Tag Archives: Columbia

Columbia Business School MBA Application Essay Tips 2013

Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for this fall’s application. Columbia has updated several questions with an increased focus on New York City as a defining feature. As usual, Columbia is highly concerned …

Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for this fall’s application. Columbia has updated several questions with an increased focus on New York City as a defining feature. As usual, Columbia is highly concerned about fit and your knowledge of the program. Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and to make sure you have done as much school research as possible.

Short Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (100 characters maximum)

This is a simple question, but may require you to condense your career goals into one clear career vision statement. Columbia presents several examples on their website, all of which have some unique aspect. Rather than a generic statement like: “I plan to work in finance after Columbia” the goal is to infuse some individuality. Something like: “After my MBA I plan to pursue a career in real estate finance within a private equity firm” tells the admissions committee far more about your interests and goals.

Essay 1: Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (Maximum 500 words)

Remember that this essay has two purposes: demonstrate that you know why you are interested in Columbia, and showcase why you are an excellent fit for the program. Both goals should be kept in mind as you answer the question.

Columbia has traditionally asked a similar question to determine why you are pursuing an MBA and why Columbia is the right program for you. It is likely that part of your answer to this question deals with your future career goals. When you think about your future plans it will add credibility to describe how you tend to approach goals in general. Are you determined despite obstacles? How have you demonstrated your persistence in your career thus far? This essay is not a recitation of your resume and should focus only on relevant examples from your career, but often the best indicator of future performance is the past, and therefore examples can support your position that your goals are achievable with a Columbia MBA.

The question is open ended enough to allow you to describe other details about your background. If you have a unique path to the MBA this is the place to describe it. If your cultural or family background is interesting and relevant to your application examples featuring details about your experiences could also be appropriate in response to this question.

Essay 2: Columbia Business School is located in the heart of the world’s business capital – Manhattan. How do you anticipate that New York City will impact your experience at Columbia? (Maximum 250 words)

The two videos Columbia asks applicants to watch can give you a few clues about the selling points that Columbia Business School sees in their New York City location. Everything from galleries and food to access to professionals in finance is referenced and could be included in your personalized response to this question.

As you decide how to approach this question make sure that your individual goals for learning and career are impacting how you answer. You should consider the industry you plan to enter, and either the key adjunct professors from that industry at Columbia or the access to major companies from that industry in New York City. Consider your personal interests and how you might pursue them in the diversity of such an international city, and also the ways that Columbia’s alumni network can provide opportunities within the metropolitan area.

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.

Essay 3: What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

If you did not cover anything personal in the prior two essays this is your opportunity to stand out from the pack of other applicants. If you are stumped by this essay prompt you may want to ask friends, family members or colleagues what they view as an interesting and unique fact about you.

Once you have ideas about how to approach this question make sure that you are describing something about yourself that will be interesting both to your peers and to the admissions committee. Facts about your prior work experience, any international experiences or travel, or extracurriculars that are a strong passion for you are all both potentially interesting to the people in your Cluster and the Columbia Business School admissions committee.

Optional Essay: An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.

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 essay 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 showcase your unique profile.

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Tuesday Tips: Columbia Business School Essay Tips

Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for the class of 2015 application. Columbia has significantly reduced the number of questions asked this year, but continues to seek customized information on your interest in …

Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for the class of 2015 application. Columbia has significantly reduced the number of questions asked this year, but continues to seek customized information on your interest in the school. Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and to make sure you have done as much school research as possible.

Short Answer Question
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (200 characters maximum)

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.

Essay 1:
A. Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals? (Maximum 500 words)
B. Please view this video, entitled Community at Columbia. Diverse, tight-knit clusters and carefully selected learning teams are defining features of the first year at Columbia Business School.
Along with more than 100 student organizations and countless events each semester, the cluster system helps to create a supportive and devoted lifelong community. Describe why you are interested in becoming a part of the Columbia community. (Maximum 250 words)

Remember that this essay has two purposes: demonstrate that you know why you are interested in Columbia, and showcase why you are an excellent fit for the program. Both goals should be kept in mind as you answer the question.

Columbia has traditionally asked a similar question to determine why you are pursuing an MBA and why Columbia is the right program for you. This year the question asks how you plan to achieve your goals as well as what you want to achieve and why MBA. When you think about your future plans it will add credibility to describe how you tend to approach goals in general. Are you determined despite obstacles? How have you demonstrated your persistence in your career thus far? This essay is not a recitation of your resume and should focus only on relevant examples from your career, but often the best indicator of future performance is the past, and therefore examples can support your position that your goals are achievable with a Columbia MBA.

The second part of this question specifically focuses on culture at Columbia. While many applicants cite the location in NYC as a key attraction to the school, Columbia would like to know what you are seeking on campus that is the right fit for you. Along with viewing the video, conducting personal research by networking with co-workers, friends and family who may know someone at Columbia is a great way to experience the culture first hand. As you comment upon the aspects of Columbia’s culture that most interest you, make sure you provide examples from your own life to support that interest. For example, if you were highly involved in student government in your undergrad program perhaps you can cite a similar opportunity at Columbia you will pursue.

Essay 2:
Describe a personal experience and how it has influenced who you are today. This essay should have a personal rather than a professional focus. (Maximum 500 words)

While the first essay focuses on your professional path and why you want an MBA from Columbia, this essay is specifically seeking more insight into who you are outside of your professional focus.

If you are having trouble brainstorming a formative experience, think about what you have spent time on outside of work. Do you focus on volunteering? Family or friends? Work backwards from what is most important to you outside of your career and evaluate what experience led you to spend your time in this way.

Ideally this topic gets at your core values and what motivates you in your personal and professional life. While this absolutely should be a personal reflection, consider experiences that may be most relevant to an MBA program. For example, you may have spent time caring for a sick family member, which is clearly a personal experience, yet it taught you how to advocate for someone else’s needs and prioritize your time between your responsibilities and the needs of others. Ideally you are able to communicate what you value through this question and also how you approach learning from experience.

Optional Essay
An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.

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 essay 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 showcase your unique profile.

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SBC Scoop: Prescription for a Low GPA

We’ve explored the issue of a low GMAT and provided tips for building a quant profile. Another very common weakness among our clients is the low undergrad GPA. Before we get into Spencer’s story I …

We’ve explored the issue of a low GMAT and provided tips for building a quant profile. Another very common weakness among our clients is the low undergrad GPA. Before we get into Spencer’s story I do want to point out that a 3.5 or better GPA during undergrad isn’t considered low for the purposes of most MBA applications. Make sure you look at the mean GPA for admitted students at your target programs to determine if you have an issue to overcome in that area.

Spencer came to us for assistance with his applications to Columbia, HBS and Wharton. He had a successful track record as part of a business development team at a healthcare company and great leadership opportunities outside of work on a non-profit board. Spencer had achieved a very strong GMAT score of 740, evenly balanced between his verbal and quant sections. The main issue with Spencer’s application was a GPA of 2.9 from Boston University.

Spencer had studied Economics and achieved B’s and a few A’s in those classes that related to his major, but he had several low grades in classes outside his major. Some of them were classes that didn’t appear particularly difficult. When we discussed his GPA in detail, Spencer revealed that he just didn’t have the motivation to achieve in certain classes. He was passionate about Economics and did well in a few other classes that tapped into his interests, but he wasn’t able to muster enthusiasm for his communication and Literature classes and his grades reflected it. There was no extenuating circumstances that impacted Spencer’s GPA, he just lacked the maturity to work hard on even the classes he disliked while in undergrad.

The difficulty with a low GPA is that it’s solidly in the past. As an MBA applicant you can’t do anything to change your undergrad GPA. When MBA programs look at academic records like the GMAT and GPA there’s a question of aptitude (can this applicant do the work?) and a question of application (will this applicant work hard?). In Spencer’s case it was clear he had the aptitude. Unfortunately it was not clear that he would dedicate himself to his MBA coursework. We took on that question and did two things to ensure that Spencer would showcase his ability to apply himself:

1. Spencer took a set of pre-MBA courses at a local university (similar to this NYU program) and achieved A’s in those classes. In this case, Spencer took three courses and didn’t worry too much about how quant oriented they were (quant was a strength in his application). Other applicants will want to think strategically about the courses.

2. Spencer took on the question of his low GPA directly in his optional essays. He made no excuses (there were none to make!) and admitted that he had lacked the maturity to see the big picture during undergrad and had only worked hard in classes that were intellectually interesting for him. He demonstrated clear evidence that he had since developed that maturity: he was a high achiever at work, he had taken a set of pre-MBA classes and achieved A’s, and he was prepared to dedicate himself to his MBA studies.

Spencer’s approach netted strong results for him. He was admitted Early Decision to Columbia and decided to attend.

To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.

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SBC Scoop: Selecting the Right Set of Schools

The initial questions we tackle with clients are how many schools and which schools – to apply to.  I am a big believer in the portfolio theory when it comes to MBA applications:  Apply to …

The initial questions we tackle with clients are how many schools and which schools – to apply to.  I am a big believer in the portfolio theory when it comes to MBA applications:  Apply to a reasonable number of schools (somewhere around 4) and make sure they vary in competitiveness.  Of course, they should all be schools you would be excited to attend, but you may include some super reach, dream schools as well as some that are a safer fit.  At the end of the day, all you need is one admit, so spread some risk around.  You never know what a given application pool looks like in a given year at a given school.  There are factors outside of your control, and you need to plan.

This week’s case study focuses on Cynthia, whose experience highlights the importance of appropriate school selection as a first step in your process.   Cynthia was a solid, if not outstanding, candidate and we felt confident that she should be able to secure admission at one or more schools.  She had a 3.2 GPA, 700 GMAT and three years of experience in marketing at a large technology company.  Her extra-curriculars were weak and we spent a lot of time brainstorming areas of passion to highlight for her, so that she could really come alive and stand out.

Cynthia desperately wanted to end up in New York or California, and she was determined to attend a top 15 school.  When she came to us, she had her heart set on Stern at NYU, as she felt it was a good fit for her credentials and the location was obviously right for her.  In fact, she wanted to apply to Stern and only one other west coast school (either UCLA Anderson or UC Berkeley Haas).  We encouraged her to apply to more than two schools.  Many people found her results surprising:

Stern – deny
Columbia – admit
Haas – waitlist/admit
Anderson – waitlist/deny
HBS – waitlist/deny
Stanford – deny
Tuck – waitlist (removed from waitlist)

Cynthia’s first decision was from Stern and that obviously left her very discouraged.  It did, however, encourage her to add additional schools to her list, some even more competitive than Stern.  Ultimately, Cynthia’s results were phenomenal, and things turned out even better than she had hoped.  However, it was a long and rocky, emotional road, spanning a full 12 months.  Her journey highlighted the fact that “all you need is one”, but casting your net a bit wider can help you to get that one (or two) admits.

To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.

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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 …

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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SBC Scoop: 640 on the GMAT

I begin this week’s Scoop by filling you in on the outcome from last week’s post about Joe who had a “D” on his transcript.  Joe was admitted to Wharton and withdrew applications from other …

I begin this week’s Scoop by filling you in on the outcome from last week’s post about Joe who had a “D” on his transcript.  Joe was admitted to Wharton and withdrew applications from other schools because he knew that was where he wanted to attend. Joe was quite satisfied that his approach to the transcript was effective and so were we!

Our client this week, Davis, is a white male working in finance in New York City.  He clearly had strong quantitative abilities, as revealed through his GPA and professional experiences.  However, his GMAT score of 640 was below average for Columbia, the one school that he was targeting.  Davis had missed Columbia’s early decision round and was submitting his application at the last minute in the general rolling admissions round.

He put together a solid application and submitted knowing that his timing and GMAT were two significant weaknesses for this particular school.  The good news was that both of these issues were fixable.  He could obviously reapply early decision the following year, and he could retake the GMAT (although 640 was his high score out of three attempts).

Ultimately, Davis was not admitted in this first attempt.  However, he managed to secure a phone conversation with a contact on the admissions committee.  The feedback was clear and specific – they wanted to see him clear 680 on the GMAT in order to be a stronger candidate.  He was encouraged to apply again.

The next several months were extremely stressful as Davis worked hard to improve his GMAT and only succeeded in raising the score by 30 points.  With a 670, he reapplied to Columbia in the early decision round.  He focused on conveying his academic and quantitative strengths, and encouraged his recommenders to weigh in on his quantitative skills to strengthen his case.  He also stayed in touch with his admissions committee contact, contacting him with occasional questions, and keeping him up to date on GMAT progress.  Via this contact, he reinforced his commitment to attend if admitted, making it clear that Columbia was the only school he had applied to.

I am happy to report that Davis was eventually admitted to Columbia!  This showed us that many schools, including Columbia do take the GMAT very seriously and target specific scores, but even a lower score can be overcome in the presence of other strengths.  Also, it never hurts to ask for feedback.  Even schools that do not “officially” provide feedback, just might do so.  My motto with many aspects of this process is…”it never hurts to ask.”

Are you surprised that Columbia gave Davis a specific target score?  Surprised that he was admitted even without hitting the 680?  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.

Interested in reading more? Click HERE to see more test prep advice.

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