A few weeks ago Columbia published updated essay questions for 2013. Below is Aringo's analysis and tips (in blue) for Columbia's new questions.
Applicants must complete one short answer question and two essays.
Short Answer Question
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (200 characters maximum)
This is the 2nd year Columbia has asked this question. Your answer gives the adcom, which will be looking for consistency, context to jump into the rest of your essays, so be sure it hangs together, i.e., is well connected to the long term goals set out in Essay 1. Make your answer concise (well there’s no choice about that, given the character limit), and achievable (in a Columbia specific way if possible - does the firm where you envision yourself right after graduation recruit heavily at Columbia?).
A. Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals? (Maximum 500 words)
Aringo’s interviews with Columbia adcom members have stressed the importance of candidates who demonstrate the potential for entrepreneurship, management skills, internationalism, and of course leadership, leadership and leadership. Keep that in mind while deciding which accomplishments to bring out in both your Career Essay and ’personal experience’ essay.
Part A is a standard Career Goal Essay. Be sure your long and short term goals are both specific (your plan is grounded in reality and well thought out) and somewhat grandiose (they want to continue creating an impressive alumni base and to be sure a top program will be of real benefit to you). You’ve heard it before, but the keys here are to convince them that your past experiences connect to your goals (or that your reason for changing careers is personally compelling), showcase a professional achievement in the context of describing the skills you already possess toward your goal, and let them know which skills you lack, that Columbia will provide, of course, to enable you to achieve your goal. In the course of referring to your professional accomplishments, explain convincingly why this point in your career is the natural/perfect point to pursue an MBA.
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)
Though this essay topic is new this year, Columbia has asked it in a different form in past years. “Homework” will be the key to a successful answer, persuading the adcom not only that you know all about the Columbia community, but that it is a perfect fit for your interests and experiences. That said, the best way to do that is to show them that the interests and enthusiasms you’ve displayed in your life dovetail with the organizations and activities specific to the campus community. Network with current and past students, research personal role models who are Columbia alums, mention specific professors whose work has influenced you personally or professionally, visit the campus if you can; go deeper than just referring to the clubs and events in the links embedded in the question. The goal here is to convince them that it’s Columbia, not just any top tier business school, you want.
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)
This essay topic is similar to last year’s. Start by thinking about what you want to tell Columbia about who you are today. Are you a risk-taker, entrepreneur, have you lived abroad or in more than one country? Do define the person you are today in terms of attributes that will make you an asset to the Columbia community. In thinking of the personal experience that shaped you and led you to this point, describe how you thought, felt, and acted in response (make the essay about ‘process’) and make sure it expresses your uniqueness. Consider using an illustrative, moving, and/or entertaining anecdote (the adcom has a lot to read – engage the reader and make yourself stand out) as a thumbnail sketch of your personal strengths.
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)
It’s been said before but we’ll say it again. If you have something to explain that will reflect creditably on you, okay; if you have excuses to make, don’t!! If your grades weren’t tops because you were working full-time to support yourself and your family, or starting a fledgling business venture, or caring for an ill family member, say so. If your grades weren’t tops because you had not yet developed a work ethic, or a professor took a dislike to you, instead of sounding self-serving, it’s much better to instead let the adcom know through your accomplishments (not in this optional space) that those grades were not an accurate representation of your abilities.
The Aringo Team
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