My observation as a former insider at CBS is that Columbia is looking to build a diverse class of high-achieving world citizens who’ve got a bit of grit.
What do I mean by a world citizen? For a small fraction, it means applicants who are internationally famous due to their own achievements or by association. Let’s say, the guy who won an Olympic medal, or the gal who gets a call from the former president of “X” country and says, “Hi, Dad.”
A world citizen also means someone who will add their own confident, distinct vibe to a cosmopolitan student body. Columbia wants to admit people with strong intellects and big ideas. They want confidence, but not arrogance. They like people who thrive in large group settings and don’t need a lot of handholding. They’re looking for admits with resilience and who exude a joie-de-vivre — kind of like the city itself.
The Greatness of Grit
And what do I mean by grit? That means someone who has achieved extraordinary things in the context of his or her job. It’s someone who has mapped out a plan for his or her future, and has done the hard work of really getting to know Columbia’s program and can prove it’s a good fit.
It can also mean someone who doesn’t have good test scores or a glossy international background. But that person (usually a New York local) builds a relationship with an adcom member (though is not annoying!), retakes tests and makes efforts to improve at work or have an impact in the community. He or she might have to reapply, but showing that grit can eventually mean an admit.
The New York Connection
Finally, Columbia is looking for that New York connection. Why this city? Do you know what it has to offer? Can you thrive in its hyper-competitive business scene? Have you ever lived or worked here? A campus visit can be a huge plus–confirming for the adcom that you’re serious about attending.
New York can break your heart, or fulfill your wildest dreams. It will absolutely affect your experience at Columbia. They want to know you’ve got the right stuff to make the most of it.
Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.