Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program
|Location||Advising Office, 4th Floor Lerner Hall|
The Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program (CUSP) oversees the John W. Kluge Scholars, John Jay Scholars, C. Prescott Davis Scholars, and Global Scholars programs. The Rabi Scholars program is not part of CUSP, having been founded in the 1980s.
Approximately 400 undergraduates are members of one of these groups at any given time. No one can apply to become a Scholar; rather, it is a designation conferred upon accepted students. The program is also tied to financial aid. Before Columbia moved to a no-loan policy, those scholars on financial aid may have had some loans replaced with grants. However, now that only grants are awarded, the money is branded under a scholar name (ie. "John Jay Grant", "Davis Grant") and scholars do not have a work study expectation for their first and third year. The work study expectation is covered with additional grant money.
Types of Scholars
Every year, about 100 incoming freshmen are part of one of the following groups of "scholars". All awards are based on outstanding achievement in high school, C. Prescott Davis Scholars are limited to SEAS students, and John Jay Scholars are CC students.
- John W. Kluge Scholars: Awarded to minority students.
- C. Prescott Davis Scholars: Awarded to students at SEAS.
- Global Scholars: Awarded to international students.
- John Jay Scholars: Awarded to students at Columbia College.
The Scholars website says, "While participating in the Program may help you with your financial aid needs, all Scholars' aid packages are determined on a case-by-case basis" . For John Jay Scholars, at least, this means that loans may be replaced with grants. C. P. Davis Scholars have also reported  some of their loans being replaced with grants. Otherwise, the programs' perks include a series of events focusing primarily on guest speakers, occasional opportunities for free or discounted tickets to events in the City, and a separate academic advising office.
Some of these events are really awesome. Every student is required to go on a "Harlem Tour", where a super inspired tour guide who grew up in Harlem takes students on a walking tour. He tells you all the cool places to eat, the history of the area (and the exact places where Malcolm X and MLK stood!), and tells you why you should be excited to go to college in Harlem. In addition to this, scholars are required to attend two speaker events each semester as freshmen to remain in "good standing" with the program. These are genuinely interesting, containing fantastic speakers such as Andrew Delblanco and Joseph Stiglitz. Finally, scholars have to go to the Columbia Journey Seminar. These are lit hum style discussions that last for two hours, take place every other week, and discuss readings that make absolutely no sense. Oh yeah, for this seminar you also have to do a group project and visit an institute.
There is also a "governing board" that holds meetings, forms committees, and sometimes plans events. It is called the CUSP Alliance.
This will happen to you as a freshmen while you are meeting millions of new people. You will be with a group of new faces and you will ask them, "are you in the scholars program?". They will look at you funny, asking "I've never heard of it, how do I apply?". You will either a) stay quiet and act like its nothing, feeling like an elitist for bringing it up or b) explain to them that the office of admissions picks 10 percent of the incoming class to get extra grant money, research opportunities, speaker events, and advising. Then you feel like an elitist among elitists for bringing it up and explaining it.
Sometimes you can just tell the program isn't on top of everything they try to run. The orientation was a mess. The program feels like it has a lot of potential; it definitely gives students more opportunities, but its execution is sloppy.