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Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2019

The higher number of applications didn’t dilute the quality, however. This year, the class enters with a 724 average GMAT, up seven points from the previous year. Aside from being two points higher than the incoming class at MIT Sloan, the Class of 2019’s GMAT also represents a 10-point improvement over the past five years. That wasn’t the only area where the incoming class raised the bar for those following in their footsteps. The percentage of women also jumped from 38% to 41%, an all-time high that outpaces rivals like Chicago Booth and NYU Stern. U.S. minorities now account for over a third of the class, up three points over the 2016-2017 cycle. However, these gains were offset by the international student population, which dropped from 48% to 43% in a year, a number than can be explained by a 3% drop in the overall percentage of international applicants.

How is this class different than its predecessors? It boasts a much stronger STEM flavor. The percentage of students holding engineering degrees doubled from 8% to 17%. The sciences did the same, jumping from 3% to 7%. By the same token, the social sciences and humanities both lost ground with the incoming class, falling from 34% to 32% and 9% to 6% respectively. Overall, business majors constituted the largest bloc of students at 32%. Such shifts were less pronounced, however, in terms of professional backgrounds. If anything, banking may be bouncing back, with 29% of the class hailing from financial services, up four points. Consulting also gained two points to 22%, though marketing and media – a Columbia staple – slipped three points to 10%. Private equity and technology professionals held steady at 7% each for the second consecutive year while real estate comprises 6% of the class.

columbia business school new building

An artist’s rendering of Columbia Business School’s two-building complex due to open in 2022

BEEFING UP IN THE STARTUP SPACE

The New York City startup ecosystem is exploding. According to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the tech marketplace alone raised nearly $10 billion in investment last year, while being responsible for nearly 300,000 jobs and $125 billion dollars in revenue. And Columbia is hoping to capitalize on its connections to this all-important sector. Already renowned for its Lean Launchpad and Startup Lab, the program has also created cbsstartups.com, a site designed to better connect CBS students with alumni founders and investors who can help them navigate the startup process, land early stage jobs, or access capital. “It’s a great resource for jobs, fundraising, marketing and overall networking, says Michael Malone, associate dean for the MBA program. “It is a unique tool done in partnership with Crunchbase.”

What’s more, it plays to Columbia’s home field advantage. “Where Columbia is differentiated is the fact that we are based in New York City where we have a thriving ecosystem of companies in every single industry at every single stage, says Vince Ponzo, executive director of the Lang Center for Entrepreneurship in a 2017 interview with Poets&Quants. “And what you get at Columbia Business School in addition to that in-classroom education…is the ability to learn experientially through the programs we have or the internship you can do, because you can hop on a train and be at a startup or VC firm or through taking the treks to startups in the city that happen every week. It’s not only the content in the classroom, but you’re literally in the middle of one of the world’s biggest entrepreneurial ecosystems.”

Entrepreneurship isn’t the only new development at Columbia. Socially, the school is also launching Uris Unplugged, which Malone describes as “an off-campus event that enables students to directly and openly interact with esteemed alumni in a small group setting,” where they can get “career insight, leadership, and candid observations.” To further build cohesion within the program, Columbia is also introducing its Supper Club, student-hosted dinners where classmates can informally mix to build relationships.

Down the road, the big news revolves around a new building to replace Uris Hall. A 12-story concrete slab, Uris could’ve doubled for a bureaucratic outpost in East Germany if not the school’s heavy investments in renovating and modernizing the interior to be more colorful and include all the newest tech toys. When built, the new hub will boast 492,000 square feet and span two buildings as part of a larger campus expansion to the north. “The best project always takes the greatest amount of time,” says Christopher Cashman, a spokesperson for Columbia Business School. “We have our eyes set on 2021. The biggest challenge is also the biggest advantage. There are already some other habitants so we will join a vibrant community.”

A  CLUB FOR (ALMOST) EVERY INTEREST

Columbia Business School MBA students on their 2016 swing through West Coast companies. Courtesy photo

Vibrant may describe the university as a whole, but diverse is probably the best description for the Class of 2019 in particular. Call Columbia the “Rorschach” school, where each class member is joining for a different reason – a testament to the program’s rich and robust menu of courses and activities. Lamson, for example, is looking forward to the school’s many clubs – over 100 in all – that cater both to broad and specialized interests. Along with the usual clubs focused on investment management, consulting, and healthcare, CBS features organizations targeting more niche interests like FinTech, sports business, and media management – and that doesn’t include regional-centered interests stretching from Africa to Eastern Europe to Australia. Better yet, the program is packed with personal interest clubs like micro brewing, sailing, gourmet food, surfing, bicycling, wine, snow sports and even (wait for it) squash.

“There is an affinity club or professional organization for nearly anything you might be able to think of except fantasy sports,” Lamson jokes. “Maybe I’ll start a Sports Analytics Club to fill that need.”

Other first-years pointed to Columbia’s acumen in specific industries. Tarrant calls retail her passion. However, Columbia’s best selling point was a curriculum that would go far beyond the nuts-and-bolts of merchandising. “What made Columbia so attractive was access to the best of retail across many different segments (mass, luxury, online) and many of the hottest retail startups,” she asserts. “I love that I can do school-year internships at some of the companies I admire so much! At the same time, as a younger candidate, I am interested in consulting as a way to get exposure to more types of business problems and different geographies.”

Not surprisingly, finance was another popular choice for the Class of 2019. Allen can’t wait to tap into the minds of what she calls “the brightest minds in the investment industry.” In contrast, Aldo J. Schenone, who’s fluent in the world’s universal language – soccer, was impressed by the practitioners who come into the classroom to share hard-earned, real world insights to students. Better yet, adds Schenone, the New York locale provides a flexibility that is unmatched. “Columbia’s location allows students to pursue buy side roles at both large and boutique investment management firms, being a huge advantage given how competitive the industry is.”

Like most schools, the community made the biggest impression on undecided applicants. That was true for Bhatia, who appreciated how accessible that alumni and students were for her. However, she didn’t make up her mind until she sat in on a class during a campus visit. “It was the only school I had visited where the professors made the time to give the prospective students an overview of their class, and made time to answer any questions we had after the class had ended,” she recalls. “The classroom interaction I observed not only highlighted the number of different backgrounds and perspectives present in one class, but also demonstrated that the students communicate constructive feedback and ideas to each other in a sincere and kind manner.”

Columbia University – Ethan Baron photo

Community also weighed heavily on Simone Hill, who made the unenviable transition from writer to engineer after studying anthropology at Princeton. She was struck by CBS Matters events, where students open up and present what defines and matters most to them in front of their cluster. “CBS Matters… made me feel CBS embraced the variety and diversity that students brought to the table beyond their professional persona,” she says.

Looking to spring, how will the Class of 2019 define success? Kohli plans to seek out challenges: “For me, challenge parallels growth,” she states. Hill will look towards her classmates to benchmark her progress. “The ultimate measure of success for me is not just what I can achieve as an individual, but whether I’ve enabled others to achieve their own success as well.” For McCampbell, success simply means coming away with no regrets. “I want to be able to look back on the year and say that I took advantage of every opportunity I could and that I was never afraid to truly put myself out there.”

To read profiles of incoming Columbia MBA students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.

DON’T MISS: MEET COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL’S MBA CLASS OF 2018 OR THE PIONEERING MBAs OF THE CLASS OF 2019

Student Hometown Alma Mater Employer
 Chi Achebe  Ogidi, Nigeria  University of Pennsylvania  African Leadership Academy
 Ashley Allen  NA  University of of Maryland, Baltimore County  Fidelity Investments
 Aditi Bhatia  Mumbia, India  Brown University  Temasek Holdings
 John Christopher  Fort Lauderdale, FL  Washington & Lee University  The Oda Foundation
 Shivani Hajela  Monroe, NY  Cornell University  Macy’s
 Simone Hill  Atlanta, GA  Princeton University  Conde Nast (Vogue)
 Nivedita Kohli  New Delhi, India  New York: Fashion Institute of Technology  Ralph Lauren
 Sam Lamson  Mukilteo, WA  Duke University  U.S. Navy
 Joseph Maier  Lumberton, TX  Lamar University  U.S. Army
 Brandon McCampbell  Warrenton, VA  United States Coast Guard Academy  United States Coast Guard
 Aldo J. Schenone  Lima, Peru  Bentley University  UBS Private Wealth Management
 Celine Tarrant  Toronto, Canada  Queen’s University  Walmart Canada