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10 Hardest Courses at Columbia University

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Katelyn Heuer
23 Nov 2018
4 min read
Columbia University is one of the hardest colleges in the country to get into with a seven percent acceptance rate but that doesn't mean it's any easier once you're in. Columbia offers a wide range of classes, some harder than others. If you're looking for classes to avoid in order to save your GPA or just want to challenge yourself, use this guide to find the ten hardest classes at Columbia University.

1. Calculus III

a chalk board with calculus equations on itWhile calculus is hard in general, it's know to be one of the most difficult classes offered at Columbia University. The course focuses on complex numbers, exponential functions, differential equations, and functions of multivariables. And to make things worse, students often say that their professors are hard to understand and they often have to use the textbook to teach themselves.

2. Intro Biology I

 a biology labThe word "intro" might make you think that this class is easy, but don't be fooled. Past Columbia students claim that intro biology is one of the hardest classes they've taken at the university. Some even say it's the hardest class they've ever taken! In addition, the professors aren't always lenient with grading assignments.

3. Honors Complex Variables

a student doing math on a chalk boardIf you're looking for a somewhat easy class, an honors class probably isn't what you're looking for. However, honors complex variables in general, is one of the worst. Columbia is known for it's difficult math courses.

4. University Writing

 cartoon character Spongebob writing an essayThe level of difficulty for this class is dependent on you and the professor you get. If you're a humanities major and enjoy writing, you might not find this class difficult. However, STEM majors at Columbia usually struggle or find it slightly difficult. In addition, many of the professors are young and students don't think they do a great job of actually teaching you how to write.

5. Organic Chemistry

a cartoon of scientists doing chemistryOrganic chemistry is required for students in the pre-med track. Students categorize it as a class that serves to "weed out" students. The good thing is that this means the classes won't be as difficult once you pass!

6. Quantum Mechanics

 cartoon graphic of quantum mechanicsLike most classes, the difficult of quantum mechanics depends on what professor you get. Some professors who teach this class don't use a textbook which means that if you skip a class, you'll be far behind. In addition, problem set homework can take up to 30 hours a week while working in a group!

7. Astronomy and Physics

map of constellationsIf a class's prerequisite is a 1000-level physics class, it's probably going to be difficult. The class focuses on discussions of techniques, results, and going through unsolved problems. In addition, the class requires you to go to lectures and weekly problem sessions.

8. Anatomy For Physicists and Engineers

an anatomy chartWhile this class might be interesting, it is definitely not easy. Students must have a physics or engineering background and will learn about the systematic approach to studying the human body from a medical imaging point of view. The class focuses on topics such as the skeletal and muscular systems, women's issues, the head and neck, and the central nervous system.9. Statistical Mechanics a statistical mechanics bookIn order to take this class, you must have already taken a thermodynamics class, which already is pretty difficult. Students will learn the fundamental principles and underlying ideas of statistical mechanics. Other topics include: Boltzmann's entropy hypothesis, Helmholtz and Gibbs free energies and open systems, and the fluctuation-response theory.

10. Cellular and Molecular Biology

 a diagram of a cellThis course requires you to take a biology class in advance and serves as a lab-based introduction to cellular and molecular biology. Students will use both classical and modern approaches to discover principles of heredity and the structure and function of cells. The good news is that it counts towards pre-med requirements!Keep in mind that just because a class is hard doesn't mean you shouldn't take it! Pick classes that interest you and use this guide to be prepared for its level of difficulty!


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