Tuesday Tips: Columbia MBA Essay Tips for 2019-2020

Columbia MBA essay tips

SBC’s updated 2020-2021 Columbia MBA essay tips are here!

Columbia Business School has released the application and essay questions for candidates beginning at the MBA program in 2020. These essay questions have been updated for this year. The new 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.”

Another aspect is the academic background to handle the rigor of Columbia. Additionally, desire to attend Columbia is also an important part of the Columbia MBA application process.

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.

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, 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 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 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. Therefore, 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. Also, 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.

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)

This essay question is revised for this year’s application. In prior years Columbia has posted a video about Columbia’s location in New York city, and Columbia’s access to industry leaders in industries including finance, media, fashion and technology.

Though this question does not ask you to watch a video and respond, 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 you are unable to visit Columbia before you submit your application, see if you can network with alumni and research the school online.

The question posed here is how will you, specifically, benefit from the opportunities 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 interesting to 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 topic. You could 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:
Who is a leader you admire, and why? (250 words)

This essay question is new for the class entering in 2020. In prior years Columbia asked for a team failure, while this question focuses specifically on leadership.

The type of leader you admire will reveal what you are working towards in your own leadership development. There are many different types of leaders, and endless ideas about which type of leader is best.

One leadership filter is from the business classic by Jim Collins, “Good to Great.” Collins describes a Level 5 leader, who is motivated by an organization and its cause, not by personal gain. A Level 5 leader exhibits a mix of personal humility and persistence. Level 5 leaders are not the only kind of leader that is effective, so consider some leaders you have read about, worked with, or admired and why.

Once you have chosen your admired leader, consider why you chose this person. What are the attributes that you particularly appreciate? Does this leader know people within the team on a personal level? Connect your work with the organization’s purpose? Or persist despite overwhelming odds? Describe what you admire and why that quality is particularly appealing to you. Maybe because you are working on those qualities yourself, or because you share some of the same qualities and want to use those strengths.

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 completely optional and you do not need to answer if there is nothing more that needs to be communicated.

If you do choose to write an optional essay, we recommend keeping this essay brief. Focus only on specific areas of concern. These may be lack of 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. Make sure to explain why it should not concern the admissions committee in terms of your aptitude for the program and studies.

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