There is a moderate amount of change in this year’s Columbia MBA application. As they did last year, they are changing the questions for Essays #2 and #3. The short-answer question, Essay #1, and the optional essay are all unchanged. The character and word limits are all the same as last year.
Columbia Business School application essay tips
Goal: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
Note that this has a character (not word) limit. Your response must be significantly shorter than 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 your 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” or “I plan to…”
Succinctly define your goal in terms of function (what you want to do) and the industry (or type of company) in which you want to do it.
Columbia Business School essay #1
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)
Columbia apparently liked the answers it received to this question, its longest, because it is back this year. CBS 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 question does not ask you how CBS will help you achieve your goals.
To answer this question, realize that the readers already know what’s in your resume. Don’t repeat “your career path to date.” That’s a waste of valuable 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 time reveal an ambitious, but feasible professional goal.
Columbia Business School essay #2
Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)
Why would you choose to go to Columbia?
The best reasons show knowledge of the Columbia MBA program, extracurricular opportunities, and recruiting strengths. In discussing the program, focus on what’s distinctive about the CBS program. If relevant, you can mention what you’ve learned from conversations you’ve had with CBS students and recent alumni, but don’t just name-drop. Be sure to reveal how you intend to use the program to prepare yourself to achieve the short-term goal that you provide in the short-answer question and the longer-term goals you discuss in Essay #1.
As you write this essay keep in mind Columbia’s pride in being at “the very center of business.” I’m not suggesting that you merely parrot that phrase back in your essays. I am advising you to think about how you intend to take advantage of New York City and Columbia’s location to prepare for your career.
FYI, the question in the #2 spot last year was: “How will you take advantage of being ‘at the very center of business’?” My guess is that Columbia’s MBA admissions committee wanted to broaden the question. However, “At the very center of business” is still part of the school’s logo. The CBS web site lists “Access” as one of Columbia’s Benefits and Features and adds that “Columbia’s relationship with New York City cannot be underestimated when choosing an MBA program.” It’s important to them.
Columbia Business School essay #3
Who is a leader you admire, and why? (250 words)
This is a getting to know you question. Columbia wants to see how you think.
Choose a leader whom you admire and discuss why. The “why” is more important than the “who,” as long as you don’t choose someone truly evil.
You may want to watch this video which discusses the kind of leadership that Columbia teaches. Innovation and entrepreneurial thinking play prominent roles. I predict CBS receives lots of essays about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. If you want to distinguish yourself, choose a leader you admire who is entrepreneurial and innovative other than the icons everyone else is going to write about. It can be someone you know personally, or it can be someone who demonstrates those qualities in a sphere other than tech and business.
Columbia Business School optional essay
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)
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 Business School; those reasons should be perfectly clear from the required essays.
For professional guidance with your Columbia Business School MBA application, check out Accepted’s MBA Essay Editing and MBA Admissions Consulting Services or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the CBS MBA application.
Columbia Business School 2019-20 application deadlines (for August 2020 entry)
|Early||October 4, 2019|
|Merit Fellowship Deadline||January 3, 2020|
|Final||April 10, 2020|
***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. Linda earned her bachelors and MBA at UCLA, and has been advising applicants since 1994 when she founded Accepted. Linda is the co-founder and first president of AIGAC. She has written or co-authored 13 e-books on the admissions process, and has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News, Poets & Quants, Bloomberg Businessweek, CBS News, and others. Linda is the host of Admissions Straight Talk, a podcast for graduate school applicants. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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