Columbia 2015 Executive MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Columbia Business School

Don’t expect to richly portray your personal and/or professional development.

These essay questions focus mostly on the present and future. There’s a little room to discuss relevant past experiences, but not much, so don’t expect to richly portray your personal and/or professional development. Moreover, if the Columbia EMBA adcom wanted this information, they would ask for it. Rather, go with the flow, and give them what they do ask for, in aggregate: a vivid sense of engagement

•  with your career

• with the resources of Manhattan

• with the program itself.

Short Answer Question:

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (100 characters maximum)

Give the basic facts – position, company, or a specific industry, and a word about responsibilities and desired impacts. Don’t repeat the question (it wastes space). 


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

The initial phrase invites you to present your goals and your MBA plans in the context of your past experience.  Yet, with only 500 words overall, you can’t give a comprehensive, detailed delineation of your life or career to date.  I suggest a simple basic structure, which you can adapt:

1. Start with the key point or two from your past that really animates your goals. Make it straightforward and vivid; ideally including an anecdote.

2. Your career vision fleshed out – some practical discussion of how you’ll achieve it and what “success” will look like in terms of desired impact.

3. Why these factors make now the right time to pursue the EMBA. Also include the main reasons Columbia is the right program for you.    

2: Columbia Business School is located in the heart of the world’s business capital- Manhattan. How do you anticipate that New York City will impact your experience at Columbia? (Maximum 250 words)

Please view the videos below:

New York City – limitless possibilities

New York City – fast paced and adaptable

Your experience at Columbia will have numerous dimensions: academic, professional, social, cultural.  Try to address each of these dimensions in the proportion relevant to you.  Do not just do a travelogue of Manhattan (I’ve already seen this in a draft or two). Rather discuss how the resources of Manhattan relevant to you will inform your time at Columbia – say you have a passion for jazz.  Of course you can hear great jazz all over town, but will you also look to share this passion with classmates?  Start an informal jazz appreciation group?  Audit music courses at Columbia or nearby Manhattan School of Music?

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

The key to answering this short essay effectively is to understand the phrase “pleasantly surprised.”  Let’s break it down:

• First, don’t repeat a resume point – “surprised” means something not obvious from the available information.

• “Pleasantly” means something that will generate positive interest.  It doesn’t have to be directly applicable or “useful” to your cluster mates.

It can be something from work or outside work.  If it’s far in the past, it should be something of continuing relevance.  DON’T present a boring explanation.  DO root your response in actual experience.

Most important: DO select a topic that will add something to your profile, something that lets the adcom know you better as a person.

If your answer puts a smile on the reader’s face, or even better elicits a happy, surprised laugh, high five!

Optional Essay

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

This question invites you to present new material that will enhance your application, as well as to explain anything that needs explaining (e.g., gap in employment, choice of recommender if not using a direct supervisor, etc.). As far as non-necessary points, since you are making the adcom read more than is required, there should be a clear value to the information you’re sharing. Finally, keep it short.

Columbia EMBA 2015 Application Deadlines:

EMBA-Americas: January 2015 Entry

Regular Decision: October 29, 2014

EMBA-NY Saturday: May 2015 Entry

Early Decision: January 15, 2015

Regular Decision: March 2, 2015

EMBA-NY Friday/Saturday: August 2015 Entry

Early Decision: March 18, 2015

Regular Decision: June 3, 2015

Download your free copy of Ace the EMBA!

Cindy Tokumitsu By , co-author of The EMBA Edge, and author of the free special report, Ace the EMBA. Cindy has helped MBA applicants get accepted to top EMBA programs around the world. She is delighted to help you too! 

The GMAT and EMBA Programs

Need GMAT Advice?

There is no substitute for real world experience.

With fulltime MBA programs, it is fairly obvious why the GMAT is such an important component to one’s application – with less work experience, admissions committees need to find other measurements to gauge potential success in a program. Academic preparedness can clearly be evidenced with a strong undergraduate GPA coupled with a strong GMAT score. With Executive MBA programs, a GMAT score’s relation to the rest of one’s application is less obvious, since other factors seem to be of more importance.

Criteria for admission to an Executive MBA program (often in this order) include work experience and the type of insight an applicant can bring to the classroom, future potential, and academic preparedness. During my time at Cornell, I would often say we were looking for students who could teach just as much to their fellow classmates as the faculty who taught in the program. There is no substitute for real world experience to ingrain concepts presented in the classroom.

Once the box is checked for work experience, it is necessary to ensure an applicant can handle the rigorous work in a program. Admissions committees evaluate this in a variety of ways, primarily through undergraduate performance. Not all Executive MBA programs require the GMAT, but for those that do, the GMAT score also is an indicator of potential academic success while in a program. There is less emphasis placed on it than in full-time MBA admissions, however, since an applicant is typically much further removed from standardized testing than a full-time applicant.

If an applicant has strong work experience and a strong undergraduate record, but a weak GMAT score, the undergraduate record usually “trumps” the GMAT score. If an applicant has strong work experience and a strong GMAT score, but a weak undergraduate record, there will probably be further investigation on the part of an admissions committee to see if there were any mitigating circumstances leading to a low GPA. If not, it’s possible an admissions committee might ask for some additional evidence to indicate academic preparedness – for example, suggesting an additional quant course either online or from a local college. Bottom line, an EMBA admissions committee wants to admit individuals who are fully prepared to hit the ground running when a program starts, and the GMAT is one indication of an applicant’s ability to do just that.

Got GMAT Questions? Visit GMAT 101 for advice.

Jennifer Weld worked as an admissions consultant and Former Asst. Dir. of Admissions at Cornell’s EMBA program (4 years) prior to joining She has an additional 10 years of experience in higher ed and corporate marketing.

Wharton 2015 Executive MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Click here for more school-specific EMBA essay tips!


The Wharton EMBA adcom, through its three required questions, expresses its values and its interest in a relationship with students who share those values. Each of the questions highlights a different facet of this relationship. Respecting, recognizing, and responding to that vision through your essays will be the key to a successful application.

 • Essay question 1 focuses on your goals and Wharton’s role in helping you achieve them.

 • Essay question 2 invites you to share your understanding of qualities that Wharton values.

 • Essay question 3 seeks confirmation that you understand in practical terms what a commitment to attending the program involves.

My tips for answering Wharton’s EMBA essay questions are in blue below.


1. What is your career objective and how will the Wharton MBA Program for Executives contribute to your attainment of these objectives? (750 word limit)

You may want to start by discussing your current career situation to set the context, and clarify how the MBA education will enable you to achieve your immediate goals in your current role.  You can then naturally move on to your future goals.  In describing your goals at any given point, indicate why you are taking that step or pursuing that role. Put more detail on the roles you plan immediately post-MBA and the several years following; longer-term goals need less detail, but they still should present a clear direction.

In discussing how the program will benefit you, be specific: describe what skills and knowledge you need, and how the program meets those needs.  Also refer to the structure and special features of the program, detailing how they will support you and your goals.

2. In his book, Winners Never Cheat: Even in Difficult Times, Jon M. Huntsman, Sr. (W’59), writes: “A crisis creates the opportunity to dip deep into the reservoirs of our very being, to rise to levels of confidence, strength, and resolve that otherwise we didn’t think we possessed.” Describe a time when you were faced with a challenge and how you responded. (500 word limit)

This question clearly expresses certain qualities that Wharton seeks: ethics, resolve, fortitude, courage, self-awareness, clear-sightedness, ability to grow.  Showing through an appropriate experience that you possess some of these qualities (one to three will suffice; trying to address all of them would just create a blur) will convey fit with the program.  Given the gravity of the words in the quote, discuss a true crisis, not a mere problem or disappointment.  Since you cover work in essay 1, you can select a topic for this essay either from or outside work.

I suggest a relatively recent experience if possible – if it’s beyond a few years in the past, it must be a truly life-changing experience to work for this essay.  Hopefully you haven’t had so many recent crises that you have a hard time choosing among them, but if there are some different options, choose one that strategically works to your advantage by showcasing something desirable and/or interesting and/or impressive about your background or work life.

In writing the essay, keep it simple.  Tell the story, then briefly reflect on it considering the factors mentioned in the question.

3. Given your already demanding job and the desire to remain committed to important family and personal obligations, how do you plan to handle this additional demand on your time once you enroll? (500 word limit)

This straightforward question deserves a straightforward answer. Discuss the accommodations you will make at work, such as delegating more, adjusting travel schedules, etc.  You don’t have to tell them every single thing you can think of – focus on the most significant two or three adjustments.

Also address your personal responsibilities and how you will meet them with this additional significant demand on your time and energy; even acknowledging that you’ll have less time at the playground with your toddler or mentioning the support of your significant other will show that you’re facing this issue squarely.  If you’ve already successfully balanced school and working full time, by all means mention it.

Optional Essay:

Please explain any extenuating circumstances you feel the Admissions Committee should be aware of (e.g., unexplained gaps in your work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent academic performance).  You may also take this opportunity to share other aspects of your life that you feel have shaped you that the Admissions Committee would not otherwise have learned from your application or resume. (500 word limit)

You can use the optional essay not just to explain a problem (low GMAT, employment gap) but also to present new material that you think will enhance your application.  However, if you are making the adcom read more than is required, there had better be a darn good reason — not just that something is nice to know. First, succinctly explain any points that need explaining.  Then, if there is something you feel is important that you haven’t had a chance to discuss elsewhere, write about it, noting why it’s important for the adcom to know.

Wharton 2015 Application Deadlines:

Round 1: December 2, 2014; decision release date if application is complete by December 2 – January 16, 2015

Round 2: February 10, 2015; decision release date if application is complete by March 31 – March 31, 2015

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

Download our free special report

Cindy Tokumitsu By co-author of The EMBA Edge, and author of the free special report, “Ace the EMBA.” Cindy has helped MBA applicants get accepted to top EMBA programs around the world. She is delighted to help you too! 

Brown U. Adds to B-School Landscape

Click here for info about key EMBA trends, qualifying factors, and differentiating yourself through your essays.

Of the 30 students from the most recent graduating class, there were 20 nationalities represented.

Since 2011, Brown University has been running a collaborative EMBA program with IE Business School, in which graduates receive a degree from IE. Now, the program will award a degree from Brown as well.

The Businessweek article, “Brown University Gets Into the MBA Game,” calls the program an “unconventional EMBA program,” mentioning a course on “the shared history of slavery and capitalism,” and others like the “ethnographic study of the AIDS epidemic is southern Africa” and “the globalization of the arts.” In terms of class diversity, of the 30 students from the most recent graduating class, there were 20 nationalities represented, and nearly twice as many had come from public service jobs as from finance.

The BW article continues to explain that the IE Brown program “has been an aardvark among EMBA programs, attracting a diverse set of students with its promise to provide a broader view of the world than they would get from the typical MBA playbook of accounting, marketing, and quantitative skills.”

The university looks forward to putting Brown on the map of Ivy League MBA programs, and to the extra profit the program will bring in (the school has already made about $400,000 in profit).

Learn How to Create an Outstanding Application to Top Executive MBA Programs!

Interview with Arun Prasad: An Accepted EMBA Applicant

Download free: Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian ApplicantsThis interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing Arun Prasad who will be starting at IIM-Calcutta’s PGPEX-VLM Executive Program in the fall.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?

Arun: My name is Arun Prasad. I’m from Bangalore, India. I did my Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from MVJ College of Engineering, Bangalore. I presently work for Cessna Aircraft Company in Bangalore. I have about 6 years of work experience in Design, Analysis and Manufacturing.

Accepted: Congrats on your acceptance to IIM-Calcutta’s PGPEX-VLM Executive Program! Why did you choose that program? How is it the best program for you?

Arun: Thank you. I’ve always wanted to do a program that has a right balance between technical and management side of business. Something like a dual degree program. My initial Google search pointed me towards the MIT’s LGO (Leaders for Global Operations) and this happened to be my dream school. There were a couple of other schools like the Michigan Ross Tauber Institute and Kellogg’s MMM program and of course the PGPEX-VLM program.

I made a decision to choose PGPEX-VLM on various factors such as “Program Fit,” post MBA career goals, Batch size, Cost and Duration of the Program, Return on Investment, etc.

PGPEX-VLM (Visionary Leadership in Manufacturing) happens to be the perfect blend of technical competence along with right management and business skills. PGPEX-VLM is jointly conducted by IIM-Calcutta, IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Madras along with few industry consortiums like the CII, JICA and the governments of India and Japan.

IIM-Calcutta, which is one of the country’s best and oldest B-school imparts the Business and Management skills whereas the IIT’s, which is the country’s best technical institution (IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Madras) imparts the technical skills. So, PGPEX-VLM just happened to be the right program for me and I did not apply anywhere else.

Accepted: What is your current job? Why are you pursuing an MBA at this stage of your career? What do you plan on doing post-MBA — will you stay in your current industry and move to another field?

Arun: I work as a Manufacturing Engineer for Cessna. I do the Process Planning for Aircraft Sheet metal components and assemblies. It’s a purely technical role that I am in. Somewhere within me there is an itching that I want to do something more than planning how to manufacture Aircraft parts. I felt I must be associated with an operations role or on the strategy side of business. Though I work as a part of the Integrated Supply Chain in Cessna, I’m not involved in making Supply Chain decisions. This is when I gave a thought of doing a MBA and PGPEX-VLM happened to be the right program for me.

Post MBA, I would wish to venture into the Supply Chain side of business and I’m looking at few consulting positions as well. One of the reasons I chose Supply Chain is that, irrespective of industry, there are always challenges. I am highly interested in Defense Procurement as well.

Accepted: Can you talk about your experience with online courses? How has taken MOOCs influenced your Executive MBA goals?

Arun: Online courses are really cool. It all started when I saw a TED talk show of Daphne Koller (Founder of Coursera). Being a working professional, I’ve always felt the need to learn and keep learning. These MOOCs are a boon for working professionals. It is such a great platform to take the world’s best course, right at your home, at your convenience, and for free!! I signed up for a couple of courses from Wharton, University of Michigan and Stanford and I was awed. The same course is taught by the same professors for regular full time MBA students at top b-schools though a little variations do exists considering class size.

I’m the kind of a person who first likes to try and then decide. I took these MOOCs to have a firsthand experience of what to expect in a b-school and whether the subjects/concepts resonate with my thinking. It did. So, taking these MOOC has had an influence in my decision to pursue an MBA program.

Accepted: What would you say was your greatest challenge in the application process? What steps did you take to overcome that challenge?

Arun: PGPEX-VLM is one unique program and so is the application. Apart from regular MBA application elements like test scores, essays, and interviews, PGPEX-VLM has a aptitude test that tests the candidates on the fundamentals of Engineering (after all, it’s a techno-managerial program). The aptitude test had a wide range of topics from higher mathematics, to differentiation and integration to matrices and statistics to mechanical engineering to electronics to electrical engineering to even computer science concepts. Pretty much everything that falls under engineering. This was my greatest challenge. So, I started reviewing my engineering fundamentals and my GRE preparation helped me the verbal and quant section. I also took help from my fiancé, Gayathri, who is pursuing her Masters in Electronics engineering to review electronics and electrical engineering fundamentals :). So, I had taken lot of time to review engineering fundamentals.

Another challenging area for me was essays. There were 2 essays and this was a challenging part for me. Firstly because I was very new to this and then there were tons of consultants who supposedly offer services for reviewing and editing essays for top b-schools. Going through the testimonials of these essay editing admission consultants was quite intimating. The only investment I did was I bought MBA Admission for Smarties by Linda Abraham. I think instructions in that are pretty clear and straightforward. I read that book a hundred times before I drafted my essays and kept fine-tuning it for a month. I showed it to my family and got their feedback. My father-in-law’s feedback proved to be highly useful and many changes were incorporated based on his suggestions. So, to review essays, one need not really take help of essay editing services. Family and friends could offer the best critique and sometimes bring in a fresh look that sometimes others easily miss out.

Accepted: Can you share some EMBA application tips with our readers? What are some tools or resources that you used to help guide you through the process?

Arun: 1. Self Introspection: Before choosing to do a MBA/EMBA program, a lot of introspection is to be done. There is a significant amount of cost and time involved in a MBA program. So, it’s worth to do introspection till we find clear answers. Just keep asking yourself if an MBA is something that you really want to do. Why MBA? Why not something else? Why now? What would happen if I didn’t do an MBA? This type of introspection and self-interrogation could lead to some clear answers.

2. B-School Selection Matrix: We all know that top b-schools follow a holistic approach in selecting candidates for their programs. Like, no admission decision is made solely on GPA or GMAT score or essays. Similarly, while choosing a program, as candidates, we need to have a holistic and a realistic approach, not just ranking of the b-school. Various factors to consider for a b-school before joining is whether it’s a one-year MBA or a two-year MBA, location (India or abroad), class size, class diversity, post MBA goals, “Program Fit”, cost of the program, return on investment. I had written a blog post titled “B-School Selection Matrix” in which I evaluate various b-schools of my choice and make a qualitative decision. It’s like, I design my own personalized b-school rankings.

3. Profile Building: The decision to pursue an MBA most likely shouldn’t be an overnight decision and it’s not possible to build an MBA profile overnight. I think profile building should be the first step in preparing your b-school application even ahead of taking the GMAT. You just need to get into the league of MBA applications, be aware of various schools, follow admission officers’ blogs and even applicant and student blogs, sign up for newsletters, etc. I had written a blog post titled “MBA profile Building” on this. Those who have weak communication can sign up for few courses to improve communication. Those having problems with GMAT should change their browser home page to Those who haven’t had a chance to display leadership skills at their workplace, may choose to organize a few events or show leadership skills in other events, like even sports. So, profile building is a long evolving process and one must start early and invest time on this.

When it comes to resources, I had purchased MBA Admission for Smarties by Linda Abraham. This book is great. I had also purchased Beyond MBA Hype by Sameer Kamat. There are some great resources out there on the net. I religiously followed blogs and used to attend several webinars. So, following these blogs, network of current students, following the newsletters of your target schools, following admission officer’s blog – these are some priceless resources and one must make use of these as much as possible.

Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? How have you benefited from the blogging experience?

Arun: The idea and thought that I must write a blog can be attributed to I have seen several hundred applicant bloggers and student bloggers who have been sharing their experience. So, I decided to have my own blog.

I don’t have a target audience as such, but I write about GRE, higher education, MBA, MOOC, etc. So, if anyone is thinking about writing their own blog and needs some source of inspiration – they are my target audience!!

I have largely benefited from reading these blogs. Reading these blogs and the experiences have kept me going at difficult times and they serve as a source of motivation. Learning from others experience is one of the best learning ever. I follow a lot of applicant bloggers and benefit from their blog. So, this has been my biggest benefit from blogging.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages.

You can read more about Arun’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, Aroundynamics.  Thank you Arun for sharing your story with us!

MBA admissions tips for Indian applicants! [Download Free]