The first two Columbia EMBA essay questions ask you to project into the future, both near and long term – they address what you hope, plan, want, expect – and dream. The third essay question is a “getting to know you” question, it reflects the adcom’s interest in your well-roundedness.
In these essays, a potential pitfall, given the non-anecdotal questions, is to write generically, abstractly: ideas, thoughts, buzz words, admirable ideals/objectives, artistic critiques. However, even though not specified in the questions, grounding these essays in your experience – through anecdote and example – is the key to making them memorable and dynamic.
This approach will result in a vivid, distinctive, meaningful picture of your candidacy. Considering the scant opportunity to discuss past professional achievements in the essays, your resume carries all the more weight in the Columbia EMBA application – attend to it accordingly.
Columbia Executive MBA short-answer question
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)
Examples of possible responses: 1) “Work in business development for a media company.” 2) “Continue my career within investor relations.” 3) “Launch a data-management start-up.”
As their examples show, a factual phrase or bullet will suffice; no need to use a whole sentence. Include key details with function and industry being the essential elements.
Columbia Executive MBA essay questions
Columbia EMBA 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)
This question helps you avoid a common, reflexive pitfall: summarizing your career before discussing goals. Yes, goals need a context – and a sentence (or two) upfront about your current situation can work as a launchpad for presenting your goals. CBS is always interested in your plans for achieving your goals as well as the goals themselves – a practical focus. In this case it’s asking you to specify your short-term goals (3-5 years). So, detail the role(s) you anticipate during these years: position, type of company, scope of accountability, what you want to accomplish, and why you want to pursue this path – this “why” will allow the readers to get excited about your goals.
Your longer-term “dream job” needs less detail and should of course reflect some reasonable trajectory from the earlier role. The phrase “dream job” instead of “long-term goal” plus “in your imagination” invites (even encourages) you to be open, to take a bit of a risk, show some heart. 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.
Columbia EMBA 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)
Keep this essay concrete and practical. 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 how you will handle your personal responsibilities 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, describe how you did it. Nothing is better than actual evidence that you can juggle these concurrent demands.
Columbia EMBA essay #3
Tell us about your favorite book, movie or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)
Columbia EMBA’s adcom wants to get to know you as a person, beyond all the professional success, career plans, and extracurricular initiatives. What better way than with this question? Its brevity teases, as it yields up a rich opportunity to present a formative experience. You might wonder,
- Should I approach it strategically or personally?
Both! Chances are you have several favorite songs (yes, you could write about a sonata or symphony or opera if you’re a classical music fan), books, movies. Identify some favorites and think about (a) what you have to say about them and (b) what they say about you. Which one best illuminates a relevant side of you that’s not apparent elsewhere in the application?
- I’m not a critic, how can I explain how it moves me?
Rather than explain, contextualize your passion for the book, movie, or song by anecdote and detail; make it a story! When did you first see/hear/read it? Where were you in your life, and what did you do/see/feel differently as a result of the experience? How has your response to it changed over time?
- Should it be something I read/saw/heard long ago, or something more recent?
Rule of thumb: The longer ago the experience is, the weightier it should be in your life to warrant discussion. If you read a book in high school that totally changed your perspective and subsequent actions/decisions or helped you understand yourself deeply, it’s fine to use something that old. Otherwise, stick to something more recent.
Final tip: “resonate with you” means now, today. Whatever you discuss, end with its ongoing meaning and relevance to your life.
Columbia EMBA essay #4 (Optional)
An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (500 words)
This question enables you to 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, read “between the lines” about not needing to be formal and having permission to use bullet points. The instructions imply that this isn’t the place to make a whole additional marketing point about your candidacy. Whatever you present, there should be a clear value to the information you’re sharing.
Columbia Executive MBA 2022-23 application deadlines for New York Saturday program (May 2023 entry)
|Early Decision||January 11, 2023|
|Regular Decision||February 15, 2023|
Columbia Executive MBA 2022-23 application deadlines for New York Friday/Saturday program (August 2023 entry)
|Early Decision||March 22, 2023|
|Regular Decision||May 24, 2023|
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