Columbia 2011 Application - Questions


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First, thank you for taking the time to read my posting.

I have been looking at film schools (screen writing MFA in particular) for some time now and narrowed down my choices to Columbia and NYU, with Columbia being the favorite. I have already written the first draft of my essay and plan to use some existing materials for the 10-page sample. My next task is to work on the 1 page treatment, which it seems is the hardest part. I have some questions that I am hoping I can get help in answering.

1: I am currently enrolled in an MBA program and heading into my 2nd year with an expected graduation date of May 2011. My hope is that I would enter film school in the Fall of 2011. My concern is my transcripts. While I currently have a 3.4 GPA in my MBA program, but undergraduate GPA is a 2.7 and most certainly I deserved it because I did not apply myself. Reading this forum I noticed a post that said GPA was not as important as other aspects of my application, but do you think the undergraduate transcript will hold me back?

2: I have seen that many schools request a portfolio or resume with samples of work. Columbia does not request this, but will they refuse to consider it?

3: I do not have a visual submission, but I can create something by pulling in past professional work and mixing it with something created just for the application. I feel that, especially with my poor GPA in undergrad, a visual submission would help. But if I create something just for Columbia, will it appear as if I am attempting to curry favor in an inappropriate manner?

4: I am over 30, so I would certainly be an older student. I have heard that this is seen as a large negative. Is this true?

Any help on these questions or advice that you can provide is appreciated.

Hello MAbie,

I am glad you have started this thread. Of the 5 schools I am applying to, Columbia is currently at the top of my list. Thou NYU is slowly creeping up.

But to answer your questions...

1. When reviewing transcripts, I believe that admissions committee looks for 2 basic things: character and progress/consistency. The types of classes you take, the grades you get in them and your gpa over the course of your student career, says a lot about you. Considering that you are a current a graduate student (and a MBA student at that) with a decent gpa, I don't think your undergraduate grades will hurt you much. Besides, this website has establish, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that grades (on the whole) are not what gets you into film school, it's your talents and potential.

2. Only the creative producing program requires a resume. But, if you happen to get an interview, I would imagine that your interviewer(s) would allow you to pass out your resume.

3. I don't think Columbia puts that much emphasis on visual submissions. However, because they do emphasize on storytelling, I would think that creating a narrative short film will serve you better then creating a reel because you are applying as a screenwriter.

4. I am currently 23 and attending undergraduate film school and in our grad program I have met several MFA students who are 30 and above. As a whole, they bring experience, maturity and professionalism to our department. And as mentioned earlier, it's your talent and potential that will get you into film school. If you are able to convince the the admissions committee that your age makes you experienced, mature and professional, you can use your age as an asset.

Lastly, I think that every film school values diversity and they seek to make there incoming classes as diverse as possible. In age, ethnicity, gender, experience, background, etc... So with that said, you should make yourself as diverse as possible.

Thank you for replying so quickly and for your excellent responses.

Which other schools are you applying to? What are you interested in direct/SW or producing?

I looked at the USC and UCLA very carefully, but they just don't seem a good fit for me and what I want to do. UT-Austin looks nice, but having lived in Texas (and melted in Texas) before I am not eager to return.

I do know that the director of my MBA program is willing to write one of my recommendation letters, so that will be a good boost to my application.

Now I just have to (finally) finish the feature I am working on so that I can get to the creative materials needed for this application and NYU. Columbia opens their application in September I think, same time as NYU.

You're welcome MAlbie. I love this site, and can't wait until the fall admission season picks up. If it's anything like the previous years, it will be exciting.

The other schools I'm applying to are USC, UCLA and AFI. And I will be concentrating in directing.

In regards to applying to others programs, Chapman seems to be the next contender, but as of this moment I really can't see myself in Orange County. And in the end, I think that's all that matters. (Thou fortunately, Chapman's regular application deadline is April 1st, so if I change my mind, I will still have time to apply)

In terms of my application, I have a resume completed, a rough draft of a personal statement and one recommendation letters completed. I will have all my recommendations done before September.

Next on the chopping block is the treatment and my visual submission. I hope to have a treatment done before September and a script completed for my visual submission before the end of this month.
I just found the site today, but I am in love with it as well. :)

As I said I considered other schools, but I too don't believe Orange County is the place for me. I am also concerned about time to take the GRE as I have 2 summer courses, seven more months of internship work, 5 classes this fall, an independent study with a 100 page report, and I have to get all the application materials together. :) Working the GRE into that is almost unimaginable. I did very well on the GMAT, but its not applicable.

Treatment I have several ideas on, but I need to get a good look at how they are formatted and presented as far as the information to include beyond just a basic plot. I think for my visual submission I may shoot a 20 minute single-actor short I was working on a couple of months ago, just need to find the budget and actor.

I had not looked at Chapman's program, but have seen it mentioned here. I am thinking that perhaps I should investigate.
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Welcome to the forum MAlbie! Wow, finishing an MBA and applying to film school, you must be busy! Just thought I would offer my two bits on a couple of your questions.

First, I wouldn't worry about your transcripts at all. You definitely show growth between your undergrad and grad work, which is much more important than a few not so great grades in undergrad. Also, your transcripts are what they are, you can't change them so stressing over them isn't going to get you anywhere.

Secondly, I would not send application type materials (resume, portfolio, extra writing etc.) if it is not requested. The addmission committee has enough stuff to wade through as it is and if they didn't ask for it they don't want to see it. However, I would agree that bringing such things to the interview makes sense.

I don't know much specifically about Columbia and visual submissions because I didn't apply there, but I can't imagine they would look down on something created just for the application. When I applied I didn't have any experience so I definitely created stuff specifically for each school.

As for your age, it's funny because I'm on the other end of the spectrum, 22, and when I applied I thought I might look too young. In every class there are a number of students in their 20's and 30's with most I think being later 20's and early 30's. I think being older actually gives you an advantage because you have so many more life experiences to write about.

Anyway, I hope that helps a bit and good luck with your application!
Judging from the past three years, most likely they will change the film scenario. (I know for certain they did last year) However the requirements for the film treatment and the other parts of the application should remain the same.
Hi guys. I'm starting at Columbia this fall in the Creative Producing track, but the application is almost identical to the Directing/Screenwriting track. I also applied to USC (waitlisted), NYU (interviewed, but ultimately not accepted) and UCLA (heard nothing this year, but got a top 25% letter last time I applied). Columbia was my top choice all along though, both because of location, reputation, and program structure.

1.Your MBA grades will be fine. I had bad grades my first few semesters of undergrad and transferred schools several times, but I ended up wit a 3.4 GPA. They factor in the laziness of youth, they just want to see that you are motivated now.

2 & 3. Here's what it says at the bottom of the application page on Columbia's website:

"Optional video (not required): All Film applicants may submit a DVD (Region 1) or VHS tape (NTSC) with no more than 30 minutes of film/video work. It is advisable to put the best work at the beginning of your visual submission. If you submit a DVD or VHS tape, you must include a note describing the contents of the DVD/tape and indicating your contributions to each work."

I didn't submit a video, mostly because the most recent thing I'd done was about a year and a half old.

Columbia seems to be a lot more about the story than anything else, hence their application is a lot more story based than any other school's. From everything I've read, the most important part of the application is the Personal Statement/Autobiographical Essay.

4. Actually, your age is probably a plus. If anything, graduate film schools tend to be biased against younger applicants. I read somewhere (though I don't remember where) that the average age of a first year graduate film student is 29. They want to see that you've had a lot of life experiences to draw from for your filmmaking.

Now as far as the film scenario goes (the one where they give you the prompt and you write the rest of the scene), they most likely WILL change it from what is currently up on their website (which is last years).

One thing that helped me in applying was reading the previous years' threads on this site. I highly recommend it. Before I started reading this site, I thought UCLA was my top choice, but after reading all the threads and becoming familiar with all the top schools, Columbia was my main squeeze A number 1.
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I have a couple of questions for you guys.

1. There is a part on the application that wants us to "indicate a preferred concentration". Are they looking for us to write a paragraph or two, explaining why we are choosing the concentration or are they looking for us to just state whether we are applying to the Directing or Screenwriting track?

2. Originally, I planned on submitting the script for my Visual Submission as my 10-page Screenplay Submission. Would that hurt my chances of getting in? Should I just send a different screenplay altogether?
This is exciting! When I found this site yesterday morning (while at work) I thought it might take a few days or maybe even a week to get responses, but here we all are. :)

So let me go down the line here:

Marisah: Thanks for the reply. Good to have further confirmation on those points, and its funny about the age and MBA points because everything I am hearing from friends and colleagues is "Aren't you too old?" or "After an MBA? They wont want you, your too business and have too much education". :) Where did you apply to if I may ask?

One_Girl_Revolution: First, nice nickname :) That is exciting about that visit next week, let us know how it goes please. I am planning to visit in September. I believe (along with everyone else) that the scenario will likely change, but what I am going to do is go ahead and write three 2-page scenes based on last years. Even if I cannot hand them in the practice is always good to have and I may come up with some ideas that spark other projects.

Robot_M: Thanks for joining us and let me say Congratulations and Best Wishes for this Fall! One of your postings was actually the 2nd posting I read on this site! I was following through last years group and that is what made me join in the first place. I was impressed and heartened that everyone, despite being in competition, seemed to genuinely have a strong interest in the status and success of others.

Insearchof: My essay (at least the first draft) indicates my preferred concentration as I focused the biographical narrative around my desire to be a storyteller and writer. But my MBA career counselor (who is nice enough to help me out with this process) suggested I include a separate sheet of paper, just a 1 page note with one paragraph, indicating my preference.

I also thought about doing the Visual Submission (if I do one) and the 10-page sample as the same material. But I am thinking now that it might be best to do different works for each. We don't want to dump tons of paper on them, the more varied the work we give them is, the better off we are. At least to my thinking. But maybe some of the others can give us a better answer on that.

So I am going to follow One_Girl's lead and formally intro myself:

My real name is Chris. My nickname is from Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60" (Matt Albie). I will be 35 in September. I have worked as a Computer QA Tech and Marketing manager. My undergrad is a BA in Business Administration (Marketing concentration) with minors in History and International Economics. My MBA will finish in May 2011 with a focus on Project Management/Change Management. I hope to have published at least one Business Case on my own and to have completed co-authoring a research paper with my department head. I am currently working as a summer intern at an non-profit research and education foundation. And as for the what I am most worried about in this process (now that I feel much better about the age/MBA/GPA issues) is the quality of my writing samples.

Its nice talking with all of you.
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I applied to UCLA, NYU, and USC. I was rejected by UCLA and NYU, but accepted to USC, which was my first choice anyway. I'll be starting there in the Fall. I considered applying to Chapman, Columbia, and LMU as well, but ultimately decided their programs weren't exactly what I was looking for.

Quality of writing samples is something I really stressed over. But, if it makes you feel any better, I applied to USC twice and got accepted off of writing materials that weren't as high on technical quality as the ones I got rejected on. Not to say that having the right punctuation, spelling, grammar etc. isn't important, because it certianly is. However, they aren't going to look at your materials and say "misplaced modifier, you're out!"
I applied for production at all three schools. As for when I was rejected from NYU I don't remember exactly, but I'm pretty sure it was sometime in February. I wasn't contacted for an interview, so that pretty much told me I was out before the official notification came anyway.

Thanks for giving us the notes of your visit, it confirmed a few things that I already was thinking about both schools. :)

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I just made an appointment to visit Columbia in mid-September and I am waiting on an appointment for NYU at the same time. Hopefully the Fall 2011 requirements will be out by then.
That's great MAlbie, last week I had an appointment at Columbia and I talked with some students, faculty members and professors at NYU. It really gave me a better understanding of what to expect from both programs.

If you can, try to talk with as many students as possible. Unlike the administration, they will tell you the pros and cons of their experiences without sugarcoating them. Also, ask for NYU's First Run Festival DVDs and the Columbia University Film Festival DVDs.

And I was told that Columbia's application will available no sooner then October.
Originally posted by Insearchof_:
That's great MAlbie, last week I had an appointment at Columbia and I talked with some students, faculty members and professors at NYU. It really gave me a better understanding of what to expect from both programs.

If you can, try to talk with as many students as possible. Unlike the administration, they will tell you the pros and cons of their experiences without sugarcoating them. Also, ask for NYU's First Run Festival DVDs and the Columbia University Film Festival DVDs.

And I was told that Columbia's application will available no sooner then October.

They did give me a Columbia film festival DVD. Enjoyed watching. I am really starting to favor Columbia. Coincidentally, I ran into a NYU film Alumni who now lives in California. SHe actually invited me out there to work on her new production in a few months.
Well, she was just giving me her perspective on the whole west coast/east coast film schools. Her main pet peeve was that Cali schools own your films since you use their money where as NYU let's the student take ownership. Something else to think about.
I am all set for next week! :)

Visiting Columbia on Thursday afternoon, having a great dinner at a restaurant called Asia de Cuba, and then NYU on the 17th. Should be a fun time. :)
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Well our situations are very different, but I am only applying to NYU and Columbia. If I don't get in for 2011 then I will apply to more schools for 2012. If I like their programs that is.

I just do not have the time right now to put together more than two applications. Plus I am not sure that I want to go to any school besides those two. :)

If you know where you want to go, and where you don't want to go, then I don't think there is any real harm in just focusing on those three.

Of course this is my first time applying for film school so you might get a better answer from some of the veterans.

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