It’s now middle of January. The de facto Round 2 deadline for Columbia — what they call their “Fellowship deadline” –was January 3rd, which was unfortunately one of the very earliest of the January deadlines and which is now officially 12 months, 3 weeks, 0 days, 22 hours ago. If you did not submit by then, you’re not being considered for free money. The even bigger issue though is if you didn’t submit by then, then you’re submitting your app after the crowd has already submitted theirs. Columbia has rolling decisions, and one fact to know about how that works is that they use a first-in, first-out process. Just like when you call up your health insurance provider to fight a claim that they rejected and you’re placed on hold listening to Muzak, your application to Columbia will be handled in the order it is received.
That means, every single day counts. Like, a lot!!
So when is too late to submit?
Well, that’s impossible to say with certainty, but we always get nervous when BSers are dickering around with a Columbia app too far into January.
Is right now “too far” into the month?
Is next week?
But the further out into the year you get, the fewer and fewer spots are going to be available.
So it’s the classic “Round 3 is tough!” type of advice.
We’ve seen candidates make it into Columbia with applications submitted around the first week of February, and surely there are still many who get in each year with apps going in even later. But it’s just harder to have a shot if you’re coming from any of the more crowded candidate pools. Those tend to be the classic Indian engineer profile, and also the military candidate with a not-so-great GMAT or GRE or GPA or combos thereof. Or, guys from financial services. Especially guys from financial services. Columbia gets massive numbers of apps from that sector of the applicant landscape and they can afford to be picky, especially at this time of the season.
Those financial services candidates may even have a somewhat tougher bar to reach. If an app comes through to Columbia too late in the season from a candidate who seems like a natural to try for Columbia, the Columbia admissions folks may wonder why that person didn’t submit earlier. Did they not have a good GMAT score, so they used the first half of the season to retest and bring it up? Were they taking a class that they wanted to finish before submitting, in order to boost a not-great GPA? (Note: You never need to finish a class ahead of submitting an app; being able to talk about the class underway is sufficient in helping to mitigate your low grades in college.) Or did this candidate wash out with all the other apps they were trying, and then have only gotten around to Columbia as a second-choice school? Or are they just a procrastinator?
When trying for a popular school later in the season, it sometimes can be useful to include a note to the adcom about the reasons for a later application. Submitting in January does not require such a note. Submitting to Columbia in February or March? Yeah, we’d include one if we were you.
Our Columbia Essay Guide is of course available to help you navigate the challenges of these questions! And the full Essay Decimator is an excellent support to making sure that your messaging is solid for this school. Columbia is a place where the essays can matter A LOT — so spending the cycles to make them as strong as you possibly can is a worthwhile investment of time. Even if it means delaying your app out another week further.
Just don’t let those “another weeks” stack up on each other. Time is of the essence with this application! Get moving, BSer, and get it in the hopper as soon as you can!