Columbia Business School MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

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CBS 2018-19 MBA essay tips and deadlines

Columbia Business School has changed to two of its three required questions, leaving unchanged its short answer question, first essay question and optional essay question. Total word limits are the same as last year. The word limits are tight.

Columbia Business School Application Essay Tips

Goal: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)

No changes with this question. Note, it is a character (not word) limit. Your response must be significantly less than a tweet. What do you want to do professionally and in which industry immediately after earning your MBA?  Here are CBS’ examples of possible responses:

“Work in business development for a media company.”

“Join a strategy consulting firm.”

“Launch a data-management start-up.”

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.  And the subject in your response is assumed to be you. No need to waste characters by including “I.” 

Succinctly define your goal in terms of function (what you want to do) and the industry (or type of company) in which you want to do it. 

Columbia Business School 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 apparently liked the answers it received to this question, its longest, because it is back this year. CBS wants you to focus on your career goals not immediately after graduation, as in the short-answer question, but in the longer-term. They want to see how you believe your career will develop after that immediate post-MBA job.  This question does not ask you how CBS will help you achieve your goals. 

To answer this question realize that the readers already know what’s in your resume. Don’t repeat “your career path to date.” That’s a waste of valuable essay real estate and means you’re not telling them anything new or answering their question.

Do tell them what you want to do 3-5 years into the future, which should build on your first post-MBA job. Make sure to answer the long-term question and feel free to dream and aspire, but at the same time reveal an ambitious, but feasible professional goal.  

Columbia Business School Essay #2:

How will you take advantage of being "at the very center of business"? (250 Words) 
Please watch this short video featuring Dean Glenn Hubbard 

While Dean Hubbard's video is shorter, I believe the following video illustrates more effectively what "being at the very center of business" means.

Different from last year's question, this year's Essay 2 is very similar to the question that occupied this slot two and three years ago.

Really think about the points these videos are making: What does being at the center mean? Access to an infinite variety of opportunities. Proximity to thought leadership and executive leadership. Convergence of theory and practice. NYC is an — if not the — international business center. 

After watching the videos, reflect on how you intend to take advantage of the myriad opportunities and energy that reside at Columbia University and in New York City. How will you benefit from the entrepreneurial eco-system in New York and Columbia University? The ties to bio science and pharma? Madison Avenue?  The cutting-edge research and thought leadership? Not to mention the practitioners who lead Wall Street and teach at Columbia. Or will you explore the cultural riches of NYC and take advantage of the incredible business opportunities present in the arts and media?


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 write here about how you will take advantage of Madison and 5th Avenues as well as Columbia’s offerings. If you are interested in finance or consulting, Manhattan and all the businesses in it are at your feet. How will you benefit from this incredible location as well as the practitioners teaching at CBS and the strengths of Columbia's curriculum and program? Be specific.Final point: you don’t have to address all the points raised in the videos, but you do have to write persuasively about at least one.


Columbia Business School Essay #3:

Please provide an example of a team failure of which you have been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (250 words)

First of all think about what causes teams to fail. Accepted consultant Natalie Grinblatt Epstein brilliantly and briefly explores that topic in "Get a GRIP on Team Questions."  Secondly, realize that CBS is looking here for applicants who can examine their actions critically, learn from mistakes  -- both their own and others, and take responsibility for errors of commission and omission. 

In your response, succinctly describe the failure. analyze its causes, and what you would do differently. If you have room and an appropriate example, conclude with a later team experience when you successfully implemented the lesson you learned from the earlier team failure.

Columbia Business School Optional Essay:

Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 words)

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 challenge overcome in your personal background. 

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 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 2018 Application Deadlines:

CBS 2018-19 MBA Application Deadlines table

***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***

Get Accepted to CBS watch the webinar

Linda AbrahamBy Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted and co-author of the definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.


Related Resources:

Top MBA Essay Questions: How to Answer Them Right, a free guide
• Podcast Interview with the Columbia Business School Admissions Team, a podcast episode
What Does “At The Very Center of Business” Mean for CBS Applicants?

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