These essay questions focus mostly on the present and future, by no accident – so don’t reflexively portray your professional development as a prelude to your goals. Be guided by the Columbia adcom’s focus and give them what they ask for: a vivid engagement with your professional future that encompasses both “dream” (vision) and practical focus, as well as a willingness to share aspects of your life and character beyond work. Considering the lack of opportunity to discuss past professional achievements and experience, your resume carries all the more weight in the Columbia EMBA application – attend to it accordingly.
Short-Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)
Examples of possible responses: “Work in business development for a media company.” “Join a strategy consulting firm.” “Launch a data-management start-up.”
As their examples show, a factual phrase or bullet will suffice; don’t worry about responding with a whole sentence. Do include function and industry.
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)
You may start by mentioning your current career situation to set the context, and how the MBA education will enable you to achieve important immediate goals. You can then naturally move on to your short-term, or 3-5 year, goals. Give solid detail about the role(s) you plan during these years: position, company, scope of accountability, what you want to accomplish, and how you hope to grow (or, to put it another way, why you want to pursue this path).
Your longer-term “dream job” needs less detail, and should of course reflect some reasonable trajectory from the earlier role. Yet the wording of “dream job” instead of “long-term goal” plus “in your imagination” provides an invitation (even encouragement) to be open, to “go for it.” Put some heart and risk into this future vision and think beyond just practical considerations. If it’s a dream job, it should be ambitious in a way that is meaningful and enticing to you. Make the reader feel your excitement.
There is no request to explain “why Columbia” in the question, but it would be fine to add a sentence or two about what is truly compelling to you about the program, if you have something thoughtful and insightful to say in this regard. And only if.
Essay 2: Columbia Business School’s Executive MBA will challenge you by offering a rigorous academic experience, global exposure through the international seminar, and the opportunity to immediately apply what you learn to your career. How will you approach balancing the demands of the program with your professional and personal life while you are in school? (250 words)
Discuss the accommodations you will make at work, such as delegating more, adjusting travel schedules, etc. Focus on the most significant two or three adjustments.
Also address your personal responsibilities and how you will meet them with this additional demand on your time and energy; include 1-2 specific changes (probably, sacrifices), e.g. acknowledging that you’ll have less time at the playground with your toddler or mentioning the support of your significant other.
If you’ve already successfully balanced school and working full time, mention it. Nothing is better than actual evidence that you can do this.
Essay 3: Please select and answer one of the following essay questions: (250 words)
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?
The adcom wants to get to know you beyond your resume and transcripts. This essay, if done well, gives them a little peek into what “makes you tick.” Both questions are equally good to answer, so go with the one that you feel most engaged by.
Whichever you choose, use anecdote and example to make your points, not explanation. Option A may seem more amenable to this approach, but option B can also use it, e.g. whatever your choice of how to use your free day, there is a reason for that choice, and the reason can be grounded in experience.
Pitfall for option A: discussing a passion that overlaps too much with your “dream job” in essay 1. Pitfall for option B: making the whole essay about the future imagined day, without any grounding in experience.
Last but not least: your chosen topic should show some essential part of you that is not readily apparent elsewhere in the application.
Optional Essay: An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.
This question invites you to present new material that will enhance your application, as well as explain anything that needs explaining (e.g., gap in employment, choice of recommender if not using a direct supervisor, etc.). As far as non-necessary points, since you are making the adcom read more than is required, there should be a clear value to the information you’re sharing. Finally, keep it short.
If you would like professional guidance with your Columbia Business School EMBA application, please consider Accepted’s EMBA essay editing and EMBA admissions consulting or our EMBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the CBS EMBA application.
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***Cindy Tokumitsu has advised hundreds of successful applicants, helping them gain acceptance to top MBA and EMBA programs in her 15+ years with Accepted. She would love to help you too. Want Cindy to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!