Compiled by Florence Mui
How has your impression of Columbia changed since your own first year?
"Columbia, on the outside, was beautiful on the brochures, until I came face to face with dilapidating building conditions." -- Clement Chan, SEAS '97
"Columbia has many interesting courses that allow for any individual's interests but the engineering student has to quickly finish the Core courses in order to take advantage of that option. After two years at Columbia, I believe one can finish the engineering school and fulfill their own individual interests if they wish to." -- Bob Chai, SEAS '97
"It ain't like high school..., but that's why it's so great." -- Owen Tran, SEAS '98
"I chose Columbia mainly because of its reputation and its location. But now, I started to realize that reputation does not help one very much, especially for those who major in science and engineering, since the companies today weigh industrial experiences much more over transcripts." -- NP, SEAS '96
"...the atmosphere of the school (SEAS) is not really as competitive as I used to think. One way to make yourself stick out of the class of about two hundred and fifty very intelligent students, I believe, is to work as hard as possible..." -- Desmond Tsang, SEAS '98
"It's more politically correct than I thought." -- Luisa Cruz, CC '97
"The only changeable things are your study habits, social habits, and whatever 'free time' you have left besides course work. I think I shouldn't have taken that many courses during my first year and spent more time with friends just to hang out and get to know the Columbia environment." -- Bob Chai
"I wish I had used the TA's more effectively. I was sometimes too lazy or too embarrassed to ask for help during recitations. Also, if you leave housing (ie. commute or independent housing), you will lose your guaranteed housing and the chance to enter the lottery. Think before you decide to go on your own." -- Eric Lin, SEAS '97
"I should have taken a heavier load during my first and second years, rather than squeezing in during the last years. My advisor never advised me about this. I should have spoken to more people of my senior to take advice from them." -- NP
"Don't relax and be content with mediocre courses. If you are not sure which class to take push for the harder one." -- Brian Leibowitz, SEAS '98
"Relaxed!" -- Peri Millman, CC '97
"You're paying $9 a meal to eat in John Jay. Don't just munch on salad. Binge on whatever's decent. Hoard fruit and chessecake for late night activities. And do NOT take 24 credits, nor 10 points in languages!" -- ipc
Common regrets: Should have gotten A+'s and higher GPA's. Lessons learned: Time management, budgeting, and of course, organization!
"At first, the whole process seemed bureaucratic and intimidating....The best thing to do is to set up an appointment to see the people in charge. They are generally friendly and pretty helpful." -- John Wong, SEAS '97
"In dealing with administration, it is always beneficial to be courteous and respectful. If you want something done, you need to give them a reason to want to help you (not because you pay a couple of thousand a year)..." -- Eric Lin
"You're out of luck with dining services, so just eat the food to survive, not to enjoy. Hand in everything early and orderly to get the least hassle from financial aid. Make sure you check up on important matters every few days because people have a habit of 'losing' things." -- Owen Tran
"The two doctors I encountered at Health Services were incredibly personable, patient, and kind. The wait for walk-ins is, therefore, long but understandable (and soon to be abolished, with mandatory appointments.)" -- ipc
For Engineering students: Deans Erwin and Suh are helpful and available. When facing Financial Aid: Make copies and be persistent! Dining: Eat off-campus occasionally. We all need some variety!
"First years should take those 1 pt. seminar classes. They are fun and worthwhile since we are not pressured into a letter grade." -- Clement Chan
"Have to take: Asian Civilizations: East Asia. Professors DeBary and Tiedermann were fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the late-night round-table discussions with my suitemates." -- John Wong
"AC: 'Legalism or Confucianism?' CC: A welcome, ersatz diversion from heavy science/engineering courses. C: Professor Felix Wu is patient and thorough."jazz dance: it's the hands-on lit hum of jazz." -- ipc
"I would definitely recommend Principles of Economics, especially with Matt Kahn. It's a lot more interesting than it sounds...If your major allows you to, don't take any Physics lab courses. The equipment and instruction tend to be low quality, and the experiments never turn out the way they're supposed to. Plus, I didn't feel like I really learned anything." -- Libby Craun, SEAS '99
"Eric Foner's American History is highly interesting..." -- Peri Millman
"Do not take general chemistry if you took AP chemistry in high school. Just skip this class, and take freshman organic chemistry class whatever. It is because G. Chem class is so big, and they don't teach you too much. Don't take it unless you are sure you can get an A+. Otherwise it is a waste of time." -- XL, SEAS '97
"I do not recommend taking FORTRAN. Take a useful language like C/C++ or a fun mind stretching language like Scheme. Phyiscs 1801/1802 is great if you really like physics." -- Brian Leibowitz
"Piano Lessons with Mr. Skelly are wonderful! Prof. Tucker in Music is incredible, any class with him is sure to make you want to go to class." -- Luisa Cruz
More classes to take: Martial Arts for Phys. Ed. You can get credit, and discipline your body and mind at the same time! More classes not to take: Barnard Bio 2001, there are no recitations to accompany lectures. Not engineering oriented. By popular opinion, if you don't have to, don't take Orgo. Note: check out whether chem lab and how many physics labs are required for your major!
"The best place to get real studying done is somewhere quiet -- engineering or math library. Of course, the social places are Butler and Law. Study places with food: Carleton Lounge and Uris." -- John Wong
"The Geology library in Schermerhorn is always very comfortable and almost empty. Basically, anywhere but Butler is good--all the study rooms there are either too loud or really uncomfortable..." -- Libby Craun
"Burgess Carpenter at Butler Library is a pretty good place to study: quiet and cool (when the A.C. is on during the summer)." -- Desmond Tsang
"Carman lounge (early in the morning)." -- Peri Millman
"IAB is a good place to study. First, you can stay up to 12:00, and you can always go to the computer room to have some fun (email, etc.)." -- XL
"The music library overlooking Broadway is quiet and peaceful." -- Luisa Cruz
More study spots: Physics library, if you can stay awake...Your own room, it's always available...Lawns: In front of Math, and between Philosophy and Kent.
In the next few years here, you'll be busy making the grades as well as "finding" yourself. As a good friend of mine says, "listen to your friends' advice, but make your own decisions!" One more piece of info: the squirrels here are quite friendly and sometimes blind!