Chasing the Clean Sweep: Columbia University

For the cosmopolitan who wants a traditional liberal arts curriculum without the “bubble” of a small liberal arts college, there is Columbia University, situated just a few street blocks north of Central Park in New York City. Students at Columbia enjoy complete integration with the city, often citing that their location, being the biggest city in the US, allows them to have “a campus identity” while “living in the real world.” Students longing for a smaller, more isolated campus would feel lost in the sea of 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 1.6 million Manhattan residents; however, students at Columbia are very extroverted. Students traditionally energized by the possibility of new experiences and by meeting new people will find endless opportunities to enjoy and explore Columbia’s and New York’s diversity.

While some Ivies have evolved to embrace a curriculum that prioritizes a pre-professional educational philosophy over the liberal arts, Columbia has retained its liberal arts focus and its “Core Curriculum.” While each student is free to determine what courses they take to fulfill the Core requirements, the Core can occupy up to a third of a student’s first two years. For those who want to be challenged by taking classes across all disciplines and those who want a wider academic focus, the Core is a great mechanism for encouraging exploration and course variety. However, for those who desire a specialized education, only taking courses in engineering and STEM fields for example, Columbia’s distribution requirements might seem cumbersome.

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