What You Need To Know When Applying to Columbia Business School


If you’re vying for one of the coveted spots in the MBA program at Columbia Business School you should know what Columbia is looking for, when you should apply, and Veritas Prep’s advice on writing successful essays in order to submit your best application.

What Columbia Is Looking For

Intellectual, professional achievers.

Columbia Business School looks for intellectually driven people from diverse educational, economic, social, cultural, and geographic backgrounds. Its admissions process favors candidates with a history of high academic achievement; those with serious blemishes on their undergraduate record tend to have more difficulty securing an offer from Columbia. Columbia students also share a record of professional achievement, clearly visible on their resumes. Columbia looks for students who are curious and informed about the world, and it tends to favor applicants who are proficient in a language beyond English. Columbia also looks for students who embody leadership, particularly in terms of social intelligence, self-awareness, and behavioral analysis. Effective and polished communications skills are a given—as is the expectation that those baseline levels can (and will) be raised during the Columbia experience.

When Should You Apply

Apply as early as you can*

Because of Columbia’s rolling admissions process, applications are evaluated in the order received, which means there are fewer and fewer slots available as time goes by. An application received in March or April simply doesn’t have the same odds of success as one that is submitted in October or November. For most of you, it makes sense to submit your Columbia application first, not last. We recommend applying by the end of October or earlier for the best results. Even though Columbia doesn’t have traditional rounds, our standard advice still holds: We recommend that you apply earlier rather than later, especially if you’re a traditional applicant from management consulting or finance. With rolling admissions, the flow of applications is harder to predict, and if you wait too long, the school might have hit its limit on CPAs or engineers.

* Even though it’s almost always a good idea to apply as early as possible, this does not mean that you should apply with a rushed application or a mediocre GMAT score. There’s no sense in applying early if you’re just going to be denied. A GMAT score that’s above the school’s average will do more for your candidacy than applying in the first week after the Early Decision deadline.

Advice On Writing Successful Essays

The Columbia admissions process evaluates applicants on three dimensions:

  • Academic strength, measured by the GMAT and undergraduate/graduate transcripts, as well as any professional certifications like the CFA.
  • Personal characteristics, which need to be demonstrated throughout the essays and recommendations, but most critically coming through via specific examples in your essays.
  • Professional promise, measured more acutely at Columbia than most any other top program. This is Columbia’s assessment of whether your career goals are valid, feasible, and achievable.

As you can see, your essays are an integral component of your application.

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)

Two very important things to keep in mind with this essay: 1) Make sure your goals are researched, realistic and real, and 2) show that you have the vision and ambition to really make a positive impact. We go into depth about both of these points in the essay advice section of the Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

Essay 2:

How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? Click photo to view video. (250 words)

Be sure to actually watch the video that launches when you click on the photo. In your essay response, show how you’ll take advantage of the unique opportunities Columbia offers. What specifically does Columbia offer you that is perhaps not available at the other top business schools (especially other schools in New York) that you might be interested in? Go beyond just the obvious professional opportunities, and consider also writing about the social benefits of immersing yourself in the Columbia culture and going to business school in New York City. This is a great opportunity to weave in what you’ve learned from speaking to current students and alumni.

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)

Note that they specifically ask you to write about a team failure here. An important part of teamwork is being accountable, and an important part of a strong answer to this question is showing what you learned and how you grew because of this experience. Did you become a better leader, teammate or team member? Tell them how you changed.

We hope you found the above information helpful. For more insights and advice, check out Veritas Prep’s Essential Guide to Top Business Schools. To speak with an MBA admissions expert, call us at 1-800-925-7737.  Or sign up for a free consultation to discuss how we can help you get accepted to the school of your dreams. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.



Veritas Prep is the largest privately-owned test prep and admissions consulting company in the world. Since 2002, Veritas Prep’s team of experienced consultants has helped thousands of applicants gain admission to their dream schools. Contact us today to find out how we can help you!

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