Tuesday Tips: Columbia MBA Essay Tips for 2020-2021

Columbia MBAColumbia Business School has released the application and essay questions for candidates beginning the MBA program in 2021. These Columbia MBA essay questions include a new question about leadership and your fit with Columbia Business School.  Columbia asks you to choose a leader you admire, which could be anyone from Melinda Gates to Columbia professor Bruce Craven’s choice, Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones.

What is the admissions team 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.”

The desire to attend Columbia is an essential part of the Columbia MBA application process. Another aspect is having the academic background to handle the rigor of Columbia.

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 environment.

Columbia MBAIt’s up to you to prepare your case for admission with thorough research into the school. To accomplish this, 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. Therefore, before you get started with this set of essays, it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths, and weaknesses. Also, think about your overall life dreams.

Columbia offers several flexible options for admission, from full-time MBA programs starting in the Fall, to a January entry session. In addition, Columbia has an excellent executive MBA program. Columbia also offers an early decision option for candidates committed to attending the school. Note that Columbia has up-to-date COVID information on the admissions website.

The Columbia admissions cycle is rolling, so the earlier you submit your application, the sooner you will receive feedback. 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 we can help with MBA admissions consulting.

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 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 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.” It also 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 question addresses 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 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 personal experiences. Consider what to say while citing only relevant examples from your career. Also, think about the moments you can describe that were genuinely pivotal. In addition, examples that support your future goals. In conclusion, your goals should have a logical progression, but you can (and should!) show how you plan to adapt.

columbia mba essay tipsFor example, perhaps you want to be a general manager of a company or division, and right now, you have been working primarily in marketing. Subsequently, 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:
Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)

Thorough school research will help you answer the question well. The best way to research a school is to visit, talk to current students, and attend classes. If that’s not possible this year, see if you can network with alumni and research the school online.

The question posed here is, how will you, specifically, benefit from 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 excite you?

Columbia 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.


You might mix personal and professional interests in this essay. 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.

Know yourself and know the school. And, as you address this question, make sure to tailor your answer to your individual goals for learning and career. Also, keep in mind Columbia’s academic and professional opportunities.

Essay 3:
Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)

This essay question is new for the class entering in 2021. In prior years, Columbia asked about a team failure and leadership examples. In contrast, this essay asks you to get personal with the admissions committee.

Revealing a favorite book, movie, or song can provide deeper insight into your personality. But, selecting the right choice may be difficult. First, make a list of your favorites from each category. Second, choose the piece from the list that tells a personal story.

For example, if you are a voracious reader you may pick a favorite childhood book that first introduced you to the power of words. Or you may have learned about a culture different from your own from a movie. Perhaps you found a song that perfectly reflected your own feelings. Next, come up with a story that tells the admissions committee something new about you or your background.

As you compose this Columbia MBA essay, make sure you use specific examples that help the reader understand how you think and feel. That way, the admissions committee will have a deeper understanding of your personal qualities.

Optional Essay:
Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, 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. (Maximum 500 Words)

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

If you do choose to write an optional essay, we recommend keeping this essay brief. Focus only on specific areas of concern. For example, these may be a lack of demonstrated quantitative abilities or the lack of a recommendation from a current supervisor. Or, it could be gaps in work experience or low grades. Also, It is best to explain the issue factually, then show how you have addressed the issue. Finally, conclude by explaining why it should not concern the admissions committee in terms of your abilities.

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