Tuesday Tips – Columbia Business School Essay Tips

Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for the class of 2014. These questions focus on your career goals, demonstrating your knowledge of Columbia, and your personal attributes. Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and other key aspects of your application strategy.

Columbia Business School Essay 1
Short Answer
What is your post-MBA professional goal? (Maximum of 200 characters.)

This question simply asks what your immediate post-MBA goal is. You should state your short-term goal briefly in this question and explain your longer term career goals in the next section.

Considering your post-MBA and long term professional goals, why you are pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? Additionally, why is Columbia Business School a good fit for you? (Maximum 750 words)
This question is fairly straightforward and consistent with other typical goals essays. The wrinkle to this essay is that it focuses on your goals, rather than your background or career experience, and that you will want to demonstrate that Columbia Business School is the best school for you.
As you describe your short and long-term goals, make sure there is a clear trajectory from what you plan to do immediately after graduation (short-term) to where you want to ultimately take your career (long-term). Columbia Business School should be the natural link between your current situation and the goals you have for your career.
While you want to concentrate primarily on your future plans, you may need to set up your goals with some context from your current career. You are free to choose the most relevant experience from your background for this essay, so make sure you set the stage effectively for your future goals with your past experiences.

Columbia Business School Essay 2
Describe a life experience that has shaped you. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (Maximum 500 words)
While the first essay focuses on your professional accomplishments, this essay allows you to present your personality and interests to the adcomm. This is also the perfect place to focus on why you would be an excellent classmate and member of the Columbia Business School community. While it is expressly not about professional accomplishments, your personal interests ideally align with your professional goals and the entire set of essays tells a cohesive story about you.
This essay may be best utilized in a similar way as the Stanford MBA “what matters most” essay. Rather than focusing on superficial activities or hobbies, make sure your topic gets at your core values and what motivates you in your personal and professional life.

Columbia Business School Essay 3
(Select and answer one of the below questions)
All three of your options for Columbia’s Essay 3 require you to do your homework on Columbia. This is your opportunity to sell your knowledge of the school while revealing a new aspect of yourself. It will be helpful to approach this topic choice after drafting the previous essay questions and understanding what aspects of your application strategy will have been discussed in either your career goals or personal story essays. Option A is the perfect question for a future entrepreneur or someone with an innovative streak. Option B could highlight your interpersonal and leadership abilities. Option C is a great for career changers to show how you will approach your investigation of the future career. All three essays will require you to provide both substance and style. Each essay is short in length, heavy in content, and has an element of creativity.

Option A:
The annual A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/entrepreneurship/initiatives/outrageous] is a student initiative managed and run by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO). The competition encourages Columbia MBA students to explore creative entrepreneurial ideas that are sufficiently ambitious in scope and scale to be considered “outrageous.” Students explore these ideas while learning firsthand what goes into the development and presentation of a solid business proposal.
Develop your own “outrageous” business idea. In essay form, compose your “elevator pitch.” (Maximum 250 words)

In a very brief essay you need to demonstrate your knowledge of the Columbia business plan competition, describe your entrepreneurial idea, and sell it. This essay will require multiple drafts and some homework to come up with the perfect pitch. The first time you write down your idea you should avoid censoring yourself. Don’t think about grammar or structure – just write down your thoughts. Once you have explained your idea in writing, read over your draft and consider if you have addressed important aspects of the pitch. Do you have a clear product? Have you composed a feasible revenue model? What customer segment will you serve? Once you have fleshed out your idea and convinced yourself you have a viable “outrageous” idea you can polish future drafts to be compelling and creative.

Option B:
Columbia deeply values its vibrant student community, the building of which begins at orientation when admitted students are assigned to clusters [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/mba/academics/clustersystem] of 65 to 70 fellow students who take most of the first-year core classes together. During the first weeks of school, each cluster selects a Cluster Chair. Further strengthening the student community are the nearly 100 active student organizations [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/cbs-directory/student-groups] at Columbia Business School, ranging from cultural to professional to community service-oriented. Leadership positions within the cluster and/or clubs offer hands-on management and networking opportunities for students as they interact with fellow students, administrators, faculty members, alumni, and practitioners.
You are running for either Cluster Chair or a club leadership position of your choosing. Compose your campaign speech. (Maximum 250 words)

This is an ideal essay to highlight your ability to motivate and lead others, and describe your past leadership experiences. As you think about this essay you should consider which clubs at Columbia are the most compelling to you, or if you would prefer to be a more general leader and run for Cluster Chair.

If you choose to run for a club leadership position you should thoroughly research the club and know what you would do differently or add to the group. For either position you will want to introduce yourself and your qualifications, which may include either professional or extracurricular team leadership experiences.

Option C:
Founded nearly three decades ago, the Executives in Residence Program [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/executives] at Columbia Business School integrates senior executives into the life of the School. Current executives in residence [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/executives/executives] include more than a dozen experts in areas ranging from media and investment banking to private equity and management. A hallmark of the program is one-on-one counseling sessions in which executives advise students about their prospective career choices.
Select one of the current executives in residence with whom you would like to meet during your time at Columbia. Explain your selection and tell us how you would best utilize your half hour one-on-one session. (Maximum 250 words)

The executive in residence program is an incredible opportunity to learn from the extensive experience of real world professionals. As you think about this essay you will want to peruse the list of current executives in residence and examine their bios. With this background you’ll have an idea of what kind of expertise the executives have and what sort of advice you could obtain in your 30-minute session.

This question lends itself perfectly to those who are shifting or changing careers, as a real world sounding board is invaluable in your industry research. You’ll certainly want to focus on the industry you are interested in and think about the questions you would like to ask of a successful senior level manager in that industry.

Columbia Business School Optional Essay
Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. (Maximum 500 words)
If there are any areas of concern, this is the correct place to address them. Strike an upbeat tone here and avoid excuses. Explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the issue. For example, if you had a disciplinary issue in college, spend most of the issue demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since.

If you do not have a weakness to address here, it’s an ideal opportunity to provide any information that you were unable to work into the other three essays. If you have an unusual background, hobby or extracurricular experience, this may be an opportunity to provide that information to the adcomm.

Columbia Business School Reapplication Essay
How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied, reiterate your post-MBA and long-term professional goals, and address why Columbia Business School is a good fit for you. (Maximum 750 words).
If you applied more than 12 months ago, you will need to compose all of the essays in the set. If you applied more recently to Columbia Business School you are able to only draft this reapplication essay. Either way, it’s important to make sure you have made significant strides since your last application. Keep in mind that the admissions committee will have access to your previous application. While refining your goals is progress and can enhance your application, make sure your story is consistent with your last application and that you have thoroughly explained any changes in your thinking since the last time you applied.

Soul searching and feedback from others likely set you on the path to improve one or more areas that may have been weak in your last application. This essay is your opportunity to outline your better GMAT score, classes you took, additional extracurriculars, or a significant increase in responsibility at work.

The third part of this essay is to demonstrate how you will contribute to Columbia Business School. If you are a reapplicant you have likely had the time to learn even more about the school since your last application, and your research will pay off in this essay. Be specific about your skills and how you will contribute, along with the aspects of Columbia Business School that will be of benefit to your goals.

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