INTRODUCTION

The old saying at Columbia Business School had been as Wall Street goes, so do Columbia. It’s fortunes have been so closely aligned with the financial sector, that a prolonged downturn inevitably has a big impact on the uptown school. But that is now changing as the school and its students have increasingly diversified their career choices.

Among the latest changes, Columbia will now teach some technical components of courses online to free up more classroom time for deeper dives and discussions. The school also will increase the number of electives students can take in the first year to allow them to make a stronger impression on employers during their summer internships. In the second half of the second term, MBA students at Columbia will have no core courses at all but five different elective courses.

Columbia’s new core is made up of two full-term courses–Financial Accounting and Finance– and nine half-term courses that range from Business Analytics to Strategy Formulation. Incoming students at Columbia are assigned to clusters of 65 to 70 students who take all of the first-year core classes together. Before each term, students can opt out of a core course by exam and replace it with an elective.

Dean Glenn Hubbard, who had been chief economic adviser during the Bush administration, has worked hard to get the school a sorely needed new home in the Manhattanville section of New York in West Harlem where Columbia University is developing another campus. The business school will eventually be housed in two new buildings on that 17-acre campus at a cost of $500 million. And it’s location in New York City allows the school to tap into one-of-a-kind executive talent in a world capital.

Until it can occupy its new home, Columbia Business School remains centered in Uris Hall, a 12-story high concrete building that opened in 1964 following protests from architecture students who objected to its design, and Warren Hall, a 1999 facility it shares with the law school. Cramped conditions mean researchers share windowless cubicles and former basement space was cleared out to use as a laboratory. The problem is that the new campus won’t be complete until 2030, though the business school is expected to be among the first to move there years earlier.

RANKINGS

9
Financial Times
10
The Economist
6
US News Ranking

APPLICATION DEADLINES

Early Decision & January Term: 4 October 2019

Merit Scolarship: 3 January 2020

Final Decision: 10 April 2020

Decision 1: Rolling

Decision 2: Rolling

Decision 3: Rolling

Class Profile

The following essay topic analysis examines Columbia Business School’s (CBS) MBA admissions essays for the 2018-2019 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for all other the leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.

Compared to last year, the adcom has re-introduced a question about CBS as the “center of business” as well as brought in a new prompt about a team-based failure. Given the range of topics, these essays allow the applicant to cover a fair amount of material and present a well-rounded picture of one’s candidacy

Goal
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)?

Making its eighth appearance on the CBS application form, this question asks applicants to speak directly about the job they wish to have upon graduating from business school. The adcom offers several sample answers to illustrate the sort of direct response they’re seeking. Given a short and strict limit of 50 characters, you’ll want to clearly and concisely describe your short-term goal, making sure that it aligns with what you write in Essay 1.

Examples of possible responses:
“Work in business development for a media company.”
“Join a strategy consulting firm.”
“Launch a data-management start-up.”

Essay 1

Through your résumé 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)

Appearing for a second year in a row on the CBS application, this first essay prompts applicants to focus almost exclusively on their career goals. We say “almost” here because a bit of context will be important. For example, applicants might remark on how their professional experiences to date have informed their interest in their post-MBA path, and might also comment on transferrable skills they’ve gained on the job that will apply to their future posts. In short, make sure that your comments build on rather than repeat material that the adcom can find in your recommendations or résumé.

While candidates will want to use the bulk of this response to outline their short- and long-term post-MBA goals, a comment on how the school’s MBA program would enable one’s goals would be useful. Because people applying to Columbia are often also considering other leading schools like Wharton, Chicago Booth, and NYU Stern, it’s especially important for applicants to convince the Columbia adcom of their sincere interest in their program.  The important thing is to avoid repeating material detailed in the second prompt.

Essay 2

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

Why would you choose to go to Columbia?

The best reasons show knowledge of the Columbia MBA program, extracurricular opportunities, and recruiting strengths. In discussing the program, focus on what’s distinctive about the CBS program. If relevant, you can mention what you’ve learned from conversations you’ve had with CBS students and recent alumni, but don’t just name-drop. Be sure to reveal how you intend to use the program to prepare yourself to achieve the short-term goal that you provide in the short-answer question and the longer-term goals you discuss in Essay #1.

As you write this essay keep in mind Columbia’s pride in being at “the very center of business.” I’m not suggesting that you merely parrot that phrase back in your essays. I am advising you to think about how you intend to take advantage of New York City and Columbia’s location to prepare for your career.

FYI, the question in the #2 spot last year was: “How will you take advantage of being ‘at the very center of business’?” My guess is that Columbia’s MBA admissions committee wanted to broaden the question. However, “At the very center of business” is still part of the school’s logo. The CBS web site lists “Access” as one of Columbia’s Benefits and Features and adds that “Columbia’s relationship with New York City cannot be underestimated when choosing an MBA program.” It’s important to them.

Essay 3

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

This is a getting to know you question. Columbia wants to see how you think.

Choose a leader whom you admire and discuss why. The “why” is more important than the “who,” as long as you don’t choose someone truly evil.

and entrepreneurial thinking play prominent roles. I predict CBS receives lots of essays about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. If you want to distinguish yourself, choose a leader you admire who is entrepreneurial and innovative other than the icons everyone else is going to write about. It can be someone you know personally, or it can be someone who demonstrates those qualities in a sphere other than tech and business.

Optional Essay

Is there any further information that you wish to provide 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)

Clearly, you can use this optional essay question to address a weakness in your profile or qualifications, but in my mind, this question is also open-ended enough to allow you to discuss a challenge overcome in your personal background.

Don’t use this essay as a grand finale or wrap up. And definitely don’t use it to rehash your reasons for wanting to attend Columbia Business School; those reasons should be perfectly clear from the required essays.

Placement Statistics

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