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Welcome to Barnumbia! You still have a bit of time before you have to commit, but now that you’re in, start reading as much as you can about your potential new school. Required Reading can help you out with that. If you want to see what life is really like on the upper west side, make sure you subscribe.

If you haven’t already, you will soon get an invitation to attend Days on Campus at Columbia. Get excited, because Days on Campus, or DoC, is an annual three-day event for prospective students like you geared toward helping you answer the question,“Why should I choose Columbia?” (What this really means: You’ll be spoiled with good food and free stuff.)

During DoC, you have so many opportunities to get to know more about your potential college and get a feel for what life here is really like. You’ll get to roam around campus, take a tour of the first-year dorms, see what the libraries are like, attend classes, and much more. With all of that going around, yes, DoC can be quite overwhelming. Remember though that DoC is supposed to be, at its core (ha), a fun experience—make sure you’re getting the most out of your few days here.

Be brave and talk to current students

People here aren’t terrible. If you smile at them while proudly wearing your lanyard around your neck, they’ll smile back at you. After all, the students you’ll meet were once just like you, a nervous and excited prospective student. They know what it’s like to be on campus for the first time, and they’ve experienced the frustration of trying to find classrooms and buildings.

Not sure what to ask? Start with a brief introduction: “Hi, my name is [fill in the blank], and I’m here for Days on Campus! Can I ask you a few questions about Columbia?” Then ask whatever questions you think would be helpful, like “What is your favorite class here?” “What dorm did you live in and what did you like or hate about it?” “What extracurricular activities are you involved in?” “What are the best and worst parts of being at Columbia?”

Pro tip: You probably shouldn’t approach someone who looks like they are on their way to class or are in a hurry. Since the weather is warming up, do approach the numerous people sitting on Low Steps—chances are they’re just lounging, so they might be more receptive to answer questions.

Your host is also a really good source of information, but keep in mind that depending on who you get assigned to, the amount of interaction between you two might vary. Don’t get disappointed if your host doesn’t pay much attention to you because they’re busy with their classes and other commitments. There are plenty of upperclassmen (and underclassmen) other than your host you can talk to!

Plan ahead to attend lecture classes

As a prospective student, you are allowed to attend some classes during DoC. You should take full advantage of them, but that doesn’t mean you should take detailed notes in class. (But do at least try to take a mental note of what you liked and what you didn’t like about that class.)

Keep in mind that during DoC, the number of courses you can audit is limited. Also, not all classes are open to prospective students, but let’s be honest: We’re here to help you get the most out of the experience, even if it means breaking the rules (sshhh). So, if you really have a class you wish to attend, you can probably sit in the back row and no one will notice. Just make sure the class is a big lecture (40-plus people).

You should plan ahead by going on the course directory or by clicking on “courses” on the academic bulletin. There, you’ll be able to see when and where classes take place. Arrive five to 10 minutes early to sit in the row where you’ll most likely not be called on by the professor (yikes!).

Explore the campus

Exploring the campus is probably the most important thing you should do during DoC. It’s important to make sure that you like the campus atmosphere.

There are so many cool places that you should definitely check out that aren’t included on any of the DoC tours. Our suggestions:

  • Go see the lion statue in front of Dodge Fitness Center. I dare you to go on it and snap the glorious moment to Spectrum @CUSpectrum!
  • If the weather’s nice, go sit on Low Steps. You’ll look just like a real student.
  • Sit on the lawn in front of Butler, and take a nap, or read a book.
  • Explore some of the hidden cafés on campus—there are eight of them!
  • Also, try to visit other libraries on campus, like Avery! As you’ll find out, Butler isn’t the only library we have, nor is it the most ~aesthetic~.

Also you’re far ahead of the game if you start touring the first-year dorms. There are only five of them, so it’s not impossible to see them all: John Jay, Carman, Hartley, Furnald, and Wallach. If there isn’t a tour organized during your time on campus, previous prospies have been able to go into these dorms wearing their DoC lanyard.

Watch the student group performances

During DoC, you should expect lots of music, dancing, and shows from the incredible performance groups at Columbia! They’ve been planning weeks in advance for you in order to impress you, so make sure you actually show up. Who knows? Maybe that’ll be you up there one day.

Explore the city life, but make sure you know how to get back to campus

Now that you’ve explored the campus, it’s time for you to go and see what lies beyond the main gates of Columbia. If for some reason you missed the nighttime bus tour of NYC (one of the DoC events), don’t worry—there’s still plenty you can do.

Between events when you’re free, you should venture out to the area surrounding campus to get a sense of the Morningside Heights atmosphere. Head toward 110th Street, and see the restaurants that you’ll go to often, such as Koronet Pizza, Community Food and Juice, and Dig Inn.

Or for those of you who are bold enough to take the subway, take the 1 train at the 116th Street station downtown and explore NYC downtown. (Want a suggestion now? We recently explored a bunch of things you can do in Koreatown.) You can get a bit more comfortable with taking the subway while you’re here (but TBH, the 1 line is super easy—you can get practically anywhere). Also, Columbia will reimburse your MetroCard, so no excuse for not taking advantage of that opportunity. Only thing though: Make sure that you know how to get back to campus!

DoC is a great opportunity to get a glimpse into life at Columbia. You won’t be able to do everything of course, but this is a good start.

What are you most excited for about Days on Campus? Let us know on our Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Sein An is a Spectrum trainee and a Columbia-Juilliard Exchange first-year. She is super excited to meet the student she’ll be hosting during DoC. Reach her at

required reading days on campus class of 2021
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