Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for the class of 2014. These questions focus on your career goals, demonstrating your knowledge of Columbia, and your personal attributes. Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and other key aspects of your application strategy.
Columbia Business School Essay 1
What is your post-MBA professional goal? (Maximum of 200 characters.)
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.
Considering your post-MBA and long term professional goals, why you are pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? Additionally, why is Columbia Business School a good fit for you? (Maximum 750 words)
This question is fairly straightforward and consistent with other typical goals essays. The wrinkle to this essay is that it focuses on your goals, rather than your background or career experience, and that you will want to demonstrate that Columbia Business School is the best school for you.
As you describe your short and long-term goals, make sure there is a clear trajectory from what you plan to do immediately after graduation (short-term) to where you want to ultimately take your career (long-term). Columbia Business School should be the natural link between your current situation and the goals you have for your career.
While you want to concentrate primarily on your future plans, you may need to set up your goals with some context from your current career. You are free to choose the most relevant experience from your background for this essay, so make sure you set the stage effectively for your future goals with your past experiences.
Columbia Business School Essay 2
Describe a life experience that has shaped you. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (Maximum 500 words)
While the first essay focuses on your professional accomplishments, this essay allows you to present your personality and interests to the adcomm. This is also the perfect place to focus on why you would be an excellent classmate and member of the Columbia Business School community. While it is expressly not about professional accomplishments, your personal interests ideally align with your professional goals and the entire set of essays tells a cohesive story about you.
This essay may be best utilized in a similar way as the Stanford MBA “what matters most” essay. Rather than focusing on superficial activities or hobbies, make sure your topic gets at your core values and what motivates you in your personal and professional life.
Columbia Business School Essay 3
(Select and answer one of the below questions)
All three of your options for Columbia’s Essay 3 require you to do your homework on Columbia. This is your opportunity to sell your knowledge of the school while revealing a new aspect of yourself. It will be helpful to approach this topic choice after drafting the previous essay questions and understanding what aspects of your application strategy will have been discussed in either your career goals or personal story essays. Option A is the perfect question for a future entrepreneur or someone with an innovative streak. Option B could highlight your interpersonal and leadership abilities. Option C is a great for career changers to show how you will approach your investigation of the future career. All three essays will require you to provide both substance and style. Each essay is short in length, heavy in content, and has an element of creativity.
The annual A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/entrepreneurship/initiatives/outrageous] is a student initiative managed and run by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO). The competition encourages Columbia MBA students to explore creative entrepreneurial ideas that are sufficiently ambitious in scope and scale to be considered “outrageous.” Students explore these ideas while learning firsthand what goes into the development and presentation of a solid business proposal.
Develop your own “outrageous” business idea. In essay form, compose your “elevator pitch.” (Maximum 250 words)
In a very brief essay you need to demonstrate your knowledge of the Columbia business plan competition, describe your entrepreneurial idea, and sell it. This essay will require multiple drafts and some homework to come up with the perfect pitch. The first time you write down your idea you should avoid censoring yourself. Don’t think about grammar or structure – just write down your thoughts. Once you have explained your idea in writing, read over your draft and consider if you have addressed important aspects of the pitch. Do you have a clear product? Have you composed a feasible revenue model? What customer segment will you serve? Once you have fleshed out your idea and convinced yourself you have a viable “outrageous” idea you can polish future drafts to be compelling and creative.
Columbia deeply values its vibrant student community, the building of which begins at orientation when admitted students are assigned to clusters [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/mba/academics/clustersystem] of 65 to 70 fellow students who take most of the first-year core classes together. During the first weeks of school, each cluster selects a Cluster Chair. Further strengthening the student community are the nearly 100 active student organizations [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/cbs-directory/student-groups] at Columbia Business School, ranging from cultural to professional to community service-oriented. Leadership positions within the cluster and/or clubs offer hands-on management and networking opportunities for students as they interact with fellow students, administrators, faculty members, alumni, and practitioners.
You are running for either Cluster Chair or a club leadership position of your choosing. Compose your campaign speech. (Maximum 250 words)
This is an ideal essay to highlight your ability to motivate and lead others, and describe your past leadership experiences. As you think about this essay you should consider which clubs at Columbia are the most compelling to you, or if you would prefer to be a more general leader and run for Cluster Chair.
If you choose to run for a club leadership position you should thoroughly research the club and know what you would do differently or add to the group. For either position you will want to introduce yourself and your qualifications, which may include either professional or extracurricular team leadership experiences.
Founded nearly three decades ago, the Executives in Residence Program [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/executives] at Columbia Business School integrates senior executives into the life of the School. Current executives in residence [http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/executives/executives] include more than a dozen experts in areas ranging from media and investment banking to private equity and management. A hallmark of the program is one-on-one counseling sessions in which executives advise students about their prospective career choices.
Select one of the current executives in residence with whom you would like to meet during your time at Columbia. Explain your selection and tell us how you would best utilize your half hour one-on-one session. (Maximum 250 words)
The executive in residence program is an incredible opportunity to learn from the extensive experience of real world professionals. As you think about this essay you will want to peruse the list of current executives in residence and examine their bios. With this background you’ll have an idea of what kind of expertise the executives have and what sort of advice you could obtain in your 30-minute session.
This question lends itself perfectly to those who are shifting or changing careers, as a real world sounding board is invaluable in your industry research. You’ll certainly want to focus on the industry you are interested in and think about the questions you would like to ask of a successful senior level manager in that industry.
Columbia Business School Optional Essay
Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. (Maximum 500 words)
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 issue 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 provide that information to the adcomm.
Columbia Business School Reapplication Essay
How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied, reiterate your post-MBA and long-term professional goals, and address why Columbia Business School is a good fit for you. (Maximum 750 words).
If you applied more than 12 months ago, you will need to compose all of the essays in the set. If you applied more recently to Columbia Business School you are able to only draft this reapplication essay. Either way, it’s important to make sure you have made significant strides since your last application. Keep in mind that the admissions committee will have access to your previous application. While refining your goals is progress and can enhance your application, make sure your story is consistent with your last application and that you have thoroughly explained any changes in your thinking since the last time you applied.
Soul searching and feedback from others likely set you on the path to improve one or more areas that may have been weak in your last application. This essay is your opportunity to outline your better GMAT score, classes you took, additional extracurriculars, or a significant increase in responsibility at work.
The third part of this essay is to demonstrate how you will contribute to Columbia Business School. If you are a reapplicant you have likely had the time to learn even more about the school since your last application, and your research will pay off in this essay. Be specific about your skills and how you will contribute, along with the aspects of Columbia Business School that will be of benefit to your goals.
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This entry was posted in Application Tips, Columbia Advice and tagged advice, application tips, applications, career goals, Columbia, essay tips, MBA program.
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Columbia Business School has an updated application out for this year and has changed the essay questions significantly. 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 “spirit and pace of program is faster than others due to NYC. Something about being in a city that never sleeps,” explained admissions director Michael Robinson in a recent CBS webinar.
Fit with Columbia therefore will be different than other MBA programs, and it’s up to you to prepare with thorough research into the school. Columbia is looking for students who have big plans for their lives, MBA or not. As Robinson said, there are “no dream schools just dreams. Live a life where you are doing big things regardless if you get into a business school.”
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. To see how current students are thinking about Columbia and their goals, check out student profiles.
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 who 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)
This is a simple question, but may require you to condense your career goals into one clear career vision statement. 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, elaboration is for the next 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)
Columbia asked a similar question last year, but it was open-ended in terms of timeframe of your career goals, and it focused more on how Columbia would help you achieve them. Given the changes in this essay question, this is a question about short- and long-term goals and dreams.
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 make sure your goals are aspirational.
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 unique. Don’t try to be anyone else, instead reveal your own motivations, goals, and plans that Columbia will help you achieve. “Be Authentic. Want to admit people not packages. Don’t follow blogs and essay models,” Robinson suggested.
Essay #2: The full time MBA experience includes academics, recruiting and networking. What are your personal priorities and how do you anticipate allocating your time at Columbia Business School? (250 Words)
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.
Columbia is centered in its New York City location. The city provides unparalleled networking opportunities and sets a fast pace for the program. Research the programs and the clubs that may help you identify network with professionals and alumni. Your fellow students will be an invaluable resource for you going forward in your career – both network and sometimes support group. How will you build relationships during your school years?
Academics at Columbia include an incredible portfolio of adjunct professors from industry. You should consider the industry you plan to enter, and either the important adjunct professors from that industry at Columbia or the access to major companies from that industry in New York City. Recruiting will be a similar story, as a significant number of major companies are headquartered in New York. How will you use that level of day-to-day access to target companies?
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. The admissions team will be asking themselves, “Will the person excel in our academics and will they be an important factor in our community?”.
Essay #3: Please select and answer one of the following essay questions (250 words):
a. Please tell us what you feel most passionate about in life.
b. If you were given a free day and could spend it anywhere, in any way you choose, what would you do?
Both of these essay questions focus on your personal passions and what matters most to you. Go beyond generic ideas that may be common across all people (e.g., love for friends and family) and get into the parts of your life that differ from those around you. Did you grow up in unique circumstances? Did you cultivate an unusual hobby or interest? Sometimes the people around you know best – ask your best friend and a sibling what is special about you.
Once you identify a topic for this essay you need to fit your answer into only 250 words. Option B is fairly contained and the structure can help you focus on just one story, relationship, or event. In Option A, make sure you can offer an illustrative example to support what you are most passionate about. Showing instead of stating your passions will be most effective for the reader.
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. You may submit bullet points. (500 words)
The optional essay in prior years was more open-ended, while this year Columbia is asking only for areas of concern. 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.
This entry was posted in Application Tips, Columbia Advice and tagged application essays, CBS essay tips, Columbia Business School, Essay Tips, Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips.
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