At the Center for Career Education, our team is here to support your journey.
Finding a fulfilling career requires dedicating time and purposefully integrating career exploration into your life at Columbia. We invite you to partner with us as you navigate your career path.
Our career development model supports exploration, preparation, connecting, experience, and reflection. We understand that the job search process can be overwhelming, and we are here to help you at every step.
We offer career counseling, programs, and resources to help you achieve your goals.
- Career counselors can help you develop a strategy at any stage of your career search.
- LionSHARE is an online platform with job and internship postings, career programs, employer information and events, and more.
- Columbia-specific internship and mentorship programs allow you to gain experience while receiving specialized training and support.
- Our Info For section consolidates resources for students with specific needs for their career search.
Use the tabs below to explore more of our resources.
How can we help you?
Deciding on your career path requires time and intentional effort to explore who you are, your interests, values, and goals. This process involves building self-knowledge, connecting your academic and professional interests with potential careers, and finding opportunities to network with professionals in your field.
CCE has resources to help you begin your career exploration journey. We offer self-reflection activities, information about the career paths different majors can lead to, and networking strategies to launch your career.
Building self-knowledge about your identities, values, interests, skills, personality, and likes and dislikes can help you better understand yourself and your motivations. This process can offer you direction in choosing majors and careers that align with who you are and what you want in your career.
Your identity can be tied to your community, how you view and experience the world, values, interests, and self-image. This identity defining activity can help you reflect on your core being and ground yourself as you begin your career exploration journey.
CCE’s Info For pages offer identity-specific information and resources to support students in their exploration and job search.
Your values can play a central role in career satisfaction. Values are your beliefs, things that are important to you, pursuits that bring you joy and meaning, and your life’s priorities. This values activity can help you understand and reflect on what is most important to you.
Your personality is a combination of distinctive qualities that makes you who you are. Your personality consists of preferences and characteristics that feel more natural and comfortable to you. It shows who you gain energy, perceive information, make decisions, and organize your external environment. This personality activity can help you learn about how you prefer to navigate the world.
Your interests are things you enjoy doing, learning, and are passionate about. Reflecting on your interests can provide clues into careers you may enjoy doing. This interests activity can help you narrow down the things that spark your interest.
Before, during, and after Columbia you will have had many experiences where you learned valuable skills that you can bring to the workforce. This skills activity will help you identify the transferable skills you currently possess as well as any skills you would like to develop in your career.
Likes and Dislikes
Similar to how your experiences will help you gain skills, your experiences will also shed light on things you like and dislike. When thinking about your likes and dislikes, think about things like the environment, schedule, people, managerial style, commute, job tasks, and culture. This likes and dislikes activity will help you reflect on what you value and enjoy as it applies to your ideal work environment.
Connect Self-Knowledge to Potential Careers
Now that you have built self-knowledge and developed new insight into your identity, values, interests, personality, skills, and likes and dislikes, it’s time to draw the connection between who you are and your potential career.
Your major reflects both your pursuit of your intellectual interests and your preparation for your future career. Declaring a major can be intimidating as you may not have a clear idea of how your intended major can connect to your career. CCE has compiled majors tip sheets with job titles, industries, and companies recent alumni from different majors have pursued. Our free resource on What Can I Do with This Major? also provides detailed information on industries and roles for which your major can prepare you.
Our majors and career for international students article offers more information about campus resources, support, and insight into choosing a major for international students at Columbia.
Do you have some industries of interest and want to learn more or feel lost and want to explore the world of work? Are you looking for internship opportunities or jobs in your industry? CCE’s Industry Pages provide insight into a variety of industries and can be used to explore career options, learn about industry-specific job boards, and find resources Columbia and CCE have to offer.
Career Research and Exploration
Developing a strategy for exploring careers can help you avoid overwhelming yourself with information, stay organized, and reflect along the way. There are many online and in-person tools you can use to develop a strategy tailored to your needs.
Your online strategy can include using career platforms like LionSHARE, LinkedIn, and the resources on CCE’s website. Your in-person strategy can include attending company-sponsored events like meet-and-greets, industry showcases, and alumni panels. Reading job descriptions, learning about companies and industries, and meeting professionals are all part of your research and exploration process.
As you work through your career exploration strategy and begin to learn more about the options that are available to you, take time to reflect and analyze the information you are taking in. Ask yourself questions such as Does the industry culture align with my core values? What skills can I bring to this experience and what skills can I develop from it? Does this opportunity fulfill my top priorities?
CCE’s Connecting Your Self-Knowledge to Career Exploration page offers information on building online and in-person strategies, ways you can reflect on and analyze your findings, and tips on tracking your learning.
Explore Careers Through Networking
Networking is an important skill set to have in any industry. It can offer benefits such as building support systems in your field, finding mentors, sharing ideas, and learning about job openings. Networking practices such as informational interviewing, attending employer programs, and job shadowing can also help you with career exploration.
Informational interviews are an informal way to connect with and learn from a professional. These interviews can give you a better understanding of the work and career paths in your field of interest. Informational interviews are your chance to ask questions that can help you decide if a career field is right for you — What kinds of roles exist in that industry? What are the typical projects? What is the work environment like? What knowledge and skills are necessary? and more.
These informational interviewing tips and sample questions provide guidance on reaching out to professionals, preparing for the interview, generating questions to ask, and following up.
Employer Information Sessions
Many employers hold information sessions and coffee chats to promote their company and share information about job and internship opportunities. Participating in these employer events can help you learn about career paths within the organization and connect with recruiters or Columbia alumni. Employer events are posted on LionSHARE; student organizations and academic departments also can host employer information sessions.
Job shadowing is a way to get real-world insight into the day-to-day of your career field of interest. You can shadow a professional to learn about daily operations and tasks, observe organizational culture, and ask questions. Depending on the job and industry, job shadowing can be done in-person or virtually. Virtual job or in-person shadowing should be discussed and agreed upon with the professional or organization.
Our virtual job shadowing guidance shows how to create a shadowing experience and additional resources to learn more about the roles you are interested in shadowing.
Here are additional resources to provide support and information to guide you on your career exploration journey.
- Explore potential careers for different majors with What Can I Do with This Major
- Check out resources for making career connections in CCE’s Networking Guide
- Connect With Columbia Alumni in your industries and companies of interest
- CCE Internship Programs are an ideal way to explore careers and gain experience with professional development support from CCE
- Experience comes in many forms; see the different Ways to Gain Experience as a First Year (and Beyond)
- Career exploration is a continuous process; use Be SMART to Set and Achieve Your Career Goals to keep yourself on track.
CREATE YOUR MATERIALS
What do your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and personal statement have in common? They all involve communicating about your experience — often to a specific audience, for a specific opportunity. Sharing your professional narrative is an essential part of:
- Applying to internships, jobs, graduate schools, and fellowships
- Creating a professional online presence
- Connecting with employers or alumni
In this section, you will find resources to help you to craft your materials to highlight your skills, demonstrate your motivation, show your alignment with the position or organization, and build your professional narrative.
Resumes and CVs
Most job or internship applications will require you to submit a resume: a document that highlights your recent experiences, skills, and accomplishments that are relevant to the type of opportunity you’re seeking.
In general, a student or recent graduate should have a one page resume. It should be formatted consistently and be easy to read. Sections on your resume will include your education, work and internship experiences, extracurricular and leadership activities, volunteer work, research, and anything else that has given you transferable skills for your next role. Use this guide to brainstorm how to get started on your resume.
Craft impactful bullet points for your experiences to demonstrate your accomplishments. Focus on relevant skills, rather than listing all your responsibilities. Start with a strong action verb, state what you did, how you did it, and what was the impact or purpose of your work. Balance being concise with providing details that show substance and depth.
Many organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems (“ATS”) to organize and review applications. Use our ATS guidance to optimize your resume’s content and format for ATS.
Check out sample resumes for tips on how to organize your resume and draft your bullet points. Lastly, use this resume checklist to ensure your resume is ready to submit.
In the United States, the term “CV” is used to refer to a longer, more detailed document typically used for careers in academia. If you are applying for academic research positions, fellowships, or research-focused graduate programs, you may need to create a CV that tells the story of who you are as a future scholar.
Like your resume, your CV will include your contact information and education. Other sections can focus on your research, publications, academic honors, teaching experiences, leadership and extracurricular activities.
Check out our sample CVs for either Science or Humanities for inspiration.
Some opportunities may require a cover letter or give the option of submitting one. A cover letter is a one page business letter where you convey why you are interested in the position and why you would be an excellent candidate for it.
Prepare to write your cover letter by reviewing the job or internship description and researching the employer. What skills and knowledge will you need for this position? Then think about your own experiences and education. What have you done that will help you succeed in this role? How does this position make sense for you, given your interests, experiences, and goals?
Check out CCE’s guide for your cover letter structure.
- The letter should have the same heading as your resume, with your name and contact information.
- Include the date and address block for the employer.
- The salutation should be addressed to the recipient; if you do not know who the recipient will be, then you can use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiting Team.”
- Start with a brief paragraph introducing yourself, stating your interest in the role, and outlining your key qualifications.
- The body paragraphs should discuss your relevant skills and connect them to the role you’re applying for. Rather than repeating your resume, create a unique narrative of why you are well-suited for this opportunity, highlighting a few specific experiences with substantive details.
- Conclude your cover letter by briefly reiterating your interest in the role and thanking the employer for their consideration.
Use this checklist to revise and polish your cover letter. Check out sample cover letters for ideas.
LinkedIn Profiles and Your Online Presence
LinkedIn is an effective tool to build your network and apply for positions. In order to allow employers, alumni, recruiters, and others to find you, you should build a profile that showcases your qualifications and accomplishments. Unlike a resume, your LinkedIn profile will not be limited to one page. That said, your profile content should still be clear, concise, and focused. Follow our profile development tipsheet to make the best use of LinkedIn sections in creating or updating your profile.
Social Media and Other Online Presence
When you apply to a job or connect with someone in your network, chances are, the person you’re contacting will look you up online.
Your use of social media creates an impression of who you are. Be thoughtful and strategic in deciding where and what you share. Curate your online presence based on your career goals, values, and personality. Review the privacy settings of different platforms and consider which accounts you wish to make public or keep private.
Personal Statements and Writing Samples
Some job or internship applications may require a personal statement or short answers about your interest in the role. You will also need a personal statement if you are applying for fellowships or graduate school. How you frame your experience and tell your story will differ based on the context and audience.
- Clarify what the personal statement request is asking for. Some may be open-ended, while others may be focused on specific aspects of your candidacy.
- Determine what are the key points that you want to convey.
- Check out our self exploration activities to reflect on your values, identities, interests, and experiences. Identify themes or common elements. Think of how your experiences have built upon each other.
- Plan and outline how you want to structure your personal statement.
- Present a narrative that conveys your authentic experience.
For graduate school applications, a personal statement should address why you are interested in a particular degree and graduate program. It should show how you have the key qualities sought by the program or necessary for the career it will prepare you for.
Applications for research intensive graduate programs often require a statement of purpose as well. A statement of purpose should discuss your research interests and preparation and what you hope to accomplish in graduate school. Take a look at CCE guidance on preparing your graduate school personal statement and statement of purpose.
You may be asked to submit a writing sample for applications to jobs or internships that require significant writing skills. Learn how to select a writing sample that will show off your preparedness for the job. If possible use writing samples that match the type of the writing that the position would involve. Select an example of your best writing, since the employer is assessing your writing skills.
Professional Websites and Portfolios
If you are applying to media, tech, or creative roles, you may need a website or portfolio to display your work. Establishing an online website or portfolio also allows artists, writers, designers, architects, photographers, and filmmakers to maintain their content, ensure visibility, and manage their professional brand.
There are many online resources and platforms for developing a website or portfolio. Research what platforms are popular in your field and are most suitable for the type of media you will feature. If you plan to monetize content be sure to build in that functionality when picking a platform.
- Learn about web hosting space for members of the Columbia community. Keep in mind you may want your own domain when you leave the university.
- Creative professionals and visual artists use design-oriented platforms, such as Behance, Adobe Portfolio or Dripbook.
- Investigate free blogging platforms such as Wordpress or Blogger.
- Computer science students often create a portfolio of technical projects on Github.
Free website builders such as Wix and Squarespace are great places to start your professional website
Whichever platform you choose, use these tips to make the most of your professional website or portfolio.
- Highlight your key skills: Showcase the work that you want to be hired for and present the best examples of your work. Create mock samples to supplement your past work.
- Make it simple and easy to navigate: Present your projects in a straightforward and consistent format. Use categories to organize different types of material. If you are working with media, consider how best to present your work visually.
- Keep it updated: Add your most recent work and regularly review and reassess your content. Check that all links are current and working.
- Connect it to your other professional materials: Include links to your website and portfolio in your resume and LinkedIn profile. Consider adding portfolio and website links to your email signature and social media as well.
As you explore careers and build your materials, you may be seeking opportunities to develop your professional skill sets. There are many tools and resources available to help you identify opportunities that fit your search criteria.
As you search for opportunities, consider:
- Types of opportunities that are available. Gaining professional experience can come in many different forms.
- Resources for searching. Leverage valuable tools and resources to identify relevant opportunities.
- Recruitment programs and timelines for a variety of industries.
No two search processes will look exactly alike, and securing the right opportunity will require patience and persistence. CCE can provide individualized guidance as well as support on maintaining balance during your search process.
Types of Experiences
Gaining meaningful experience can come in different forms. Starting as a first year student and beyond, you can gain valuable experience through a wide variety of opportunities.
Internships are short-term work experiences that allow you to participate in professional work environments and explore how your interests relate to possible careers. Internships offer the opportunity to get an inside view of an industry and develop a better understanding of the organization and the position. They also provide you with a chance to improve your skills and gain more knowledge. You will learn from your colleagues, make professional connections, and build your network. Some internships may lead to full-time postgraduate positions.
It is important to keep in mind that not all internships are paid. If you’re looking for a short-term, project-based opportunity, a micro-internship may be right for you. Micro-internships are available for students and recent graduates from all majors and are usually paid experiences.
For questions about types of internships, check out our Internship FAQs.
On-campus and off-campus jobs
On-campus positions may include either federal work study or casual jobs. There is no centralized resource for finding on-campus employment, but there are many on-campus offices that hire. Off-campus positions can be found at local businesses and organizations around campus and throughout the city.
Gaining research experience is an enriching academic and professional experience, valuable in helping you prepare for graduate school or a career in industry. Through Columbia, other universities, or research institutes you can find opportunities for volunteer research experience, for-credit research, paid assistantships, funded programs, fellowships, or senior thesis research. Learn more about how to find and obtain research opportunities.
Volunteer and Social Impact Work
Volunteering can build valuable leadership and teamwork skills while also providing meaningful experience that gives back to the community.
Student Activities and Leadership
Joining one of Columbia’s 500+ student groups offers the chance to meet like minded students, explore your interests, and gain leadership skills. Many groups also offer the opportunity to explore career paths and offer employer connections and events. Explore student clubs and organizations at Columbia.
Job shadowing can help you explore career options, make more informed decisions, build self-knowledge, and put yourself in the shoes of the employer. You can identify opportunities to job shadow by networking with alumni and other career professionals.
Whether you’re interested in growing your technical, artistic, writing, or other skills, you can offer to help your friends, family, or local businesses with projects. It’s a win-win, since you have the opportunity to design real-world projects that will give you valuable experience.
Relevant coursework can combine theoretical learning with practical experience to build transferable skills for career pathways.
Resources for Searching
Whatever type of opportunity you are seeking, you can use multiple tools and resources for your search. Columbia-specific resources such as LionSHARE and career fairs are a place to start. You can also take advantage of LinkedIn, industry-specific resources, and more. CCE’s tools to organize your job or internship search can help you keep track of positions and your applications.
LionSHARE is a one-stop shop for jobs, internships, employer events and information, career programs, and more. It is available exclusively to Columbia undergraduate students and alumni. LionSHARE includes postings for jobs, internships, and on-campus interview opportunities. Once you have created a profile, you can access LionSHARE’s many features.
LinkedIn is a tool for building and engaging with a professional network, finding opportunities, and researching companies and industries. It has similarities with LionSHARE but is an important tool on its own – check out tips on how to use both LionSHARE and LinkedIn. Creating a robust LinkedIn profile also can help connect you to relevant opportunities.
CCE offers unique internship and mentorship programs that allow you to explore your career interests while receiving professional development guidance and support.
- CCE Internships+ offers spring and summer internships with partner employers from a variety of industries along with professional development programming.
- The Navab Fellowship Program offers summer internship experiences for full-time Columbia College students with employers sponsored or sourced by Columbia College alumni.
- Career Exploration Summits occur over the winter and spring breaks and offer virtual opportunities to engage with organizations in various industries.
- CCE Alumni Mentorship Program (CAMP) provides an opportunity to obtain an alumni mentor and receive professional development training, while participating in a summer experience.
CCE holds career fairs every semester; some fairs are focused on specific industries such as engineering and finance, while other fairs feature employers from multiple industries. Career fairs are recruiting and networking events designed to help you connect with employers of interest. Career fairs take place both in person and virtually, and CCE offers guidance in how to prepare for these events.
In addition to LionSHARE and LinkedIn, industry-specific job boards and resources are helpful tools for your search. CCE’s industry pages offer detailed information, job and internship resources, and Columbia-specific opportunities for various industries. Undergraduates and alumni also have access to Firsthand (formerly Vault) which has industry guides, company information, and career advice.
Employer career websites are another source for finding internships and jobs. Some large employers will have career websites dedicated to students and recent graduates. Most will have a database of current open positions.
As you explore your industries of interest, develop a list of target employers. Research organizations to learn more about their work, structure, and mission. Take a look at employer news and insights gathered by CCE. Bookmark the career websites of employers where you would like to apply.
If you are seeking jobs or internships abroad, GoinGlobal provides country-specific career guides and city-specific employer employment information. This resource also has job databases searchable by location, industry, and more. Another tool for finding international opportunities, Uniworld provides two directories – American firms operating in the foreign countries and foreign firms operating in the United States.
Recruiters and Temporary Staffing Agencies
Recruiters match candidates at different levels with job openings. Recruiters may work internally for a company, or they may work for a staffing firm hired by companies to fulfill their recruitment needs. Recruiters do not charge candidates fees for their services. Review CCE’s information about recruiters and temporary staffing agencies and how to work with them.
Building professional relationships through networking can also lead to finding opportunities. Through informational interviewing and attending employer events, you can learn about jobs and internships in your industries of interest CCE’s guidance on networking offers more tips on how to build and sustain your network.
Recruitment Programs and Timelines
Every organization has its own recruitment process. Many organizations hire on an as-needed basis and post opportunities when they become available (for jobs) or close to when the candidate would start (for internships). Large organizations, on the other hand, often have structured hiring processes and hire large groups of candidates many months before the job or internship would begin. These companies can predict their hiring needs in advance and choose to hire early to compete with other organizations.
You can learn more about the recruitment process by researching your target industry and employers. Attending employer information sessions and networking events are additional ways to learn about companies’ hiring plans and timelines.
Industry-Specific Recruitment Timelines
Large organizations in finance, consulting, and tech have early structured hiring processes. These industries can hire for jobs and internships many months to over a year in advance. CCE’s recruitment timelines for finance, consulting, and tech provide more details on when these industries hire and how you can prepare. Many of these organizations also have career websites dedicated to opportunities for students and recent graduates.
On Campus Recruitment Programs
Some employers recruit directly at Columbia through virtual and in-person programs. On campus recruitment programs include on campus interviews, employer information sessions, and career fairs. On campus interview opportunities can be found on LionSHARE under the Jobs tab and then selecting On-Campus Interviews. Career fairs and employer programs are listed under the Events tab on LionSHARE.
Specialized Recruitment Programs
Some large companies have created leadership development and rotational programs to offer specialized training and experience across multiple business areas. Many of these programs have recruitment timelines in the fall semester. Candidates interested in exploring different areas in the company and having ongoing mentorship within a structured program can find these opportunities appealing.
Companies may also have recruitment programs for specific class years and populations. For example, some organizations have developed programs for first and second year students interested in exploring an industry. Diversity recruitment programs offer internship opportunities, often with mentorship, for candidates from underrepresented groups in an industry.
PREPARE FOR INTERVIEWS
After you submit an application, the employer may invite you for an interview. From the employer’s perspective, the purpose of the interview is to determine your qualifications and your interest in the internship or job. For you, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate that you can do the job and that you want to do the job.
Interviewing is a skill, and as with any skill, you can improve your ability through preparation and practice.
- Learn about the interview process. Understand what you should expect from an interview. Find the best ways to prepare before the interview and follow up after the interview.
- Practice sample interview questions. Take a look at the different types of interview questions shared in this section. How would you respond to them?
- Use CCE Resources. Career counselors can help you prepare for your interviews and practice questions. We have additional resources to help you develop your interviewing skills.
The Interviewing Process
Interviews can range from a brief phone screen to an in person superday lasting several hours. The interview landscape continues to evolve, and each organization will have its own unique interview process. Some employers may have multiple rounds of interviews while others have only one. Different employers will use varying interview formats. All that said, it is helpful to be aware of the most common interview formats.
Types of Interviews
For the first round, the employer will want to confirm your key qualifications and your interest in the role. This may happen through a phone or virtual interview, which is less expensive for the organization. Employers may use virtual pre-screening tools such as Hirevue to assess candidates. Some employers participate in on campus interviews to meet selected candidates.
For a subsequent round (or rounds), you may meet with more people including the hiring manager, members of the team, organization leaders, and persons from HR. You may meet with people individually or in groups. Check out more details on what to expect from second round interviews.
Before your interview
Regardless of the interview format, you can prepare by researching the employer, reflecting on the skills and motivation that you would bring to the role, and practicing how you would respond to interview questions.
- Research: Carefully research the employer and the position. It will reflect a genuine interest in the organization and a thorough understanding of the role.
- Reflect: Review the job or internship description and think about what would be important for the role. Reflect on how your experiences have shaped your interest and how they can help you succeed.
- Practice: Use the sample questions in the next section to practice your answers
After Your Interview
After the interview, send a thank you email to everyone you met. Reflect on your performance – consider what went well and what you could improve for next time. If you don’t hear back after the reply date the employer indicated, you can follow up once by reaching out to the interviewer or HR representative to inquire about the status of your candidacy and the hiring timeline.
Lastly, review this checklist on things to do before, during, and after your interview.
Sample Interview Questions
Below are some sample interview questions that you may encounter.
Traditional interview questions
These questions focus on general information that you can answer directly. Some questions will be based on your application so be prepared to answer questions about your experiences. Check out counselor tips on how to answer common interview questions.
- Tell me about yourself.
- What do you know about our organization?
- Why did you choose to major in ___?
- Tell me about your work with [activity/internship/job].
- Why are you interested in a career in ___?
- What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why are you a good candidate for this position?
Behavioral interview questions
These questions are based on the premise that past behavior predicts future performance. To prepare to answer these questions, identify the skills that the employer values by reviewing the job description. Frequently, these are skills in leadership, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and time management. Think of examples in your past experiences where you demonstrated these skills. You can draw upon your coursework, internships, volunteer work, activities, and jobs.
- Describe a time you led a project.
- Tell me about a time you faced a difficult choice; how did you make a decision?
- Tell me about a time when you had to work on multiple tasks under time pressure.
- Tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team; what role did you play?
- Describe a time when you had to resolve a conflict; how did you do it?
- Tell me about a time when you worked on a project where you didn’t have complete information.
- Tell me about a time you failed to meet expectations.
See more examples of behavioral questions and how to respond using the SARA model (Situation, Action, Result, Application).
Hypothetical interview questions
These questions identify how you might handle a situation or approach a problem you are likely to face in the position. Try to recall similar situations you may have faced in the past to provide a concrete response for how you would act in this scenario. If you haven’t experienced anything similar, try to envision yourself in that role and determine how you might react. As with behavioral questions, review the job description to ascertain what issues you would face in this position.
In this role, we often encounter ___. What would you do in this situation?
Industry-specific interview questions
These questions focus on your ability to do the job and test your knowledge or understanding of a specific area of an industry. These types of questions are common in fields like engineering, tech, science, and finance. Review guidance on preparing for a software or technical interview and practice answering sample technical interview questions.
Analyzing business cases is part of the process of interviewing for consulting positions. Cases interviews examine business questions and test your ability to analyze a business problem and develop solutions. It is an interactive process that will require you to ask your own questions as you clarify the question. Take a look at general guidance on preparing for case interviews as well as student-sourced tips and resources.
Illegal interview questions
Questions which relate to your age, race, national origin, citizenship, gender, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, and other information protected by law, should not be permitted. Check out examples of illegal interview questions and how to respond to them.
Questions to ask during an interview
The interview is also an opportunity for you to ask questions to gain a better understanding of the employer and the position. You can prepare questions in advance of the interview and also ask questions that arise naturally as part of your conversation during the interview.
We encourage you to take advantage of CCE resources as you prepare for your interview.
Schedule a practice interview with a career counselor. A career counselor can discuss what to expect from the interview and help you practice interview questions.
Big Interview is an online platform that can help you practice for interviews on your own time. You can select interview questions by industry, role, and more, and then record yourself answering questions.
The Virtual Practice Interview Program takes place at the beginning of each semester. Participants will have a mock interview with a Columbia alum and receive feedback.
CCE’s Clothing Closet allows currently enrolled undergraduate students to borrow professional clothing for interviews free of charge. Submit a request form to visit CCE and pick out a suit.
Request an Interview Room at CCE to have a quiet place for your virtual or phone interview. Currently enrolled undergraduates may reserve a room for one hour during weekdays from 9am-5pm.
RESPOND TO OFFERS
You’ve received an offer. Congratulations!
As a best practice, thank the employer and ask them for their deadline for your decision. Take some time to consider the offer and use the sections below to guide your decision and communications with your employer throughout the process.
Evaluating an Offer
Think about an offer as a full package that needs to be unpacked to find what it contains. Look at the elements of the offer, including salary, benefits, job responsibilities, and opportunities for growth.
Research how the terms compare to similar positions at other organizations within the industry. Consider if the offer reflects your value, given your education, experience, and skills. Assess what your alternatives are, if you decide to decline the offer.
Be cautious about evaluating an oﬀer solely on its salary or the prestige of the organization. It is also important to consider if a job is right for you personally. Reflect on your values and long-term goals, and ask yourself how this position aligns with them.
Review additional information on evaluating offers, including questions to ask to determine the value of your offer, resources for researching industry compensation trends, tips on evaluating benefits, and guidance on how to compare multiple potential offers.
We also encourage you to schedule a career counseling appointment if you’d like to talk through your offer.
Asking for an Extension to Consider the Offer
An organization is not required to give you a particular timeframe within which you have to make a decision. Some will give you two weeks or more while others will look for your response within a day or two of their offer.
We encourage you to pause and not accept or commit to the position verbally until you are ready to respond to the offer. If you are interested in the opportunity and have been given a very short turnaround time for your decision, it is reasonable to ask for an extension of time to consider the offer. You also may be in the very late stages of other recruitment processes and would like to complete them.
Think about what would be a reasonable amount of time and reach out to your contact at the organization to speak with them and ask for an extension of time to make an informed decision. Remember that the employer may say no to your request for an extension, and you may have to get back to them with your decision. We encourage you to work with a career counselor to think through scenarios and to prepare for your conversations with your employer to feel comfortable and ready.
Note about participating in On-Campus Recruiting/Interviewing (OCI): Our OCI employers are encouraged to accommodate reasonable student requests to extend offer deadlines, and we provide guidelines to employers with suggested offer deadline dates. Refer to CCE’s Policies and Procedures for this semester’s offer acceptance guidelines. Note that these are suggested dates and not firm deadlines that employers must follow.
Negotiating the Terms of the Offer
If you are interested in the position but are not satisfied with one or more factors, you may choose to negotiate.
Contact the person hiring you, reiterate your interest in the position, and explain your desire to negotiate. Be prepared to discuss your reasoning on the spot, or schedule a time to speak or meet, depending on your contact’s schedule.
You should only negotiate with an employer whose offer you plan to accept if the negotiation goes well. It is unethical and damaging to your reputation to negotiate with an employer whose offer you have no intent to accept even if your preferred terms are met.
Before your phone call or scheduled meeting, recap the following information from your research:
- The elements that make up competitive offers for your industry and position
- An accurate salary range for similar positions in your organization and industry
Make sure that your bottom line is within this range.
Going into the meeting:
- Know what your goals are for the negotiation
- Be prepared to support your case with your research and by showing what you would bring to the role
- Anticipate the employer’s counterarguments and frame your position in a way that will resonate with them
- Practice your negotiation skills with friends, mentors, or a career counselor
See our guidance on negotiating salaries for more preparation tips and strategies for negotiating effectively.
Not all companies will be willing to negotiate, but it is worth discussing options before accepting a position. You should be prepared to compromise if necessary or to turn down the offer if the employer cannot meet your expectations.
When negotiations are complete, be sure to get the final offer, with all details, in writing.
Accepting or Declining the Offer
You have reached the point in your job search process when you have received an oﬀer, possibly several. Remember, the job search is not yet over. You still have to respond to the offer(s).
Accepting an Offer
Even if you have accepted an oﬀer verbally, you should follow up your acceptance in writing as a chance to:
- Conﬁrm the agreed upon salary, and date you will report to work
- Outline the terms of your employment
- Ask any questions you may have
Close the letter with an expression of your appreciation at joining the organization.
Remember, accepting an oﬀer (either verbally or in writing) matters. Once you have made an acceptance, notify all other organizations/companies that have made oﬀers, and inform them of your decision.
Declining an Oﬀer
If you are not interested in moving forward with an oﬀer, it is important to communicate in a timely manner and with the understanding that you may in the future work in partnership with the organization through another job or apply to another position with them. In your communication with them:
- Express your appreciation for the offer and for the interest and conﬁdence the employer has shown in you
- If appropriate, tell the employer where you will be going to work or where you have enrolled if you are continuing your education
- You do not need to share why you have accepted another position or what salary was oﬀered
There is a diﬀerence between declining an oﬀer received and retracting your acceptance of an offer or reneging. Retracting your previous acceptance is not to be taken lightly as it impacts your reputation. Take your time and be thoughtful about your impact throughout the negotiation and acceptance process. You want to show your most ethical and professional behavior to your future co-workers. Connect with a career counselor if you need to talk about a dilemma or change in circumstances.
BUILD YOUR NETWORK
Networking is the process of making connections and building relationships. These connections can provide you with advice and contacts, which can help you make informed career decisions. Networking can also help you ﬁnd information about unadvertised jobs/internships, industry or organizational culture, and necessary skills.
Connecting with people who share your professional interests can be a natural part of your career journey.
- To Learn about work and the path that people have taken to get to where they are, personally and professionally. You can gather more information to plan your career.
- To Connect with your team and place of work. You will feel aligned with your work’s mission and are more likely to get support on collaborative projects and new ideas.
- To Advance and identify new opportunities or gain new skills. Networking is an avenue to source opportunities or find promotions within your career.
- To Give Back to your organization and your coworkers. We connect to help each other reach our goals.
Networking with Alumni and Other Professionals
There are many ways to find connections and develop meaningful networking relationships.
Networking with Columbia Alumni
You can search for and connect with Columbia alumni across schools, degrees, graduation years, regions, interests, and more through the Online Alumni Community portal.
- CC Alumni Directory: The online CC Alumni Directory allows you to search by name, class year, location, company name, and more.
- Odyssey Mentoring Program: Odyssey is an online community exclusively for College students and alumni, managed by Columbia College Alumni Relations. You can connect with an alumni mentor for just-in-time advice or long-term mentorship.
- Contact email@example.com for additional information on connecting with alumni.
School of engineering and applied science
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information on connecting with alumni.
School of General Studies
- Contact email@example.com for additional information on connecting with alumni.
- Use The LinkedIn Alumni Tool to check out alumni majors, career paths, and organizations.
Networking Online (LinkedIn)
- Start with who you know: The easiest way to build your network on LinkedIn is to start the network you already have. Consider connecting with friends, family, classmates, professors, supervisors, and current and past colleagues. Then, use the search tool to ﬁnd other professionals you want to connect with. If you have a connection in common with someone in your network, they will appear at the top of your list and you can ask your mutual connection to introduce you.
- Join LinkedIn Groups: You can also ﬁnd new connections through the LinkedIn groups you join. If you are knowledgeable in the group’s subject matter, consider posting questions or responding to items in the newsfeed.
- Use the Columbia University LinkedIn Page: Another way to connect on LinkedIn is through the Columbia University school page. You can search for and reach out to alumni based on where they work, what they do, or even what they studied in school.
- Create a networking message: As you find more people to connect with, you will want to draft a networking message that works for you.
- Once you’ve made a networking connection, informational interviewing is a great way to build on the relationship. Through informational interviewing, you will connect with a professional in your field or company of interest and ask them questions about their career path and their work. You also can ask about potential opportunities and for advice on how to enter the industry.
- Before you meet, research your connection’s industry and employer and prepare questions to ask. You also should be ready to discuss your interest in the industry and/or company, your professional goals, and key experiences that have shaped your career journey.
Networking through Career Fairs and Events
Career fairs and employer events can be a natural way to begin a networking relationship. Here are some tips to make the most of these events:
Prepare Before the Event
- Review the list of organizations that will be attending the fair and the roles that they are hiring for on LionSHARE. Research the organizations you’re most interested in speaking with during the Career Fair.
- Prepare questions for employers that showcase your research into the organization and the job.
- Develop and practice your introduction. You might have different tailored versions of your introduction drafted in advance, based on the employers that you’re most interested in connecting with. If you’re thinking about how to structure your introduction, consider this framework :
- Present: Who are you today and what do you do? This might include your major and year in school and an experience or interest that connects you to the organization or role.
- Past: What experiences have you had? Develop a professional narrative that connects your past experiences. Highlight any relevant transferable skills.
- Future: What is your next step? Share what excites you about this organization and role.
Engage During the Event
- Connect on a personal level. Start with a simple “How are you? It’s nice to meet you.”
- Keep your notes handy and ask questions you’ve prepared in advance or that come up during the meeting to demonstrate your research and interest in the company.
- Be prepared to talk about your relevant experiences and relate them back to your career interests or the company.
- You can also take the lead, referring to an experience or project as a way to share how your interest in a type of work emerged or how you built key skills towards future jobs.
- As you engage in conversation, you can frame your questions to integrate important information about yourself. For example: “I’ve valued being a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers on campus, especially the opportunity to experience mentorship — first as a mentee, and now that I’m a junior, as a mentor. How does mentorship show up at your organization, and do you have any identity-based mentorship opportunities?”
Review our guidance on Virtual Career Fairs: How to Prepare and Engage with Employers.
More Networking Tips
Here are more practical tips to support your networking.
- Keep track of networking contacts through these Tools to Organize Your Job or Internship Search
- Send your networking contacts Follow-Up Letters to maintain the connection
- See our tips on How to Prepare for Diversity Recruiting Events
NAVIGATE THE WORKPLACE
Are you starting a new job or internship? Navigating this new opportunity and environment is exciting and filled with potential! Explore the information here to learn about some strategies and tools to help you get the most out of this experience.
Adjusting to a New Job or Internship
Check out some of our advice for settling into your new workplace.
How you present yourself to others in the business world speaks volumes. People often form first impressions about others within seconds of first meeting them. Here are some tips for making a positive impression.
- Stand straight, make eye contact, and turn towards people when they are speaking
- Follow your office dress code, perhaps dressing a step above the norm for your office.
- Be alert; pay attention in conversations and meetings.
- Arrive early to work each day.
How you treat people will say a lot about you.
- Learn your colleagues’ names. A tip for remembering names is to use a person’s name a few times within your first conversation with them.
- Set up virtual or in person coffee chats with your coworkers to get to know them better.
- Don’t make value judgments on people’s importance in the workplace. Talk to the maintenance staff members and to the people who perform many of the administrative support functions. Everyone deserves your respect.
- Assess your work relationships. Think about how you treat your supervisors, peers, and subordinates. Would the differences in the relationships, if seen by others, cast you in an unfavorable light? If so, find where the imbalance exists, and start the process of reworking the relationship dynamic.
- Be mindful of what you share about your personal life and what you ask others to share about theirs. What you share about life outside of work is your choice, but be aware that asking others personal questions can make them uncomfortable.
- Respect people’s personal space. This may be very different from your own.
- Don’t hesitate to be helpful. Offering assistance to a coworker or to your supervisor puts you in a position to learn more and reflects well on your ability to be a team player.
Establishing a good connection with your supervisor is a great best practice as well as a way to set yourself up for success.
- Listen to your supervisor in meetings. Observing and listening are opportunities to learn more about the organization and the work that is being done.
- Find a routine with your supervisor and set up regular check-ins. This will support your understanding of the goals and expectations that your supervisor has for you.
- If you need to ask for time off, be clear and open in your communication. If you’re sick or need to take some personal leave, clarify the process with your supervisor. Be proactive and ensure others can cover tasks.
- Keep your supervisor up to date on your projects and responsibilities.
Meetings and Communications
Communicate frequently, clearly, and consistently.
- Return phone calls and emails within 24 hours — even if only to say that you will provide requested information at a later date.
- Ask before putting someone on speakerphone.
- Proofread your emails carefully.
- When emailing, use the subject box, and make sure it directly relates to what you are writing.
- Zoom and email etiquette will differ from company to company; spend some time figuring out the office communication culture.
- Be punctual. If you are going to be late, try to let someone know so that people are not waiting for you.
Projects and Responsibilities
Approach your work with a growth mindset.
- Learn from your mistakes and use them to inform your next task or assignment.
- Take initiative. It’s important that as an intern or new hire that you can intentionally create opportunities for yourself to work effectively with a team.
- When working on team projects:
- Know your team’s goals and the overall vision
- Be able to identify your role so that you can better understand the scope of your work and contributions. If you’re not sure, connect with your supervisor for clarification.
- Reflect on your work and your interactions as time passes in your position. Identify your strengths and make them visible to your team.
Be mindful of your work space and that of others.
- Keep your office space professional and neat with appropriate personal touches. People will consider the space a reflection of you.
- Respect others’ space, whether it’s a cubicle or office. Don’t just walk in; knock or make your presence gently known. Don’t assume acknowledgement of your presence is an invitation to sit down; wait until you are invited to do so.
- Limit personal calls, especially if you work in a space that lacks a door.
- Acquaint yourself with the office culture. Do people commune in a break room or by the coffee machine? Does the office have an open door policy? Do coworkers and colleagues eat lunch together?
Developing Professional Relationships
Understanding the relationships in your world of work is an important step towards being an effective worker.
Take inventory of the people that are in your workplace. Who are the people that you interact with in those spaces? Co-workers, your supervisor, a work friend, your mentor, or a peer. After you’ve assessed your network, think about how you can leverage these relationships to further your goals. Start by asking yourself:
- What is my professional brand?
- How do I connect with other people?
- How do these relationships support my work?
Building meaningful relationships can help you develop partnerships and connections that can help you in your current position and potentially in the future. Use the following tips as a starting point in developing strong professional relationships.
- Be proactive in getting to know your colleagues.
- Be an active listener and give your colleagues the opportunity to feel heard.
- Be reliable; earn a reputation as someone who can be trusted to produce high quality work.
- Be honest; take responsibility for your mistakes and be open to feedback.
- Be respectful; everyone has something valuable to contribute, whether ideas, creativity, expertise, or support.
- Be open to different perspectives and show that you are willing to learn.
- Be authentic.
Developing your network doesn’t have to be an extra chore, but it should be an intentional practice. By being mindful of your process when you build relationships, you can ensure that you are taking thoughtful steps to develop your professional network.
Succeeding in the Workplace
Starting a new position, whether an internship or a full-time job, is an opportunity to learn and grow as a professional. In addition to doing your day to day responsibilities, be purposeful in seeking to continuously improve in your career journey.
Meet with your supervisor when you start to find out their expectations for you for both the short term and the long term. Request feedback to make sure you are on the right track. Think also about your goals for your job or internship — what you would like to learn and achieve. Share them with your supervisor and discuss what are the opportunities for accomplishing them.
Setting clear goals will help you track your progress to achieving them. Review our guidance in setting SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.
Connect with Your Colleagues
Introduce yourself to your team and others with whom your team works. Connect with each person and get a sense of what they do. Learn how your work relates to other people and how their work relates to yours.
Communication is important and may require figuring out the preferences of those that you interact with consistently during your work. Be adaptable and seek out ways to effectively and consistently communicate with your team and supervisor.
Observe and Learn
Understanding the culture of an organization is important whenever you start working somewhere new. Watch and seek guidance from your colleagues and peers. What are the routines of the organization? Of the people? Learn the organizational structure, meeting practices, and opportunities for collaboration.
Onboarding and training practices will vary among organizations. In general, it is good practice to ask questions to clarify your understanding and establish clear lines of communication with your supervisor and team. Read the organizational material, policies and procedures; if appropriate ask to join meetings or shadow other employees so you can learn more beyond your day to day work. Part of learning is also asking for feedback that can improve your performance or asking for guidance in learning a new skill.
Embrace opportunities to continue your professional development. This can include attending conferences as well as taking on new projects with greater responsibility. Reflect on what skills are important for your career and purposefully seek out ways to develop them.
Manage Your Time
Working full time in an internship or job can be very different from being a student. Be prepared for a shift in professional expectations, the nature of work, and the structure of the day.
Complete your projects on time, and when one task is done ask for another. If you need more time or are feeling overwhelmed with multiple projects, talk to your supervisor about prioritizing your work.
If things are slow for you, make your supervisor aware as well. And if your schedule stays slow, read some professional journal articles or ask if it’s fine to offer to help another employee. You can also generate ideas about potential longer term projects and present them to your supervisor.
Seek out opportunities to contribute where appropriate. Showing initiative, creativity, and being collaborative are positive attributes to cultivate.
Take notes during meetings and keep to-do lists of your tasks and deadlines. Follow data storage processes—if your organization keeps files in central locations, maintain your records in accordance with policy.
List and track your projects so that you can discuss your progress with your supervisor. Remember to pause and reflect on the work you have done. Think about your projects, the people you worked with, and the skills you gained. What was easy? What was challenging? What areas do you want to go deeper in? What areas do you prefer to avoid in the future?
As you start your career journey, it will be useful for your career to learn about the different paths other people have taken. Invite your supervisor and colleagues to informal chats. Connect with them on LinkedIn.
If you are interning, send a thank you note to your supervisor or mentor thanking them for their time and guidance at the end of your internship. If you hope to get a reference, this can also be an appropriate time to make a request. Also thank your teammates and other staff members with whom you worked.
Reflect on Your Experience
Reflect regularly on what you are learning and how you are growing as a professional. How has your work changed your impression about your industry and position? What discoveries have you made about yourself and your career priorities? How can you continue to challenge yourself and grow in your career?
Many workplaces have a formal review process, but also ask your supervisor and colleagues for feedback on your performance so you can learn what you’ve done well and what needs improvement. Update your resume with your experiences and accomplishments. Think about how you can continue to stretch your abilities.
Check out our guidance on how to make the most of an internship.
Making a Career Change
Follow these four steps as you navigate making a career change.
Step One: Clarify your interests, skills, and values
Consider the following questions:
- Why are you interested in this new career field?
- What skills have you gained that could transfer into another work setting ?
- What are your key personal qualities and abilities?
Meet with CCE to discuss taking formal assessments to explore how your interests and personality fit with different careers and to focus on your motivations for making a change.
Step Two: Research and develop a plan of action
- Become familiar with your new industry by consulting resources such as Firsthand.
- Review our comprehensive Industry Exploration pages (which include industry-specific job boards).
- Tailor your search to the industry by identifying recruitment cycles, hiring trends, and top organizations.
Step Three: Get connected and tell your story
- Incorporate your new career goals into a short but informative introduction. This can include who you are, what you have to offer, and why you’re interested in making a career transition.
- Work with CCE to get comfortable sharing your story with others. If there is a gap in your work history or you’ve had a non-traditional career path, plan what you will say ahead of time.
- Practice sharing your professional narrative. Actively participate in professional and campus events such as academic symposia, conferences, and career fairs. Meet with alumni or other professionals to learn more about a new career or industry.
Step Four: Gain experience in your new field
You may need to develop skills or knowledge in your new area of interest. If a traditional internship doesn’t work with your schedule, consider:
- Working part-time
- Seeking virtual opportunities
- Initiating your own project
- Taking online skills courses
As you seek opportunities in your new career field, below are additional tips to bear in mind:.
- Synthesize the results from your exploration, research, and networking. Use this information to align your resume and cover letters with your new industry.
- Talk to people you know to find opportunities. Search for internship and volunteer experiences through our Internship Programs and LionSHARE database.
- Stay motivated! The job search is draining and can feel overwhelming at times, so it’s important to take breaks when you can. Surround yourself with people who support you.
Addressing Employment Gaps
If you have been out of the workforce for a period of time you are not alone. Many people have periods of time during their careers when they are not working due to a variety of reasons, including:
- Losing a job
- Completing a degree
- Taking care of children or elderly or ill family members
- Tending to health issues
- Traveling extensively
- Pursuing personal projects
- Simply taking a break
As you prepare to get back to work, you can explain gaps in your employment history.
When you’re ready to reenter the workforce:
- Do a career assessment to determine what you want to do for your next step.
- Develop an overall narrative about your career and how that gap fits into it.
- Practice discussing your re-entry to work. Think about how you will describe your employment gap and the circumstances around the gap.
- Highlight previous and current skills that can be leveraged and applied to a new position.
Resume and Cover Letter Strategies
Here are a few ways to address potential employer concerns about gaps on your resume:
- Drop the months from your employment dates on your resume and just use years: For example: 2019–2021 instead of May 2019 to February 2021
- Consider a summary statement on your resume to help the employer focus on your skills instead of time away from the workplace
- Group your work experience on your resume into categories rather than following strict reverse chronology. Headings such as “Marketing Experience” or “Training Experience” will help downplay gaps.
- Include any other related experience you gained during your time out of the workforce. Think about volunteer work, projects (including independent projects), professional development courses, certiﬁcations, or involvement in professional associations.
- Address your time out of the workforce in your cover letter. For example: “…Following this work experience, I devoted myself to volunteer work outside of the legal profession. These volunteer experiences have given me an opportunity to take on a high level of responsibility in leadership positions, helping me to hone critical skills, including management, leadership, and teamwork. This work has been rewarding, and I am excited and ready to move my focus back to my professional career in the private sector.”
During the interview, you may be asked to address employment gap questions. Prepare a response that you feel comfortable with. There is no need to apologize for career breaks or divulge too much information. Briefly acknowledge the break and the circumstances around it, and then move on. Redirect the conversation by expressing excitement to return to the workforce and refer to skills and experiences that will be useful in the new opportunity.
- If you took time oﬀ to care for children or an ill adult, think of all the skills you used: multi-tasking, solving problems, managing time, handling stress, negotiating and mediating (especially with healthcare issues).
- If you volunteered, worked on projects, served in a professional association, took classes, or did anything else that was professionally related during your time out of work, be sure to highlight these experiences and the skills that you gained.
PLAN FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL
When you consider your career goals, graduate school may come to mind. You may be thinking about it as a means to further pursue academic or research interests, prepare to enter a field of work, or advance your career. CCE can support you with your graduate school planning within the broader context of graduate school advising at Columbia.
We can advise you throughout the five phrases of your graduate school planning process. As with many aspects of career development and planning, these phases are often iterative. You may benefit from reflecting on your strengths, interests, and opportunities throughout the graduate school planning process.
This information is an overview of our career services and resources related to planning for graduate school. These services and resources will help you reflect on factors to consider around attending graduate school, learn about researching programs, develop a compelling application, prepare for interviews, make decisions, and identify additional graduate school advising resources on campus.
Phase #1: Exploring and Planning
Your graduate school planning starts long before you apply, as you explore your academic and career interests, try out research, internship, and volunteer experiences, and build relationships with faculty.
In the exploration and planning phase, CCE career counselors can support you in:
- Reflecting on your possible academic and career interests, or identifying new ones
- Determining whether a graduate degree is required or recommended for the jobs or careers that interest you
- Learning how to explore your academic and career interests by connecting and building relationships with faculty, fellow students, and alumni
- Identifying what type of experiences you’d like to try out to help you refine your career interests, evaluate whether you want to pursue graduate study, and build a strong candidacy
- Discovering how to build your research profile toward post-grad opportunities.
- Familiarizing yourself with graduate school timelines
- Identifying people and resources who can provide you discipline-specific advice and guidance on applying to graduate school in your field of interest
- Considering things to think about before taking a gap year or two, including the benefits as well as sample gap year programs and additional resources.
Phase #2: Researching Programs
In this phase, you have a pretty good sense that you’re interested in graduate school, and want to develop a list of programs that you might apply to.
In the program research phase, career counselors can support you with:
- Reflecting on what you’ve learned from your preliminary research and exploration that inform your thinking about graduate school
- Learning strategies for researching programs, and possible factors to consider
- Identifying your top priorities and criteria for refining your list of programs: for instance, areas of faculty expertise, courses offered, location, funding options, or co-curricular offerings like internships or fieldwork
- Planning how to track your research on programs of interest and program requirements to inform future applications
- Refining your application timeline and next steps as you gather new information
Phase #3: Applying
In this stage, you are actively working on applications. The application process may happen over an extended period of time, since you may take admissions tests many months before you actually apply.
When it comes to applications, CCE career counselors can support you in:
- Identifying the application requirements for your programs of interest and creating a plan to tackle each of them
- Understanding key application components, like the personal statement or statement of purpose including for a PhD program, resume or CV, and letters of recommendation
- Brainstorming or outlining your application essays, by acting as a sounding board
- Engaging in reflection to identify the core story of your application—the answer to the questions, Why graduate school? Why now? Why this program?
- Revising your essays or resume/CV, by providing generalist feedback on structure, story, and tone
- Thinking through who you would like to ask for letters of recommendation, and how to do this
- Considering tips and answers to Frequently Asked Questions from Columbia Faculty and Admissions Experts
Phase #4: Interviewing
Not all graduate programs require interviews, but for those that do, we’re happy to support you with general resources and practice.
Support from CCE on interviews might include:
- Sharing general resources and tips on interview preparation, many of which will apply to graduate school interviews
- Connecting you with the graduate school section on Big Interview, a platform for interview practice that you can access for free through our office
- Doing a 30-minute general/behavioral interview with you and providing feedback
Phase #5: Decision-Making
Now you’ve heard back from programs, and have a decision to make! We know that career decision-making can be challenging, and we’re here to support you.
With decision-making, we can help you in:
- Identifying and discussing the main criteria you’re using to make your decision
- Evaluating whether there’s additional information you want to gather to inform your decision, and identifying how to gather it
- Reflecting on your decision-making process and suggesting additional strategies, if helpful
- Understanding etiquette around how to accept or decline offers
Here are some additional resources for your graduate school planning:
- Exploring Graduate School workshop recording and presentation deck
- How to Get Started on Your Graduate School Personal Statement workshop recording and presentation deck
- Center for Career Education: Career counselors can meet with you to help you think through factors to consider, learn how to research programs, and give generalist feedback on your materials, like essays, resumes, or CVs. Schedule a 30-minute appointment with a career counselor for support—wherever you are in the process.
- Undergraduate Research and Fellowships: For advising on post-graduate fellowship programs for research and study. URF advisors can meet with you 1-1 about your fellowship plans or applications. As a GS student, you can also meet with the GS Fellowships office
- Writing Center: For support on any written materials, from brainstorming through revising.
- Faculty and PIs: Mentors in your field of interest are a crucial source of support, and will be delighted that you are interested in pursuing advanced study in their field. You can visit professors in office hours or set up 1-1 meetings with your research mentors to discuss your interest in graduate school, seek discipline-specific tips, find recommenders, and even get feedback on your materials.
- Preprofessional Advising for Law School and Health Professions:
- From the Berick Center for Student Advising (CC/SEAS): All students can check out their fantastic resources on how to prepare, the application process, timelines, and more! (You will see this menu of options from the main navigation bar.) Sign up for their listservs to learn about info sessions with law and medical schools and other opportunities.
- From the GS Dean’s Office: Learn about their annual Grad School Coaching program.