This 2011 Columbia Executive MBA Admissions tip post is one of a series of posts providing Executive MBA application and essay advice for applicants to top EMBA programs around the world. You can access the entire series at https://blog.accepted.com/acceptedcom_blog/tag/2011-executive-mba-admissions-tips. My tips for answering Columbia’s EMBA essay questions are in blue below.
Columbia’s EMBA essay questions for the new admissions cycle have changed dramatically from the single essay question used for many years. That previous question was convoluted — asking about goals, personal and professional achievements, and need for MBA in an integrated way. It often required writing gymnastics to answer it effectively.
The new questions are incredibly simple and straightforward – and the fact that they are so by clear choice is meaningful and should inform your approach to the essays.
One essay covers professional matters; the other covers, in essence, the rest of your life, or at least what you consider important in it. Not many EMBA programs ask specifically about non-work experiences and interests, and the fact that Columbia devotes an entire essay to this area reflects its interest in having engaging students who really “have a life.” It shows that Columbia also views a businessperson’s value and character holistically, a value worth keeping in mind.
Columbia Executive MBA Essay Questions and Tips
What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Recommended 750 word limit)
The directness of this question indicates that the adcom really wants to hear what you have to say, uncluttered. Oblige them. I suggest a straightforward structure that introduces the goals with a little context and then details the goals and the need for the Columbia MBA. Avoid the inclination to summarize your career and your current role. Rather, zero in on the goals. Show your motivation for your goals, but overall keep the goals discussion practical, including what you’ll do, how you’ll advance, and what you want to accomplish short term and long term. These goals presumably produce some learning needs, which you can identify and then explain how Columbia will amply meet these needs. Although this seems like largely an expository essay, find opportunities to insert a couple of brief anecdotes to enliven it.
Please tell us about yourself and your personal interests. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (Recommended 500 word limit)
The key to succeeding with this essay starts with selecting great topics. Don’t worry about discussing things that are “impressive” or about finding things that are unusual – this essay’s effectiveness rests on how vividly you present your topic(s), how you personalize it with anecdote and detail. A discussion about something as common as playing basketball can become a memorable statement with an engaging, illuminating anecdote. I suggest focusing on two or three things that are important to you and that reflect various aspects of you and your life. Try to vary them, i.e.., don’t discuss three sports. Some broad topic areas include hobbies/interests, volunteering, formative experiences. The points need not be given equal weight. If you can find an overarching theme or message, fine, but don’t strain for it – better to focus on rich detail and content.
Is there any further information that you wish to provide to the Admissions Committee? (Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.)
The statement in the parentheses indicates that this essay should focus on matters that warrant explanation; the essay is not an invitation to further market yourself. There are a range of issues that fit in such an essay, including academic records that don’t reflect your abilities, gaps in employment or education, not obtaining a recommendation from a manager. These need not be all “problems” – simply matters that need clarification for the adcom to have a meaningful picture of your candidacy. There is no length limit, but keep it succinct and straightforward. The essay needn’t surpass 300-400 words in most cases.