Tuesday Tips: Columbia MBA Essay Tips for 2023-2024

Columbia MBA

Columbia Business School (CBS) has released the application and essay questions for the MBA Class of 2026. CBS is a fast-paced program in a fast-paced city. The kind of student who is a good fit for the Columbia MBA program and its setting in New York City will be those who plan to take full advantage of the unique opportunities offered by that environment. Another aspect is having the academic background to handle the rigor of Columbia.

What is the AdCom looking for in Columbia MBA applicants?

One of SBC’s former CBS Admissions Officers shared, “With CBS, it really is a holistic approach, but the fit is VERY important.  They want to know why CBS- that is a big part of their culture. They want to know you’re going to fit in.”

Therefore, this set of essays must show your strong desire to attend Columbia. Students at Columbia have big plans for their lives, MBA or not. To prepare, brainstorm your career objectives, strengths, and weaknesses. Also, think about your overall life dreams.

Admission options at Columbia are flexible. Including full-time MBA programs to a January entry without a summer internship. In addition, Columbia has an excellent executive MBA program. Columbia also offers an early decision option for candidates committed to Columbia.

The Columbia admissions cycle is rolling, so the earlier you submit your application, the sooner you will hear back. We recommend you try to submit your application as early as possible while maintaining high quality.

Feeling stumped by the Columbia MBA essays? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how our expert team of former admissions officers can help. 

Columbia MBA

Short Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)

Examples of possible responses:

• “Work in business development for a media company.”
• “Join a strategy consulting firm.”
• “Launch a data-management start-up.”

This is a deceptively simple question. It requires you to condense your career goals into a short career vision statement. As part of the question, Columbia provides a few examples which are concise and to the point.

If your goal is to work at an investment bank after graduation, you could always just say: “Work in finance.” To add a bit more detail, consider adding a little more color. Something like: “Work in real estate finance for a private equity firm.” This tells the admissions committee far more about your interests and goals than just “work in finance.” It also sets the tone for the first essay.

Columbia MBA Essay 1

Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what is your long-term dream job? (500 words)

This question asks about your short- and long-term goals. We find that those who seek a top-tier MBA at a school like Columbia have Big Ideas. Also, the program will expose you to people and opportunities that will expand your horizons. Think about your true passions, and feel free to explore your biggest dreams.

As you talk about your future, you may need to refer to your past career and experiences. Also, think about the pivotal moments you can describe. In addition, use examples that support your future goals. In conclusion, your goals should have a logical progression, but you should show how you plan to adapt.

columbia mba essay tips

For example, perhaps you want to be a general manager of a company or division. But right now, you have been working primarily in marketing. Subsequently, you might take classes in finance and strategy and take part in consulting projects while interning at a start-up. All of these will provide experience for your general management path.

Most importantly, Columbia wants to know who you are and how you are different from other applicants. Don’t try to be an ideal applicant. Instead, reveal your genuine personality, motivations, and goals.

You might mix personal and professional interests to answer this prompt. In addition, you could focus on either of those angles, depending on the topics of your other essays. Finally, specifics will help you set yourself apart with this essay.

Columbia MBA Essay 2

The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias and Prejudice, Managing Intercultural Dialogue, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking.

Tell us about a time when you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)

This behavioral interview question focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion for the topic. Keep in mind that Columbia is also looking to understand your ability to fit in with the community and contribute.

As one of SBC’s Columbia insider consultants explains, “Columbia wants to know what the applicant is going to give back to the CBS community-they want people that will give as much as they will take away.”

For this essay, choose an example around one of the skills described. Behavioral essay questions can be approached with the STAR method. First, explain the Situation. Second, the Task that needed to be achieved for success in this situation. Third, the Action you took in this story. And finally, the Result of your actions. Each step should be specific and clear.

When choosing a topic in diversity, equity, and inclusion, you can focus on your own experiences or those you were part of. Make sure you are writing with empathy. For example, did you understand multiple perspectives and consider them? Also, can you understand the backgrounds and cultures of those around you? Demonstrated cultural awareness and a community mindset will go far in this essay.

Columbia MBA Essay 3

We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams, an extremely active co-curricular and student life environment, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program.

Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? Please be specific. (250 words)

According to our expert consultants, Columbia wants to see your passion for the school. Otherwise, the admissions committee will wonder why you are applying.

First, take the time to learn as much about Columbia’s MBA program and culture as you can. For example, read the website, watch admissions sessions online or visit in person, and try to network with current and former students. As a result of this research, you will know the school well. As this essay prompt instructs, be specific. That means you should demonstrate your research and give examples in the essay.

Passion is Essential for Columbia MBA Applicants

Second, know yourself and why Columbia is a fit. Make sure to tailor your answer to your individual goals for learning and career. Also, keep in mind Columbia’s academic and professional opportunities.

Finally, make sure you will benefit the community. Think about the unique skills and experiences you will share. Columbia wants to meet students who have a strong desire to attend their program. In conclusion, show your passion for the school and make the case for your admission.

Optional Essay

If you wish to provide further information or additional context around your application to the Admissions Committee, please upload a brief explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 Words)

Note that this question is entirely optional. You do not need to answer if there is nothing more to communicate.

Focus only on specific areas of concern. For example, you may need to address a lack of demonstrated quantitative abilities or the lack of a recommendation from a current supervisor. Or, you might have gaps in work experience or low grades.

In addition, Columbia has stated submitting bullet points is also fine. For example, if you only need to point out a grade in one class, that may only require a few lines.

Remember, it is best to explain the issue briefly. Then, show how you have addressed it. Finally, explain why this issue should not impact your admission to Columbia.


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help reviewing your MBA resume. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of the caliber of Columbia Business School expertise on our SBC team.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Wharton, Columbia CBS and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

Meet Erin, who has over seven years of experience working across major institutions, including University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School, and NYU’s Stern School of Business.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.

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