For those looking to throw their hats into the ring for a coveted spot at Columbia Business School, we’ve penned a guide to the various questions you’re going to have to face. For the 2022-2023 admissions cycle, Columbia has streamlined its application, dropping out the essay choices from last cycle in favor of a more classical required-essay format. They’ve also made an additional important simplification: first-time applicants are required to have only one recommendation letter.
Now, before you tackle the essays, be sure to put time and effort into researching CBS. Read everything you can about Columbia’s MBA, the university itself 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 vastly improve the quality of your essays and your contact with the CBS’ admissions team.
And, as you work on the application, keep careful track of the MBA deadlines, which are rolling in the case of Columbia.
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 fewer. That’s a tall order! Well, to start, Columbia is requesting your immediate post-MBA goal, implying that the objective has to be—based on your professional experiences and future education at CBS—feasible. Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance in the other essays to discuss your more ambitious career objectives, but this is likely not the place to do so.
Moreover, many applicants have more than one potential post-MBA goal. If you fall into that group and are unsure of which to mention, try to 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 tangible and attractive.
Completely lost? Take some time to review the CBS employment report and learn more about some of the most common post-MBA job opportunities. You don’t need to be married to the goal you choose; you just need it to make sense.
Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what is 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 objectives?”).
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 in the MBA space), but rather that you should illustrate how the skills you’ve already started developing can make your big dream become a reality.
To really boost your arguments, it could be beneficial to cite relevant examples from your life that clearly support your future objectives. However, when using such examples, it would be best if they were not repeated in other parts of the application and that they were not overly lengthy.
Essay 2: We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams, co-curricular initiatives like the Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership, which aims to equip students with the skills and strategies necessary to lead in an inclusive and ethical manner, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program.
Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? (300 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 backwards from your post-MBA objectives: what will you need to achieve your goals? Is there knowledge, concrete skills, or network connections that you’re currently lacking? Is access to the NYC market important for you? These are just to get you started, as there are likely many more questions that are 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 in which your initial research, school visits and alumni outreach should pay off. By now, you should have a powerful understanding of the 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 essential and impactful to mention.
Essay 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 a CBS MBA-type of storyteller. In other words, can you charmingly engage the reader about your interests?
Before you jump into the essay, start by writing up 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 important aspect of this question isn’t what you choose but why. Once you’ve got your list, select an element that has changed you, helped you, 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 (poor university grades, gaps in job experience, etc.), it’s nearly always to your benefit to keep this answer short. But don’t leave this space blank if you believe something in your profile reads negatively. If you don’t address it here, the admissions committee 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. 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 resolved the problem.
To get into the MBA program at Columbia, you’ll need to employ a carefully crafted strategy, 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 the CBS MBA official site.