This set of executive MBA essays requires a range of skills: succinct expression, self-reflection and self-understanding, synthesizing threads of your experience and knowledge, and organizational understanding. The questions are not only on different topics, as would be expected, but also different types – it’s as if each question had its own mini-culture, which you must read and respond to. Be prepared to write with sensitivity to the nuance of each question – an opportunity to let different qualities, skills, and talents shine – while creating a coherent holistic portrait with the essays overall.
Columbia Executive MBA Essay Questions and Tips
Short Answer Question
What is your post-MBA professional goal? (200 characters maximum)
No frills here, give the facts straight. But in that short space include specifics, e.g., function, industry and company, and try to weave in a phrase reflecting your vision for these goals.
Considering your post-MBA and long term professional goals, why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? Additionally, why is Columbia Business School a good fit for you? (750 words maximum)
First, answer the question. I’ve seen drafts of this essay that have discussed goals and why-MBA without actually addressing “why now.” This question allows you to present a nice, logical story with “at this point” as the pivot point. A simple, straightforward structure that should work for many: brief intro; then succinct discussion of career focusing selectively on aspects or experiences relevant to development of your goals (skills gained, markets explored, impacts seen, etc.); then the present—why this is the right time for your MBA; then elaboration of goals; and finally why Columbia is a good fit in light of those goals.
Describe a life experience that has shaped you. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (500 words maximum)
This essay lets the adcom get to know you as a person beyond your resume and career interests. With only 500 words, I suggest a straightforward approach. Describe a key formative experience in your life and show –by example and anecdote – how it has shaped you subsequently. In selecting topics, don’t worry that your experience might not be unique – it’s a worry I often hear, and I answer by saying there’s not much new under the sun. Not writing about a move to a new country, or a family crisis, or something else commonly experienced is like a novelist not writing a love story because, well, it’s already been done. It has, and it will be done successfully again, and again. The key to making this essay work is to personalize your story as much as possible with detail, anecdote, and your own perceptions, responses.
For the third essay, please choose one of the following three options:
This short essay essentially is about your understanding of the Columbia program and how you will fit in it, contribute, and/or productively use its resources. Review and sketch out possible ideas for each option – mostly likely which question is the best “fit” for you will emerge by this exercise. That will be the question that you have an engaging reply to and for which your answer strategically enhances your application in some way.
Option A: The annual A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition is a student initiative managed and run by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO). The competition encourages Columbia MBA students to explore creative, entrepreneurial ideas that are sufficiently ambitious in scope and scale to be considered “outrageous.” Students explore these ideas while learning firsthand what goes into the development and presentation of a solid business proposal.
Develop your own outrageous business idea. In essay form, compose your elevator pitch. (250 words maximum)
Option B: Columbia deeply values its vibrant student community, the building of which begins at orientation when admitted students are assigned to clusters of 65 to 70 fellow students who take most of the first-year core classes together. During the first weeks of school, each cluster selects a cluster chair. Further strengthening the student community are the more than 100 active student organizations at Columbia Business School, ranging from cultural to professional to community service–oriented. Leadership positions within clusters and clubs offer hands-on management and networking opportunities for students as they interact with fellow students, administrators, faculty members, alumni, and practitioners.
You are running for either cluster chair or a club leadership position of your choosing. Compose your campaign speech. (250 words maximum)
Option C: Founded nearly three decades ago, the Executives in Residence Program at Columbia Business School integrates senior executives into the life of the School. Current executives in residence include more than a dozen experts in areas ranging from media and investment banking to private equity and management. A hallmark of the program is one-on-one counseling sessions in which executives advise students about their prospective career choices.
Select one of the current executives in residence with whom you would like to meet during your time at Columbia. Explain your selection and tell us how you would best utilize your half hour one-on-one session. (250 words maximum)
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, keep in mind that if 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.
Did you like these tips? Click on the link to see more 2012 Executive MBA essay tips.
Friday/Saturday Core Option: January 2012 entry
Regular Decision: November 9, 2011
Saturday-Only Core Option: May 2012 entry
Regular Decision: February 8, 2012