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Columbia Business School 2016-2017 Essay Tips and Application Deadlines

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Unlike many other American MBA programs, Columbia Business School has only two admissions deadlines – early and regular decision. Those deadlines are:

– Early Decision: October 5

– Regular Decision: April 12

The later deadline gives you a bit more time to focus on their three essay questions, which total a maximum of 1,500 words. Columbia Business School’s 2016 MBA essays are:

– Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (100-750 words)

– Columbia Business School’s students participate in industry focused New York immersion seminars; in project based Master Classes; and in school year internships. Most importantly, our students are taught by a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (100-500 words)

– CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Cluster mates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (100-250 words)


The first question is typical of most MBA programs, all of which want to know how current applicants will act as future alumni. To answer it successfully:

– Be specific: Don’t tell admissions officials that you want to go into consulting or finance. Tell them what branch of finance, what type of industry you would like to work for, or what size company you are targeting. Any specifics that you can honestly give will help to set you apart from other incoming MBAs.

– Connect the dots: Show admissions officials how your current career applies to your future goals, and more importantly, show them how Columbia can help you get there. Again, it is important to draw specific connections between what Columbia offers and what you want to do.

– Think both short and long-term: Outline the steps you are considering immediately after graduating from an MBA program, and then zoom out and tell the committee what you would like your career to accomplish. The latter view does not have to be as specific as your short-term goals, but it should illustrate what you are striving for, as a professional and as a person.

The second question zeroes in on one of Columbia’s biggest selling points: its location at the heart of New York City. Columbia is looking for students who can harness and make use of that unique energy.

– Do your research: This question requires significant research, both on the various programs that Columbia offers in New York and on the industries and companies that interest you in the city. Don’t skimp on details – make sure you devote significant amount of time to research and outline what you want to include before you begin.

– Emphasize experience over academics: This question focuses on experiential learning opportunities. It is a great place to tie in professional experiences that you have enjoyed in the past or professional skills that you want to gain for the future. Make sure that the majority of your essay focuses on the real-world experience you possess and how to improve it.

– Highlight key personality traits: While you should certainly focus on the aspects of New York City that you are most excited about, don’t forget to show the admissions committee why they should be excited about you. Emphasize how your strengths – you personal brand – can fit in with the energy, excitement and innovation that fuels New York.

The third question focuses on a presentation that new MBA students give to their classmates at Columbia, called CBS Matters. Similar to Stanford’s famed essay question, the program asks Columbia students to share “what matters most to them” with their classmates. The third essay question lets applicants give admissions officials a preview of that presentation.

– Bring in fresh material: This is a great place to tell admissions officials about something that you have not had the chance to mention in your application. Or, if you want to talk about something already in your application, this is a great place to offer a new angle or detail. The admissions committee, like your future classmates, should leave the essay thinking, “Wow, I had no idea…”

– Speak from the heart: The other two essays give you ample opportunity to highlight your business prowess and goals. This one should highlight your heart. Reflect carefully on what matters most to you and share that as genuinely as you can.

– Remember the importance of story: Often, a short narrative is a wonderful and powerful way to convey your passion about a particular topic. Think about anecdotes that could illustrate what you are trying to say. If you do end up making a CBS Matters presentation, it will likely include a few stories that you love to tell. Consider sharing one of those here. Then, conclude by tying the story back to the main point – what matters to you and how that topic has shaped you as a person.

Columbia’s essay section, in part because it is pretty long for an MBA application, is a great opportunity to share several different facets of your personal brand. You have room to be specific, to share stories and to really emphasize what makes you a unique MBA candidate for their program.

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