You want to go to Columbia Business School?
Get ready to pour your heart out to the school and to New York City in your Columbia Business School essays.
Columbia wants to know why you want a Columbia MBA and not just any old MBA. The school has always had an undeserved inferiority complex and worries that you’re only asking them to the prom in case the homecoming queen is busy that night.
Intel on Columbia’s admissions office reveals that CBS is extremely sensitive to yield and wants to be certain that they are your first choice among the top business schools. It’s one of the key reasons they have an early decision program. Clearly, the secret to winning the heart of the Admissions Committee is to show that you know and love Columbia. (And maybe even the Mets.)
Question 1: Given your individual background and goals, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (Maximum 500 words)
Start by doing your homework. What makes CBS unique? (Yes, the New York thing but there is a whole essay devoted to that.) In your essay answer, tell them why CBS is an ideal fit for you and your future career goals.
If you’ve followed CBS’ evolution over the past few years, you’ll know that they’ve revamped the Core Curriculum and put an even greater emphasis on individual leadership. Electives are still strongest in the areas of finance and value investing, though innovation, strategy, and personnel management are among the most sought-after MBA courses.
Many of CBS’ professors have been in the news, but avoid name dropping. Instead, explain to the committee what you hope to gain by studying with these hot shots and be specific about what you’ll bring to the community. If you’ve had the opportunity to spend time on the Columbia Business School campus, let the admissions committee know what you got from that experience (in addition to the free pizza).
Question 2: How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)
CBS is getting as much mileage as possible out of their new slogan – “At The Very Center of Business.” Now, those of you who know your New York City geography may take issue with the school claiming the center, but setting that aside, understand that the underlying question is: Why would anyone choose to go for an MBA in Boston or Philadelphia when New York City is an option?
What will the breadth and depth of opportunities available throughout NYC mean for your two years at Columbia? What will regular exposure to trendsetters, market-makers, and up-and-comers do for you? What is the one thing that you can do only in New York? (And no, Gray’s Papaya doesn’t count. Though a mention of Koronet might pull at CBS heartstrings.)
Question 3: What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)
“Cluster” is CBS’ word for “section,” the group of ~65 students that you’ll be with for your core (i.e., first year of the MBA). The administration spends a lot of effort composing clusters that represent a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and personality types, so they really do want to know about what you will bring to the party. If you’ve done your job with the first two questions, they know why you like them; now tell them why they should like you. Be honest and show your sensitive side and personality. Your essay should be endearing, authentic, possibly funny, and definitely “surprising.”
Long story short, Columbia Business School isn’t going to settle for being your backup date – and that means they won’t settle for recycled essay answers. You must start from scratch and personalize your message and story. Over the years, many great writers have written love letters to New York. Now’s your chance.