“So You Don’t Have To”: A Visit To Columbia College Chicago
In mid-June I spent a few days in Chicago, and as always I thought I’d look for a college to visit. I didn’t have to look far–in fact, the admissions office for Columbia College was LITERALLY right next to my hotel! I stopped by for a tour and informational meeting with a member of the Admissions team and I’m glad that I did–Columbia strikes me as a “hidden gem” for creative, confident students who are interested in pursuing studies in the arts with an eye towards becoming professionals, either creatively or on the business side of things. Columbia College’s downtown, South Loop location in Chicago is as urban a campus as you’ll find, so it’s not for “country mouse” students, but for people looking at a city school, this is a great option. I recommend adding it to your list of possibilities.
Columbia College Chicago At A Glance
|Size:||Just over 8,600 undergraduates (approximately 58% women/ 42% men). Columbia College is less selective, having accepted about 7,300 of their 8,300 applicants to fill a first-year class of 1,550– an overall acceptance rate of around 89%(including transfers).|
|Programs of Study:||99 majors and 46 minors for undergraduates; Columbia College is a pre-professional institution that prepares students to enter creative professions (as performers, creators, managers and anything in between).|
|Sports:||No NCAA or NAIA sports, but there are some intramural teams.|
|Campus Life:||Over 100 clubs and organizations on campus; no fraternities or sororities. On campus housing is NOT guaranteed so first year students desiring campus housing will want to pay their deposits as early as possible. Chicago is America’s third largest city and offers a wide range of neighborhoods to live in, all connected by an excellent public transport system. Approximately 68% of students live in campus housing.|
|Costs & Aid:||Tuition, room & board and fees total just about $37,800 (depending on housing and meal plan options). Parents need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).|
|Deadlines:||Columbia College uses Rolling Admissions, with a priority deadline for scholarships of January 15th. Students use the Common App or Columbia College’s own application. The application fee is a remarkably affordable $35.|
|Tests:||Columbia College is test-optional, so students do not need to send ACT or SAT scores if the tests don’t show them at their best.|
|© Ethan Lewis 2017|
Columbia College prides itself on its faculty, and that they are all “active in their industries”. There are a good number of full-time faculty members at the college, but the number of part time instructors is remarkable; for instance, in Dance there are 6 full-time professors, 2 full time lecturers and 42 part time instructors. Obviously this means that students won’t have trouble finding someone to work with and to mentor them, but it does make one wonder if there is a qualitative difference in the instruction received. I was later told that most departments have a ratio of 70% permanent faculty and 30% adjunct, but obviously this varies by discipline.
Columbia College appears to be a very welcoming, diverse campus. Among other examples, they offer “Gender Inclusive Housing”, which “welcomes students across all gender identities and/or expressions, including transgender, questioning, or gender non-conforming students.” The college is also relatively diverse economically and ethnically; according to the College Scorecard, 38% of Columbia College’s students come from families that earn less than $40,000–that is a large number (compared to, say, University of Chicago which comes up at 12% or Northwestern University, which has 14% of students from low-income families). 26% of Columbia College students are Black or Hispanic, compared to 14% at U of Chicago and 17% at Northwestern.
|© Ethan Lewis 2017|
|© Ethan Lewis 2017|
Academically, Columbia College is rigorous and demanding. All students must take core courses in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including English composition, college-level math, science, social science, history, and literature, along with an “oral communication” course. While some students rush to complete these requirements, most students spread them across their four years. First year students take a seminar to learn “how to use the city as a tool for learning”, and the choices are all incredibly interesting sounding! All students also must complete a capstone project to graduate–most of these are presented during the “Manifest” festival every spring. A glance at this year’s listings shows the variety of projects undertaken at Columbia College.
Admissions-wise, Columbia College accepts the vast majority of applicants, but I suspect that this is partly due to the self-selecting nature of the applicant pool (creative people seeking a career in the arts) more than being “easy”. Standardized test scores are optional, but students who have a portfolio of their creative works are encouraged to submit it. According to the admissions representative to whom I spoke a great deal of attention is paid to the students’ application essays (whether students use the Common Application or Columbia College’s own application, the prompts are the same). Columbia College has rolling admissions, which means that while there is no fixed deadline, students would be wise to apply earlier in the cycle while the most spaces are still open–I would suggest that they aim to apply by the end of November to get a decision by Christmas.
|Courtesy Google Image Search|
The admissions team member told me that the “typical” student was “hands-on, minds on” and who embraces (and is good at) learning collaboratively. They seek “self-directed” students who are “progressive thinkers” who have “mastered both academic and creative writing” and are “ready to roll up their sleeves and start as first-years”. They especially seek students who have taken AP courses or were in dual degree programs.
Perhaps as a consequence of seeking students who are so mature, Columbia College accepts a LOT of transfer students every year (815 last year compared to about 1,800 first year students). Columbia could be a GREAT option for your artsy students who are dissatisfied with their current colleges and are looking for a change.