Columbia MBA Class Of ’17: More U.S. Minorities, Lower Acceptance Rate, Higher Yield

Columbia Business School posted its incoming MBA class profile. Here’s the scoop:

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What does the data show? Pretty much steady state with improvement in class diversity. And there’s both good news and bad from an applicant perspective.

The most noteworthy change is a 9% increase in minorities of U.S. origin in the class. The percentage of internationals went down insignificantly, but I expect that small decline will reverse itself in this upcoming application cycle since Columbia now has a no-cosigner loan program fully operational for international MBA students.

The 1-point dip in CBS’ average GMAT score is also not significant, especially given the lower acceptance rate and higher yield that Columbia enjoyed last year. It is a little surprising because of the GMAT score arms race that seems to have gripped much of CBS’s competition. (Chicago, Kellogg, and Wharton have all reported increased average GMAT scores for their incoming classes.)

Apparently in this past year CBS chose to focus more on diversity and less on the GMAT. I expect that CBS will want to report an increase in its GMAT average in the upcoming class. And with it’s 715 score, it still remains one of a handful of schools with an average GMAT equal or greater than a lofty 715.

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Linda AbrahamBy Linda Abraham, 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.


Related Resources:

• Columbia Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips
• Get Accepted to Columbia Business School
• The Admissions Team at the Very Center of Business

Is Columbia Business School Calling Your Name?

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The Applicants That Stand Out At Columbia Business School

Learn how to get accepted to Columbia Business School!My observation as a former insider at CBS is that Columbia is looking to build a diverse class of high-achieving world citizens who’ve got a bit of grit.

World Citizen 

What do I mean by a world citizen? For a small fraction, it means applicants who are internationally famous due to their own achievements or by association. Let’s say, the guy who won an Olympic medal, or the gal who gets a call from the former president of “X” country and says, “Hi, Dad.”

A world citizen also means someone who will add their own confident, distinct vibe to a cosmopolitan student body. Columbia wants to admit people with strong intellects and big ideas. They want confidence, but not arrogance. They like people who thrive in large group settings and don’t need a lot of handholding. They’re looking for admits with resilience and who exude a joie-de-vivre — kind of like the city itself.

The Greatness of Grit

And what do I mean by grit? That means someone who has achieved extraordinary things in the context of his or her job. It’s someone who has mapped out a plan for his or her future, and has done the hard work of really getting to know Columbia’s program and can prove it’s a good fit.

It can also mean someone who doesn’t have good test scores or a glossy international background.  But that person (usually a New York local) builds a relationship with an adcom member (though is not annoying!), retakes tests and makes efforts to improve at work or have an impact in the community. He or she might have to reapply, but showing that grit can eventually mean an admit.

 The New York Connection 

Finally, Columbia is looking for that New York connection. Why this city? Do you know what it has to offer? Can you thrive in its hyper-competitive business scene? Have you ever lived or worked here? A campus visit can be a huge plus–confirming for the adcom that you’re serious about attending.

New York can break your heart, or fulfill your wildest dreams. It will absolutely affect your experience at Columbia. They want to know you’ve got the right stuff to make the most of it.

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Michelle Stockman Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.


Related Resources:

Columbia Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines
What Not to Include in Your Columbia Business School Application
Columbia Business School Zone

Columbia Entering Class Profile

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This year’s entering class at CBS reflects the school’s interest in building a class composed of  “intellectually driven people from diverse educational, economic, social, cultural, and geographic backgrounds.”

According to the class profile, 41% of the class are international students, 36% are women, and 32% are minorities. They come from a range of previous industries (Financial Services 28%; Consulting 25%; Marketing/Media 10%; Private Equity 8%; Technology 7%; Non-profit 5%; and smaller numbers from other fields), and studied a range of fields in college, from Social Sciences, to Business, to the Humanities.

They share a strong record of achievement and leadership, whatever field they are coming from. They are also strong academically: applicants’ average undergraduate GPA was 3.5 (middle 80%: 3.1-3.8) and their average GMAT was 716 (middle 80%: 680-760). Of 5799 applications received, 1056 were admitted, for an ultimate entering class of 743.

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Columbia Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
• Podcast Interview With the Columbia Business School Admissions Team
• Columbia Business School Zone

Columbia Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Click here for Columbia Business School's zone page.Columbia tweaked last year’s questions for this year. Relatively minor changes. Specifically:

• Its short-answer question about your immediate post-MBA goal has gone from 75 to 50 characters. Yes, that was  characters, not words. Two years ago it was a generous 100 characters. And those applicants thought they had it tough. 
• There are wording changes to all the questions. The central focus is the same as in previous years; but nuances have changes. 

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? (50 characters maximum)

Note the character limit. Your response must be less than a tweet. Actually it must be just about one third of a tweet. What do you want to do professionally and in which industry immediately after earning your MBA?  Here are CBS’ examples of possible responses:

“Work in business development for a media company.”
“Join a strategy consulting firm.”
“Launch a data-management start-up.”

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. Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (Maximum 500 words)

They already know what’s in your resume. Don’t repeat “your career path to date” here. That’s a waste of essay real estate and means you’re not telling them anything new or answering their question.

Do tell them what you want to do after your MBA and what aspects of the Columbia MBA experience will prepare you to do it. 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. Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)

Please watch this video before attempting to answer the question and then keep it in mind as you write.

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. Also note the emphasis in the question on bridging theory (the classroom) and practice (the opportunities that New York City provides).

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? Madison Avenue? 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 to write persuasively about at least one. 

Essay 3. CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

Please watch this video to have an idea of what “CBS Matters” is about.

Make sure you understand Columbia’s Cluster System.  And if you have any lingering doubts whether this question is about professional achievement, watch the video again. It’s not.

You can use this essay 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? Or you can reveal something non-professional that is important to you.  How have you contributed to social groups or causes in the past? Relate you plans to a past successful initiative, and you will enhance your answer to this question.

Or you could take a 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, be careful to avoid TMI (too much information). 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.

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 2016 Application Deadlines:

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

Watch our webinar and learn how to Get Accepted to Columbia Business School!

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.

Related Resources:

Podcast Interview With the Columbia Business School Admissions Team
Columbia Business School Zone
• Experiences & Advice from Columbia MBA Student Kendall Miller