Someone called today and asked why I haven’t posted tips for Columbia. Since there is absolutely no good reason for me not to have posted tips for Columbia, I am posting them here and now. Thanks to the anonymous caller — you know who you are — for the subtle nudge.
A couple of general comments first.
- First take a few minutes to strategize about the application as a whole. You want a balance of professional and non-professional experiences in the application.
- CBS (and every other school ) is first and foremost looking for answers to the questions posed. Yes they want to see how you will fit in the program through your essays, but make sure you answer the individual questions while presenting a comprehensive and impressive picture of you.
My comments will be in blue.
1. What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (recommended 1000 word limit)
This is a very forward looking goals question. While you shouldn’t ignore the development of your goals, the bulk of the essay should be about the future. What do you want to do immediately after completing your MBA? 5 years later? How will Columbia’s program help you achieve your goals? And be specific!
2. What has been the greatest challenge to your value system that you’ve faced and how did you handle it? (Recommended 500 word limit)
Where were your values challenged and how did you handle it? This is a very broad question and you can use a professional or non-professional experience to answer it. Realize that the best answers are somewhat nuanced. They are thoughtful, not dogmatic or self-righteous. The situation doesn’t to have to be an ethical dilemma where you have a clash of values, but clearly ethics and values are at the heart of this question.
3. In discussing Columbia Business School , Dean R. Glenn Hubbard remarked, “We have established the mindset that entrepreneurship is about everything you do.” Please discuss a time in your own life when you have identified and captured an opportunity. (recommended 500 word limit)
When have you taken a risk, assumed responsibility, and initiated a project in order to seize the moment and an opportunity? Again, this question could be answered from professional, college, or extra-curricular activities to maintain the balance I talked about initially.
4. Please select and answer one of the following essay questions. (recommended 250 word limit)
a. Please tell us what you feel most passionate about in life.
b. If you were given a free day and could spend it anywhere, in any way you choose, what would you do?
Either option is an attempt to get to know you as a human being, and they are both asking for the same thing — just giving you different vehicles to present it. These options are both best answered with non-professional answers. Have a little fun with these questions and as always be authentic. There are no right or wrong answers; just demonstrate your enthusiasm for whatever you choose and include the reasons why you are so passionate about your topic. Finally, if you say you are so passionate about Subject X, make sure Subject X is an active part of your life, something you devote time to. (That sounds obvious, but it isn’t. Trust me.)
5. (Optional) 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.)
Obviously you could use this question to address a weakness in your application, but in my mind, it is also open-ended enough to allow you to discuss a diversity element in your personal background or simply some unique area of interest in your personal background.