While the MBA deadlines for Columbia Business School have remained rather consistent from the last admissions cycle to this one, the essays have undergone a partial makeover: For the second and third essays, you are now asked to respond to 2 questions from a list of 3 options.
Before you tackle this part of the CBS application, be sure to put time and effort into researching the university. Read everything you can about Columbia’s MBA, the university and its NYC location. Join webinars, attend events and, if possible, visit the campus. Once you’ve done all that, reach out to alumni about their experiences and network around. All of this information gathering will greatly improve the quality of your essays and your contact with CBS’ admissions team.
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 a tall order! Keep in mind that Columbia is requesting your immediate post-MBA goal, implying that the objective has to be—based on your professional experiences and future education—feasible. Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance in the other essays to discuss your long-term career objectives more fully.
Most applicants generally have more than one potential post-MBA goal. If you fall into that group and are unsure of which to mention, try to the pick the one that’s most likely to manifest itself. If your objective is too generic, try identifying what sort of specificity you could add to it to make it more a tangible goal.
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 offers a dynamic MBA and is looking for competitive, innovative candidates. What they’re trying to gauge in this question is both your sensibility (are you aware of 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, try to remember that you should ideally present a continuum from your past to near-future experiences. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dream big (CBS is filled with some of the most creative and daring minds), but rather that you should illustrate how the skills you’ve already started developing can make your big dream become a reality.
In order to enhance your arguments, it can be good to cite relevant examples from your life that clearly benefit your future objectives. However, it’s best if those instances are not repeated in other parts of your application and are not overly long.
Essays 2 and 3: Please respond to two (2) of the three (3) essay questions listed below:
- 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 Inequity, 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)
- Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)
- Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)
Below, we’ll walk you through how to approach each of these three choices.
Choice 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 Inequity, 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)
This essay choice is the only truly new part of CBS’ admissions questions, and as such present a new opportunity for applicants to highlight both ethical leadership and strong problem-solving skills.
For this choice, begin by brainstorming various situations in which you recall being challenged and successfully taking steps to overcome the situation. Once you’ve put time into recalling these options, see which one best fits one of the 5 skills listed and paints a positive picture of your problem-solving skills. Perhaps a past client underestimated a fellow employee based on their identity, and you stepped up to defend your peer’s skills. Perhaps you noticed micro-aggressions occurring at your office, and so you initiated a conversation around how to create a more inclusive work culture. If you work for an NGO, it may not be too hard to find a good example of your work directly addressing inequity. However, all work environments run into issues concerning bias, how to handle difficult conversations, and how to address systemic inequalities — and that’s precisely what CBS wants to see that you’re aware of and ready to discuss.
Choice 2: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)
If you’ve done your research, there might be a lot of factors influencing your choice to apply to CBS. However, with only 250 words at your disposal, you’ll need to be very direct in highlighting what benefits CBS will bring to you.
There are various ways to approach the essay, but one of the most practical and positive ones is by working backward from your post-MBA objectives: What will you need to achieve your goals? Is there knowledge, particular skills, or network connections that you’re currently lacking? Is access to the NYC market important for you? There are many questions that can be relevant to ask yourself, so be sure to dig deep as you try to identify what’s necessary to accomplish your post-degree goals.
Once you have a series of requirements listed, you’ll need to match them with what Columbia University can offer you. This is the moment where your initial research, school visits, and alumni outreach should pay off. By now, you should have a powerful understanding of CBS’ program structure, the courses offered, its professors, alumni network, company links, student organizations, and much, much more. Once you’ve connected those resources to your future needs, you should narrow it down to those that are the most crucial and impactful to mention.
Choice 3: Tell us about your favorite book, movie or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)
At first sight, questions like this can throw applicants off because they seem so far from anything to do with business. However, they get at an important part of the admissions process: fit. Columbia is trying to see if you come across as an MBA/CBS type of storyteller. In other words, can you charmingly engage the reader about your interests?
Before you jump into the essay, start by making a list of books, movies and songs that you’re passionate about or that have actually impacted your life. Don’t worry about including elements that are popular or cheesy—while uniqueness might be ideal, the vital part of the question isn’t what you choose but why. Once you’ve got your list, select an element that has changed or aided you somehow, or, even better, helped you have a positive effect on others. That way, for instance, when you’re talking about your favorite pop song, you’ll be able to weave in a story of motivating your team to surpass their limits with it.
Optional Essay: If you wish to provide further information or additional context around your application to the Admissions Committee, please upload a brief explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or 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 away 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 generally to your benefit to keep this answer short. But don’t leave this space blank if you believe something in your profile comes across negatively. If you don’t address it here, CBS’ admissions will likely assume the worst cause was the reason.
When dealing with something that is or appears to be problematic, a good approach can be to illustrate how you’ve completely resolved the issue. If you received poor grades during your university studies, for example, 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 resolved the problem.
To get into the MBA program at Columbia, you’ll need a strong strategy to back you up, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to connect with our CBS experts. Also, if you’re searching for more information on the technical requirements of the application, you can visit CBS’ official site.