I was never sold on BC and really only applied because I felt like only applying 2 schools was too risky and I knew that if I wasn't in NY I wanted to stay in Boston. The program just seemed way too short for my liking. And I had heard some not so great things from the staff at the hospital where I was working. I heard bad stuff about Columbia too, I would take all bad comments with a grain of salt. I think every school has issues, a lot of the same ones in fact, but the extent to which these will affect you really varies.
I was really excited about Northeastern since they are one of few schools with the Pediatric Acute specialty. I liked the idea of working full time as an RN before starting the Master's, I liked being able to stay at the Boston hospitals, there was a lot going for it. But when I went to interview I left feeling underwhelmed. There wasn't any specific thing that was wrong but I just got strange vibes. Maybe it was the rainy weather or the fact that I interviewed during my lunch break , or that I had found out I was accepted to Columbia the day before the interview, but I left far less excited about the program than I expected. The interview questions were standard, the woman interviewing me just didn't stand out. Also, 24 people with only 5 or so in Pediatrics is so small!
Why I chose Columbia: I am doing the dual program with the public health school so that was a big selling point for me. I think the program is maybe a little too big 170 or so people in my class but I would rather have too big than too small. When I came for visiting day I left excited, even if the campus isn't the most wonderful or bustling campus in the world it felt right. A big plus over the other schools in my mind is that Columbia is part of a medical center with 2 of it's own world-renowned hospitals, in a network of 5 or 6 others. There is also a medical, dental, PT, OT, and public health school all on the same campus. Right now the schools are fairly separate but there are a ton of opportunities available at all of the schools. And the faculty is working hard to create classes that bring together all of the schools which I think is amazing.
I am doing the Pediatrics specialty and while it is/will be challenging I don't think it is needlessly so and I am excited to take it on. Columbia does not coddle you. They are not mean, in fact I think the staff are wonderful (others may disagree) but to thrive here I do think you need to be a more assertive personality. Take initiative, speak up, advocate for yourself. If you are timid you might not do so well.
As for the application process, my best advice- and I'm sure this is nothing new to you- is to focus on the personal statement. During orientation they said they read and reread each and every one of our essays and I think that it is true. My fellow students have come from such a diverse background and have done amazing things. The beauty of a second degree program is the wide range of experiences people bring to the table. More than anything else Columbia seems to really take that into account.