Columbia College | Columbia Engineering

Undergraduate Student Life

Columbia Urban Experience

The CUE Mission

Columbia Urban Experience (CUE) is a week-long, pre-orientation program that empowers incoming first-years to explore what it means to effectively engage in one's community through direct service in New York City. We aim to explore the ethical dilemmas and obstacles that present challenges to conducting meaningful community service, and to discuss possible forms of thoughtful, sustainable, and responsible service as university students in NYC. The program offers a rich experience, complete with daily trips to various service sites, article-based discussions, and opportunities to hear from individuals who have conducted work in the non-profit sector and who have encountered and considered these issues. Through the support of deeply committed student leaders, participation in CUE eases the first-years' transition to college and provides valuable mentoring that lasts well beyond the CUE week. As the school year begins, CUE fosters an ongoing commitment to service, while maintaining the CUE family that will support and inspire CUE-ers in their leadership and social justice endeavors at Columbia University and beyond.

Connect with Your Campus

MEET other first-year students who share common interests and develop bonds that will last far beyond the duration of the week. CUE provides an intimate setting in which new students form friendships that last a lifetime. Moreover, CUE fosters a strong sense of mentorship among first-year students and upperclassmen leaders who become friends, confidants, and a strong support network.

Connect with Your Community

VOLUNTEER during the week at one of ten sites, such as Planned Parenthood of NYC, We Act for Environmental Justice, and New York City Coalition Against Hunger, and more. Each site is chosen to familiarize and expose CUE-ers with the diverse social needs of New York City and its inhabitants. CUE-ers volunteer alongside three to five other first-years and one leader each day. CUE also emphasizes "service learning" through nightly dinner discussions facilitated by CUE leaders.

ENGAGE in discussions on contemporary issues such as gentrification, the NYC education system, poverty, and privilege. By critically examining these issues on an academic and direct-service level, students can achieve a more nuanced appreciation for the work they do throughout the week and beyond.

Connect with Your City

EXPLORE New York City. Connect with the New York City community on several levels, both through service and by exploring all that NYC has to offer! Working and serving diverse communities through our CUE sites, students connect with the city on a personal level. Additionally, every night CUE-ers select one of four amazing social programs and travel throughout the city during free night activities. CUE-ers see New York’s best attractions, including excursions to Bryant Park, the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater, the Nuyorican Poets Café, Yankee Stadium, and the Brooklyn Bridge. CUE-ers end the week with our infamous scavenger hunt, which introduces participants to activities in all five boroughs of the city.

Application Information


  • What do you want to take away from your CUE experience? (300 word maximum)
  • Why is participating in community service important to you? (300 word maximum)
  • Please describe any meaningful community service or community leadership experiences you've had or tell us about any projects you might like to undertake at Barnard/Columbia. (300 word maximum)
  • If you could be a cartoon character, who would you be and why? (200 word maximum)
  • Write, draw, film, record, compose, create, or build something. Let us learn something about you. (Please, no college essays!) Limit your piece to 1 page or up to 2 minutes of video. 





505 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: (212) 854-3611

Fax: (212) 854-6972

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