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.