Columbia Business School changed its application a bit this cycle. It added choice to the application by asking you to pick two out of three options for its second and third essay prompts. And one of the options is an entirely new question. Ready to get to work on your CBS application? Read on.
Columbia Business School application essay tips
Applicants must complete one short answer question and three essays.
Short Answer Question: 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?
Examples of possible responses:
- “Work in business development for a media company.”
- “Join a strategy consulting firm.”
- “Launch a data-management start-up.”
- “Work in business development for a media company.”
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 three to five years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)
Columbia adcom readers must really like the answers they get to this question, because it is back this year and has been a part of CBS’ application for the last several years. 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 (though this is CBS’ longest essay question) and means you’re not telling them anything new or answering their question.
Instead, tell them what you want to do three to five 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
Please respond to two (2) of the three (3) essay questions listed below:
First you need to decide which two questions you want to address. I’d advise you to address the two that will allow you to best highlight your past contributions and distinctiveness. Those will probably also be the easiest for you to write.
1) The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a new co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias, Communicating Across Identities, Addressing Systemic Inequality, and Managing Difficult Conversations. Tell us about a time you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)
If you’re inclined to answer this question, I urge you to watch the video “Why Diversity Matters” presented by the late Dr. Katherine Phillips and read about the Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership.
I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Phillips speak during an AIGAC conference at CBS, and it really was a privilege. She was dynamic and engaging. I believe she spoke about leadership at that time. I’m sure her absence is keenly felt at Columbia.
However, getting back to the question, how have you handled difficult conversations with people different from you? Have you been involved in efforts to reduce systemic inequality? Do you identify strongly with this initiative? Have you supported any of the PPIL missions. Have you worked to create an inclusive environment either in the workplace, at school, or off the job? If yes, you may want to answer this question.
If you do choose to answer, CBS’s instructions are quite clear and should result in a compelling essay if you follow them. Describe the situation and the challenge inherent in it. Then discuss what you did, how it felt, and the results. You may want to include lessons learned.
2) Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)
The best reasons for why you want to go to CBS must show your 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, Columbia’s second question a few years ago 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 website 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.
3) Tell us about your favorite book, movie or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)
Choose one book, movie, or song and discuss why you love it. You can start with a key scene or phrase and provide 2-3 reasons that makes this piece so meaningful to you such that it earns the title of your favorite.
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 expert guidance on your Columbia Business School application, check out Accepted’s MBA Application Packages that include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the CBS application. Looking to score some scholarship money while you’re at it? Accepted’s clients received over $2 million dollars in scholarship offers in the 2019-2020 application cycle. Explore our services for more information on how Accepted can help you get into Columbia.
Columbia Business School 2021-22 application deadlines
January 2022 Entry
|Regular decision||October 6, 2021|
August 2022 Entry
|Early decision||October 6, 2021|
|Merit fellowship||January 5, 2022|
|Regular decision||April 8, 2022|
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
Columbia Business School class profile [Class entering 2021]
Here’s a look at the CBS MBA Class entering 2021, taken from the Columbia Business School website:
Applications received: 6,535
Enrolled: 847, divided into 11 clusters
- January Entry class size: 233, divided into 3 clusters
- August Entry class size: 614, divided into 8 clusters
GMAT scores (average): 729
GMAT scores (range): 540–780
GMAT scores (middle 80%): 700–760
Undergraduate GPA (average): 3.5
Work experience (average): 5 years
Work experience (middle 80%): 3–8 years
At least 1 year of work experience: 99%
Average age: 28
Age range: 23–43
Age range (middle 80%): 25–31
Minority of US origin: 40%
International citizens: 48%
- Business: 37%
- Economics: 18%
- Engineering: 15%
- Social Science: 13%
- Sciences: 7%
- Humanities: 6%
- Technology: 2%
- Other: 2%
- Financial Services: 31%
- Consulting: 22%
- Marketing/Media: 12%
- Technology: 9%
- Real Estate: 7%
- Healthcare: 5%
- Other: 5%
- Military/Government: 4%
- Energy: 1%
- Manufacturing: 1%
Accepted has many resources that will help you learn more about CBS, tips on how to put together the best application, and how the MBA application process has changed due to the impact of COVID-19.
Is CBS the right school for you? Read these blog posts to help you decide:
- An MBA’s Perspective on Columbia Business School
- Which MBA Program is Right for Me? The Ultimate Guide to Choosing an MBA Program
- M7 MBA Programs: Everything You Need to Know in 2021
- Deferred MBA Programs and Other Options for MBA Hopefuls With No Work Experience
Over 6,500 applications, and only 1,215 accepted at CBS last year. How can you ensure your application stands out from the crowd? Check out these resources for expert advice:
- Get Accepted to CBS Webinar
- AMA Session with Columbia Business School Director of Admissions Michael Robinson
- Applicants that Stand Out at Columbia Business School
- Columbia Executive MBA Application Essay Tips & Deadlines (2021 – 2022)
Getting into Columbia Business School takes a special combination of an outstanding application, an extraordinary essay, and an incredible interview. Check out our MBA Services Packages to work one-on-one with our expert admissions consultants. We can help you GET ACCEPTED!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!