Interviews are undoubtedly an essential part of any application process, and with summer right around the corner, many students are looking for opportunities to work or intern in the city. While bringing up attendance at Columbia or Barnard might be a given in an interview, what exactly sets a student here apart from others at similarly distinguished institutions? What about Columbia is unique to making better future employees? Below are some pointers to help convey exactly that to those interviewers.
Students who are majoring in STEM or business fields are required to take more humanities classes at Columbia and Barnard via the Core Curriculum than they would at many other universities. The skills learned in these liberal arts classrooms can help students become better members of society, as well as increase their ability to understand complex moral issues and work empathetically with others. Kavita Sharma, dean at the Columbia University Center for Career Education, noted that students highlighting their “deep analysis of text and inquiry-based learning” education could help sell themselves in an interview. The Core Curriculum also includes Art of Engineering and Frontiers of Science, courses that expose students to various branches of science and engineering before deciding on a major. This leads to a more concrete choice in one’s field of study and a wider array of knowledge in an otherwise nontechnical major.
Moreover, there are many courses offered at the University that engage with real world experiences, such as Barnard’s Mississippi Semester and Seminar for Internships in Social Justice and Human Rights. If you have taken any such courses, you can use them as examples to discuss how you already have experience and knowledge about how your work in the classroom has purpose in the outside world.
A Diverse Community
The university’s advantageous location in the city contributes to a diverse community, both on campus and off. This exposure to different ideas, cultures, and values contributes to future skills as a team player in the workplace. The ability to engage with a community larger than that of a regular college campus is also beneficial due to the rich variety of experiences and resources that further students’ learning and growth.
Given Columbia and Barnard’s extensive network of alumni around the world, there’s a chance your interviewer might actually be an alum as well. If that’s the case, use it to your advantage! Both Beyond Barnard and Columbia University Center for Career Education stress the importance of utilizing the University’s alumni network. Students can connect to alumni using Barnard Connect, a new platform for Barnard students to connect with alumni all over the world, or the Columbia Alumni Directory. Check out our other article on internships if you need more help with networking! Bringing up shared experiences in a meeting with an alum at a potential workplace—even if not during an official interview—can definitely help establish a connection and get a foot in the door.
According to A-J Aronstein at Beyond Barnard, students at Barnard have the “capacity to translate incredibly complicated ideas for whatever audience you’re speaking to,” and “to make it so that person feels heard as well.” The liberal arts education of Barnard teaches its students how to communicate successfully in any field, ranging from art history to finance.
Learning from the Environment
The high achievements of accepted Columbia and Barnard students guarantees an elite selection in each class, each with their own knowledge, talents, and achievements. Working in this environment could encourage competition, a skill which could be seen as useful when pursuing a cutthroat career. However, it can also be praised for teaching collaboration. Students learn to communicate not only with their peers, but also with some of the most distinguished faculty in the world—a necessity in healthy teamwork.
Separate General Studies
According to the official site for the School of General Studies, “Columbia is the only Ivy League university with a freestanding college in which nontraditional undergraduates are fully integrated into the undergraduate curriculum.” The ability to learn in an environment of students of varying ages provides an experience unique to Columbia and yet very akin to a workplace in which one’s colleagues are of different backgrounds and experience levels, both in life and in work.
Good luck during interview season, Columbia! Remember that before every interview, you should read over the job description and tailor your answers to depict how your experiences make you the best candidate. Remember to keep an open mind when looking for work and know that a “no” isn’t the end of the world, just an opportunity for new experiences elsewhere.