Columbia’s MBA Apps Rose 3%

Columbia Business School - Ethan Baron photo

Columbia Business School – Ethan Baron photo

MBA applications to Columbia Business School rose for the fourth consecutive year, bumping up another  3% to for the Class of 2018.

The school received 6,008 applications in 2015-2016, up from 5,829 a year earlier. Columbia now joins a long list of top schools reporting increased application volume, including MIT Sloan, Cornell, Berkeley, Yale, and Michigan.

Amanda Carlson, assistant dean of admissions, credits the increase in part to a 14-city global tour led by Dean Glenn Hubbard this past year. “We have been inviting prospective students to participate in the Columbia Business School Centennial Celebrations,” says Carlson. “This has been a unique opportunity for the next generation of CBS students to connect with alumni and meet Dean Hubbard in their home regions.” The tour included stops in Tokyo, Japan, Mumbai, India, San Francisco, and Houston, among others. 


Going into the new admissions season, Carlson has made a few tweaks to the MBA application process, including allowing candidates to give longer responses to the school’s essay questions. “We have heard some feedback that candidates were eager to have more space in which to share about their candidacy and answer our essay questions,” she says. “By increasing the word count for two of our essays and providing recommended word-count ranges we are hopeful that this extra space will afford candidates the opportunity and space to communicate to our team as fully as they would like.”

The upper range for the word limit for essay #1 is 750 words instead of the 500-word cap last year and the upper range of the word limit for essay #2 is 500, double the 250 limit last year. The first prompt asks applicants to comment on their career goals going forward, and how the Columbia MBA will help them achieve those goals? The second uses the school’s marketing tag phrase and requires candidates to say how they would “take advantage of being ‘at the very center of business’ in New York. And a third prompt asks students to name what their cluster mates may be pleasantly surprised to learn about them in no more than 250 words.

“We did tweak our essay questions ever so slightly for this upcoming year,” adds Carlson. For essay #1 we remind the applicant to focus on the future, not on the past which we can see on the resume. In essay #2, we ask the candidate to delve deeper into the real advantages of getting an MBA in the business capital of the world. For essay 3, we stress the word ‘pleasantly.’ We want people to smile reading this essay. And, least importantly, we increased the short goal from 50 to 51 characters. That’s an obvious wink of the eye to those who think this is maybe too difficult,” says Directof of Admissions Bob Shea. 


At Columbia Business School, the admissions teams maintains that collaboration is an important part of the admissions process and a valued part of their culture. Anne Carnahan, associate director of admissions, says, “Creating a highly diverse class is of utmost importance at CBS and we collaborate as an admissions team to select candidates who come from diverse professional, racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Each student brings something unique to the table and together they create a diverse community that values their differences and celebrates inclusion. Our admissions team is hard at work on our Fall programming and is excited to offer prospective students a chance to see inside the distinct academic areas of interest as well as events to connect with women, LGBTQ, military, Hispanic, and Black student communities at CBS.”

Last year, Columbia admitted 1,048 of the 5,829 applicants, enrolling a total class of 762 students, with 559 starting in August and 203 starting in the school’s January cohort. Some 42% of the class were from outside the U.S., while 36% were women. Though students average five years of work experience, the range was between three and seven years. Students averaged 28 years of age, though the youngest was only 22 and the oldest was 40. The school posted a 715 GMAT average for the class, with the lowest score being a 500 and the highest a 780.

Speaking about the latest incoming class, Carlson says, “This year’s incoming students are interested in a broader range of disciplines, more so than ever before and they have a wider range of experiences. We see folks who want to not only focus on retail, family businesses, entrepreneurship and social enterprise but who also have experience in those fields as well and who want to expand their knowledge base.”