Columbia University | Student Feedback

Hi Neha and Jimeet Sir, Columbia University

Hope you are doing great! I would love to help out students applying for MS in CS at Columbia. Sorry I couldn’t reply sooner, I was busy with college work. It’s terribly hectic out here.

So let’s see.. Columbia University

  1. About the course – Think twice before applying to Columbia for MS in CS. If you are not passionate about CS or just applying because it’s an Ivy League school or because it’s New York or whatever, YOU WILL SUFFER. I have seen people crying (literally) here. Columbia University

I have never worked so hard in my life ever before, but the end result is just fabulous. I have learned more in the past 6 months here, than in my entire 4 years in under-grad. 4 courses in one semester takes a big toll on you.

Teachers are GOD-level. I feel so blessed to be a student of such amazing professors. They are very warm, they LOVE their students and help them out in every way.

Courses are again fabulous, because professors are soo great. Believe me, if you hated algorithms or programming languages and translators back in undergrad, you will end up loving it here. There are some light courses, some heavy ones. It’s quite essential to balance things out here.

I am currently enrolled in the Machine Learning track here. You will find some of the best professors and courses if you are interested in machine learning. But let me warn you, most people apply for ML just because it’s a buzz word and everyone talks of it nowadays. It’s not easy!! It is a lot of math and stats. If you are even remotely disinterested in it, consider other options. I know a lot of people who have switched tracks after coming here, because ML was just not their game. There are some really amazing courses for NLP, Networks and Security, Distributed Systems and Vision as well.

  1. Desi-folks are plenty in number. Roughly 100 Indians in CS department only. That’s because we rock! 🙂
  1. I would say ~35% Chinese, ~35% Indians, rest from Japan, Chile, France, Spain, Korean, Taiwan and more..almost none from US. I know only a couple of folks from US.
  1. University follows a semester system.  Columbia University
  1. If you are a fresher (like I am), be prepared to be mentally and physically stressed out, because getting internship is not easy. You will see tons of companies coming every week and that is quite reassuring, but you will almost always be ignored when compared to kids with work-ex. And by work-ex I mean Flipkart, Samsung, Google, Cisco etc. So it is not a piece of cake unlike those Infosys/TCS interviews back in India.

On a positive note, I have seen a lot of my friends get in Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Factual, Zynga, Amazon etc. and being in Columbia means these companies will come to you first before they go to other colleges. The career fair Columbia had last year saw more than a 100 hundred companies. Students from Brown, Yale and NYU came to Columbia to visit our career fair, so you will have a lot of company names flying around daily.

  1. I have not seen anyone do anything off-campus ever. Campus is the best place to be and you will not get more opportunities off-campus than you will on-campus.
  1. Columbia career fairs are a bit late. In fall its around October and in Feb during spring. Another lovely thing about Columbia is that there is a separate career fair that brings only start ups. New York city has the highest number of start ups after SF obviously. So you will have that advantage as well.
  1. 195 Claremont Av, Carleton Arms Riverside Drive, 156 Claremont Av. These are locations of University apartments where some of my MS friends stay. Obviously there are soo many more.
  1. $700 – $1200.  Columbia University
  1. Be ready to get ripped-off in every possible way. Roughly, monthly expenses come to $1000+ even when you have tried to live like a beggar. It can go much more depending on where you eat, where you stay, how much alcohol you have and whether you like to randomly book limousines just because.. 😛
  1. C-Town Supermarket: SASTA AUR ACCHA ( Big Bazar 😀 ), MET/METs: student discount (not on milk apparently, which is the only thing I end up buying from there usually 😛 ) and Fairway (you will find everything here and its best quality but a slight bit expensive). Other honorable mentions: Morton Williams, Rite Aid, Duane Reade, Thrifty supermarket, Patel Brothers (New Jersey and Queens) and Fresco (Online store for desi food items (it’s a life saver)).

Tip: dhaniya is called cilantro here. Took me a while to figure that out.

  1. As I said, be ready to get ripped off while you are in New York City. There are no student discounts on any public transport. Buses and Metros are awesome and all you could probably need for transportation. Columbia students have one benefit though, a shuttle runs in the entire campus periodically and usually comes handy if you have to leave for home late in the night.

Oh, if it’s too late in the night, Columbia patrol cars/Public Safety (ASTON MARTINS :O ) will also drop you home if you show your ID and act like a helpless and lost soul. 😛

  1. None near the campus. Patel Brother’s is a 45 min train ride to Queens. Another one in New Jersey, where I haven’t been to ever. I would recommend ordering online from Fresco (Awesome desi-food at your doorsteps) !!
  1. It’s MANHATTAN..Food everywhere!!…Halal Food Trucks, Roti Roll, Chapati House, Tom’s Pizza, Masala Club, Doaba Deli, M2M, Uris Deli (In-campus canteen (awesome food btw)), Koronets (HUGE PIZZAS), Absolute Bagels, lots of other food trucks etc..

Oh there is a food truck that gives south-indian as well 🙂 Columbia University

  1. Riverside Park, Central Park, Morningside Park, Lovely pier on the Hudson river. Riverside Park is my favorite. It has multiple football courts, basketball courts, beach volleyball area, ping pong tables, skateboarding and bmx rinks if you are into that, tennis courts, street gyms, and a lovely view of the hudson river.

Then there are places downtown like Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State, One Word Trade Center, Rockafeller Center, etc..the usuals…

By the way you won’t get to hangout on weekends with friends if you are doing CS.

  1. Min: -15 degree Celsius, Max: 30+ degree Celsius Columbia University
  1. Everything. Actually sunny, winter, rainy and windy are not enough to describe the climate here. Add snow, hail, blizzards, humid, hot and pleasant to it as well.

It is in fact one of the best experiences of my life. I don’t think you will face any problems if you are coming here to learn and grow. I have met some really incredible people here and I cannot emphasize on that enough. Undergrads here are way more smarter than MS students and you will have them and other PhD students in your class. There is knowledge and opportunity everywhere here, you should just have your priorities straight and have correct attitude.

If you want to party in US, do not apply for CS here.

I know the tuition and rent and everything is quite exorbitant here, but trust me you will recover it very soon. Every penny is worth it here and you could not ask for more from a MS program. And lastly, feel free to drop me a mail any time if any one has any doubts regarding Columbia/NYC in general or the CS/DS program here.

I will write another mail later regarding what all you should prepare/study before coming here soon.

Until then, good luck everyone. Columbia University