Interview with Transfer Student Nico Long

Before coming to Columbia, GS student Nico Long earned his associate’s degree in business management from Westchester Community College before transferring to GS to pursue economics.

October 17, 2021

Before coming to Columbia, GS student Nico Long competed nationally as a black belt in taekwondo and played soccer with the New York Red Bulls Academy. When personal circumstances forced him to give up his athletic career, for the first time in his life, he started focusing on his education. He went on to earn his associate’s degree in business management from Westchester Community College, and studied abroad at Cambridge University before transferring to GS to pursue economics. He discusses his community college experience and what it was like transferring to GS.

Forty percent of students enrolled at GS transferred after attending community college. In honor of National Transfer Student Week, we are highlighting many of our students and alumni who transferred to GS, as well as offering insight into the unique role that community colleges play in making higher education possible for nontraditional studentsRead more about their stories.

What was your experience like at community college?

I started my community college journey studying criminal justice. I was fascinated with the idea of becoming a lawyer or private detective. Although my interest was there, I realized it wasn’t for me and decided to pursue an associate’s degree in business management. My goal was to find a university where I knew I would feel comfortable with my classmates while putting myself in an educational environment that would challenge me.

I spent most of my time at WCC participating in Student Government, a mentor program that helped students with disabilities adjust to a college lifestyle, and as an admissions ambassador and tour guide. I really enjoyed community college and made some friends for life there. I think it’s a great transition for all students and I highly recommend it for anyone coming out of high school.

How did you learn about GS and what made you decide to apply?

This is a little funny to me because I wanted to come to Columbia, but I thought Columbia College was my only option. After going on a tour, I said to an ambassador, “Hey listen, I am a little older than the students coming out of high school and have followed a nontraditional route in my education.” I guess I said the magic word around here, “nontraditional.” They recommended I apply to GS instead, and I am grateful that I did.

How do you think your experience in community college impacted your journey and transition to Columbia, both personally and academically?

I think community college transitions students into Columbia better than any high school, but that is just because Columbia is challenging. Community college isn’t all about academics, it’s about learning how to communicate with others, living and working with other adults with diverse backgrounds and ages. In this way, it's similar to GS.

What advice would you give to other community college students who are considering applying to GS?

Columbia is not community college, so it has to be treated differently. I would first start off by taking fewer credits than you think you should. The second big piece of advice is to remember that Columbia is great, but there is so much more than just academics. Remember to network! Join a club, take the subway and go downtown to explore, and remember everything Columbia has to offer.

For prospective students, my big piece of advice is to focus on your essay. You all have a story and it’s your time to tell your story and to tell it well. Be proud of your accomplishments and tell why you want to come here. For me, it was the community and always striving to be better. The only way I knew to do that was to keep challenging myself.