NYU vs Columbia: Which School Is the Better One?

Friday, May 27, 2022

When students are interested in going to school in New York City, there are often two colleges that come to mind: NYU and Columbia. Although these institutions are located in the same metropolitan area, there are several key differences that distinguish the colleges from one another. 

Given each school’s unique characteristics, it can be challenging to compare NYU vs Columbia and choose one that outranks the other. Keep reading to learn more about how these two colleges stack up against each other and what to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to apply to either one.

Is It Easier to Get Into Columbia or NYU?

Both NYU and Columbia are top-tier universities that place a heavy emphasis on academic excellence. Each institution gets thousands of applicants each year, and unfortunately, both need to turn plenty of promising students away. While both schools are competitive, Columbia is more selective than NYU. For the class of 2026, the admissions rate at Columbia was just 3.7% versus 12.2% for the same year at NYU.

Is NYU a Good School?

While NYU may be less selective than Columbia, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good school. The top-tier business school, renowned film program, and stellar arts degrees are just part of what NYU is known for. The university also has many compelling study abroad programs and boasts 24 professors who have been named among the most cited researchers. Most admitted first-year NYU students are in the top 10% of their high school class and the middle 50% range for ACT scores is 31-35, with SAT scores ranging from 1350 to 1530.

Is NYU More Prestigious Than Columbia?

Both NYU and Columbia have stellar recommendations. Columbia is part of the Ivy League which is considered very prestigious in the US and abroad. Columbia also has a lower admission rate than NYU, making people think that generally, Columbia is more prestigious than NYU. However, personal fit is much more important than prestige. At the end of the day, both NYU and Columbia are excellent universities where students are successful and happy.

Is NYU Law Better Than Columbia?

Much like their undergraduate programs, both NYU and Columbia Law School are considered to be highly competitive. However, Columbia University’s Law School is ranked slightly above NYU’s on the US News & World Report list. Columbia Law School also has a slightly lower acceptance rate than NYU’s Law School. Again, both programs are fantastic, and students should choose the school that is the best fit for their needs and goals.

Are NYU and Columbia Rivals?

While some students may believe otherwise, NYU and Columbia do not have a known rivalry. The colleges do not compete against one another in athletics and more generally, there isn’t enough direct competition between the two universities to consider them rivals. Although NYU and Columbia may be close geographically, there are too many pronounced differences between the colleges to consider them true rivals.

Which School is Better if You Have to Choose Between NYU or Columbia for an Executive MBA Program?

NYU and Columbia are both excellent choices for an Executive MBA program. Columbia has a slightly lower admissions rate, but both schools are known to be exceptionally competitive. Both programs can help set students up for a promising career, not only in finance, but also in consulting, media, and technology. NYU offers many specializations, including Product Management, Banking, and FinTech. In contrast, Columbia doesn’t have specializations, but they do offer an array of electives.

NYU vs Columbia: How to Choose Between the Two Top Universities in New York City

Since NYU and Columbia are both internationally-renowned colleges with a plethora of opportunities to offer, it can be challenging for students to choose between the two schools. Since it’s not an easy decision to make, it’s important to weigh all of the pros and cons associated with each option, as well as consider what each school is known for. 

Generally speaking, Columbia is more heavily geared towards graduate studies, with graduates outnumbering undergraduates by two to one. In contrast, NYU has triple the undergraduate population of Columbia, in addition to a higher proportion of undergraduate versus graduate students.

While Columbia University is considered part of the Ivy League, NYU has a distinct identity and appeal of its own. Located in the heart of downtown Manhattan, NYU is a world-class university and boasts one of the world’s most dynamic environments for arts, music, and culture.

To help you decide which college might be more suitable for you, here’s a look at how they compare:


Both NYU and Columbia University are well-regarded for their academic excellence. The latter is known for its Core Curriculum, a communal learning experience that cultivates community-wide discourse and deliberate contemplation around seminal works, contemporary issues, and humanity’s most enduring questions. In contrast, NYU does not have a core curriculum that all undergraduates must complete. Required classes vary depending on a student’s major. NYU offers 270 areas of study, ranging from Art & Media to Business to Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math.

Student Body

NYU and Columbia are both committed to cultivating diverse classes filled with students from different backgrounds and walks of life. NYU’s student body is significantly bigger, at about three times the size of Columbia’s undergraduate class. Both colleges also attract applicants from all over the world and provide students with plenty of opportunities to study abroad. 

Student Life Culture & Community

NYU offers an array of different extracurricular activities and opportunities to build connections with their peers and fellow classmates. There are more than 300 active student clubs on campus, ranging from a Cheese Club to Superhero Club. Additionally, there are varsity athletics, 24 club sports teams as well as intramurals and special events. 

Columbia also has a broad array of activities for students to choose from. There are more than 500 student-run clubs and organizations, ranging from philosophy journals to investment clubs to intramural athletics. Columbia also has more than 50 performance groups and 60 social justice service and student-led initiatives, clubs, and organizations.

Nightlife and Things to Do

It’s important to consider every aspect of each school, including where you’ll be able to find the best college campus food. Since NYU and Columbia are both in New York City, students have all five boroughs to explore and take advantage of. Columbia is located in Morningside Heights and boasts its own campus. In contrast, NYU is in Greenwich Village and prides itself on being “in and of” the city. Regardless of which school a student chooses, they will be able to explore all of the museums, sightseeing, shopping, and fine dining that New York City has to offer. 

Living Conditions and Overall Campus

Columbia University has an enclosed campus, while NYU is in the heart of bustling downtown Manhattan. Both colleges offer a variety of different housing options within walking distance of their main buildings, making it easy for students to travel to and from classes. Living accommodations at both schools are considered to be top-notch, with ample different housing options to suit various student needs.

Fees and Funding

US private universities are notoriously expensive, and NYU and Columbia are no exception. The full tuition for both colleges hovers around $60,000 annually, and most students will also need to budget for room and board. However, since NYU and Columbia both have large endowments, many students who attend these colleges receive some form of financial aid to make paying for their education more feasible. 

NYU or Columbia University: Who Wins?

When it comes to comparing NYU versus Columbia, it’s almost impossible to choose one winner. Depending on your interests, preferred campus size and feel, and future career aspirations, one college may outweigh the other in your own admissions process. Although Columbia has a slight edge when it comes to selectivity, gaining admission to either college is a major accomplishment since both institutions are extremely competitive. 

Other Commonly Compared Schools

NYU and Columbia are far from the only colleges that any student should consider. Even if your heart is set on attending college in New York City, it’s important to weigh other options to round out your college list. You may want to start expanding your search by looking into other schools that are commonly compared, such as Princeton versus Harvard. 

Raise Your Chances of Acceptance with IvyWise

While NYU and Columbia are both exceptionally competitive, there are several steps you can take to boost your admissions odds, including working with a college admissions counselor. The right counselor will help you build a balanced school list, prepare your applications, and ensure you present yourself in the best light possible. If you’re interested in taking advantage of college counseling, IvyWise’s team of expert admissions counselors is here to help.

Related Topics

Choosing a College, College Students

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