Columbia Business School 2020-2021 MBA Essay Tips and Application Deadlines

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There are many elements that set Columbia’s MBA program apart from other elite business schools. The two-pronged program duration is one significant difference, allowing students to choose what they value most about the business school experience.


This diversity of experience is reflected in Columbia’s required MBA application essays. Where many schools have switched to requiring just one or two essays, CBS asks prospective students to complete three, as well as a (very) short answer prompt.


Deadlines for Columbia Business School admission are:


  • Round one: October 2, 2021
    • This is the final deadline for January 2021 entry, and the early decision deadline for August 2021 entry
  • Round two: January 6, 2021
  • Round three: April 9, 2021


The short answer question requires applicants to be extremely focused on their goals when it comes to business schools. In responding, applicants have just 50 characters to explain to Columbia’s admissions committee their “immediate post-MBA professional goal”.


The examples given by the school, such as “Join a strategy consulting firm,” and “Launch a data-management start-up,” make it clear the committee is looking for a straightforward response.


Applicants who plan to continue with their current company or in their current industry shouldn’t have much trouble. If you’re planning to change career fields, it may be worth spending some of your word count acknowledging the change (e.g. “Transition to a banking role”, etc.).


Writing the First 2020-2021 Columbia MBA Application Essay


The most important thing you can do to increase your chances of being accepted to business school is to understand your own personal brand. If you haven’t thought about the term before, know that it’s not a piece of mindless fluff: it’s a key component of pursuing a career path that is both meaningful and fulfilling.


Understanding your personal brand doesn’t mean coming up with buzz words that make you sound smart or ambitious or well-connected or anything else. It means investing some time into thinking about what you value, where you’ve come from, and where you want to go.


Business schools will rarely ask you directly about your personal brand. But they will often ask you indirectly, as is the case with Columbia’s first essay prompt:


“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)


With this question, the adcom is making it clear that they don’t just want you to regurgitate a checklist of your qualifications. After all, business schools build their cohorts – and their reputations – on the potential of their students.


If you think of your personal brand as an arc, as a story, Columbia is asking: What’s the next chapter? What’s the fairy-tale ending? It’s your job to show them where you want to go, and how you plan to use your time at the school, and your career so far, as building blocks to achieving your goal.


Writing the Remaining 2020-2021 Columbia MBA Application Essays


In addition to the short answer question and longer-form essay, Columbia Business School asks prospective students to craft two shorter essays as a part of their application. The first of these is a typical “Why our school?” question:


“Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)


As with most questions of this type, the best approach is to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you’ve done your research when it comes to understanding what their school offers, how you will benefit from the courses and professionals connections you’ll be able to access, and what you hope to give back as an alumnus.


In addition to the traditional application essay, Columbia also asks prospective students for information that will personalize their application with a prompt reading:


“Tell us about your favorite book, movie or song and why it resonates with you.  (250 words)


It should go without saying that there is no real “right” or “wrong” answer for this prompt. Truly, the most important thing you can offer here is honesty. Trying to find the most “professional” book/ song/ movie is obviously a non-starter.


Instead, think about a piece of art you could easily talk about for an hour. Imagine you’re at a dinner party with your cohort – a large group of people you’ve never met. Can you hold your own talking about The Goofy Movie? The poems of e.e. cummings? Prince’s discography? What matters isn’t the specific choice of art or artist; it’s about the breadth of your interests and how well you can relate to others.


Changes for COVID-19


As of late July 2020, the faculty and staff at Columbia Business School are making plans for a return to on-campus instruction for fall 2020 admission. Safety plans include mandatory Covid-19 testing, mandatory flu vaccines, and completion of a return-to-work training program for all employees.


Are You Ready to Apply to Business School?


Times of upheaval can be a bit frightening when it comes to taking a big step like starting a business or applying for an MBA program. But chaos and uncertainty also makes for some of the biggest gains in the business world.


If you’re ready to take the next step toward a career that could truly make a difference, EXPARTUS can help. We’ve worked with applicants to the world’s top business schools for years, through good times and bad, and know exactly how to help your application stand out from the crowd. Give us a call today at 844.259.4506, and let’s get started.

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