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 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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