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:
The Center
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.

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? 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? 

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.

Click here to download your free copy of "Why MBA?": Learn how to create a compelling MBA goals essay.

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

  • 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.


  • 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?