I just got back from my New York City visit of Columbia. I had been invited to an information session that lasted about 2 hours to talk about the school. I wanted to go to see the area and determine if it's a place I'd like to go to school. Here are some observations I made:
1) The facilities are nice, and they're doing renovations. After seeing Columbia, I went downtown to NYU. I think NYU's buildings are "prettier" and in some ways more impressive. However, the work Columbia is doing will probably look great soon enough.
2) The area is better than I thought/remembered. My parents were always scared of Columbia, complaining it was in "Harlem." Morningside Heights has beautiful old buildings and a nice neighborhood feel. Lots of students around, and very few creepy homeless people. I honestly think the area is a positive for the school, and I think I prefer it to NYU's Greenwich Village (maybe I'm being dumb/naive in this preference). I wish that the law school were on the pretty undergrad campus, but oh well.
3) I like how they seem to make it easy to study abroad should I chose to do that, and how she acknowledged that some of their strongest programs include Constitutional law, academia, and corporate, the 3 areas I'm interested in.
4) Some of the people in the info session were annoying. I hope that doesn't reflect too much on the student body. I'm not looking for overly laid back, but a little bit couldn't hurt.
5) An interesting piece of admissions news: the woman leading the session (she was excellent) said that it didn't look like their numbers would change much for the upcoming class (they're still tabulating the numbers). I definitely believe this. I'm sure they have a pretty good idea of what the numbers are now since the class should be pretty stable (orientation is next Monday), and if it looked like the LSAT scores had increased, I'm sure she would have said something about it being even more competitive. So, it looks to me as if the ABA change hasn't really radically changed the schools' averages, which is good for me, with my 171, right below median.
6) That said, she did kind of emphasize (maybe not the right word) that the median LSAT is a 172. I feel kind of nervous with my LSAT being below median (even if it's only slightly), but my GPA is hopefully high enough above the 75th to compensate. She said early decision doesn't help you get in, and I guess I mostly believe her. She confirmed January was the earliest you'd hear back regular decision.
7) Given all this information, I've decided that Columbia is still my first choice, and I will consider applying early decision. While I don't think ED will help all that much, I think it could give the edge to make up for my LSAT score, which is slightly below their median. Compared to NYU, I think Columbia wins hands down for me. I saw NYU after Columbia's info session, and though their facilities are impressive, I loved the whole Columbia package upon visiting.
Also, I need to rework my essay. She said she'd like to hear a little bit more about why I'm interested in Columbia. I'll add that this week.