"The biggest surprise during the summer program was how good the seminar sessions were ... Learning new things nonstop, being amazed at how efficiently our professor was able to help us ascend to another plane of thinking, the seminars were one of the most educational and influential experiences of my life."
Frequently Asked Questions
Applicants must be in 11th grade in a New York City high school. We serve students who are low-income (as determined by federal income guidelines) and/or of the first generation in his or her family to attend college.
Preference is given to students who live in or attend school in the Borough of Manhattan.
No. Our program is one year long, from July through May. Students must commit to both the four-week summer program and the civic leadership program, which meets twice a month throughout the academic year and requires students to work independently between meetings.
If you're willing to work hard we're willing to guarantee your success. The program is intentionally difficult—you're going to be immersed in the same texts Columbia sophomores are required to read to prove to yourselves and your future university that you can handle anything. But we wouldn't assign this syllabus if we didn't think our students couldn't rise to meet the challenge. Our teaching assistants offer round-the-clock support to make sure you succeed.
Most of our texts come from the "Contemporary Civilization" course on political philosophy that all students at Columbia take in their sophomore year. Columbia started Contemporary Civilization in the wake of the Great War to teach the future leaders of America how to lead the country away from war and toward peace. The course, texts, and student populations have changed drastically since 1919 but the goals remain. The texts we read directly contributed to establishing the political values our country is built upon: life, liberty, freedom, citizenship, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that by understanding where those ideas originated and taking ownership of them, our students will be better prepared to lead their fellow citizens toward progress.
The civic leadership project is an activism lab for Freedom and Citizenship students. Beginning in the summer, students consider the issues that matter most to them. In September they research their topics—its history, current state, possibilities for the future. In the spring, they work with their peers to take action. Some past projects have included videos, visual art, and personal narratives. Students regularly take the training they gain in the program to their colleges as campus activists.
In the summer, students are expected to attend the full program including orientation, seminar, study sessions, and field trips. Typically, students check in on Sunday evening and check out Friday afternoon. During that time, students may only receive visitors on campus from 10:00 pm to 10:45 pm and may not leave the immediate area around campus.
The program meets about every two weeks during the academic year. Meetings typically lasts three hours and take place on Saturday afternoons. The meetings allow students to workshop and prepare their civic leadership projects. Dates will be announced during the summer and students will need to avoid scheduling conflicts to ensure full participation.
In addition, all F&C students sign up for college mentoring, which will bring them to Columbia's campus at least one hour a week in the autumn.
We designed our application to ensure that we accept students who are prepared for our program's level of reading and writing. Choosing your strongest writing sample and proofreading your essay will help you put together a strong application. However, our most successful applicants are not necessarily the best writers, but those who can demonstrate excitement for the summer's intensive college experience and a willingness to commit fully to the academic year program. We are particularly interested in students who have some ideas about the civic leadership project. We recommend students look at past years' projects to get an idea of what they would like to contribute.