Columbia Business School Essay 2 asks you to watch a short video entitled, “How will you take advantage of being at the very center of business?” The application then asks you to write the answer in 250 words or fewer. The video and the essay question have enabled Columbia to secure its brand and market share.
Over the years, Columbia strayed from and returned to its core strength: its geographic location and unparalleled access to the New York business community. Therefore, in applying to CBS, you need to understand the underpinnings behind the school’s core strength. You need to venture beyond their video, outside their website and even further than a planned (by admissions) school visit. You need to speak with students and alumni and discover what makes Columbia tick. And when you do, you will come away with an understanding that 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? And if you are very lucky, a class “talk” with the one and only, Warren Buffet?
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 (I did mention that this was years ago…right?). 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” and CBS’ place in that city (both inside and outside the classroom). All in 250 words or fewer. 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.
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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. Want Natalie to help you get accepted to business school? Click here to get in touch!
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• The MBA Menu at Columbia Business School, a podcast episode