The Blog


Community Editorial: Preparing for Columbia

Photo by Aaron Appelle (CC '18)

Photo by Aaron Appelle (SEAS ’18)

Welcome to Columbia!  On behalf of everyone here, The Lion team would like to be one of the first to congratulate you for your achievements and welcome you to the Columbia community.

As you prepare for your arrival, our team went out and polled students from a variety of academic years and backgrounds in a series of upcoming posts asking them questions about Columbia that they wish they knew before arriving on campus. Our goal for this series is to provide you with an accurate understanding of what to expect when you join us on campus.

In this community editorial, we asked students: “What are things you wished you knew about Columbia before arriving?”

*Note: We chose not to edit these quotes nor filter out “problematic” ones. The Lion does not endorse any of these, but hopes to show initial thoughts of current students and alumni.

“As cheesy as it sounds, I wish I knew that it’s (1) perfectly ok to be yourself and be happy with that and (2) more often than not you will find you don’t know shit, and it’s perfectly ok to ask for help” – CC ’18

“Take five classes then drop one (if needed) first semester” — CC ’19

“Time management. Lol” — SEAS ’17

“hmmm, I wish I’d know that the first year of my career would be hardest, academically, because of my educational background” — SEAS ’17

“i wish i knew that engaging with professors is the best way to do well and learn” — SEAS ’17

“ how registering for classes worked lol. all my friends from other colleges already registered for classes over the summer and a week before classes started i was still wondering when i’d get to pick classes xD” — CC ’18

“How to strategically explore classes while taking a lot of core classes to make sure you’re sure about your major. Also how to deal with stress. Understanding its okay to be wrong and not perfect” — CC ’18

“that it’s okay not to be the best. that it’s okay to want to be alone and away from the stress that is school. that there is more to life than what’s between 114th and 120th street. that it’s okay to fail” — CC ’18

“that there’s good food above 116th street” – CC ’18

“That everyone wants to be friends and to not be scared to talk to people” — CC ’18

“i wish i’d know that it’s okay to be honest about struggling here and that you don’t have to pretend that everything is always rainbows and puppies” — SEAS ’17

“ I’d say don’t buy everything on the college purchase list lol. There’s the Free and For Sale group and Green Sale!! Also for textbooks, a or of upper class men have PDFs so don’t buy them.” — SEAS ’18

“All the requirements (core). Stress culture. Pressure to get internships/grades. The lack of school spirit. Sometimes campus can be pretty cliquey. Athletes tend to stay with athletes, Greek life tends to stay together. ” — CC ’17

“I wish I had known that you could elect to pass/fail certain courses in SEAS.” — SEAS ’18

“That one of the themed Uwriting sections would’ve been more enjoyable for me than a regular UWriting section” — CC ’18

“Dining dollars aren’t the same as flex and won’t work with vending machines” — CC ’18

“i wish i’d known that the upper west side wasn’t as busy as the times square area. That was a plus for me that i thought didn’t exist until i came here” — CC ’18

“i guess i’d wish i’d known exactly how the grading system works (because where i’m from it’s a little different –80 and up is usually an A). I needed to know it’s okay to shop around a lot at the beginning of the semester and to drop a class if it’s going to make things unmanageable. And also to try to get somewhat ‘behind the scenes’ for each class. Like for some of my classes the ‘official’ deadlines are not the actual deadlines(you still have a few hours after that to submit)  and info like that that only a few students know.” — CC ’18

“That there’s a tunnel system” — CC ’18

“it won’t be easy AT ALL” — CC ’18

“You’ll get the best advice from the most unlikely places (e.g. security guards, dining hall staff, etc.)” — CC ’18

“I wish I had known that all these people who came to columbia because they wanted to escape the ignorance in their towns would be ignorant themselves. People want to show themselves as “inclusive” or “knowledgeable.” But when you critique them on something you’ve experienced or know a lot about, they immediate seek to cover their backsides and eject your opinions from the conversation. For example, I just asked a white to help me talk about being an member of the African diaspora in France, specifically African-American. Despite my extreme affection for this person, I am sorry to report that this conversation turned into him saying that race is not of any concern in France like in America. This opinion was not what disappointed me. It was his justification that confused me. He came to this conclusion because he has never had to face this issue in his life. Immediately, I realized that he was speaking as a member of the majority who can ignore the experiences and lives of the minority. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bad person, just naïve. I am disappointed that this is a very mild case of something which I have experienced in extreme forms. I came here expecting so much of people to have my expectations crushed. I wish I had been more realistic about people’s knowledge on social issues.” — CC ’19

“I guess what you might call the activist culture. When I came here I expected intense classes, sports teams (Frisbee, fencing), student interest groups, and maybe a few of the college protests you’d hear about on the news. I wasn’t expecting the massive coalition that there is here. I’d like to think that my interactions with members of those groups have done more good than harm, but I would have preferred being aware of them when I made my decision.” — CC ’18

“Average student expenses that aren’t books and what not” — CC ’19

“Housing. The communities that tend to form around the 5 dorms available to freshmen. It would’ve let me make a better living decision last year. And not the information on the Columbia housing website advertising for the dorms. Really assessments from people who live there, the good AND the bad” — CC ’18

“A listing of facilities available to undergraduates, like the makerspace. I still don’t know half the cool things we have here” — CC ’18

“That there’s paranormal activity at St. Paul’s chapel (one of my friends works there and told me about this)” — CC ‘18

“More about the core” — CC ’19

“I feel like the culture slash social atmosphere of Columbia is painted in a very bad light on sites like college confidential so a better understanding of it from multiple archetype student perspectives” — CC ’19

“it will fuck you. with or without your consent” — CC ‘18

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