Columbia University Rankings & Review


Columbia University Lion
Columbia is located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, in New York City. As one of the eight Ivy League Universities, it traditionally has ranked in the top 20 of all colleges nationwide. Its organizational structure is somewhat of an anomaly, and affects how you apply for admission. There are four undergraduate colleges, and you apply directly to one of them. These include:

    • Barnard College
    • Columbia College
    • School of General Studies
    • College of Engineering

Starting in 1983, Columbia College integrated and started admitting women, in addition to men. However, Barnard College remains segregated, still admitting women only. Barnard is separately incorporated from Columbia as a whole, and is a separate legal entity. However, under its contractual relationship with Columbia, students at both schools can attend classes at one another, and all receive “Columbia” degrees, including graduates of Barnard.


Insider whispers say it is “easier” to get admitted to the Columbia School of General Studies and to Barnard, where their admissions percentage is over 20%, compared to under 10% for Columbia College. Perhaps this admissions inefficiency will even out as the percentages become better known among college applicants.


Columbia also has had a rather turbulent history. In the first half of the 1900s, it typically was considered among the top four Ivy League universities, along with Princeton, Yale and Harvard. The spike in New York’s crime rate in the 1960s had a huge impact on the university, as the campus itself gained an unsafe reputation. That combined with an unusual amount of campus unrest in that era damaged Columbia’s reputation. It took nearly 50 years for a recovery. With the decline in the city crime, and a safer more stable campus life, it slowly regained its past standing, to the present time. However, many wonder if the resurgence of New York’s crime rate in the 2020s during the DeBlasio mayoral administration will once again damage the college’s safety rating and reputation. Stay tuned.


Despite the turbulent history, Columbia ranks high in a number of our RealRank ranking criteria, and has a fairly robust academic breadth for an Ivy League university. Unlike some other Ivies, Columbia has robust programs for business management, engineering and journalism. The rankings in which the university has appeared can be found at the end of this profile.


The Basics

Location New York, New York
Official Website Columbia
Nickname Columbia Lions
School Colors White & “Columbia” Blue
Athletic Conference Ivy League

RealRank Ranking Categories

Reputation Platinum
Renown Gold
Diversity Success Silver
Sports Renown NI
Tuition Profile High Cost
Endowment Platinum
Alumni Engagement Silver

Key: Platinum: Elite Class; Gold: Very good; Silver: Successful, with room to improve;

Bronze: Mid to low range; NI: Needs improvement.


Academic Profile

Academic Range Well-Rounded
Professional Schools:
Architecture Yes
Business Yes
Dental Yes
Engineering Yes
Law Yes
Medical Yes
Nursing Yes
Core Science Breadth Yes
Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities Breadth Yes
Human Sciences / Education Yes
Public Health / Urban Policy Yes

Renowned Alumni

So you graduated from a university, but have you made your mark on the world? Here are a few of the notable alumni of CU that you may have heard of:

  • Madeline Albright – former Secretary of State.
  • Isaac Asimov – Prolific science fiction author.
  • William Barr – former U.S. Attorney General.
  • Pat Boone – Pop singer.
  • Warren Buffet – CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
  • Howard Dean – former Chair of the Democratic Party and Governor of Vermont.
  • Amelia Earhart – Aviator, disappeared over Pacific Ocean.
  • Milton Friedman – winner of Nobel Prize for economics.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal – Actor.
  • Ira Gershwin – Music composer.
  • Alan Greenspan – former Chairman of Federal Reserve.
  • Alexander Hamilton – Co-Author of Federalist Papers, and first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
  • Maria Hinojosa – Journalist.
  • Charles Evan Hughes – former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Langston Hughes – Poet and novelist.
  • Zora Neale Hurston – Author and filmmaker
  • John Jay – Co-Author of Federalist Papers, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, second Governor of New York.
  • Erica Jong – Novelist, author of Fear of Flying.
  • Jack Kerouac – poet, founder of “beat generation.”
  • Robert Kraft – owner of New England Patriots NFL football team.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Actor (did not graduate).
  • Robert R. Livingston – one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and first U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
  • Margaret Mead – Cultural anthropologist.
  • Barack Obama – Former President of the United States and winner of Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Ben Platt – Singer and Actor – Credits include Pitch Perfect, The Book of Mormon and Dear Evan Hansen (did not graduate).
  • Anna Quindlen – author and journalist.
  • Joan Rivers – Comedian and actress.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – author of the New Deal and former President of the United States.
  • Theodore Roosevelt – winner of Nobel Peace Prize and former President of the United States.
  • J.D. Salinger – Author of Catcher in the Rye.
  • Martha Stewart – Author, television personality, home designer.

Who else would you add to this list?


Most Popular Majors

The most popular majors at Columbia U. include the following, in decreasing order of popularity. This ordering may change slightly from year-to-year.

  1. Social Sciences
  2. Engineering
  3. Computer and Information Sciences
  4. Biology
  5. English
  6. Foreign Languages and Literature
  7. History
  8. Mathematics
  9. Psychology
  10. Visual and Performing Arts



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