosophy major who enjoys Plato! If so, you might want to use the question about books you’ve read outside of school to list a few philosophy books and show that you have preexisting knowledge on the subject. Then, admissions officers will be able to picture you as an avid contributor in Contemporary Civilization discussions (that’s Columbia’s required philosophy class!). 

For the question about how you explore your interests via different mediums, you should use the same approach. Try to list a mix of websites, publications, journals, podcasts, museums, movies, and so on. You should use your lists to show that you have a wide array of interest areas that you can share with your peers. Remember, Columbia is in NYC, one of the world’s melting pots! They want to make sure you’ll be a future student that takes advantage of unique Columbia opportunities like visiting NYC museums (such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art) using the school’s free passes for students and going to discounted Broadway shows. 

The next question we’ll focus on asks you why Columbia, of all schools, is the college you would like to attend.

Consider the following question:

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)

Now, where to begin?

Admissions officers are mainly interested in why you would want to attend their school over other schools. In this case, the Columbia admissions officers want to know that you aren’t applying to their institution because it’s an Ivy League school. You want to think about what most interests you at the school, whether it be specific professors or programs. Perhaps there is research you would want to conduct in a lab that’s only at Columbia, or maybe there’s a club that relates to your past advocacy work. I love when applicants choose to link their past involvement to what they want to do at the university, as it shows that they want to continue to pursue their same passions in a university setting. It also shows that you have experience in the fields you’d want to impact, which makes you more likely to have the knowledge to lead specific projects or clubs. For instance, you might be interested in contributing to one of Columbia’s literary magazines. You could speak about your past poetry writing or editing experiences and then link them to your desire to write for The Columbia Review, the oldest literary magazine in the country.

Also,  you should use this as an opportunity to list professors, majors, clubs, programs, or other campus offerings that support your intended field of study. You want to make it clear to admissions officers that your specific goals and interests will be furthered by Columbia’s unique offerings. Maybe you want to study at the Metropolitan Museum of Art during the school year or conduct hands-on research at specific museums!

For these types of questions, you want to make it clear that you took the time to write a “Why X” essay tailored specifically to the university. Admissions officers can typically tell when applicants copy and paste different program names into the same overall essay they’re using across school applications. Be clear about why you’re passionate about Columbia University and show them why you’d love to attend! 


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