Tag Archives: Columbia

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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COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL RECEIVES $10M GIFT FOR NEW INTERDISCIPLINARY CENTER

For prospective MBAs interested in the intersection of business and law, Columbia Business School just became even more appealing. It announced last week that the Richard Paul and Ellen S. Richman Private Family Foundation granted  …

For prospective MBAs interested in the intersection of business and law, Columbia Business School just became even more appealing. It announced last week that the Richard Paul and Ellen S. Richman Private Family Foundation granted  $10 million to Columbia University to establish the Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law and Public Policy. The Center will be jointly overseen by Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School.  According to a Columbia University press release:

The new center will encourage collaboration among Columbia’s most prominent business and legal scholars to generate research that will inform public policy and help to unite scholarship with its real-world applications in both business and law. The Richman Center will also provide a platform for the promotion of dialogue and the exchange of ideas on timely and relevant issues, while inspiring future generations of students to pursue careers at the nexus of business, law and public policy.

Proposed Richman Center activities include curriculum development, faculty research project funding and extracurricular events such as industry conferences. According to Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger, “Columbia’s accomplished faculty at both the Business School and the Law School share a commitment to addressing the complex challenges found at the intersection of their disciplines, and the Richman Center will undoubtedly be a valuable source of innovative scholarship and real-world solutions in the years ahead.”

In addition to opening the Center, the Richman Foundation will also fund a Richard Paul Richman Professorship of Law and a Richard Paul Richman Professorship of Business. The professors awarded these positions will have the opportunity to create research initiatives in business, law and public policy.

 Richard Paul Richman graduated from both Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School and is currently the chairman of the Richman Group, one of the nation’s largest rental property developers.

“The complex challenges in public policy need to be informed by the pragmatic perspectives of both business and law. Columbia’s intellectual capital in these two disciplines is unparalleled and represents a powerful tool to address today’s problems as well as lay the foundation for a well-planned future,” said Richman.

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Tuesday Tips – Columbia Business School Essay Tips

Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for the class of 2013. Columbia Business School has shortened the essay set and removed some of the more challenging questions since last year. While this set …

Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for the class of 2013. Columbia Business School has shortened the essay set and removed some of the more challenging questions since last year. While this set of essays may seem simple and straightforward, you will have less space to describe yourself and your accomplishments. Be strategic about how you approach these two or three essays (four if you are a reapplicant) and make sure you are hitting the key aspects of your application strategy.

Columbia Business School Essay 1
What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Recommended 750 word limit)

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
Please tell us about yourself and your personal interests. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (Recommended 500 word limit)

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 Optional Essay
Is there any further information that you wish to provide to the Admissions Committee? (Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.)

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 and reiterate your short-term and long-term goals. Explain how the tools of the Columbia Business School will help you to meet your goals and how you plan to participate in the Columbia Business School community. (Recommended 750 word limit).

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_Harvard_Essay_Guide-150x150

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“Students or Customers” Debate Continues

The debate over the so-called “corrupting practice” of treating MBA students as customers has taken off in the wake of a blog entry we posted recently (Some B-Schools Don’t Want Customers). Should students have more …

The debate over the so-called “corrupting practice” of treating MBA students as customers has taken off in the wake of a blog entry we posted recently (Some B-Schools Don’t Want Customers).

Should students have more say over what they are taught and even how they are judged? What’s the risk of the student-consumer approach in MBA programs? And does the issue reflect broader issues in higher education?

Editors of the New York Times dove into the story earlier this week with commentary from various voices from academia. Here’s a glimpse into the mindset of each of the featured educators.

Edward Snyder (dean, Chicago Booth School of Business)

I’ve said it before: The best students don’t view themselves as customers, and they shouldn’t be treated as such…A combination of stretch and support is the answer to the question: how can business schools get more out of their students and better prepare them for diverse careers in turbulent times in all parts of the global economy? (…) The world needs more MBAs who develop in transformational environments, not MBAs on the buy end of transactions.

Stephen Joel Tratchtenberg (president emeritus, George Washington University)

Students are not customers nor are they not customers. (…)Members of faculty dislike the students-as-customer concept because it obliges them to devote time and effort to areas beyond research that they are not interested in and they are not traditionally rewarded for. If these additional criteria were used in promotion and tenure decisions, the faculty might be more responsive to students’ requests but they would also be more challenged.

David Bejou (dean, Elizabeth City State University School of Business)

Treatment of students as customers is not about grades or unrealistic expectations; it is about a new paradigm of shared governance…Treat MBA students like customers and empower them to be responsible for their learning. Reward the faculty for applying their cutting edge applied research in shaping the future leaders who happen to have MBA’s.

Richard Vedder, (professor of economics, Ohio University)

The growth in grade inflation, the near abandonment of Friday classes on many campuses, and the provision of country club-like facilities are three indicators that universities increasingly look at students as customers requiring pampering…The “student as customer” philosophy has created an underworked and overindulged group of future national leaders, something that likely will prove costly in the long run.

Mark C. Taylor (professor of religion, Columbia University)

The controversy in many business schools swirling around practice of treating education as a product and students as customers would be comic if it did not reflect the widespread failure of people inside and outside colleges and universities to acknowledge the looming financial crisis in higher education…To deny that higher education is a product and students are customers is to ignore the reality of the current situation and to duck the tough questions we should be asking.

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SBC_Harvard_Essay_Guide-150x150If you are feeling stumped by your application essays and need some additional guidance, check out our NEW series of essay guides for MBA applications. Columbia, Harvard, Kellogg, Stanford and Wharton available now. They are seriously terrific and we are proud to say that almost every person who has ordered one has come back for more!

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