Columbia Business School is highly concerned about fit and your knowledge of the program. New York City is another aspect of the school that pervades its culture and defines some of the unique opportunities of the program. Thorough school research is crucial to your preparation for this application. Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and to review the personal elements you will want to discuss.
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Short Answer Question:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 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: “Work in finance” the goal is to infuse some specificity. Something like: “Work in real estate finance within a private equity firm” tells the admissions committee far more about your interests and goals. Note that the limited character count is intended to get you to the point quickly and that all of the examples Columbia has provided are concise and lack any elaboration.
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (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.
This question is entirely future focused and specifically asks you to get away from a recitation of your resume. Spend the majority of the space describing your career goals and what you envision you will learn and experience at Columbia to help you achieve your goals. As you talk about your future you may need to refer to your past career and personal experiences. As you consider what to say make sure you are citing only relevant examples from your career. Think about the experiences you can describe that were truly pivotal and can support your future goals.
For example, perhaps you want to be a general manager of a company or division, and right now you have been working primarily in marketing. You might spend your time at Columbia learning about finance and strategy, being part of consulting projects and interning at a start up to round out your experience and start on your general management path. Make sure your goals are both achievable and aspirational and that you have specifics about Columbia to support your assertion that it is the right place for you.
Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)
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.
CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)
If you watch the linked video, you’ll see that CBS Matters is a part of the Columbia cluster experience that centers around a personal presentation. This essay is entirely about your life story and how you will be perceived by your peers at Columbia. 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.
This essay is somewhat about what matters most to you, and what you would share if asked who you really are. Dig deep into your passions and background and find the aspects that resonate emotionally with you and seem to convey a truth about who you really are. If you are stumped by this essay prompt you may want to ask friends, family members or colleagues what they view as interesting and unique 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. Something that is a passion point for you and that demonstrates a bit more about your background and motivations will likely be interesting both your clustermates and the admissions committee.
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.