Columbia Business School has an updated application out for this year and has changed the essay questions significantly. What we have heard from the admissions committee at CBS is that authenticity is key, and they are looking for candidates who are a great fit for the program and have the academic background to handle the rigor.
Columbia is a fast-paced program in a fast-paced city. The “spirit and pace of program is faster than others due to NYC. Something about being in a city that never sleeps,” explained admissions director Michael Robinson in a recent CBS webinar.
Fit with Columbia therefore will be different than other MBA programs, and it’s up to you to prepare with thorough research into the school. Columbia is looking for students who have big plans for their lives, MBA or not. As Robinson said, there are “no dream schools just dreams. Live a life where you are doing big things regardless if you get into a business school.”
Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and to think about your overall future dreams. To see how current students are thinking about Columbia and their goals, check out student profiles.
Columbia offers several flexible options for admission, from full-time MBA programs starting in the fall, to a January entry session and an excellent executive MBA program. Columbia also offers an early decision option for candidates who are committed to attend the school. The Columbia admissions cycle is rolling, so the earlier you submit your application the earlier you will receive feedback. We recommend you try to submit your application as soon as possible, while maintaining high quality.
Stumped by the Columbia essays? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help.
Goal: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
This is a simple question, but may require you to condense your career goals into one clear career vision statement. Rather than a generic statement like: “Work in finance” the goal is to infuse some specificity. Something like: “Work in real estate finance within a private equity firm” tells the admissions committee far more about your interests and goals.
Note that the limited character count is intended to get you to the point quickly, elaboration is for the next essay.
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 asked a similar question last year, but it was open-ended in terms of timeframe of your career goals, and it focused more on how Columbia would help you achieve them. Given the changes in this essay question, this is a question about short- and long-term goals and dreams.
Those who seek a top-tier MBA at a school like Columbia have big dreams. You will be exposed to people and opportunities that will expand your horizons. Think about your true passions, and make sure your goals are aspirational.
As you talk about your future you may need to refer to your past career and personal experiences. As you consider what to say make sure you are citing only relevant examples from your career. Think about the experiences you can describe that were truly pivotal and can support your future goals. Your goals should have some logical progression from your past, but you can (and should!) show you plan to change and adapt.
For example, perhaps you want to be a general manager of a company or division, and right now you have been working primarily in marketing. You might spend your time at Columbia learning about finance and strategy, being part of consulting projects and interning at a start-up to round out your experience and start on your general management path.
Most importantly, Columbia wants to know who you are and how you are unique. Don’t try to be anyone else, instead reveal your own motivations, goals, and plans that Columbia will help you achieve. “Be Authentic. Want to admit people not packages. Don’t follow blogs and essay models,” Robinson suggested.
Essay #2: The full time MBA experience includes academics, recruiting and networking. What are your personal priorities and how do you anticipate allocating your time at Columbia Business School? (250 Words)
Specifics, specifics and specifics help you set yourself apart with this essay. Know yourself and know the school. As you address this question make sure your answer is tailored to your individual goals for learning and career along with your knowledge of Columbia’s academic and professional opportunities.
Columbia is centered in its New York City location. The city provides unparalleled networking opportunities and sets a fast pace for the program. Research the programs and the clubs that may help you identify network with professionals and alumni. Your fellow students will be an invaluable resource for you going forward in your career – both network and sometimes support group. How will you build relationships during your school years?
Academics at Columbia include an incredible portfolio of adjunct professors from industry. You should consider the industry you plan to enter, and either the important adjunct professors from that industry at Columbia or the access to major companies from that industry in New York City. Recruiting will be a similar story, as a significant number of major companies are headquartered in New York. How will you use that level of day-to-day access to target companies?
A mix of personal and professional interests may be covered in this topic, and you may want to emphasize either one of those angles depending on the answers you present to the other core questions. The admissions team will be asking themselves, “Will the person excel in our academics and will they be an important factor in our community?”.
Essay #3: Please select and answer one of the following essay questions (250 words):
a. Please tell us what you feel most passionate about in life.
b. If you were given a free day and could spend it anywhere, in any way you choose, what would you do?
Both of these essay questions focus on your personal passions and what matters most to you. Go beyond generic ideas that may be common across all people (e.g., love for friends and family) and get into the parts of your life that differ from those around you. Did you grow up in unique circumstances? Did you cultivate an unusual hobby or interest? Sometimes the people around you know best – ask your best friend and a sibling what is special about you.
Once you identify a topic for this essay you need to fit your answer into only 250 words. Option B is fairly contained and the structure can help you focus on just one story, relationship, or event. In Option A, make sure you can offer an illustrative example to support what you are most passionate about. Showing instead of stating your passions will be most effective for the reader.
Optional Essay: Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. You may submit bullet points. (500 words)
The optional essay in prior years was more open-ended, while this year Columbia is asking only for areas of concern. We recommend keeping this essay brief and only focusing on specific areas such as a low demonstrated quantitative abilities, lack of a recommendation from a current supervisor, gaps in work experience, or particularly low grades.
It is best to explain the issue factually and succinctly, then explain how you have addressed the issue and why it should not concern the admissions committee in terms of your aptitude for the program and studies.
This entry was posted in Application Tips, Columbia Advice and tagged application essays, CBS essay tips, Columbia Business School, Essay Tips, Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips.
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In this article, I will discuss the Columbia MBA program. If you’re looking at applying to Columbia this year, 2017-2018, you will find this article useful as I am going to discuss the school, and the application essays.
When people talk about Columbia, the first thing that comes to mind is Finance. Yes, it’s very strong for finance and if you look at it, it’s a virtual cycle. Often, when people at Wall street want to take a break, they end up coming to Columbia. They do their MBA and get back to Wall street, and after a few years, when they want to recruit, guess where they come? Columbia again! So it’s a nice symbiotic relationship they have with Wall Street.
You must have a heard of Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing. He taught at Columbia. So in terms of its reputation and finance, Columbia is very strong. It’s known as a very strong finance school.
The second thing is the New York City location. The fact that you’re right there in Downtown New York, Manhattan, where there is a melting pot of culture. So many diverse things, so many people. I think very few schools can boast of a location like that. That’s a huge plus that Columbia has. If you look at their website and application, you’ll see that they also exploit this aspect. They also say “Hey, it’s our location and nobody can offer you this location!” You may have all the money in the world but you can’t be in the heart of New York. In terms of not just culture but also the kind of connection that you have with companies, the Who’s who is headquartered in New York. I think that plays a huge role.
Now let’s look at the deadlines.
Columbia MBA Deadlines for 2017-2018
Early Decision Deadline: October 4, 2017
Merit Fellowship Consideration Deadline: January 5, 2018
Regular Decision Deadline: April 11, 2018
Application Deadline: October 4, 2017
Columbia Business School MBA Essay Analysis 2017-2018
So now let’s look at the essay questions that we have. Essentially, we have three essays. Over the years it has been constant, and we’ve had students applying and getting into Columbia and what I am saying is based on the discussions we’ve had internally with them.
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)
First off, they are saying “I know what you have done; don’t bore me with that. That’s the information I will find elsewhere in this application.” 500 words to talk about your goals. That’sa lot of words if you think about. They require you to be very clear about the function you want to be in, the industry you want to be in, and the geography you want to be in. Usually, if you’re trying to change your career, you want to make sure that you’re not changing all three. You’re probably changing two out of the three which means if you’re coming from India as an applicant, your geography anyways gets changed. You’re left with industry and function. You need to make sure that you’re at least sticking to the same industry. If you have come from the financial sector industry, you’d want to stick to the financial sector industry. Maybe your function changes, or maybe it remains the same, but you want to be in a different industry.
Another thing is that in a place like Columbia, it’s not necessary that only finance professionals go. Think about it! If you’re Columbia, you aspire to be a Harvard or a Stanford, and nobody even asks you what your specialization in Harvard or Stanford is. That’s a general management program. Even in Columbia, it’s is not a Masters in Finance program. You’re going for an MBA program. You can go for consulting, or you can go for product management. Even tech companies are headquartered in New York.
Whatever you want to pick, make sure that you’re able to clearly articulate what you’re going to be doing. If you’ve not already done so, here is a tip: Make sure you go to LinkedIn, and look for people who have graduated from Columbia. People who are in a similar industry. Try to connect with them, and understand more about what it takes to get that job. The school is also looking for employability. They don’t want this guy saying, “I want to change everything about me. I was a software programmer working in Bangalore and suddenly I want to become an investment banker without even having an idea of what it takes.”
The second part of the question says, “…in your imagination, what would be your long-term dream job?” Let your thoughts come out freely. Nobody is going to judge you. I would say they would judge you only through your short-term goals and they are not going to judge you through your long-term goals. They are really looking at, “What is your passion?” In my short-term goal, yes I would like to look at employability and a little bit of passion but if you were to take all of this away, ‘Who is it that I really am?” What is it that I really want to do with this canvas called Life?” How would I like to paint it?” That’s what they really want to know, and I think you should dedicate at least a good 150 to 200 words for your long term goal; it gives a great opportunity to express who you are. Dedicate about 250 to300 words for your short-term goals. Be very specific in the short-term. For the long-term goal, you can be slightly imaginative, expressing your own personal choices of what you want to do in life, for the next 200 words or so. That’s how 500 words can be played out for the first essay.
The full-time MBA experience includes academics, recruiting and networking. What are your personal priorities and how do you anticipate allocating your time at Columbia Business School? (250 Words)
The whole idea about this is essay is about the business school experience. Two years of staying in a place like New York can be overwhelming for a lot of people. They just don’t know what to do, and they go berserk. They go to B-School, they want to do a little of this, and a little bit of that, plus there is a huge opportunity cost, and there the cost of an MBA. All of this playing in your mind, and you really can get lost.
What this essay is really saying is, “What is it that you want to do?”There is really nothing like a right answer or a wrong answer for this. You could say, “My priorities are really to experience the student life.” You don’t need to talk about academics. It’s okay. You can say, “I want to use this opportunity to network with people. I want to bring my Columbia credentials and go out into the city, and meet people.” If that’s what you wanted to do, make sure you say so. There is really no harm in saying that, or if you feel that you are really there for the knowledge, and your priority is to sit in class, attend lectures, and learn from the faculty, learn from the kind of resources you’re going to have in the B-School, that could be your answer.
There is nothing such as right or wrong. Pick your priority. 250 words, a very little leeway for you, so you need to stick to the story. You need to get directly to what you have to say.
Please select and answer one of the following essay questions: (250 words)
a: Please tell us what you feel most passionate about in life.
b: If you were given a free day and could spend it anywhere, in any way you choose, what would you do?
Firstly, neither of the two essays has an edge over the other. I have had students coming and asking me, “ Which one should I pick to maximise my chances?” In Columbia, 50% of the incoming class is going to pick one essay and the other 50% is going to pick the other essay. There is really nothing that discriminates one essay over the other. Let’s look at these essays
A.Remember what you’re passionate about in life. If you remember, in the first essay, we spoke about what your career goals, long-term goals are, and what you really want to do. I would imagine that this has to somewhere connect with that. You cannot have a long-term career goal not involving your passion. You need to make sure that you kind of tie that. You don’t want to talk about your career in this essay, but keep the generic theme.
- Pretty much whatever you want to express, express it here. They are just trying to see “Is this person interesting?, would I like to meet this person? Is he the person I would like to see in my class for the next two years?” Be imaginative and creative. I have noticed that students who are expressive may sometimes write weird things. I am using the word “Weird” but they end up really popping out of the paper. They just come out of the application paper. That will compel the reader to say, “This guy is interesting and I would like to meet him.”
These are the points I would like you to keep in mind for the third essay.
Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 words)
You can talk about your academic gaps or work experience gaps if you have any to talk about. Otherwise, stay clear. Don’t try to retrofit a story that did not find a space for anywhere else.
Columbia Business School is one of the schools for which you have to write a lot. If you compare it with other schools, they don’t require much writing, but this one has a lot to write. Make sure you get your application form done as soon as possible. Don’t prolong it, the essays can take a long time to write.
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