After ramping up recruitment sessions abroad and developing on-campus opportunities for international students, the School of General Studies’ applicant pool is now nearly 30 percent international.
The increasing number of foreign applicants is indicative of a larger international push by the school for nontraditional students, administrators said.
“In the last year, we’ve been in Europe, we’ve been in Asia, we’ve been to the Middle East and Israel for recruiting,” Curtis Rodgers, GS dean of enrollment, said. “Now, our international applicant pool has grown by about 4 to 5 percentage points over the last three to four years.”
One of GS’s largest feeder countries is Israel, and this summer the school held its first recruitment session in Israel, in Tel Aviv. Dean of Students Tom Harford said that the GS student body is now between 22 and 24 percent international, the highest percentage among Columbia’s undergraduate schools.
Rodgers partially attributed the increase in international students to the launch of the Dual B.A. Program with Sciences Po, a French school, two years ago. The program draws an international applicant pool of 50 percent.
Last year, GS began offering for-credit courses through the American Language Program to students whose primary language is not English. Given the increasing number of international matriculations, administrators decided to offer the classes to help students adjust to college in America and fine-tune their fluency.
Harford said that the ALP gives international students in GS “the kind of currency and communication that is essential for what we do at GS.”
“We partnered with the ALP to create an actual credit-bearing course that spoke more greatly to the nuances of their needs,” he said. “That was all a result of GS being very much attuned to the vast variety of different student communities that we have, and this one in particular, and understanding what their needs are.”
But for some international students, the issue is having resources at their disposal to help them transition not to life in America, but to life in New York.
As an international student from Israel, Robert Fuks, GS ’14, said he would appreciate more nuance in GS’s approach to cultural immersion.
“I feel that Columbia is doing a large effort, not sure that it’s always the correct one,” he said. “I think they could give a little bit more guidance—I would say that it would be nice to have more than one session, for instance, for safety, because New York’s the type of city that you need to be on top of your game.”
Harford said that international students who choose to come to GS “know that they are guaranteed one of the premiere undergraduate Ivy League educations in the country, if not the world.”
“They’re doing it in a home school that is catering to the idea that we like students to be heterogeneous, to come from various backgrounds, that we believe that that adds a wonderful dimension to the classroom,” Harford said.