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Columbia Acceptance Rate & How To Get In

If your heart is set on moving or staying out east for college, you may want to consider attending Columbia University in New York. 

Columbia’s renowned research programs, high quality faculty, top notch academic programs, and proximity to some of the top cultural experiences in the nation have rightfully made Columbia one of the most prestigious schools in the Ivy League.

However, while Columbia is ranked as one of the top universities in the United States, it is also ranked as one of the hardest schools to get into in the nation. 

Columbia University acceptance rates

Columbia’s acceptance rate for their incoming Class of 2026 was only 3.73%. 

Number of Applications Accepted Students Acceptance Rate
Regular Applications 54,072 1,603 2.96%
Early Applications 6,305 650 10.31%

Although Columbia is one of the most selective colleges that students can apply to during high school, it is critical that students know that it is not impossible.

With the right preparation, students can drastically improve their chances of getting into this university.

Getting into Columbia

As Ivy League schools like Columbia become more selective than ever, it is important for prospective students to make sure their college applications are as impressive as possible.

If you want to attend Columbia, here are some steps you should take:

Apply before November 1

While there was an acceptance rate of just under 3% for those who applied during the regular admissions window, there was a 10.31% acceptance rate for early applications.

If you want to increase your likelihood of getting into Columbia, submit your application before November 1 so that you are applying during the early admissions window.

Study for the SAT or ACT

While Columbia has extended their test-optional status until the 2023-2024 school year, you will want to take these tests if you will be applying after this year or if you want to increase your chances of admission.

A high standardized test score will help your application stand out among the thousands of other applicants Columbia receives.

For Columbia University, the 75th percentile SAT score is 1560 and the 75th percentile ACT score is 35. This means that you need to score at least this high on either test to be above average and make your application competitive. 

If you are consistently scoring below 34 on the ACT or below 1550 on the SAT, you will need to put in some extra work to improve your score.

Start preparing for the SAT or ACT early by paying attention in your classes, answering daily practice questions through the College Board or Khan Academy, and signing up for test prep courses or private tutoring through Prep Expert.

Prepare a strong application

While there are slight differences in the application process for some of the more niche schools that Columbia has to offer, students seeking admission to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering need to complete the following steps:

    • Select an application option: Columbia accepts either the Coalition Application or the Common Application.
  • Complete Columbia-specific application questions: These essay questions change from year to year.
  • Submit your transcript: An official high school transcript and a mid-year report
  • Gather recommendations: Columbia requires one high school counselor’s recommendation and two recommendations from teachers who taught you in academic disciplines. If you know you want to pursue engineering, one of your recommendations must be from a math or science teacher.
  • Submit SAT or ACT scores: Columbia has a standardized testing policy that prospective students should read over. Note: Columbia is test optional through 2024.
  • Pay the application fee or submit a fee waiver: Students will need to either pay the $85 non-refundable application fee or apply for a fee waiver.

Students can start preparing a strong application by familiarizing themselves with the requirements of the Coalition Application and Common Application, working with an English teacher or a private tutor on strengthening their essay writing skills, staying connected with teachers who will provide stellar recommendation letters, taking SAT or ACT prep courses, and speaking to their guidance counselor early to help determine if they will be eligible for a fee waiver.

Take all necessary courses

To increase your chances of admission to Columbia, it is imperative that you take classes in high school that will challenge you and help you prepare for college.

Here are some courses that Columbia strongly recommends that students take if they want to apply for admission to Columbia College:

  • Four years of English literature and composition
  • Four years of mathematics
  • Three to four years of history and/or social studies
  • Three to four years of laboratory science
  • Three to four years of one foreign language (ancient or modern)

Students who are seeking admission to Columbia Engineering should take the following:

  • Four years of mathematics (through calculus)
  • Four years of laboratory science, including one year of chemistry and one year of physics
  • Four years of English literature and composition
  • Three to four years of history and/or social studies
  • Two to three years of a foreign language (ancient or modern)

While it is important that you take these courses, it is even more important that you earn good grades in these classes.

If you want to excel in your academic classes during high school and make sure you have an impressive transcript and a high GPA, consider working with a private tutor.

Columbia University doesn’t have to be an unattainable dream. With hard work, determination, and a lot of preparation, you’ll find that admission to Columbia can be within your reach.


Getting into Columbia is extremely competitive. Don’t despair if you get a no.

If you have a strong GPA and high test scores, you have a great chance of getting into an Ivy League school. And if you don’t, remember: where you go is NOT who you are.

If you work hard, you’ll end up at a school that’s right for you, and still get a great education.

For more test strategy, college admissions, and scholarship application tips sign up for our FREE class happening right now!

Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Written by Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Prep Expert Founder & CEO

Shark Tank Winner, Perfect SAT Scorer, Dermatologist, & #1 Bestselling Author
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