Why did you choose Columbia?
I came to Columbia because the University provides a great education, while it simultaneously offers incredible opportunities I would not find elsewhere. When I first visited campus I was amazed by everything the tour guide told us. I was especially interested in the opportunities that Columbia has for undergrads who want to do research in science and engineering fields – other universities that I was considering did not offer this possibility or did not stress it as Columbia did. Also, here I could go beyond my major and take classes in every area of study that I was interested in: Biology, Economics, Neuroscience, Psychology, and History to name a few. The University not only allowed me to do this, but encouraged me to do so through the Core. For example, one of my favorite classes outside of my major is “Global Economy,” taught by Prof. Sunil Gulati, who is also the President of the United States Soccer Federation.
Another element of Columbia that struck me and ultimately drew me in was the very diverse student body. Here you can learn about different cultures around the world. You can study China, India, Brazil, or Nigeria, for example, and then talk to friends from those countries immediately afterwards. Columbia is a global learning experience.
What advice about financial aid do you wish someone had given you/your family when Financial Aid were in high school?
I have found in the past few years that Columbia University is very generous. Have faith that everything will turn out fine because the financial aid people are open and understanding. They’ll make sure you have what you need to come to college and enjoy the opportunities that come with it. There are real people here working hard to help you and who want to see you succeed. My family and I chose Columbia University because of its financial aid—once you’re admitted, Columbia will take care of you.
Tell us about your living expenses as a college student in New York City.
I was looking at the way Columbia budgets how expensive it is to live at in the city and I wasn’t sure how they come up with the budget: books, entertainment, events, etc. But I found my first year, when I was summing up all the expenses, it was exactly what Columbia predicted. It was a very good estimate and actually was a very accurate reflection of what I needed. For entertainment, discount tickets for theatres, Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic. You don’t even have to pay to go to Met or MoMa which are my favorites; you can go as many times as you want. When I was younger, I took art classes in Mexico and I attempted to copy Van Gogh. Then, I came to Columbia and I went to MoMa and I saw the paintings I was trying to paint when I was a little boy. All the originals were there: Sunflowers, Starry Night, the one with the café in Amsterdam at night, the poor family eating by light…I saw the actual paintings.
What was your reaction to Columbia's Financial Aid Initiative (no loans)?
The fact that Columbia does not require loans as part of the Financial Aid package was really important for me given that I am also considering graduate school, and being in debt right after college would not have been the best. I found Columbia grants to be generous. This generosity makes it possible for me to pursue my plans for after college. In all honesty I would not have come to the United States if I were going to have a debt after my undergraduate studies – I would have studied my undergraduate degree back in Mexico and then look for graduate school options abroad. However, Columbia University allowed me to come here and was, in a word, perfect. Because of their financial aid I have been able to study my bachelors at one of the best educational institutions in the world and also have the opportunity to apply to the top PhD programs available. Without the help of Columbia’s Financial Aid, I would not have been able to do this.
Tell us about your experiences with the Columbia financial aid staff and your Financial Aid Advisor.
I talk in Spanish with him; it’s great. When it comes to Financial Aid matters, I get nervous, so I talk to him in Spanish because I can express my thoughts in a more eloquent way. He’s helped me a lot in the application process for my sophomore and junior year, and has given me good advice.For example, when I wanted to apply to be a Resident Advisor, I needed to know how would it affect my Financial Aid. He helped me make my decision. He’s always there to help me make the best decision for my family and me.
What makes a Columbia education valuable to you?
The idea of Nobel Laureates teaching you is amazing but I would say that even more exciting are the opportunities outside the classroom. The laws of Physics and mathematical principles are the same everywhere. The interaction of lessons within and outside the classroom is essential, and it is what sets Columbia apart. The real value of Columbia’s education is evident everyday on the lawns, in the residence halls, in the research labs, and in the city of New York. In doing cutting edge research with pioneers in their fields during the semester and over the summer as well as having great internship opportunities broaden students’ horizons, and only add to their traditional education in the classroom.
Also the people in the student body are absolutely amazing. Kids are so nice, and I’ve learned so much from them, I marvel at the diversity from the international community and the kids from the US who are sons and daughters of immigrants from other countries.
The great classes and research opportunities are the main reason I came here, but the experiences outside the classroom are what has made my time at Columbia one of the best times in my life so far.