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2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed

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2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 15 May 2011, 14:17
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Hi all,
We have another blog post to share that we believe everyone will find helpful. This time, we break down Columbia's 2012 essays:

http://educatedoutcomes.wordpress.com/2 ... -essays-2/

Please enjoy!

Respectfully,
Paul Lanzillotti
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 16 May 2011, 09:32
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Great question and apologies for not making that clear - because the difference is huge.

They like to see a back-up plan. In our opinion, they do NOT like to see "unique" career paths. In fact, it is the opposite. And both of those seem to stem from the same place: lessons learned from the spring of 2009, when all the i-banks just vanished overnight and they had a bunch of people floundering, trying to figure out what to do. The more niche the career interest, the less resilient the student, the harder it was to place them. CBS seemed to decide that spring to never be in that situation again. They've made career services a bigger part of their admissions process (there are rumors that career services has a "veto" right on any "close call" candidate if the career goals don't seem realistic) and we've even heard stories of students getting pulled in by the admissions office prior to their alumni interview, with instructions to "adjust" their career goals.

The rule of thumb is this for Columbia career goals:

- Make sure you can land the job you describe

- Make sure that you *do* need the knowledge, network, and pedigree of Columbia - or at least the access to recruiters - to take this step (in other words, don't make it too aspirational, but you also don't want to list a job that you can get just by walking down the street)

- Avoid niche industries like fashion, sports, media, or other places where job prospects have shrunk to almost nothing (a confusing thing for applicants because Columbia does have strong programs in such areas, such as luxury goods - still a total stay-away)

- Make sure to include a secondary, back-up ("alternate") short-term career path that still gets you to your long-term goal (this is basically a way to say "look, sometimes crazy things happen in life and if for any reason I can't do X, I will pursue Y."
NOTE: This is pretty unique to Columbia, so please don't perceive it as a sea change in the MBA space. Some schools - Tuck, Ross, and Haas, to name a few - have expressed some curiosity at seeing back-up plans in place and so many programs might not mind it, but we don't believe there are any other b-schools who *need* to see what your Plan B looks like
NOTE #2: This line of reasoning is reinforced by the very common Columbia interview question "What will you do this fall if you don't get in?" - A lot of attention paid to contingency plans here

- Make sure that you display experiences and accomplishments that point to specific transferable skills that you will need in your post-MBA job - never just state experience and accomplishments and leave it to the reader to fill in the gaps; this is a major error that 90% of applicants make

In all, we strongly recommend working with a vetted consultant on your Columbia app. Not only is there a clear "right way" to do it (while a school like Tuck or GSB might favor more personal expression, thus mitigating the value of a good consultant a bit), but once you have the CBS career goals essay nailed, you will be able to build from that for over a dozen other schools. If we were going to rank MBA programs based on the idea of "how much value a good consultant can add," Columbia would be at the top of the list. Not to turn this into a big sales pitch, because that really is not the point (we will soon be full for Rd 1 anyway), but it was starting to feel obvious so I just went ahead and said it.

Good luck out there!

Respectfully,

Paul Lanzillotti
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 01:55
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Etries, you should definitely hit us up for a free consult - just email mba@amerasiaconsulting.com. Short answers though - we tend to think you avoid "explaining" weaknesses if that means apologizing for them or coming up with a tired excuse. But if you want to "explain" a weakness by demonstrating evidence of power in that same area, then by all means. So for low GMAT, you should show strong intellect, strong problem solving and problem management skills, strong quant skills, and strong verbal skills ... voila, you have now demonstrated the very things the test covers. Can you duck the numerical impact on the class average (and, thus, the rankings)? Not likely. But contextual arguments within the essays are the strongest way to mitigate a weakness. Never just state it and then give an excuse.

As for your age, it's nothing but a number. What matters more is where you are in your career arc, how you interact with different ages of people, can you integrate, lead + follow, and - most importantly - does the degree still make a ton of sense. If the MBA is appropriate, your age won't matter much at most schools. Some (ahem, HBS) are getting younger, no doubt about it. Others (Kellogg, Haas) are staying entrenched in a bit older numbers. The rest are more or less just finding great applicants and going with it - and more good applicants are younger these days, so the overall #s have inched down. But it's no grand conspiracy to cut out "older" applicants. If you are 33 and this degree makes since and you have a story to tell, own and sell it. Make it happen.

Hcueva, you are welcome.

GiJoedude, we liked it too, because it created such a massive information advantage for those in the know. So many people bungled that essay last year that obviously CBS had no choice to but to make some changes. Too bad for our clients and others locked in, because that was proving to be an easy way to stand out. That said, as our blog post indicates, we still think this application is like putting together IKEA furniture - follow the directions carefully, take breaks for Swedish meatballs, don't cut any corners, and then it will *usually* turn out just like you planned. Few MBA programs have shown their hand like Columbia and it's just up to everyone on this side of the fence to avoid the disaster errors and to scoop up all the points. Game time!

Thanks for commenting, all three of you.

Best,
Paul
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 16 May 2011, 07:15
Hi Paul,

Thanks for the link, it is very useful.

One quick question: what do you guys mean by "Columbia likes an alternate career path"? Does it mean they want to see unique career paths in that essay, or that we must tell them about our main plan and an alternate one in case we can't get our first option?

Thanks!
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 16 May 2011, 14:13
Hi Paul!

Do you think that I should explain in my essays a low GPA being an international student?

Could my age (almost 33 at the beginning of the MBA) be a disadvantage to get in? Do I need to comment it too?

Thank you in advance,

Etreus
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 16 May 2011, 17:23
Thanks for the info!
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 17 May 2011, 07:13
Columbia is a dream school. I actually found last year's essay 2 to be quite interesting. I wish they had kept it.
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 19 May 2011, 06:51
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I forgot to mention that the Essay #2 from two years ago - the one about Master Classes - is another hint for this year's applicant. You would be wise to at least mention it in the Why Columbia section of your career goals essay.
-PL
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 23 May 2011, 10:35
Hi Paul,

I've done 2 years of investment banking and looking to change careers the first step of which includes working for an NGO in the next year. I plan to submit my MBA application before I actually do the switch from IB to NGO while I can still get strong recommendations from my bosses. How would I work in the work that I will be doing for a year before starting my MBA into my essays? is that kind of what the 4th optional essay is for? do you have any idea how long that should be?

Thanks a lot,

Chris
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 24 May 2011, 23:19
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Hi Chris, go ahead and PM me, email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com, or even post in the Ask Paul forum ... just so we can keep this thread focused specifically on the Columbia essays.

But the short answer is that you want to make sure that your career decisions and steps are central to your explanation of your goals. Which, of course, further means that your decisions and steps should be central to your progress and goals to begin with. As long as what you are doing makes sense, then you will want to discuss it for sure.

Thanks for reaching out.

-PL
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 03 Jun 2011, 08:10
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Hi all,

We have been getting a lot of questions about the new Columbia essays, so I wanted to bump this thread up to get more visibility on our blog post on the subject. People have found our insights on this particular matter helpful, so we just want to make sure people see it and have a chance to read it before emailing or calling. (Not that we don't want to hear from you as well:)

Good luck out there.

-PL
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 06 Jun 2011, 09:49
Count me in for 2nd round application (Columbia).

What is the current Columbia's top MBA ranking?
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 08 Jun 2011, 11:43
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Izvos,

Note that Columbia does not have "rounds" in the traditional sense. They have an Early Decision intake with an October deadline. This is binding application, meaning that if you are accepted, you are obligated to put down a deposit on a seat in the class. Then they have "regular" decision, running through the spring. In actuality, we feel like early January acts a round two of sorts with CBS.

As for its ranking, Columbia is seemingly always in the top 10 among U.S. business schools. The degree tends to have good "carry" though, meaning that pretty much all pockets of the world recognize CBS and think it is a good school. So while there might be some - even several - programs that can make a case for being "better," you could argue that CBS has top five level brand equity, especially in the NE and abroad.

Anyway, hopefully that helps you out.

-PL
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 09 Jun 2011, 21:51
PaulLanzillotti wrote:
Izvos,

Note that Columbia does not have "rounds" in the traditional sense. They have an Early Decision intake with an October deadline. This is binding application, meaning that if you are accepted, you are obligated to put down a deposit on a seat in the class. Then they have "regular" decision, running through the spring. In actuality, we feel like early January acts a round two of sorts with CBS.

As for its ranking, Columbia is seemingly always in the top 10 among U.S. business schools. The degree tends to have good "carry" though, meaning that pretty much all pockets of the world recognize CBS and think it is a good school. So while there might be some - even several - programs that can make a case for being "better," you could argue that CBS has top five level brand equity, especially in the NE and abroad.

Anyway, hopefully that helps you out.

-PL


Thank you. Your post is very helpful! Will consider it during application!
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 11 Jun 2011, 08:12
Hi Paul,

Appreciate your valuable insight on Columbia's preference for safe career paths being reflected in a candidate's application.

However my question is, does it differ for someone who intents to pursue entrepreneurial goals immediately post MBA.

Because, my understanding says that any entrepreneurial goal will stem from either huge demand in an industry which may not be unique or from creating a new business proposition or market of its own, which may be unique.

So if your reason belongs to the latter category, will it hamper your prospects.

I'm also writing this because, I intent to pursue a career in waste management & recycling industry as an entrepreneur, not only post my MBA but preferably even during the term at Columbia

While this may not be a run of the mill industry, but it has great potential in a country like India and can also draw lot from the various resources of Columbia (Master Classes in Business of Sustainability) and its subsidiary schools & centers (Earth & Environmental Engg, WTE Center, etc)

So if I highlight this in my application, do you think it'll work for or against me.
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 13 Jun 2011, 10:34
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Entrepreneurship can work at CBS, but there are some key things to keep in mind, just as with literally another other job:

- Do you have the skills to make it work?
- What evidence do you have that the path is there for you (contacts, momentum, steps already taken)? (Note: entrepreneurship always is a higher bar at any school, because it is so easy to just say "I want to start this" and so many people do that now, so they all want to see a habit of starting things, some progress, or at least detailed vision)
- Make sure you present a backup plan in case you change your mind, the industry shifts, it is harder than you think, etc.

As long as you show thoughtfulness, practicality, due diligence, resilience, etc., it's not as if trying to start your own things is inherently better or worse than trying to land a job at an elite firm. All have degrees of difficulty. It's up to you to put the reader at ease, regardless of your approach.

Hope that helps.

-PL
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 18 Jun 2011, 17:44
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Entrepreneurship can work at CBS, but there are some key things to keep in mind, just as with literally another other job:

- Do you have the skills to make it work?
- What evidence do you have that the path is there for you (contacts, momentum, steps already taken)? (Note: entrepreneurship always is a higher bar at any school, because it is so easy to just say "I want to start this" and so many people do that now, so they all want to see a habit of starting things, some progress, or at least detailed vision)
- Make sure you present a backup plan in case you change your mind, the industry shifts, it is harder than you think, etc.

As long as you show thoughtfulness, practicality, due diligence, resilience, etc., it's not as if trying to start your own things is inherently better or worse than trying to land a job at an elite firm. All have degrees of difficulty. It's up to you to put the reader at ease, regardless of your approach.

Hope that helps.

-PL
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 19 Jun 2011, 00:17
It appears this year there is no mention of a re-applicant essay. I did not find it in your blog post and it is not mentioned on the website either. Upto last year, they used to have just one essay that re-applicants could write. They did not really allowed reapplicants to fill out an entire application. What do you infer from this move of Columbia?
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 19 Jun 2011, 13:58
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Kittu,

It depends on whether it has been a year or more since you last applied. More than a year, you start fresh. Less than a year, you do the single reapp essay.

They break it down here: http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/mba/admiss ... plications

We did not comment on the reapplication essay because it remains unchanged. Obviously, we have many reapplicant clients applying to CBS so this is a an essay we work on a great deal, but not one that we have analyzed publicly. You can email mba@amerasiaconsulting.com if you are interested in engaging our services.

-PL
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Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed [#permalink] New post 20 Jun 2011, 19:51
Hi Paul,

would like to hear your suggestions on the essay #3 option B. If I were to write to run for the cluster chair. Should I focus on my past experience on similar role to show my capability or "leadership" or should I focus on the understanding I have on CBS cluster system and what would I plan to do if I were selected?

Cause it's only 250 words got to find where to focus.

Thanks a lot!
Re: 2012 Columbia Essays Analyzed   [#permalink] 20 Jun 2011, 19:51
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