Columbia GS. Too good to be true?

Hi all, I'm an international student on a gap year, and I recently got admitted to Columbia GS. Opinion online about the GS program seems mixed, and I figured I'd turn to WSO for additional perspectives to ascertain more accurately how GS is perceived for finance specifically.

In practice, students at GS take basically the same classes as Columbia College (CC) students, bar one or two exceptions. They sit in the same classrooms and have access to the same faculty, broadly similar access to labs, but different housing. CC diplomas are awarded in Latin, while GS diplomas are awarded in English, but both are headed under the title Columbia University. GS students also have access to OCR and career services. Beyond academics, GS housing is off-campus and suffers from poorer financial aid. 

In scouring the internet, I've seen many proclaim that GS is seen exactly the same as CC SEAS because they receive the same education. At the same time, I've heard instances where GSers are implicitly biased against specific finance clubs at Columbia or during recruiting since most firms are CC SEAS alums (heard some cases recruiters put an asterisk on GSer's resumes). But these claims are quite hard to verify, but perhaps specific evidence supporting this is simple browsing of Columbia Alpha Partner's committee members, and one will see the overwhelming majority of students being CC SEAS, with only a handful being from GS despite GS having almost 30% of the undergraduate population. Then again, I'm not sure how crucial getting into finance clubs is for recruiting at Columbia if one can manage on their own. 

Logically, I can understand why GS is perceived differently from CC SEAS. Its selectivity is miles off. Referencing last year's publically available cds document, GS had a 27% freshman acceptance rate, a 58% transfer acceptance rate, and a significantly lower range for standardized scoring (in fact, the upper end of scores are usually boosted because of relatively more selective dual BA programs within GS itself). One literally had a higher chance of being accepted than rejected if they'd thrown in a transfer application. Even within GS, there seems to be some segregation between 1. Dual BA students, of which their program is still relatively selective 2. Seasoned milvets or returning professionals who use GS to genuinely receive an undergraduate education they'd missed 3. Obvious backdoor abusers trying to leech off the Columbia brand (phrasing may be a bit harsh). The third group is the one that gets the most flak, but I'm not sure how far they can fly under the radar. Turns out, the 'non-traditional' qualification requirement for GS isn't too hard to achieve; just a year off school and you're deemed 'non-traditional' compared to, say, Yale's EWSP program, where the minimum time off school is 5 years. Especially for international students hailing from countries with mandatory conscription like Singapore, South Korea, and Israel, GS is easily a backdoor (even though they technically can still apply CC because military service is an accepted exemption) since most aren't up to par with CC's admission standards and take their chances at GS. Simply browsing these countries' respective international club pages, one can tell the majority of students there are enrolled in the GS program. Admittedly, I didn't do a thorough check of sure banning requirements of CC SEAS as the admin was very quick to push me toward the GS piled, and I obliged. For better or worse, I'm stuck with the Columbia GS option now.

So I'm at a crossroads. Beyond just public opinion, I'm curious to know what Wall Street sees this GS program as. Many are quick to defend GS or lay claims that, e.g., people are generally too busy with their lives to caring about the distinction about GS, but I'm not sure if those online posters have vested interests. The inner skeptic in me logically believes that people can possibly see the two programs as the same because their numbers are just way off, no matter how you put it. From a certain angle, it seems like the program is a bit shady and more of a cash cow for Columbia, though that may be a bit more pessimistic take.

As an international student coming from a non-connected family, I'm already at a visa disadvantage, and I don't have many connections to leverage around, a complete stranger in NYC, and attending Columbia GS would be a huge financial investment that I'm fortunate to be able to afford barely. I'm really hoping to get as much info as possible before making a pivotal decision. Thanks.

 

my understanding is that barnard graduates get columbia university degree certificates

 

Do Barnard people actually got screened out coz their school? I know a lot of them wrote Columbia instead of Barnard... 

I once networked with a girl in GS IBD and she asked which school am I in. I said GS and she immediately looked down at me and was not engaged anymore. Yet I did some research and realised she's Barnard but then somehow got her name on SEAS instead ... Don't know how she did it but the whole thing was just hilarious. 

 

It seems like you've already done your homework and have a pretty good grasp. There are some disadvantages to GS that you've mentioned (harder to get into clubs, flagged on the resume etc.), but from my experience people who really grind and want to get the most out of Columbia do. Most people's biggest complaint with GS is the tuition and lack of finaid, so if its not more $$$ than your alternatives, I would go (depends what they are)

 

Associate 1 in PE - LBOs

It seems like you've already done your homework and have a pretty good grasp. There are some disadvantages to GS that you've mentioned (harder to get into clubs, flagged on the resume etc.), but from my experience people who really grind and want to get the most out of Columbia do. Most people's biggest complaint with GS is the tuition and lack of finaid, so if its not more $$$ than your alternatives, I would go (depends what they are)

My alternatives are Duke/Northwestern/Cornell traditional acceptances. All cost the same. An an intl I’m leaning Northwestern/Columbia GS because of the city life. Conflicted.

 

Columbia GS is still Columbia, regardless what students insecure about their own schools tell you. This is coming from someone who didn’t go there. 

I don’t think you should rule out Duke or Cornell just because they’re not in cities. They’ll offer you a true American college experience. Not quite state school level but everyone I know who went to either loved the schools (aside from STEM kids at Cornell). You’ll likely end up in a city for work so I’d say have fun on an actual college campus while you can.

Duke and Cornell also do well on international rankings if you ever want to go back home.

 

I just interviewed a Columbia GS kid and he was easily the most polished and impressive kid this cycle. It’s a great school, 99% of people won’t care, and you’ll get the Columbia rep. Take it

 
Most Helpful

I know many people at GS who have/received top offers from many firms (BBs and EBs). I personally have even found many cases where the unique background of GSers has been an advantage in the process. It's only a disadvantage if you weren't gonna cut it anyway. GS is still Columbia and in the eyes of employers has the same prestige.People like to shit on GS because of its high acceptance rate - fair - but many of them have accomplished and proven themselves far more than any CC/SEAS kid - on top of their added maturity. Remember, with CC/SEAS the application pool has thousands of kids who just never had a shot and just sent it in the app b/c it's on the common app. Compare that to GS where a relatively small group of people can actually apply and end up doing so. Of that pool though, many are incredible. It's not really a great metric to just look at acceptance rates/test scores/GPA only.The only real knocks against GS are poor support from admin, lack of financial aid (due to shitty endowment situation), and a "removed" social situation from CC/SEAS. Just my two cents, but happy to have others chime in too.

 

Intern in PE - LBOs

I know many people at GS who have/received top offers from many firms (BBs and EBs). I personally have even found many cases where the unique background of GSers has been an advantage in the process. It's only a disadvantage if you weren't gonna cut it anyway. GS is still Columbia and in the eyes of employers has the same prestige.People like to shit on GS because of its high acceptance rate - fair - but many of them have accomplished and proven themselves far more than any CC/SEAS kid - on top of their added maturity. Remember, with CC/SEAS the application pool has thousands of kids who just never had a shot and just sent it in the app b/c it's on the common app. Compare that to GS where a relatively small group of people can actually apply and end up doing so. Of that pool though, many are incredible. It's not really a great metric to just look at acceptance rates/test scores/GPA only.The only real knocks against GS are poor support from admin, lack of financial aid (due to shitty endowment situation), and a "removed" social situation from CC/SEAS. Just my two cents, but happy to have others chime in too.

I heard about many from GS landing EB/BBs, but how is the transition to the buyside like PE/HF/VC don’t they tend to be even more prestige based or do GS students still do well then.

 

I don't think you are understanding - GS is seen in the same light/prestige as CC/SEAS by employers. If you are a vet, took a gap year(s), are a traveling musician/performer/actor and need the flexibility, you are not even eligible or meant for CC/SEAS, so it would be ridiculous to see it any different. If you get into a top BB/EB from Columbia GS and don't get an MF offer that's on you. For employers, Columbia is Columbia - any one who says otherwise is most likely insecure about their own school.If you are unsure about it because of the social situation, that’s fair, but you need to understand the reason they aren’t identically socially to CC/SEAS — generally an age/maturity gap. It would be a bit uncomfortable for many CC/SEAS kids and GSers to dorm together if someone is 18 and the other is 24 or something. If you have qualms about finaid, then it’s understandable. Columbia GS is absolutely shafted when it comes to admin related things. But for recruiting? it’s a bit silly.

 

GS students have a window period to sign up for classes, which means CC students have the advantage to take the best classes with the best faculty first. Hence, GS students get the leftovers. Besides that, most CC students put CC on their resume and LinkedIn profiles. Recruiters know the difference between these schools. Even, Columbia published a statement regarding Obama and mentioned that he graduated from CC. They could have simply written CU if all students take the same classes anyway. Unfortunately, GS is nothing but a cash cow for the school. 

 

hudsonllc

GS students have a window period to sign up for classes, which means CC students have the advantage to take the best classes with the best faculty first. Hence, GS students get the leftovers. Besides that, most CC students put CC on their resume and LinkedIn profiles. Recruiters know the difference between these schools. Even, Columbia published a statement regarding Obama and mentioned that he graduated from CC. They could have simply written CU if all students take the same classes anyway. Unfortunately, GS is nothing but a cash cow for the school. 

Would it be stupid to go to GS over traditional acceptances to Duke/Northwestern (leaning NU right now for fit reasons)? Many still say GS students get access to Columbia’s OCR and land IB gigs, but I’m not sure how GS students do for buy-side transitions. Any thoughts on this?

 

I don’t think GS gives an advantage in terms off landing an investment banking job as Duke and Cornell can both help you to succeed that goal. I am sure Cornell, Duke and NU will be cheaper than GS after you received the financial aid, which will leave you with more money for a plan b to get a MBA if you can’t get into hedge fund or private equity. GS would be my last resort. 

 

Graduated from Columbia GS and I’m at an EB. No one gives a shit except the tiny minority of prestige whore CC kids who are butthurt that we all have the same jobs and no one gives a shit.

 

Just network, don't mention you're from GS to the kids you meet, blend in as much as possible, for clubs recruiting write "CC" on the Google form. Make sure you network to get into clubs. Once you’re in, the rest of recruiting should be on the same difficulty level as everyone in Columbia.

 

Agree that nobody will care about GS from a recruitment perspective. When I see Columbia University on a resume I’m impressed and never think beyond that (didn’t even know this distinction existed tbh). 
 

Wouldn’t sleep on Duke. Legitimate top 10 university, great sports, amazing college experience, national and international prestige, no sacrifices really.

 

I have a personal preference for Duke for a better collegiate experience with similar outcomes, but no one gives a shyt about whether you went to Columbia GS in the real world.  Most people get that it's primarily intended for non-traditional students - many of whom turn out to be smart, capable, hardworking, and interesting.  No one will blink at the fact that you're attending, especially as an international - so long as you've got all the other stats checked for recruiting.   

 

Acceptance rates are tough to work with because they don’t tell you anything about the quality of the applicant pool.  I’d look more at the 25-75 SAT scores to get a true sense of selectivity.

And if it turns out to be materially less selective than another school you’re considering, I think you need to take a hard look why that is.  Admissions and enrollment is effectively a market, made up of thousands of students who’ve all obsessed over this decision for years leading up to it.  If that market is telling you something is less coveted, you need to assume there’s a good reason until you can prove otherwise. 

 

hey! thanks for the thoughtful analysis. I approached weighing Columbia GS with Columbia CC/SEAS in a similar fashion too. referencing their respective common data sets online, Columbia GS's 25-75 SAT and ACT ranges are 1340-1510 and 32-34 respectively and Columbia CC/SEAS' 25-75 SAT and ACT are 1490-1560 and 34-35 correspondingly. Seems like GS is less selective in those regards. What is important to point out, though, is that the application pools for GS and CC/SEAS are markedly different. GS is a special ugrad college accepting non-traditional students who took a 1+ gap year after high school at the minimum, and its typical student demographics are military veterans or professionals who are returning for an ugrad education; meanwhile, CC SEAS are your regular fresh out of high school student applicants. On one hand, the very different application pools make me wonder if it makes sense to even compare the two. On the other, GS does seem slightly less selective, and its employment outcomes are slightly less impressive, but once you account for the wider variance of the non-traditional applicant groups (a really diverse range than your typical HS student), it seems GS does perform quite well. While perusing other forums, though, it's not very uncommon to come across people who seem to have a vendetta against the GS program. Yet, again, many people on such forums also say that there's effectively no difference in terms of employment. But without having been a student at Columbia with first-hand experience, it's hard to verify these statements objectively. At the same time, I have traditional acceptances to other really competitive schools (Duke/Northwestern/Cornell) and I'm not sure if it's wise risking the possible stigma with attending the GS program when I can enroll in a peer institution, but I'd really love to experience NYC.

 

You’ve done some good work researching and thinking about this.  You can’t really go wrong here. 

But I would say this, as someone who wanted to be in NYC for college and now lives in NYC and loves it.

The magic of the NYC experience is really felt in your mid and late 20s and even 30s, because you basically get to extend the college life beyond college.  There’s a lot of bars and young people and easy socializing and (I hate this description but it’s true) “energy” that you can only get in NYC.  

For college itself, that NYC experience is way less special because you can get something like it at almost any college. And if anything it’s a downgrade because at Columbia you won’t have the same closed-off bubble feeling that a traditional campus can give you. 

You have the rest of your life to experience NYC, and it’s better then anyways. This is your only chance to experience college and I think you’ll find it more exciting at one of the other places.

But if your heart is set on Columbia it sounds like this program is more or less what you want. A final question I’d ask (if my pitch for skipping NYC hasn’t convinced you) is do they allow transfer from GS to CC/SEAS?  If they don’t, I’d want to know why and what that indicates about their own perception of the program. 

 

I’ll share my opinion and experiences as a current Columbia GS student finishing up my junior year…

Culture wise- people don’t know that I’m GS until I say so. I haven’t had any issues forming friendships and study groups with cc/seas kids. It can be a pretty cutthroat, high stress culture. I considered but decided against joining a frat, got accepted into a pretty selective finance club, and participate in several fun clubs that are almost entirely cc/SEAS kids. If you want to integrate, you can. (I’m 24 fyi)

Career wise- The 2021 career reports quote CC/SEAS students of having a mean starting compensation package of about $74k, versus GS’s $71k.

From a career outpoint- AFAIK recruiters don’t know or care to ask about GS. I just put CU on my resume. Further FWIW my student handshake account gets recruiting event invites several times a week.

I targeted banks for my summer internship, received several interviews and got to choose between two front office BB offers. The Columbia to Wall Street pipeline is real.

Regarding MF… I have peers going to PIMCO, but overall the HF/MF’s seem highly competitive: way more comparatively than for banking roles. I did three rounds of interviews at P72, but was not extended an offer.

I remember sitting a orientation call for one of the top 3 HFs, and the approx 40 students attending were all from ivy’s or ivy adjacent. Honestly I would not expect to land a buy-side roll unless you are highly competent, highly polished, and expect to get lucky.

The big downside is the lack of financial aid. Probably why GS is like 40% ex special operations military personnel enjoying that sweet sweet GI bill.

This is all solely my perspective. Would love to hear from some bank or fund hr/recruiters.

Good luck with your decision op!

 

As a GS student, I would tell you GS is very diverse. The variance of GPA is probably the highest within Columbia. Most of the high performers are dual degree students (with Sciences Po specifically),  Singaporean vets and some very smart ex-model ex dancers etc. If you look at those who graduated with honors, or entered the honor society, a majority of them are dual degree students. 

While there are also a lot of people in GS, who don't know what they are doing, who aren't really special and who probably just took 1/2 gap year. They could never get into CC with their resume before taking the gap year and got into GS with their relatively good GPA (compared to those vets, ex dancers etc.). These people have no special experience (unlike what GS has been saying) and are low-key below average. 

Also, a lot of events excluded GS students, for example, CC/SEAS student council organised a 2 hours exclusive access to coney island but GS? noone fucking cared. 

Regarding the club, I do know a lot of GS students in lion fund, 116th etc. The reason why the percentage is so low is because dual degree students (about 30% of GS every year) are automatically rejected since they are already junior, and GS people generally have less prep school finance bro vibe (meaning that fewer people have applied). 

 

This is really a tough one, because Duke, Cornell, and Northwestern are also really great schools that some might even choose over Columbia. I didn't even know about the GS distinction at Columbia, and I don't think I would care if I were the hiring manager. After all, if you're taking the same classes, and if you could hack it there, with the same kids who got admitted another way, what sense would it make to be douche about it? On the other hand, with other top acceptances in hand, I feel like I don't know if I'd want to go to Columbia if they are somehow treating me like a second class citizen. Columbia may slightly outrank some of the other schools in recruiting, but come on is a duke degree gonna keep you off wall street?

 
Controversial

My guess is that the people on this forum who are doing all this research and pulling #'s out of their asses are Columbia gs kids who desperately want someone competent to actually go there.

Most Wall St firms are well aware of these fake Columbia people diluting the real Columbia brand name. And when these kids slip through the cracks, the difference between Columbia gs alumns vs. Columbia College alumns becomes even more noticeable.

When people look at resumes/schools, much (but not all) of the value in terms of the applicant's aptitude is implied in their school. So if you're a Columbia gs person, it is implied that you could not get into a program that is actually competitive.

Beyond that, everyone knows that gs is trash, hence why gs people try so hard to defend it.

Go to a traditional program. You'll have great opportunities, and you will be taken seriously. There's a reason why the diploma is different than Columbia College.

Now, nontarget gs alumns - proceed to throw monkey shit at me and see if I care lmao

 

Columbia is a shady school in general. They have several cash cow programs. Gs is one of them and their Journalism school is another. The issue is that they take advantage of their students and deceive them. I’ve seen smarter GS students than CC students. It does not mean they are not competitive, but more like they are like a prey and Columbia is the predator. 

 

I had similar worries too. The really only pro to the GS program is that the students take the same classes whereas almost everything else, housing, financial aid, a disjointed social experience etc. is getting shit on. The selectivity is also miles off, and, all in all, it makes me scratch my head why both are seen the same.

One common criticism I hear is that comparing GS to CC SEAS is like comparing apples to oranges, but I can't help to point out that the GS program seems to be the most predatory of its kind. Other similar non-traditional programs like Yale's EWSP, Brown's RUE etc., in my opinion, operate way better. Not only do they properly academically integrate non-trads, but also have proper financial aid, social integration, the same diploma…basically the authentic ugrad experience as other ugrads. Additionally, they have a cut off of min 5 years away from school which helps prevent certain back door abuses who just take a year or two to skive and then enroll. Moreover, these programs are much more selective and require non-trads to perform to a similar calibre to their current ugrads (4.0s from CCs, well-rounded etc.) whereas I've questionably seen some people with 3.6 gpas from community colleges waltz into GS. I just can't help to think they're being taken advantage of by the GS program, given that many are woefully underprepared and get admitted.

For me specifically, I think I can perform similar to regular Columbia College students if I get into GS, and hopefully leverage on Columbia's OCR etc. But everything just sounds too good to be true. I'm really having second thoughts, especially given the mixed opinion on this thread and many reaching out, and I might just attend Duke/Northwestern to be safe, they don't perform way worse than Columbia for recruiting anyways…

At the same time, so many have talked about Columbia GS' pros, I just don't know who to trust. If anyone has anymore info on GS PLEASE REACH OUT

 

It’s interesting you mentioned the Yale’s non-traditional program. There is a 52-years old vet that was accepted into that program and he is fully integrated with the traditional student body. The Yale administration did not say let’s open another school for these old folks. The GS fanboys like to bring the argument that a separation  is needed because of the age differences. However, this is about education and age does not matter. This is not competitive NBA. 

 

But to be fair, many have said GSers go on to receive offers from EBs/BBs and a quick search on linkedin does show GS students securing top jobs. All this makes me wonder if firms really discriminate against GS students all that much, maybe the selectivity thing is all in my head and the real world doesn’t operate that way—but hey what do I know?

What I’m still unsure of, though, is whether there is a uniform opinion on GS on the street. e.g. is it the higher you go like Goldman Sachs/Blackstone they start to discriminate heavily? vs Deutsche or Barclays cares less? also how about pivoting to the buy side etc.?

 

Recusandae tempore in voluptate consequatur eos sint. Doloribus harum quis laboriosam amet ut. Recusandae vel reiciendis in blanditiis excepturi. Voluptates consequuntur et impedit quo ut molestiae. Alias ratione vel quia pariatur ut placeat dolorem totam. Est ullam ipsum vero quasi cupiditate est aspernatur omnis.

Aut facere et reiciendis rerum. Corporis odio illum quam aut qui voluptas non. Est atque earum laboriosam laborum nulla nesciunt expedita.

Ducimus voluptas accusamus deleniti eum corporis et ipsam quisquam. Magnam quo vel expedita eos molestias explicabo nisi cumque.

Sunt qui eos quos. Sed velit beatae repellendus minus. Aut quo accusantium quis cum dolore ea nulla eveniet. Vel et fugit unde enim. Ex et similique iure molestiae sint maiores porro. Blanditiis laudantium doloribus id odit aperiam ea voluptatem.

 

Soluta excepturi nihil laboriosam eveniet in laborum similique quisquam. Qui impedit alias est beatae. Dolorum dolor quasi quia est corporis.

Aut perspiciatis mollitia est est. Quae assumenda et sint praesentium. Inventore quis aut inventore et quod corporis rerum. Maxime placeat quis accusamus facere. Sequi veniam molestiae rerum praesentium. Nisi corporis illum voluptatem accusantium quam ut et.

Voluptatem eius voluptas ipsam eligendi. Cupiditate est itaque delectus ut nisi iure aspernatur veritatis. Nemo non consequatur ducimus. Quia cumque rerum ullam optio. Veritatis consectetur quod ut. Non sint perferendis vitae deleniti assumenda minus sed. Sapiente quidem sed atque dolores quis eligendi officia.

Aut et ipsam dolorem ut placeat. Autem ut qui et itaque pariatur totam. Eum et error omnis nulla. Voluptate quo aut ad ea ratione perspiciatis. Unde rerum accusamus quia quis ipsa voluptas et.

 

Expedita maiores ratione dolores neque blanditiis quis ipsam. Non laudantium laboriosam quo hic a dolore quod.

Vitae nesciunt animi molestias et. Quia enim est qui voluptatem facere. Nulla et perferendis facere et sapiente tempore hic provident.

Tempora quia nesciunt molestiae molestias praesentium repellendus maiores architecto. Omnis quisquam sint veniam occaecati tenetur beatae dolor nihil. Quidem eos necessitatibus qui.

Career Advancement Opportunities

May 2024 Investment Banking

  • Jefferies & Company 02 99.4%
  • Perella Weinberg Partners New 98.9%
  • Lazard Freres 01 98.3%
  • Harris Williams & Co. 24 97.7%
  • Goldman Sachs 16 97.1%

Overall Employee Satisfaction

May 2024 Investment Banking

  • Harris Williams & Co. 18 99.4%
  • JPMorgan Chase 10 98.9%
  • Lazard Freres 05 98.3%
  • Morgan Stanley 05 97.7%
  • Perella Weinberg Partners New 97.1%

Professional Growth Opportunities

May 2024 Investment Banking

  • Lazard Freres 01 99.4%
  • Jefferies & Company 02 98.9%
  • Perella Weinberg Partners 18 98.3%
  • Goldman Sachs 16 97.7%
  • Moelis & Company 06 97.1%

Total Avg Compensation

May 2024 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (5) $648
  • Vice President (21) $373
  • Associates (91) $259
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (14) $181
  • Intern/Summer Associate (33) $170
  • 2nd Year Analyst (68) $168
  • 1st Year Analyst (205) $159
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (148) $101
notes
16 IB Interviews Notes

“... there’s no excuse to not take advantage of the resources out there available to you. Best value for your $ are the...”

Leaderboard

1
redever's picture
redever
99.2
2
Betsy Massar's picture
Betsy Massar
99.0
3
BankonBanking's picture
BankonBanking
99.0
4
Secyh62's picture
Secyh62
99.0
5
dosk17's picture
dosk17
98.9
6
CompBanker's picture
CompBanker
98.9
7
GameTheory's picture
GameTheory
98.9
8
kanon's picture
kanon
98.9
9
numi's picture
numi
98.8
10
Jamoldo's picture
Jamoldo
98.8
success
From 10 rejections to 1 dream investment banking internship

“... I believe it was the single biggest reason why I ended up with an offer...”