Columbia Business School Essay 2 asks you to watch a short video entitled, “The Center” and then use it to answer the question, “How will you take advantage of being ‘at the very center of business’?” The video and the essay question have enabled Columbia to regain its brand and market share.
Over the years, Columbia strayed from its core strength: its geographic location and the access that the school offers its students. As a reaction to New York’s financial industry shrinkage and then, a drop in applications, they began pitching teams, clusters, and close-knit communities. I’m sorry, but those words do not even begin to describe Columbia.
CBS is just like New York: historical, large, gritty, and filled with surprises. It doesn’t coddle its students, and its students don’t expect to be coddled. They are smart, resourceful, and assertive.
So what does it mean to be at the very center of business? Well, you have the usual suspects: access to corporate world headquarters, brown bags with executives, subway rides to everything. But I ask you, where else can you have an accidental meeting at a cultural event with the Morgan Stanley’s CEO, James Gorman, or award winning entertainer and entrepreneur Dr. Dre?
Columbia wants its students to embrace New York and at the same time not allow the abundance of everything to intimidate them. Years ago, I watched a Columbia Business School PowerPoint presentation. The closing slide displayed a world map. The Columbia campus was superimposed on a big red apple that spread over half the Atlantic Ocean and an arrow pointing to the apple as the “Center of the World.” I keep that image in my mind as I offer my Accepted clients my best rendition of the song, New York, New York, “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” (High kicks and all. Fortunately they can’t see me when I dance).
As a former admissions dean and director, I would expect to see an answer to that essay that would enable me to identify (and admit) people who thrive in the hustle bustle of New York. I would want my applicants to capture the energy of the city that never sleeps. I would hope that the applicant understands the living laboratory we fondly call, “The City.” At the same time, I would filter out students who would be intimidated by New York. I would want my students to love their NYC experience: rats, roaches and all.
By Natalie Grinblatt Epstein, an accomplished Accepted consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.