We’re big fans of This American Life at Bwog—remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery—so we were delighted to learn that this past week’s episode, “How I Got Into College,” mentions Columbia. Specifically, how insanely difficult it is to get in here.
“At Columbia University in New York City, 33,000 people applied; 31, 000 were rejected. That is fewer than 7% getting in. And the students who did get in, the students who made it here, they still wonder how they did it. You know, it was so hard to get here. What was it that worked? It was so difficult to get in,” explains host Ira Glass. “They have their theories.”
The scene then switches to Columbia on the first day of NSOP, where a TAL reporter asks random freshmen why they think they were admitted. And just how did the reporter know who was a freshman?
Ira Glass: “It was obvious who was a freshman because they all had to wear neon bracelets, like they were at a water park.”
One freshman credited her admission to writing about “females and physics, because obviously that’s a problem”; another cheerily explained, “I had decent SAT scores and a good GPA, but I think a big part of it was my essays.” A third said that he has been a competitive gymnast all his life, while a fourth said that she was a rhythmic gymnast. But the most common answer was simple: “I have no idea.”
The Columbia interviews come in the first two minutes of the show, but the whole hour is worth listening to. It includes an interview with a Georgia Tech admissions officer about the worst letters he’s gotten from parents—”Dear sir or madam, my second grader has decided on a career in electrical engineering. He is leaning toward MIT,” probably qualifies—and an interview with a Bosnian refugee who went to Harvard and is now an economics professor at UChicago.
You can listen to it here.