Columbia Business School 2014 MBA Essay Tips

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ColumbiaBusinessSchoolWith its application questions this year, Columbia continues the industry-wide trend towards ever shorter essays, although it did not reduce the number of essays. Specifically:

• Its question about your immediate post-MBA goal has gone from 200 to 100 characters. Yes, that was characters, not words.
• Last year, Columbia had three required essays, two with 500-word limits and one with a 250-word limit. This year, that's reversed; two have 250-word limits and one has a 500-word limit.

In short, you will need to make every word, indeed every character, count.

My tips are in blue below.

Applicants must complete one short answer question and three essays.

Short Answer Question:

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (100 characters maximum)

Note the character limit. Your response must be less than a tweet. What do you want to do professionally and in which industry immediately after earning your MBA? You may want to provide a geographic location if it is important to your MBA goal.

Warning: This question is not asking about intended area of study while in business school or a non-professional goal or even a long-term goal.


1. Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (Maximum 500 words)

This is a new question. What aspects of your background are motivating you to pursue your MBA at Columbia now? On one hand, you can talk about any element of your background that has steered you in CBS' direction. That can be fun and interesting, and that part of the question is very open-ended.

However, in order to answer the Why Columbia and Why Now part of the question, you will need to really know the Columbia program as well as why you want at CBS MBA at this point in your career.

The essay that shines will do a great job of showing both fit and self-awareness.

2. Columbia Business School is located in the heart of the world's business capital - Manhattan. How do you anticipate that New York City will impact your experience at Columbia? (Maximum 250 words)
Please view the videos below:

New York City - limitless possibilities
New York City - fast paced and adaptable

After watching those videos, think about how you intend to take advantage of the infinite opportunities and energy that is New York City. Will it be the ability to stretch your wings and live in the Big City after having grown up in a small rural area? Will it be exploring the cultural riches of NYC? Taking advantage of the incredible business opportunities.

Be careful not to speak of those opportunities in the generalities that I have. If you are interested in luxury goods marketing, as stated in your short answer, then talk here about how you will take advantage of Madison and 5th Avenues. If you are interested in finance or consulting, Manhattan and all the businesses in it are at your feet. How will you take advantage of this incredible location? If you love art, whether it's part of your professional goals or is an avocation, what museums do you intend to transform into a second home?

Keep in mind that 250 words in approximately three paragraphs.

3. What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

Make sure you understand Columbia's Cluster System.

Again, you only have 250 words here. I would use them to bring out something fun that you like to do now. Would you try to get your cluster to train for a marathon? Set up a karaoke night? Plan a ski trip? How have you contributed to social groups in the past? Relate you plans to a past successful initiative, and you will enhance your answer to this question.

Or perhaps you would take a slightly more serious approach to this question and discuss a challenge overcome. Show that you are a survivor, not a victim and far stronger as a result of this experience. If you take this approach, don't make it too heavy or too personal. You will have barely met these people.

Optional Essay. An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.

Clearly you can use this optional essay question to address a weakness in your profile or qualifications, but in my mind, this question is also open-ended enough to allow you to discuss a diversity element in your personal background or simply some unique area of interest. Also, tucking a weakness explanation somewhere else would allow you to end the application with a strength and not a flaw.

Don’t use this essay as a grand finale or wrap up. And definitely don’t use it to rehash your reasons for wanting to attend Columbia; those reasons should be perfectly clear from the required essays. If you decide to respond to this essay, use it to educate the reader about another talent, interest, or commitment of yours. As always try to show leadership and impact. In short, give them more reasons to admit you.

Knight-Bagehot Fellows. Rather than answer Essay 1, Part A above, current Knight-Bagehot Fellows applying to Columbia Business School should use the space allocated to the first essay (500 words) to complete the Wiegers Fellowship application essay.

If you would like professional guidance with your Columbia Business School MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the CBS MBA application.

Columbia Business School Application Deadlines

August 2014 Entry

Early Decision: October 2, 2013
Merit Fellowship Consideration: January 6, 2014
Regular Decision: April 9, 2014

January 2014 Entry

October 2, 2013

*All deadlines are 11:59 p.m. EST on the date listed.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.'s experienced admissions consultants can help you create the most impressive application possible with comprehensive packages, or provide targeted assistance from picking perfect programs to designing a dazzling resume, constructing engaging essays, or preparing for intense interviews…and more! has guided thousands of applicants to acceptances at top MBA programs since 1994 – we know what works and what doesn't, so contact us to get started now!

This article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of

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