Columbia slightly changed its first short answer question and materially changed all its essay questions. CBS also re-instituted word limits as opposed to the somewhat flexible ranges it gave last year. Overall, the word limits are less than the maximums were last year. Apparently the CBS staff didn’t find that they learned more from the longer essays that applicants submitted last year. Regardless you are going to have fewer words available to you. The word limits are tight.
My tips are in blue below.
Goal: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
This is one character less than last year, when they gave you 51 characters. Not a big deal. Note, it is a character (not word) limit. Your response must be less than a tweet. Actually it must be just about one third of a tweet. What do you want to do professionally and in which industry immediately after earning your MBA? Here are CBS’ examples of possible responses:
“Work in business development for a media company.”
“Join a strategy consulting firm.”
“Launch a data-management start-up.”
Warning: This question is not asking about intended area of study while in business school or a non-professional goal or even a long-term goal. And the subject in your response is assumed to be you. No need to waste characters by including “I.”
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3 – 5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)
CBS this year wants you to focus on your career goals not immediately after graduation, as in the short-answer question, but in the longer-term. They want to see how you believe your career will develop after that immediate post-MBA job. This year, unlike last year, this question does not ask you how CBS will help you achieve your goals. (See Essay 2)
To answer this question realize that the readers already know what’s in your resume. Don’t repeat “your career path to date” here. That’s a waste of essay real estate and means you’re not telling them anything new or answering their question.
Do tell them what you want to do 3-5 years into the future, which should build on your first post-MBA job. Make sure to answer the long-term question and feel free to dream and aspire, but at the same reveal an ambitious, but feasible professional goal.
The full-time MBA experience includes academics, recruiting and networking. What are your personal priorities and how do you anticipate allocating your time at Columbia Business School? (250 words max)
Last year’s question was more specific and talked about some of the special programs and strengths at CBS. This one assume you will do your research and know about those programs. If you don’t do your research, you will not be able to answer this question well.
You don’t have a lot of space — only 250 words. Think about the aspects of CBS that will really prepare you to go down the path outlined in Essay 1. What are going to be your priorities when you are not in class? What classes and academic programs will you be the ones you gravitate towards? What co-curricular opportunities to do you intend to take advantage of?
CBS’ motto is “At the Very Center of Business.” The video above reveals what CBS thinks is special about being at the center of business. While I don’t think you must incorporate this idea into your essay, the video might get you thinking about some of the special opportunities that a Columbia MBA provides.
This is a completely new question and replaced last year’s question about CBS Matters. Both last year’s and this year’s Essay #3 are attempts to get to know you as a person, a human being. Write an essay that reflects YOU, your interests, and passions.
Please select and answer one of the following essay questions: (250 words max)
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?
Choose the option that will be easiest for you to write with most enthusiasm and authenticity.
If you choose option a, reveal how your actions and behavior reflect that passion. When do you spend time and energy engaged in it? Tell a short story about you and this passion. Perhaps include why it’s so important to you.
If you choose option b, again tell a story that would reflect how you would spend this free day? Where would you go? What would you do? Why?
Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 words)
Again, this year’s optional is slightly different and more restrictive than in previous years.
Clearly you can use this optional essay question to address a weakness in your profile or qualifications, but in my mind, this question is also open-ended enough to allow you to discuss a challenge overcome in your personal background.
Don’t use this essay as a grand finale or wrap up. And definitely don’t use it to rehash your reasons for wanting to attend Columbia; those reasons should be perfectly clear from the required essays.
If you would like professional guidance with your Columbia Business School MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the CBS MBA application.
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted and co-author of the definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.