NYU vs. Columbia: Which College to Choose?

NYU vs. Columbia
May 6, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/5/24

Do you need help with choosing between NYU and Columbia? Read on to learn more about the unique features that set these schools apart.

Choosing between two prestigious universities is a significant decision that often leaves students feeling confused and overwhelmed. Both Columbia and NYU have established esteemed reputations for academic excellence.

New York University is known for its great emphasis on arts and media, which encourages the students to be knowledgeable about the surrounding cultures. Columbia University, on the other hand, is an Ivy League institution with a core curriculum focused on a comprehensive liberal arts education.

To help you decide between NYC vs. Columbia, we’ll delve into the different characteristics that make each school unique by starting with the academics, campus life, and the overall student experience.

NYU vs. Columbia: Overview

Both NYU and Columbia offer excellent academic experiences to meet the diverse interests and ambitions of students. To give you an idea of how these schools measure up, take a look at this table which outlines key information such as rankings, acceptance rates, and test scores.

NYU Columbia University
Location Manhattan, New York City Manhattan, New York City
U.S. News Ranking #35 #12
Undergraduate Enrollment 29,401 8,832
No. of International Students 21,081 19,001
Student-to-Faculty Ratio 8:1 6:1
No. of Applicants 100,131 42,569
Acceptance Rate 8% 3.85%
Mid-50% SAT/ACT Scores of admitted students SAT: 1470 to 1570
ACT: 33-35
SAT: 1500 to 1560
ACT: 34-35
Average Tuition (Undergraduate Studies) $62,796 $65,340

NYU vs. Columbia: Admissions Requirements

Before you decide which of these universities is best for you, let’s take a look at their admissions requirements to make sure you’re prepared for the application process. 

NYU Admission Requirements

Here are the admission requirements for New York University:

GPA and Completed Courses

The average GPA at NYU is 3.7, which shows that you need to aim for as close to 4.15 as possible to ensure your application is competitive. You will also need to have completed the following subjects for a minimum of three years:

  • English/Writing: Four years
  • History/Social Studies: Three to four years
  • Mathematics: Three to four years
  • Laboratory Sciences: Three to four years
  • Foreign Language: Three to four years

While these courses are recommended, NYU does not hold students at a disadvantage if they do not meet these requirements because of the school they attended. However, top NYU applicants often take demanding courses, such as AP/IB courses.

Supplemental Essay

It will take more than just strong grades and test scores to get into NYU. You must also showcase your unique qualities, personal achievements, and aspirations for the future. 

A great place to do this is within your NYU supplemental essay, which can help you stand out from other qualified applicants. These essays allow you to express yourself and tell the admission committee what you could not explain earlier about yourself. 

Letter of Recommendations

NYU requires applicants to submit one letter of recommendation written by a person of authority like a teacher, work supervisor, or counselor. Choose someone who knows you well enough to accurately assess your abilities, accomplishments, and character. 

Additional Application Items

After submitting the items listed above, NYU may also require you to submit additional application items. Depending on your program, you may need to submit a portfolio, do an audition, or take a subject test. 

Columbia Admission Requirements

Here are the admission requirements for Columbia:

GPA and Completed Courses

Like NYU, Columbia is highly competitive. With a 4.12 average GPA, you’ll need to demonstrate academic excellence within your high school classes. Here are the subjects Columbia requires you to complete in order to apply:

  • English Literature and Composition: Four years
  • Mathematics: Four years
  • History or Social Studies: Three to four years
  • Laboratory Science: Three to four years

Personal Insight Questions

Writing insightful and impactful responses is a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd of qualified applicants. These questions are designed to give the admission committee insight into your academic, intellectual, and extracurricular interests.

The admission committee uses the Columbia essays to get a better understanding of who you are and whether you align well with the university's values and expectations.

Letter of Recommendations

Columbia applicants are required to submit three recommendation letters. You will need one from your high school college counselor and two letters from teachers. If you are applying to an engineering major, one of these references must be from a math or science teacher.

Additional Application Materials

In addition to these requirements, you may also have to submit additional application materials, such as secondary school reports, and optional standardized tests, or be asked to come in for an interview.

NYU or Columbia? Factors to Consider

Deciding between two great institutions is a decision that demands careful consideration of different factors. Here are a few factors to keep in mind when deciding between NYU vs. Columbia:


Strong academics is one of the core characteristics of NYU. The institution is a community of scholars characterized by excellent collaboration and innovation. It comprises the College of Arts and Science, Graduate School of Arts and Science, and liberal studies. They have areas of study and research in science, social science, and humanities.

On the other hand, the core curriculum at Columbia provides the foundation for the traditional liberal arts education, which enables the students to have a wide range of skills, knowledge, and discipline. The curriculum is unique, which means no two students do it exactly.

Class Profile

If you’re struggling to choose between Columbia University vs. NYU, reviewing their class profiles can help you make your decision. These figures will give you insight into the student demographics, academic profiles, and overall composition at each university. 

Let’s start by looking at NYU’s class profile:

  • Number of first-year students: 5,700 
  • States represented: 50 
  • Countries represented: 86
  • Male-female ratio among undergraduates: 50/50 
  • NYU students come from outside the U.S.: 22.2%
  • Identify as American Indian/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, Black/African American, or Hispanic: 26%
  • Identify as the first in their families to attend college: 22%
  • Students who received Pell Grants: 24%
  • Average scholarship amount awarded to first years: >$59,000 

Here is Columbia’s class profile:

  • Number of first-year students: 1,464
  • International students: 17%
  • Countries represented: 86
  • All 50 states represented, plus DC and territories
  • Domestic students from small/rural towns: 12%
  • Female-to-male ratio: 50/48
  • Non-binary: 2%
  • Asian American or Pacific Islander: 30%
  • Black/African American: 20%
  • Hispanic/Latinx: 22%
  • White: 51%
  • Students who received Pell Grants: 21% 
  • Total grants and scholarships received: $71,043
  • Students who are the first of their family to attend college: 19% 

Familiarizing yourself with these statistics can help you figure out how you measure up to successful applicants. 


Pursuing higher education can be expensive, so It’s essential to consider how much it would cost to attend each university. Reviewing these costs will help you to determine which one best aligns with your budget and financial plans.

The total cost to attend NYU is about $90,222 per year:

  • Tuition: $62,796
  • Food and housing: $24,102
  • Books and supplies: $1,494
  • Transportation: $1,154
  • Personal expenses: $3,034

Attending Columbia, on the other hand, is a bit cheaper at $85,967 per year:

  • Tuition and fees: $65,524 
  • Room and board expenses: $16,156
  • Books and other personal expenses: $3,672 

Financial Aid

To help students manage these costs, both schools offer financial aid options. NYU encourages students to apply for financial aid as soon as possible. Below is the “NYU promise” to its first-year undergraduate students:

  • Families with income less than $100,000 will not have to pay tuition
  • NYU will meet 100% demonstrated need 
  • Scholarships will be adjusted to meet tuition increases each year

Columbia, on the other hand, works with the families of their undergraduates to develop a plan to pay for their education throughout their stay in the school. Below are the other things they do:

  • Students from families with annual incomes less than $150,000 (and typical assets) can attend Columbia tuition-free.
  • Students are expected to borrow $0 to attend Columbia. 
  • Columbia awards over $215 million annually in scholarships and grants from all sources.
  • 49% of Columbia students receive grants from Columbia, and the average amount awarded is $65,756.
  • 19% of Columbia’s incoming undergraduates receive the Pell Grant, a Federal Grant reserved for the students with the highest need in the country.
  • Incoming first-year students from low-income families receive a start-up grant of $2,000 to ease their transition to college.

Columbia helps students understand the cost of attending the school and enables them to explore financing options. 

Sports and Extracurriculars

NYU has about 400 clubs and organizations that cater to students’ interests and aspirations. These activities allow students to pursue their passion, develop new skills, and connect with their peers outside the classroom.

Similarly, Columbia University has more than 500 organizations that allow students to participate in sports, arts, or academics. These clubs offer a rich array of opportunities to engage in extracurricular pursuits that complement their academic journey and contribute to a vibrant campus community.

No matter your interests, there are bound to be student clubs at both universities that provide opportunities for meaningful engagement and personal growth.

Choosing Between NYU and Columbia: How to Decide

Both schools offer their students world-class education and highly unique experiences. The ultimate decision is personal, as it depends on your goals. Here are some key factors you should consider to help you make an informed decision:

  • Academic Programs: Compare the specific academic programs, majors, and courses offered by each university. Consider faculty expertise and research opportunities within your field of interest.
  • Campus Culture: Assess the campus atmosphere, student life, and overall culture at both universities. Visit each campus if possible to get a feel for the environment and community.
  • Extracurricular Opportunities: Explore the range of clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities available at both schools. Consider the opportunities for internships, research, and community engagement.
  • Cost and Financial Aid: Evaluate the cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, and living expenses. Explore financial aid options, scholarships, and the overall affordability of each university.
  • Your Goals and Values: Clarify your personal and academic goals. Consider which university's philosophy, values, and educational approach resonate more with your aspirations.

No matter which school you decide on, ensure that your choice aligns with your academic and personal goals for a fulfilling and rewarding college experience.

FAQs: NYU Vs. Columbia

Below are some of the frequently asked questions about NYU vs. Columbia:

1. Is It Harder to Get Into NYU or Columbia?

With its lower acceptance rate and high academic rankings, it’s generally harder to get into Columbia than NYU. However, keep in mind that NYU’s admissions process is also quite selective, as the university currently has a 8% acceptance rate.

2. How Does the Location of Columbia University's Campus Compare to That of NYU?

Columbia University and NYU are both located in Manhattan, New York City, but their campuses are in different neighborhoods. Columbia is situated in the Morningside Heights neighborhood in Upper Manhattan, while NYU's campus is in Greenwich Village, in the southern part of the borough.

Columbia's campus has a more traditional, collegiate feel with classic architecture and green spaces, set against the backdrop of the Morningside Heights community. On the other hand, NYU's campus is more integrated into the bustling urban landscape of Greenwich Village, giving it a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere.

The choice between the two locations depends on personal preferences. Columbia's setting offers a more traditional campus experience, while NYU's location immerses students in the energetic and diverse culture of Greenwich Village, providing a unique urban environment.

3. What Are the Key Differences Between Columbia Intern Housing and NYU Housing?

Columbia intern housing vs. NYU housing offers distinct options in location, availability, and housing options. Columbia’s is geared towards short-term housing for interns, summer program participants, and students during the summer months. Facilities may vary but typically include furnished rooms, communal spaces, and basic amenities.

NYU, on the other hand, provides housing throughout the academic year, including the summer months, and accommodates both undergraduate and graduate students. Students can be placed in residence halls, apartments, and themed housing communities to cater to diverse preferences. 

NYU's housing facilities typically feature various amenities such as communal spaces, study areas, and, in some cases, dining options.

Final Thoughts

Choosing between NYU vs. Columbia can definitely be challenging, as both schools boast distinguished academic reputations, vibrant campus cultures, and a plethora of extracurricular opportunities. 

Whether you’re drawn to NYU’s dynamic atmosphere or Columbia’s dedication to academic excellence, the decision ultimately depends on your personal goals, values, and interests.

Good luck!

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