Columbia Business School has opened up its MBA application process for the 2019/2020 admissions cycle. You can find a list of all the most important upcoming dates here. For this season, Columbia has partially overhauled the essays, replacing the second and third essay questions.

When tackling the Columbia Business School application, our first piece of advice remains the same: know the university. Take the time to read everything you can about the MBA program, the school and how it interacts with the location. Join webinars, attend live events, and, if possible, drop by the campus. Also, make sure to connect with alumni. The research you conduct now to better understand Columbia University and all it has to offer will be incredibly important when you sit down to write your essays.


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.”

While you can’t write an essay here, you’re still expected to sell your future career in 50 characters or less. That’s not an easy task. Keep in mind that Columbia is asking for your immediate post-MBA goal, implying that the objective has to be—based on your past professional experiences and future education—realizable. Don’t worry, you’ll have room in the essays to talk about more fanciful career objectives.

Admittedly, most people have multiple potential post-MBA goals. If you’re unsure of which to mention, try to pick the one that’s most likely to occur. If your goal is a bit too general, try to identify what sort of specificity you can add to it to make it more noticeable.

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 is a dynamic MBA that looks for competitive and innovative candidates. What they’re trying to gauge is both your sensibility (can you understand what your skills and profile are likely to lead to in 3-5 years) and your desire for achievement (what is the potential value and impact of your “long-term dream”).

As you’re selecting your goals, keep in mind that they should form some kind of continuum with your past and near-future experiences. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dream big (CBS is full of some of the most creative and daring minds), but rather that you have to illustrate how the skill set you’ve already started developing will make that big dream come true.

In order to bolster your arguments, it might be good to mention relevant examples from your life that clearly benefit your future objectives. However, it’s best if those instances are not present in other parts of your application and that they are not overly long.

Essay 2: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)

Compared to last year’s question, this essay is much more straightforward in asking why you’re choosing the Columbia University MBA. There is a myriad of factors, of course, that could be influencing your choice, however, with just 250 words, you’ll need to be very direct in highlighting what benefits CBS will bring to you.

There are many ways to approach the essay, but one of the most practical and positive ways is by working backward from your post-MBA objectives. What will you need to achieve them? Is there knowledge that you’re currently lacking, particular skills or network connections? Is access to the NYC market important for you? There are many questions that might be relevant in your case, so be sure to ask yourself many more as you try to identify what’s necessary to accomplish your post-degree goals.

Once you have a list of requirements, you’ll need to match it up to what Columbia Business School offers. This is the moment where the initial research you’ve done, school visits and alumni outreach should pay off. By now, you should have at your disposal a strong understanding of the program structure, courses offered, professors, alumni network, company links, student organizations and so much more. After you’ve connected those resources to your future needs, choosing among them those that are the most critical and impactful will help you develop an attractive answer.

Essay 3: Who is a leader you admire, and why? (250 words)

This is the second essay that CBS has decided to change this year. Unlike last year’s failure question, here the admissions team is looking to understand what you believe is linked to success.

As you begin to reflect on potential answers, keep in mind two points. Firstly, Columbia has not limited your choices in this question to business leaders. For example, if you’ve been truly inspired by the leadership shown by a particular political figure, this individual may serve as a better example of the kind of person you’re striving to become than a more generic choice would, such as Bill Gates. Now, Bill brings me to the second point: try to avoid the obvious options. If you choose a well-known leader, it’s very likely that many other applicants have as well, which means that, unless you develop a very interesting and new angle, you risk boring the reader. And being dull is a mortal sin in an MBA application essay.

Try to come up with a good number of different leaders and write out the reasons that you find them admirable. Really explore what makes them successful, impactful and motivating. In other words, why would you want to follow in their footsteps? Going through this exercise can help you choose the leader that best reflects your ideas about leadership and can also make for the most engaging essay topic.

Optional Essay: Is there any further information that you wish to provide to 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)

This space should only be used to explain any irregularities to the admissions committee. If you do have any particular profile issues (lack of a direct supervisor recommendation, poor university grades, gaps in job experience, etc.), it’s in your interest to keep your answer short. However, don’t neglect to use this space, if you believe something in your profile comes across negatively. If you don’t deal with it in this space, admissions will most likely assume the worst cause.

When dealing with something that is or appears to be problematic, it’s best to illustrate how you’ve completely resolved the issue. For instance, if you received poor grades during your university studies, explaining to Columbia Business School how you’ve since taken university-level courses that you’ve excelled at is a strong argument for having permanently solved the problem.

If you’re looking for help to develop a Columbia application that sets you apart from every other candidate, be sure to reach out to us.

Published On: June 6th, 2019 / Categories: Columbia, Essay, MBA / Tags: , , /