Tuesday Tips: Columbia Business School Fall 2019 MBA Application Essay Tips

columbia mba essayColumbia Business School has released the application and essay questions for applicants starting in 2019. What we have heard from the admissions committee at CBS is that authenticity is key, and they are looking for candidates who are a great fit for the program and have the academic background to handle the rigor.

Columbia is a fast-paced program in a fast-paced city. The kind of MBA student who is a good fit for Columbia and its setting in New York City will be those that plan to take full advantage of the unique opportunities offered by the setting.

It’s up to you to prepare your case for admission with thorough research into the school. Speak to current students, alumni and research the classes and faculty at the school to understand the full offering at Columbia.

Columbia is looking for students who have big plans for their lives, MBA or not. Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and to think about your overall future dreams.

Columbia offers several flexible options for admission, from full time MBA programs starting in the Fall, to a January entry session and an excellent executive MBA program. Columbia also offers an early decision option for candidates that are committed to attend the school.

The Columbia admissions cycle is rolling, so the earlier you submit your application the earlier you will receive feedback. We recommend you try to submit your application as soon as possible, while maintaining high quality.

Stumped by the Columbia essays? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help.

Goal: 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 that requires you to condense your career goals into one clear 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 try to add a bit more detail, consider adding a little more color. Something like: “Work in real estate finance for a private equity firm” tells the admissions committee far more about your interests and goals than just “work in finance” and sets the tone for the first essay.

Essay #1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

This a question that drives at your short- and long-term goals and plans. The word “imagination” conjures up your aspirational dreams, not just your practical plans. Those who seek a top tier MBA at a school like Columbia have big dreams. You will be exposed to people and opportunities that will expand your horizons. Think about your true passions, and feel free to explore your big dreams.

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. Your goals should have some logical progression from your past, but you can (and should!) show you plan to change and adapt.

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.

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 real personality, motivations, goals, and plans.

Essay #2: How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? Please watch this short video featuring Dean Glenn Hubbard (250 words)

A theme of the linked video is that Columbia bridges theory and practice. Because of the location in New York City, Columbia is at the center of many industries including finance, media, fashion and technology.

Columbia specifically takes advantage of the location by employing adjunct professors from industry, encouraging internships during the school year for MBA students, and frequent lectures and mentoring from executives in various businesses.

The question posed here is how will you, specifically, use these resources that are unique to Columbia? Will you take classes from an industry expert you admire? Intern at a target company or within an industry that interests you? What other resources in New York City or within Columbia are particularly interesting to you?

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. Specifics, specifics and specifics help you set yourself apart with this essay.

Know yourself and know the school. As you address this question make sure your answer is tailored to your individual goals for learning and career along with your knowledge of Columbia’s academic and professional opportunities.

Essay #3: Please provide an example of a team failure of which you have been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (250 words)

The answer to this question can reveal quite a bit about how you work within a team, handle adversity, and turn around a bad situation. These type of behavioral essays work best with plenty of detail.

A structure like the STAR method is a good way to tackle any behavioral question. Make sure to set up the Situation, outline the Task you need to tackle, then describe the Action you took, and finally the Result of that action. Consider any team dynamics you want to describe and make sure to outline your own behavior.

Note that this a failure question, so your result may have been a bad one, and that’s perfectly acceptable for this essay. This question also provides a second chance for you. If the result of your story was not ideal, what would you change in retrospect? Did you learn anything that you have since applied?

Even if the failure was in the process and the result was positive, reflect upon how the team could have worked more productively along the way. Demonstrating the ability to reflect, refine your approach, and improve is a key signal of maturity.

Optional Essay: Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (500 words)

We recommend keeping this essay brief and only focusing on specific areas such as a low demonstrated quantitative abilities, lack of a recommendation from a current supervisor, gaps in work experience, or particularly low grades. It is best to explain the issue factually and succinctly, then explain how you have addressed the issue and why it should not concern the admissions committee in terms of your aptitude for the program and studies.

Did you know that SBC offers test prep services? We’ve recruited a team of best in class instructors who will help you recognize your individual learning style, discover holes in your foundation knowledge and set manageable yet ambitious goals. We focus on a deep understanding of the content, and later a grasp of smart test strategies. Let SBC’s long tradition of excellence support all aspects of your application process.

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