Graduate School for Film Studies: Tips for Applhing to Columbia University's Graduate Film School

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Columbia University is known internationally as one of the academic elites of the Ivy League, a school that is at the top of its game. The same is true of Columbia University’s film school, which comes in as one of the best in the world and a U.S. News and World Report Master’s of Fine Arts Film School at number six. Columbia University graduate school is a difficult proposition for most recent graduates from Bachelor’s programs as it has a reputation that precedes it. There is no question that Columbia University’s graduate film school is one of the most selective in the world, but you may have even less trouble than when applying to NYU, USC, or the AFI. Here are some tips for applying to Columbia University’s graduate program in film production.

Online Application

Columbia University offers an online application process, or a paper one if you like. It is usually best to do the online application when applying to Columbia University’s graduate film school because the application fee i $110 compared to the $130 for the paper one. The online application tends to also look a little more professional to the graduate film department’s admissions department. If you have trouble remaining organized, however, it may be best for you to just go ahead and send in the print copy.

Letters of Recommendation, GREs, and Transcripts

Make sure to get all your material together and sent in by the December 1st deadline. This includes three letters of recommendation that they offer you a special form for. This means that it is more difficult to get blanket letters of recommendation for application to many different top film schools. Instead you are going to have to have this specific form for the Columbia University graduate film program. Also note that you will need to send in all of the transcripts from where you went to school, and two of each is usually a good plan. Columbia University’s School of the Arts, which houses their graduate film school, does not require GRE scores.

Creative Materials

Columbia University’s School of the Arts requires a number of “creative materials” when applying to their programs, and the same is true for the Film Master’s of Fine Arts program. First you will need an autobiographical essay that caps out at six pages. Four or five pages is going to be best as long as you are being concise and colorful. The ability to tell your story, why you are unique, and what your special point of view is are going to be the points that win you over in this. These types of essays are a dime a dozen when applying to graduate film programs, but it is so important that you should try to go through a couple drafts and be as honest as possible. You will have to select a “film scenario” from their list and then write a two to three page scene for it. This feels a little tired, but it a good chance on displaying your mastery of what makes a good scene. Make sure to consider the qualities of goals and the flow from beginning to end. You will have to provide a number of things that you have already written, though it may be a good idea to write something completely new for the Columbia University graduate film school admissions department. A darmatic writing sample should be a short screenplay you have written or the beginning of a longer one, but since it can be no more than ten pages it would be best to just write a concise one act screenplay. You will also have to put together a treatment for a feature you may want to do, and this is going to be an important component. Really think out your idea and make sure that you can communicate it concisely and explain who the characters are, how they change, and what the genral ideas are that drive this story.

Other Materials

Like with all top film school applications you will need to submit a current resume. Try to get as much creative and film based experience as you can on there, such as school projects and internships. Try to get your resume reviewed before sending it out to make sure it appears professionals. You also have the option to send two feature film treatments, but make sure you work this out well.


Strange enough the video portfolio is optional, which attests to how important the other elements are and how strongly they put an emphasis on storytelling. Pick a couple of your best video pieces that illustrate you as a creative and story centered filmmaker and put them on a DVD with professional DVD authoring software. Professionalism is important at all levels.

This post is part of the series: Specific Film Schools

Here are tips for applying to specific graduate film scools.

  1. Tips for Applying to NYU Film School
  2. Tips for Applying to USC Film School
  3. Applying to Columbia Film School