Columbia Business School 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Check out our Columbia Business School Zone to learn more!Columbia tweaked last year’s questions for this year. Relatively minor changes only. Specifically:

• Its short-answer question about your immediate post-MBA goal has gone from 100 to 75 characters. Yes, that was  characters, not words.
• For question 2, there is a new video to watch and the question itself is more succinct with a different focus. 

Other than cutting 25 characters from the goals question, CBS has not cut essays or essay length. Still, you will need to make every word, indeed every character, count to really allow your essays to effectively and compellingly present your qualifications.

My tips are in blue below.

Applicants must complete one short answer question and three essays.

Short Answer Question:

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (75 characters maximum)

Note the character limit. Your response must be less than a tweet. What do you want to do professionally and in which industry immediately after earning your MBA? You may want to provide a geographic location if it is important to your MBA goal. According to CBS, here are examples of possible responses:

“Work in business development for a media company.”
“Join a consulting firm specializing in renewable energy.”
“Work for an investment firm that focuses on real estate.”

Warning: This question is not asking about intended area of study while in business school or a non-professional goal or even a long-term goal. And the subject is assumed to be you. No need to waste characters by including “I.”


Essay 1. Given your individual background and goals, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (Maximum 500 words)

What aspects of your background are motivating you to pursue your MBA at Columbia now?  Keep in mind that the MBA is a bridge between your past and desired future. Show Columbia why its program is the right bridge for you and now is the right time for you to be traverse this bridge.  

To answer this question well,  you will need to really know the Columbia program thoroughly along with why you want a CBS MBA at this point in your career. The essay that shines will do a great job of showing both fit and self-awareness.

Essay 2.

Please view the video below:

How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)

The video is different from the videos last year. Last year’s videos and question focused almost exclusively on the impact of Columbia’s New York City location. This year’s video incorporates that Manhattan location, but it’s more about Columbia as a center of business than NYC being the center of business. So your answer can incorporate the benefits of being at Columbia University as well as being in Manhattan. Just don’t repeat your answer to #1; this question asks you to take a broader perspective.

Watch the video and really think about the points it’s making in terms what being at the center means: Access to an infinite variety of opportunities. Proximity to thought leadership and executive leadership. Convergence of theory and practice. NYC as an — if not the — international business center.

After watching the video, think about how you intend to take advantage of the infinite opportunities and energy that reside at Columbia University and in New York City. How will you take advantage of the entrepreneurial eco-system in New York and Columbia University? The ties to bio science and pharma? the cutting-edge research and thought leadership? Not to mention the practitioners who lead Wall Street and teach at Columbia. Or will you explore the cultural riches of NYC and take advantage of the incredible business opportunities present in the arts and media?

Be careful not to speak of those opportunities in the generalities that I have. If you are interested in luxury goods marketing, as stated in your short answer, then write here about how you will take advantage of Madison and 5th Avenues as well as Columbia’s offerings. If you are interested in finance or consulting, Manhattan and all the businesses in it are at your feet. How will you benefit from this incredible location as well as the practitioners teaching at CBS? 

Final point: you don’t have to address all the points raised in the video, but you do have tow rite persuasively about at least one. 

Essay 3. What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

Make sure you understand Columbia’s Cluster System.

You only have 250 words here. I would use them to bring out something fun that you like to do. Would you try to get your cluster to train for a marathon? Set up a karaoke night? Plan a ski trip? Explore New York’s museums?  How have you contributed to social groups in the past? Relate you plans to a past successful initiative, and you will enhance your answer to this question.

Or perhaps you would take a slightly more serious approach to this question and discuss a challenge overcome. Show that you are a survivor, not a victim and far stronger as a result of this experience. If you take this approach, don’t make it too heavy or too personal. No TMI. You will have barely met these people. 

Optional Essay. An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.

Clearly you can use this optional essay question to address a weakness in your profile or qualifications, but in my mind, this question is also open-ended enough to allow you to discuss a diversity element in your personal background or simply some unique area of interest. Also, tucking a weakness explanation somewhere else would allow you to end the application with a strength and not a flaw.

Don’t use this essay as a grand finale or wrap up. And definitely don’t use it to rehash your reasons for wanting to attend Columbia; those reasons should be perfectly clear from the required essays. If you decide to respond to this essay, use it to educate the reader about another talent, interest, or commitment of yours. As always try to show leadership and impact. In short, give them more reasons to admit you.

Knight-Bagehot Fellows. Rather than answer Essay 1, Part A above, current Knight-Bagehot Fellows applying to Columbia Business School should use the space allocated to the first essay (500 words) to complete the Wiegers Fellowship application essay.

Wiegers Fellowship Essay Question. What are your career goals? How has the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship affected these goals? How will an MBA help you achieve these goals? (500 words maximum)

If you would like professional guidance with your Columbia Business School MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the CBS MBA application.

Columbia Business School 2015 Application Deadlines:

January 2015 Entry:

October 8, 2014

August 2015 Entry:

Early Decision: October 8, 2014
Merit Fellowship Consideration: January 7, 2015
Regular Decision: April 15, 2015

*All deadlines are 11:59 p.m. New York Time on the date listed.

Get Accepted to Columbia Business School! Click here to register for the free webinar!
Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

  • Linda Abraham

    If any readers would like a profile evaluation for Columbia Business School, please provide the following info:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Or if you just have a question about MBA admissions, I’ll do my best to answer it.

    • 2015

      1) Two years middle market investment banking & two years private equity (promoted to Senior Associate in final year)
      2) 730 (96 percentile)
      3) Indiana / Wisconsin / Illinois … 3.8/4.0 GPA … Finance… 2011
      4) Advise a startup that has grown to over 50 employees. Founded a public markets investment partnership
      6) Transition from private investing to public market investment management

      • Linda Abraham


        Your work experience and stats are competitive for CBS. It’s not clear to me that your public markets investment partnership or advising the start up are volunteer activities (although I do understand that you did them in addition to working full-time). If they were also for-profit ventures then you seem singularly focused on business and may lack breadth, which bschools usually like. You may have those other interest, but they are not showing above. Don’t be one-dimensional in your application if you are not one-dimensional in real life.

    • Gabriel Jung

      1) 3 years of corporate strategy consulting at Accenture (Promoted from Business analyst to strategy consultant in final year)

      2) 710 (92 percentile)

      3) a. Univ. of Nevada Las Vegas…3.67/4.0 GPA….Accounting…2006-2009
      b. Institut Vatel(Hotel School in France)….Hotel Management…2003-2004

      4) a. Military Service for 2 years in South Korea….Special Intelligence Sergeant…2004-2006
      b. Founder of an e-commerce business(not successful)

      5) CPA candidate(Passed exam, no License)

      6) Venture Capitalist

      • Linda Abraham


        It seems that there are some gaps in the chronology above. Those gaps make you difficult to asses. Your academic stats are competitive. Your military and consulting experience is strong, but I don’t know what you did during the gaps. I don’t see community service, hobbies, or leadership, which would all strengthen your candidacy.


    • CBS_Applicant

      1) Currently working (for the past 20 months) as an Executive Assistant to the General Manager of Indian subsidiary of a leading global Healthcare Services provider based out of US. I am on the fast track leadership stint with projects across diverse business functions. Prior to this I was a full time day trader at a global proprietary trading firm for 2 years. Used to trade commodities on US and UK exchanges. In between the two stints had a 1 year experience as an independent trader in the Indian equity markets.
      2) GMAT – 730(96%) QA – 50(86%) VA – 39 (88%)
      3) College – IIT Kharagpur ( prestigious technical institute in India), GPA – 7.26/10 ( would this be a big concern), Integrated Masters in Science in Industrial Chemistry.
      4) Represented college in University Cricket besides holding several positions of responsibility. Avid sports enthusiast – long distance runner Community service – Drove the CSR strategy for my current organization – identified potential Charity partners (NGOs), established tie up with an NGO, drove fund raising campaigns and set up a volunteering program for employees of the organization.
      5) None
      6) Senior Management position in the confluence of Healthcare and Finance.

      • Linda Abraham

        you have an overall competitive profile, but I have two concerns:
        1) Your job title — if you can honestly describe your current position as a leadership training position or as Assistant to the General Manager for Special Projects,and not as an Executive Assistant (talk to your boss???), it might be better. Executive Assistant can mean a secretary. If you can’t change your title, then make sure through your job description and resume that it’s clear you have handled significant responsibility.
        2) your grades are a bit low, as you note. I realize that the IIT s have a tough grading scale and you do have a high GMAT.

        Apply and see how it goes. Also consider applying to NYU Stern, Duke, Wharton, Booth, Haas, and Yale.

        Linda Abraham

    • Neufeld

      Hi Linda, it is really kind of you to provide such feedbacks to candidates. For me:

      – 2 Yr associate at PIMCO (top Asset Manager). 2.5Yr Quant analyst at Deutsche Bank – . 1yr internship with top names in EU bank and SEC of China

      – crappy gpa (79%) in EE of top chinese school. M.A Finance top15% leading German Univ.

      – GMAT 769+5.5 (1st try)

      – CFA charter holder. Speak German and Mandarin

      – Created a music group of Chinese in Germany, which has members like guys who won a Chopin talent prize or just ppl who loves music. Lots of shows in Germany to promote Chinese culture (or more often just for fun)

      – Goal: Top Hedge Fund or Portfolio Manger at top Asset Manager.

      ?? I am Chinese, but can get a German Nationality in 6 month. Would this increase my chances?

      Many many thanks!

      • Linda Abraham

        I assume that GMAT is a 760.

        You have a competitive profile for CBS and Wharton. I don’t know if the German passport would make a difference, but I doubt it.

        If you don’t get in, also consider NYU Stern and Booth.


    • Tom

      1) 4 years worked for humanitarian NGO in India
      3 years developed and managed cultural/language retreat in India (I am a US citizen)
      3 years increasing responsibility in hospitality (in CT, as head bartender, management responsibilities)
      4 months event planning for NYC think-tank
      2) GRE, 97% analytical writing, 85% verbal, 75% math
      3) B.A. in Cultural Studies with Concentration in Sanskrit from Empire State College, State University of New York, Overall GPA= 3.5
      4) See 1), trained jazz pianist, CT state chess champion, tango dancer, fluent in Spanish, Hindi, Malayalam, Sanskrit, and learning Mandarin
      5) none
      6) NGO management, economic development & emerging markets

      • Linda Abraham

        Sorry if I’m being dense, but I’m assuming that CT means Connecticut. if it doesn’t, what does it mean?

        • Tom

          Yes, sorry, Connecticut

      • Linda Abraham


        If you had a managerial role in the NGO and if your management responsibilities in CT were significant, then you have a chance at CBS. I’m a little concerned that they will wonder about your quant skills. At the same time, you have a fascinating background and highly distinctive experience. Make sure you provide good reasons why CBS is the place for you to pursue your interests.

        Also consider Yale, Duke, and Georgetown.


  • Chien

    1) Six years in semiconductor industry: 4yrs Senior Engineer, 2 yrs Chief Engineer, now Assistant Manager. Lead a team since 2yrs ago. Participate in special $50M M&A project as the only engineer
    2) 710 92%
    3) GPA: 3.63 MS EE in USC 2008
    4) pro bono tutoring for AHAD children during university;
    5) N/A
    6) General management in high-tech industry

    • Linda Abraham


      Your professional experience is impressive. Your academic stats are pretty competitive. Your community service since college seems weak or non-existent; you may have it but I don’t see it above. I’m assuming that you also had good grades undergrad and that the 3.63 is for your studies at USC. You have a competitive profile for CBS, but should also apply elsewhere. Consider Ross, Darden, Cornell Johnson, and UCLA.


      • Chien

        Hi Linda:

        Thanks for quick feedback.

        Actually my under GPA is not good, 3.11 only. I spent too many time on internship because I had financial problem at that time.

        And I am just wondering could I list pro bono tutoring (3yrs during under) as community service??

        Anyway, thanks so much for your suggestions. :-)
        I am also considering to to apply Ross, Fuqua, Anderson, Haas, Sloan, Kellogg :-)

        • Linda Abraham


          you’re welcome. yes. You can list pro bono tutoring as an undergrad.


          • arnab

            Hi Linda,

            Request you for my profile eval.

            1) 8.5 years in a leading brokerage firm of India, owned by a large
            Indian bank. Presently, working as Asst Vice President (promoted from Manager to Senior Manager to AVP in 5 yrs). Leading nationwide team of 300+ people across sales, advisory & research verticals.
            2) Co founded Mobile VAS startup. In 3rd year of operation. Product live on leading telcos.
            3) GMAT 660. 80th perc (Q47, V34). Took this alongside a major product launch.
            4) Commerce Graduate. 3.2 GPA.

          • Linda Abraham

            I’m don’t believe you have a competitive profile for Columbia.


          • arnab

            Can you suggest schools that would be more suitable for my profile.

          • Linda Abraham

            Before I reply, what do you want to do after your MBA?

          • arnab

            Apologies for the delayed response. Post MBA Goal: Consulting in the short term & entrepreneurship in the long term

          • Linda Abraham


            I have two suggestions:
            1) prepare for and retake the GMAT when you aren’t in the midst of a product launch. Realize that some of the elite consulting firms use the GMAT as a screening tool and they will look for a higher score. A higher score will help you get in and ultimately land the kind of job you’re looking for.
            2) With your current score, consider UNC, UT, USC, and Emory.


          • arnab

            I understand. I’m retaking the test in the coming month.

            One last query- My target schools are Kellogg, Columbia & Insead. Assuming a better GMAT score (at least 720), will my profile be considered competitive for these schools? Also shortlisted Darden & Ross.


          • Linda Abraham


            If you come in with a balanced 720, then your chances at CBS, Kellogg, and INSEAD would improve, but those programs would still be stretch programs. because of the intense competition from India for those programs and because your grades are on the low side for these programs. Also, for INSEAD, you need to show a “global perspective,” and that’s harder to do if you have lived and worked all your life in India, which it appears you have.

            With a 720, you would be competitive at Ross and Darden. Also consider Cornell Johnson.

            Good luck with the GMAT!


          • arnab


            Thank you for your advice. It’s been very helpful.


  • Batuk

    1) 1.5 Years in bottling plant operations and corporate manufacturing strategy in Coca-cola India. Promoted to team leader within a year. 3.5 years in a leading US bank across consumer card operations, and commercial card. Promoted twice (to manager) within 3.5 years and relocated by the company from India office to US based on performance
    2) 750GMAT; 98 Percentile Quant; 90 Percentile Verbal
    3) College info: IIT Delhi, 2.6 GPA, Industrial and Production Engg, 2009. This is the biggest risk I’m concerned with
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience. – Relocating to India office to set up and lead a team of 5 associates. Involved in professional theater in India.
    5) None
    6) Consulting for short term, and entrepreneurship for long term

    • Linda Abraham


      Your experience and GMAT seem competitive even highly competitive for CBS. Your GPA is a problem. I share your concerns.

      Were there extenuating circumstances that contributed to the low grades?


  • deeptigupta88

    1) 0.5 years as an analyst at Ernst & Young, did a diploma in marketing management for 2 years, 2.5 years at MakeMyTrip (India’s leading travel portal) as a Deputy Manager in marketing (promoted once).
    2) 750 (98%)
    3) Delhi University, 6.46 (top 20% of the class), Economics, 2009. Institute of Management Technology, 7.5, Marketing, 2012.
    4) Salsa Dancing Instructor (within a year of learning), Prepare and serve food to over 1000 people every quarter at the local temple, working at Take5 – an organization that helps needy children by assigning you a child who you talk to everyday and teach them new things over the phone.
    5) NIL.
    6) Short-term: Work in an e-commerce (preferably retail) in the United States. Long-term: Create & own my own digital platform.

    • Linda Abraham

      CBS is a stretch, but give it a try. Check out Cornell Tech.

      Linda Abraham

  • KVJ

    Hi Linda Applying for Columbia J term
    1) 5 years of work experience in Equity research tracking Automobile Auto Component and Infrastructure sectors with a leading domestic brokerage house and an MNC brokerage house.Started as a junior analyst and in 4 years promoted to senior lead analyst.
    2)GMAT 640 (Q47 , V31)
    3) and MBA (technology) from NMIMS university with GPA 3.3
    4) Run an orphanage support aggregation service in Mumbia India for the past 4 years. Also voluntarily training candidates for the CFA, FRM and CAIA exams for 4 years (1000+ lecture hours) lead instructor at training institutes.
    4) CFA charter holder ,FRM title holder ,CAIA charter holder
    5) Investment analyst with a buy-side fund or private equity

  • KVJ

    Hi Linda Applying for Columbia J term
    1) 5 years of work experience
    in Equity research as a sell side analyst tracking Automobile Auto Component and Infrastructure
    sectors with a leading domestic brokerage house and an MNC brokerage
    house.Started as a junior analyst and in 4 years promoted to senior lead
    2)GMAT 640 (Q47 , V31)
    3) B.Tech (Information Technology) and MBA (technology) from NMIMS university Mumbai (one of the top business schools in India) with GPA of 3.3
    Run an orphanage support aggregation service in Mumbia India for the
    past 4 years. Also voluntarily training candidates for the CFA, FRM and
    CAIA exams for 4 years (1000+ lecture hours) lead instructor at training
    4) CFA charter holder ,FRM title holder ,CAIA charter holder
    5) Investment analyst with a buy-side fund or private equity

    • Linda Abraham


      I’m really sorry, but I just don’t think your academic stats are competitive. They would be a major and probably insurmountable hurdle at CBS.

      Consider Rotman, which will accept your CFA in lieu of the GMAT. It’ also located in a major financial center. Yes, I now it’s not NYC and not Columbia, but you can probably get in and in time work your way to the buy-side work that you’re aiming for.


      • KVJ

        If i mange to get my GMAT up to 700 do i have a realistic chance

        • Linda Abraham

          If you get it over 700, you would have a chance, but it CBS would still be a stretch. You also need to explain why you need a second MBA.


  • Stephanie

    1) 2+ years working experience: non-profit, start-up & corporate

    Strategy Analyst (1 year)
    – Lead countrywide post-merger integration, completely re-brand the No.1 cinema chain in Vietnam (10 cinemas across the country)
    – Coordinate with various stakeholders from Korea and Vietnam (Department Heads, suppliers, marketing agency) to execute all major facets of brand transition including legal, material and marketing
    – Strategic planning and development of new cinema venues and vertical

    2) 650

    3) Schulich School of Business (York University): 7.0/9.0

    4) Non-profit organization: help to promote local innovative projects in Vietnam

    Entrepreneurship: co-found the first healthy-lifestyle restaurant to educate Vietnamese the benefits of balanced, healthy diet

    5) Post MBA goal: return to current company to lead future post-merger integration projects (new technology, movie production, talent management) to develop Vietnam’s media and entertainment platform.

    I’d love to hear from you Linda. Thank you very much.

    • Linda Abraham


      Your work experience sounds fascinating, but the GMAT is going to be tough for CBS to overlook. Have you considered a retake?

      Are you interested in the J-term program or the September 2015 two-year program?

      Also consider UCLA and USC.



    Hi Linda:

    1) 8 years of experience: 7 years in telecom industry. Wholesale Business Manager since 2 years ago.

    3 times awarded as employee of the year (Commercial Department).

    2) GMAT: 710 (92% percentile)

    3) Universidad del Pacífico (Lima, Perú). GPA: 3.35. Lost my father at 18 years old. Had to work to pay my studies.

    4) Run a familiar business since I was 19 to 23 years old.

    5) none

    6) Manager of a major telecom company (I have been offered a higher rank at my current work if I come back from my MBA studies)

    Q: I am a bit worried about my age, because I am 31 right now. Is it a major issue?

    • Linda Abraham

      No. Your age is not a major issue at CBS. Your overall profile is competitive. Give CBS a try. Also consider Ross, Darden, Tuck, CMU Tepper, UCLA, Cornell Johnson, Yale, and Duke.

      Linda Abraham

      • CBS_MBA

        Hi Linda,
        Thank you for your feedback
        Would you say that my GPA is my weakest point? my lack of certifications? GMAT?

        • Linda Abraham


          You definitely have a shot, but the competition is tough. Your GPA is a little low, but you were working. Your GMAT is also a little low, but English is your second language (I assume). And being from Peru, which doesn’t send tons of applicants to bschool will help you.

          Basically there is nothing (above) particularly compelling or a stand out. Now your real application will go into more depth and may present persuasive info that I don’t see. Give it a try, but as I said in the last response, also apply elsewhere. Diversification is a good thing in finance… and in admissions


  • Umair Siddiqui

    Dear Linda,

    1) I have about 9 years professional experience with two Big 4 audit firms (6 years with PwC and so far 3 years with Deloitte) in Audit and Assurance service.

    2) I have a two years Bachelors degree (in Commerce and Accounting).

    3) I am a Qualified Chartered Accountant and Qualified Public Finance Accountant from Pakistan.

    4) I intend to give my GMAT by 2015 for August Entry of MBA Finance at Columbia Business School.

    5) My post MBA goal is to Join a consulting firm associated with energy sector.

    Can you kindly advise me regarding my evaluation for MBA Finance program at Columbia Business School.

    • Linda Abraham

      Please double check that your bachelors is accredited and acceptable.

      I really can’t evaluate your profile without a clue as to your GMAT or your grades. Assuming your can show progression and increasing responsibility at PWC and Deloitte your work experience is competitive although you will have more than the typical applicants and that presents its own set of challenges.. Please see .


  • zuby

    1. Caterpillar Inc, Germany- 2 years as an Electrical Engineer in the clean tech sector
    Caterpillar Inc, Singapore- January 2014 – present- Area Sales Manager responsible for sales of gas engines in 5 countries in South East Asia (clean tech)
    2. GMAT- 710- 92 percentile
    3. National Institute of Technology, India- 7.15/ 10
    4. Placement coordinator- responsible for placements of approx. 500 engineering students
    Marketing Head- for NIT cultural fest
    Co-Founder of dance group- addresses social issues
    Volunteer at soup kitchen
    Volunteer at CRY – child rights and you
    5. –
    6. Post MBA goal- consulting in a clean tech focused firm
    And after 7-8 years starting up my own clean tech focused VC firm
    Kindly evaluate my profile.

    • Linda Abraham

      Your stats are a little low for CBS, but your experience is highly international and impressive. CBS will like that. Give it a go, but also apply to programs like Duke, Yale, CMU Tepper, and UT.


  • Muman

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    Work 6-7 years at $1B/yr tech company as Front Line Sales. Manage 0 people currently has had 2 title changes
    2) 770 GMAT 99%
    3) B.S. Engineering 3.2 GPA U.S. State university50-100
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    Lots of leadership activities of clubs in college. Mentor with kids and highschooler in community after work
    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    6) Your post-MBA goal.
    Leverage Sales experience to focus on Management consulting with a focus on sales. Eventually head my own boutique consultancy focused on global sales channel effectiveness

    • Linda Abraham


      Your GMAT is stellar, but your GPA is somewhat low for CBS. The fact that you have no direct reports after 6-7 years is somewhat of a negative. You will have to show leadership and managerial talent in a different way.

      You have a chance, but also look at other programs that support your goals. Check out Duke, UNC, Yale, Georgetown, Ross, and Darden.


  • judyblume

    Hi, I would really appreciate your input! I am considering a January term application but would appreciate an opportunity for an internship as well. I would only be apply to one business school, Columbia, as I would love to move to New York. I’m F, upper twenties.
    (1) I work for one of the big three rating agencies as a ratings analyst–I have had experience with hundreds of entities within the public infrastructure group. I’ve worked here for just under three years.
    (2) GRE 800/800 (math) and 750/800 (verbal)
    (3) UC Berkeley, major: Political Economy, 3.65 GPA, graduation year 2008
    (4) After college, a master’s degree in real estate finance and city planning. Have had significant, extended with managing day to day activities on a real estate project
    (5) No important qualifications
    (6) Would like to return to the family project, which relates to real estate and, I hope, the public sector

    • Linda Abraham

      As I’m sure you realize there is no internship with CBS’ J-term, but there are opportunities within the program for consulting projects. If you don’t need an internshiip and decide to forego it, you are a strong candidate for the j-term program because you are planning to go into a family project upon graduation. If you decide you want the internship, then frankly J-term isn’t for you. Then you should consider the 2-year program.

      Regardless, you have a competitive profile for CBS.


  • Zach

    Hi Linda – thank you in advance for the help!

    1) 3.5 years in healthcare consulting, 1 year internal consultant at $16B corp within automotive, media and communications industries (current job)
    2) 740 (97%), 49Q (79%), 42V (96%), 8 IR (93%)
    3) 3.2 UNC-Chapel Hill, English & Political Science (GPA low due to too much focus on success on Varsity Swimming, decided against law school, hence move into consulting)
    4) Varsity Swimming, 2-years in leadership academy, 30+ hours community service/year, head of on-campus recruiting (unc & duke) at healthcare consulting job
    5) Six Sigma Certification (not major, I know)
    6) Transition from strategy and process advisory into strategy and business development within industry

    How would you rate my overall candidacy, given the limited detail above? Given my strategy experience from a consulting background, would it be conceivable to move into internal strategy without an internship (degree via J-Term)?


    • Linda Abraham


      As you can imagine, I’m concerned about your GPA. The varsity swimming, work experience, and GMAT will mitigate, but it is a weakness. CBS is a stretch, but give it a try if that’s where you really want to go. It’s also still very much in the realm of possibility. If you are ready, apply early RD (like in November or December)

      Regarding the internship question, that’s probably something you can answer better than I can because it depends on the ease in which you could find a post-MBA job. Can you return to your current employer? If so, J-term is great. Is your personal network sufficient to get you the kind of job you would like? If you can’t go back to your current employer or you aren’t confident of your ability to get that post-MBA job without an internship, then go for the 2-year program. If you don’t need the internship, then J-term is a great option for you.


  • Jessica

    1. 6 years working in advertising account management (mostly automotive and P&G) and top agencies. Highlights: large amount of digital work, including Super Bowl 2012 for VW, managed three international TV/print shoots. Three promotions during this time and have mentored/managed junior team members to promotions as well.
    2. GMAT 680 (84%) (Q44/V39) *retaking
    3. USC (SoCal), 3.48 GPA, Major: Psychology, double minor: Advertising, Cinema-Television, 2008
    4. USC Equestrian Team (secretary), community tutoring in college, USC Alumni Club of NY, extensive travel, and running (three half marathons)
    5. NA
    6. Business Development Manager for a large entertainment company (e.g., HBO, NBC Universal, Sony)
    28, white, female. Also considering NYU, UCLA, USC, Duke

    • Linda Abraham


      CBS is a stretch. Your academic stats are a little low for CBS, especially that quant score. Your work experience is strong. Community service since college seems on the weak side. Obviously a higher GMAT score will address at least one of the weaknesses and maybe allow your work experience to carry the day.

      You have a competitive profile for USC and Duke. UCLA and NYU are also stretch. Other schools to consider: Cornell Johnson and Ross.


      • Jessica

        Thanks so much for your response! Do you think a 720 on the GMAT would be enough, or would I need to be over the CBS average? Would it be worth racking up some community service hours or would that seem disingenuous so close to applying?

        • Linda Abraham


          You’re welcome!

          A 720 GMAT with a good strong quant would help a lot.

          I’m not sure about the community service because I don’t have a clear picture of what you are doing now. Certainly assuming a leadership role at this point could only help. Remember, you could be waitlisted or need to apply. And if you keep up that commitment, then when you are waitlisted or reapplying, it will be a real commitment and not just (possibly disingenuous) resume or application padding.


  • Nick Fulton

    Hi Linda,

    I would love to get my profile assessed. I sent an email if that is okay! I have a few personal details in there.

    Please let me know if this is ok!

    • Linda Abraham


      I didn’t get an email.


      • Nick Fulton

        Hi Linda,

        Well I will just write here then.

        I am currently 20 years old and have been interested in getting an MBA from a top tier school. Preferably Harvard, Columbia, NYU Stern, Wharton, Booth, Dartmouth, Yale or Cornell.

        I recently finished an internship at KPMG and was offered a job after I graduate. I think this is a good opportunity to acquire my CPA designation, while gaining valuable work experience.

        I currently have a 3.83/4.3 GPA. I wrote my GMAT while doing my internship and received a 740.

        My extra-circulars: treasurer of two societies at my university.
        Tutor for first and second year finance. Juvenile diabetes research foundation volunteer and leader since I was about 13. Class representative.

        After receiving an MBA I would work for my family company in
        Canada. It employs over 4000 people and is one of the largest privately owned companies in the country. With a top tier MBA I would be able to bring valuable knowledge to the company.

        I was hoping to get some advice and see if I am on the right track for having a competitive profile. Would it be possible to recommend some improvements, as well as if I should work for KPMG or apply right after my undergrad?

        Thank you very much Linda for your time!

        All the best!

        • Linda Abraham

          Yes. You are definitely on the right track. And a job with KPMG sounds like a wonderful opportunity.

          In general, I believe that most people benefit most from the MBA after a few years of full-time work experience. However, there are a few MBA programs geared to recent grades. Namely Stanford’s deferred admissions program. Yale’s Silver Scholars Program, and HBS’ 2+2. All these programs require some work experience either before you start or before you complete the MBA. Other than these programs, you’re best bet is to work.

          Advice? Assume leadership roles, if possible on the job (and it won’t be initially possible) and off the job. If you can, add an international element to your profile. yes i realize you are canadian and it is a different country, but try to gain experience with parts of the world that are more different than Canada and the U.S.


    • Linda Abraham

      FYI, I did get your inquiry. Unfortunately I misfiled it, but I did get it. Sorry for the confusion.


      • Nick Fulton

        Hi Linda,

        Thanks very much for your response.

        Would I be competitive for the Harvard 2+2 program? What would I be able to do in my final year and a half at university to make me more competitive?

        Nick Fulton

        • Linda Abraham


          Yes. You have a competitive profile for 2+2. What should you do? Keep up your grades. Get another great internship this summer. Most importantly, assume leadership roles. HBS wants to see a “habit of leadership.”

          Linda Abraham

          • Nick Fulton

            Hi Linda!

            Thanks again for the response..

            I am also looking into the Silver Scholars program at Yale.
            Would I be more competitive at Yale? I think I might have a better chance at that program. I am worried about my GPA as it is not on a 4.0 scale. Do you think this might be a problem?

            I have a few opportunities for an internship in the summer at some major firms.

            I really appreciate your responses.

            All the best,

          • Linda Abraham

            I haven’t see a class profile for the Silver Scholars Program, but my guess is also that it is a tad easier to get into.

            Even on the 4.3 scale, I think your GPA is still in range. Regardless of what I think, you’re close enough where there is only one way to find out and that’s to apply.

            If you would like help with your MBA applications, please let me know.

            Linda Abraham

          • Nick Fulton

            Hi Linda,

            Last post!

            What is the percentage of masters students admitted to HBS 2+2? Is this program directed at the Masters students?

            If I apply to HBS 2+2 and am unsuccessful will it hurt my chances reapplying after a couple years of work experience and a CPA designation?

          • Nick Fulton

            ^ That is to the MBA program to clarify.

            All the best,

          • Linda Abraham



            I don’t have access to the masters student numbers, but I suspect it’s small. I believe that last year was the first year students enrolled in masters programs could apply. The program historically has been directed at undergraduate students.

            No. Applying to 2+2 now will not affect your admissions chances if you need to reapply after working for a few years.


  • CBS aplicant_thgpach3

    1.) 3.5 years at top 3 big name consulting firm in India; promoted twice from Associate consultant to senior associate consultant, and to Consultant
    2.) GMAT 700 (90% percentile)
    3.) Goizueta Business School, BBA Marketing, Finance, Minor in Math: GPA: 3.45; graduated in 2011
    4.) College: Treasuer, Emory Micro credit club; Treasurer Emerging India Summit;
    at Work: Class Captain (2 years running) direct point of contact between class and partner group; Logistics team- Prayas (CSR arm of Bain in India);
    Additional: starting 6 month externship with CPG startup;
    Additional: External strategy advisor; Non Profit
    6.) leadership role in consulting in CPG vertical, or at a CPG company

    • Linda Abraham

      Columbia is a stretch. Both your GPA and GMAT are on the low side for this program, not out of the league, but on the low side. Your work experience is good.

      Also consider Duke, Ross, Kelley, and UCLA.


  • Jin M

    Hi Linda,

    I would love to get my profile assessed.
    I actually sent an email if that is okay!
    (I have a few personal stories.)

    Please let me know if this is okay! Thanks!

    • Linda Abraham


      I didn’t get the email.


  • VP

    Hi Linda! Thanks for taking the time out to evaluate so many profiles!

    Here’s mine –

    Indian Male, 25
    B.Sc in Botany – I have a First-Class Degree and it’s a three-year degree. (Will that be a stumbling block?) My academic record isn’t all that fabulous to be honest.
    GMAT – 790

    After college, I was a full-time musician for two years. Did loads of gigs, played with some big people, etc.

    A year in a start-up in the education sector.

    Current Job: Two years at a Digital Marketing firm – working with clients across domains such as oil & gas, travel, banking, etc. Involvement in three verticals of the company. I’m also Reporting to the GM of one of India’s biggest private sector companies.

    Google Analytics Qualified

    I have also completed two online programs:
    Content Marketing Strategy by Northwestern University (Brownie points for Kellogg?)

    A Online Calculus Course offered by UPenn on Coursera – I did this because I wanted to showcase some proficiency at Math & Calculus since schools like to see it and I’ve been out of touch at it since high school.

    Volunteer Work includes working for an organization that caters to mentally challenged children. Also experienced in working with a Department of The Police that helps women who’ve suffered hate crimes.

    Post-MBA – I would like to work in a Management Consulting.

    Looking at schools Columbia obviously because of the great school it is and the NYC angle. Other schools include Kellogg, Darden, Tuck, Stern, Booth and maybe Wharton and MIT Sloan because of my GMAT score.


    • Linda Abraham


      You have a competitive profile for CBS and NYU and Kellogg. Basically you have a shot at all of them and an interesting profile. They all support your goals. choose the ones that appeal to you the most.


  • Akshay

    Hi Linda – thanks for the evaluation in advance:

    ‘m a 26 year old Civil engineer working for an engineering and construction firm in Chicago
    – I’m of indian Origin
    – I majored in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, graduating in 2010. Our civil engineering program is ranked #1 by USNWR this year, and has consistently been in the top 3 programs (along with Cal and Stanford) for the past decade.
    – Due to being too focused on my social life, and immaturity in general, I only have a GPA of 3.0. I averaged about a 3.4 in my heavy quant classes, but struggled and slacked off majorly in some of my electives in the humanities. Was heavily involved in undergrad research, as well as held leadership positions in several student clubs
    -I took Continuing Ed classes at Northwestern (took an accounting and a marketing class, and scored an A- on both)
    – I took the GMAT once, in 2013, and scored a 740 (49Q, 42V).
    – I come from a fairly unique background (construction management) – at least from a B-school perspective.
    – In my current role, as a Project Manager I lead collaborative teams of architects and engineers to construct buildings for real estate developers. I have managed projects upwards of $10MM.

    – My immediate post MBA goal is to work as a development associate at a global real estate development firm like Tishman Speyer. As a development associate, I will evaluate the financial feasibility and ROI of potential land development, procure appropriate funding from banks or the capital markets, meet with city and zoning officials and then hire a team of architects, engineers and construction experts to construct the property.

    – My long-term goal is to lead a real estate development and investment firm in India with a focus on sustainable and green development. My passion for and experience in green design and construction, complemented by my MBA will allow me to implement this vision in a country with a burgeoning middle class with rapidly growing metropolises. India’s population growth, mass migration from villages to cities and relative dearth of natural resources only heighten the importance of growing cities’ sustainably.

    Extra Curricula’s:(A strong point for me; I’ve got some more EC’s but listed the top 3 here)
    1. Social chair and Treasurer – Fighting Illini Triathlon Club
    2. Volunteer tutor – 9th grade math at a local charter school on the city’s south side serving black and hispanic students. I also mentored two students here, and spend 8 hours a week tutoring.
    3. Social chair – Emerging Professionals group – US Green Building Council – Chicago chapter. Membership increased 25% during my tenure as I coordinated membership events and outreach programs.
    3. Tutor – Chicago Center for Green Technology – Help students and professionals studying for the LEED AP Exam (4 hours every weekend)

    • Linda Abraham

      CBS would be great but that GPA makes it a stretch. You’ve done what you can do to compensate so do apply. For an additional stretch, consider Wharton. Also consider UNC and USC.

      Linda Abraham

  • Freddy

    1) A very short stint at one of the largest asset managers of the world followed by ~2.5 years (at matriculation) as a manager in risk management and analytics at New York headquarters of American Express. Was responsible for launching strategic and analytic products across various business lines of Amex.

    2) GRE 332/340 (170/170 Quant and 162/170 Verbal)

    3) Undergrad: University of Delhi, India: GPA 3.6/4.0 (WES evaluation)
    Grad: Columbia Engineering GPA 3.4/4.0 (This includes a <3 GPA in first term followed by successive increment in grades)

    4) Worked with senior leadership on organizing firmwide charity campaigns, leadership and volunteer activities in college in India.

    6) Goals: Top Hedge Fund/ Investment Management in an investment/research role.

    It would be great if you could evaluate my profile for CBS/Booth/Wharton. Also, does it reflect negatively on my application that I left the asset management firm in a very short time for want of more responsibilities. Secondly, I am in the process of obtaining my Green Card sponsored by the company. Does being a US permanent resident affect mba applications at all? Thank You.

    • Linda Abraham


      A few thoughts before I get to your questions:

      1) if the schools don’t ask you to translate your GPA, don’t do it. they are very good at evaluating your grades from well-know universities in India.

      2) you might want to provide some context for the dip in your grades at the beginning of your masters.

      You have a competitive profile for CBS, Booth and Wharton, but obviously there are no safeties there. You may also want to consider NYU Stern, LBS, and Yale.

      I don’t think your leaving your first job quickly is going to be a problem at all given the stability of your second job and the growth you’ve experienced there. Plus many schools will ask why you left a job and you can say for greater opportunity for responsibility and growth.

      Being a U.S. permanent resident is a practical advantage: it makes it easier to get funding as well as easier to get a job in the U.S. while not preventing you from going home.

      If you would like help with your MBA applications, please let me know.


  • GatorHopeful

    1) 1 Year in rotational management development program at publicly traded company; 2 years middle market investment banking analyst; 1 year (2 at matriculation) venture capital associate
    2) 700 GMAT; heavily weighted towards verbal; (V-99%;Q-59%)
    3) University of Florida: 3.5 GPA; Business Administration – Marketing Major
    4) President of 100 man fraternity; Member of Florida Blue Key (Leadership Honorary); Volunteer in at-risk middle school teaching financial topics/literacy to students (3 years); Guest lecturer at University of South Florida for VC/PE graduate level class (4 lectures)
    5) None.
    6) Join VC/PE firm with more international focus and eventually start my own fund down the road

    • GatorHopeful

      Forgot to mention: aiming for Columbia, Northwestern, Duke, Yale. Thanks!

  • kunal

    Hey Linda, heres my snapshot.

    1) 4.5 +yrs in an indian IT organization as a senior software engineer. 2 promotions in 3 years. My role is that of an ERP consultant and have implemented HRMS system for GE USA.
    2) GMAT 690 (planning to write one more time next month)
    3) Guru Gobind singh Indraprastha University, delhi, India. Bachelors in Technology. Major-Information technology In 2010. GPA – 7.45/10.
    4) have coordinated several events at college technical fests. Top 1% rank holder in national IT aptitude test by NIIT in 2008. Scholar blazer recipient in high school.
    5) none.
    6) intially want to get into Management consulting or Business analysis kind of a role and the n subsequently would like to start up a consulting firm to give employee benefits and pension solutions to organizations.