Schools Similar to Columbia

Columbia University is next up in our “Colleges Like” series. We’re starting with all of the Ivy League schools—you know, all of the classic “reach” schools—breaking them down into their essential parts, and giving you a list of schools that we’ve found share those qualities. We know what makes a great match based on years of experience helping hundreds of students enroll in college.

When students come to us with big dreams of attending Yale, Columbia, or Harvard, we always ask them “why?” Sometimes they have a good answer, and sometimes they just say, “well, because.” That’s not good enough for us. Most schools can be boiled down to a few critical elements and you’ll probably find that a lot of the time, a name brand is just a name brand. If you’re looking to attend a school for the qualities it possesses and the student experience that you’ll be able to find that experience at more than just one institution.

A huge reason that students apply to Columbia is New York City. We know that, but it’s also because of the easy access to networking, job opportunities, ability to create a life in the city after you graduate, and easy access to experts in the field. There are a lot of schools that offer that, but students are right in that it’s a rare combination. Let’s review some schools that offer that same perk. Columbia also has a strong core curriculum that defines its students’ academic experience—sort of the opposite of Brown in this sense.


Columbia’s Stats

Location: New York, NY

Size: ~6K

Faculty to student ratio: 6:1


Schools like Columbia:


American University

Location: Washington, DC

Size: ~7.2K

American calls itself a “student-centered research university,” which we think is an important and key distinction. In terms of networking, if you want to go into the public sector, politics, or non-profit work, Washington, DC is the best place to go to college. You have the chance to score some of the best Internships and the potential to create a truly exciting career. In terms of academics, American has one of the highest ranked International Service programs, but its liberal arts program as a whole is incredibly strong. Many professors are at the top of their field, and many maintain careers in DC while they teach, which is an important distinction and quite similar to many Columbia professors as well. It’s also significantly smaller than other universities in the area like GWU (nearly 10K).


Washington University St. Louis

Location: St. Louis, MO

Size: ~7.5K

If we were applying to college, Wash U would be at the top of our list. It has rapidly become a top tier school where everyone wants to be, and St. Louis is a big reason for that shift. (It also has no supplement, but this blog post isn't about that.) There are a wide range of extracurricular activities and the professors are incredibly reputable. Because of its recent uptick in popularity, tons of companies are starting to recruit heavily from this school and professors are following. WashU is known to have one of the highest rates of student satisfaction and quality of life. Their graduate schools have a huge emphasis on health and medicine in the same way that Harvard’s do, but with other top-ranking graduate schools like the George Warren Brown School of Social Work (ranked #2 in the nation).


University of Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Size: ~6K undergraduates

Chicago is an undeniably amazing city to go to college in. Probably better than New York, and most of us here at TKG are born and raised New Yorkers. U Chicago offers a lot of the same perks that you get with Columbia. Namely, U Chicago’s reputation is strong and students are known to be deeply intellectual with a bit of a quirky edge. To us, quirk is appeal, and colleges want that unique sharpness and focus that U Chicago students tend to offer. U Chicago has an incredibly strong Core, which is usually one of the top reasons students apply. U Chicago also has a reputation of promoting an open intellectual discourse amongst its students through its unique academic approach.


Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

Size: ~5.3K undergraduates

Though Johns Hopkins is known for its medical school and STEM facilities, the combination of those renowned schools combined with the Peabody Institute, a world-renowned conservatory, and highly-regarded liberal arts programs within the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, is what makes it a stand-out school. Professors from all over come to JHU to teach, and alumni include some real underachievers like Madeleine Albright. In that same way that Columbia draws the kind of student who is willing to work hard and use their true grit to stand out, Johns Hopkins does as well. We sort of regard JHU as Columbia’s tenacious, multi-talented, focused, slightly hipster sibling. Kind of.


Emory University

Location: Atlanta, GA

Size: ~7.9K undergraduates

Emory’s location and rigorous academic atmosphere make it an ideal place to any student to spend four years, particularly if you want to be close to a city but still be a part of a distinctly gorgeous campus. Emory’s core curriculum reflects the student body’s true thirst for knowledge. Its content covers nine areas of intellectual focus, and students are able to tailor the specifics to their interests. Areas include writing, “History, Society, Cultures,” “Science, Nature, Technologies,” two humanities areas, physical education, and four others in an attempt to give students a true survey of academic. The university also emphasizes the importance of community both on campus and the importance of community involvement just like Columbia does, which is significant when a school exists within a big city. The school has a rich history and cultivates numerous traditions, which creates a rich pride amongst its students that can be hard to recreate. Atlanta is also an incredible city, with tons of career and internship opportunities. The faculty to student ratio also rivals Columbia’s at 8:1.


McGill University

Location: Montreal, CA

Size: ~27.5K undergraduates

McGill is a hugely prestigious, competitive, major research university in Montreal, Canada. Though its particularly known for its medical-doctorate school, students with diverse interests come from all over the world to study here. Montreal is a true combination of a student and a professional city—it has booming industry and a wealth of prestigious companies. It’s also home to 220K+ post-secondary students. Notable alumni include Leonard Cohen, Justin Trudeau, and Stephen Pinker, among others. It’s also the school from which a huge number of Rhodes Scholars and Nobel Prize winners graduated.

Columbia is a wonderful school, but in reality there are tons of schools that you could attend. That said, because it possesses so many qualities that other schools share, a student’s individual personality, goals, and preferences play a big role in determining exactly what schools belong on this list for them. Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll help you figure out the absolute best match for you. That’s why we’re here.