Columbia Business School 2019-2020 MBA Deadlines

The biggest two-year increase in average GMAT score for a top-25 school came at Columbia Business School, which jumped 8 points from 724 to 732, joining a four-way tie for top average score among all the P&Q top 50 schools. Columbia Business School photo

Columbia Business School has set an early decision deadline of Oct. 4th and a final deadline of April 10th for its 2019-2020 admissions season for its full-time MBA program. Columbia, fourth behind only Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business and Wharton for the number of applications received every year, also boasts the only highly ranked full-time MBA program with a January class start in addition to its more typical September cohort.

For applicants interested in its accelerated MBA that starts in January of 2020, CBS must receive your application no later than Oct. 4th, a day later than last year’s deadline. The application will go live on Columbia’s website on May 22.

Columbia is the only highly ranked full-time MBA program with a January class start in addition to its regular September cohort. The school is fourth behind HBS, Stanford and Wharton for the number of applications received every year for both full-time MBA cohorts.

Columbia’s 2019-2020 MBA Application Deadlines

CBS Deadlines Application Deadline Interview Invites Decisions
Early Decision & January Term October 4, 2019 Rolling Rolling
Merit Scholarship January 3, 2020 NA Rolling
Final Decision April 10, 2020 Rolling Rolling


Among peer schools, CBS is unusual in three respects. For one thing, Columbia MBA students may enroll in either August or January. The two paths, each comprised of four terms, merge in the fall of the second year to complete electives as a single class. The school claims that both paths are identical in terms of competitiveness of admissions, and academic rigor, though the acceptance rate for the January intake is significantly higher. Last year, CBS admitted 233 of the 528 applicants who applied under that January option for an acceptance rate of 44.1% (compared to 41.3% the year before) versus the 14.5% rate for admits to its full two-year program. Some 204 of the January admits enrolled for a yield rate of 87.6%. In comparison, Columbia admitted 795 of the 5,501 candidates who applied for its September cohort, enrolling 552 of them for a yield rate of 69.4%.

Secondly, Columbia is among the very few schools with an early decision deadline for students who want to enroll in the school’s August-start. If you apply to CBS early decision, your application will obviously receive more favorable treatment. But you also have to sign a commitment to attend CBS and withdraw all other applications and decline other offers, if admitted. You also have to fork over a rather hefty $6,000 tuition deposit within two weeks of admission that is nonrefundable. About 30% of Columbia’s full-time MBA students enter in January for its accelerated program.

Finally, CBS is different because admissions here is not as entirely structured in separate rounds, with specific dates for interview invites and decisions. The school reviews candidates on a rolling basis, and early decision applicants are given decisions before regular decision applications. Because CBS uses this process, it is always an advantage to apply well before the deadline, just as the odds fall in your favor by applying in round one or two at rival schools. Though CBS applicants can turn in their regular decision applications as soon as the application goes live during the summer, they will not be reviewed until CBS completes its early decision round.


In recent years, Columbia has been over-indexing GMAT scores in its MBA admission decisions. The average GMAT score for last year’s incoming class of MBA students hit a new record of 732, up eight points from the year-earlier 724 average despite a decline in applications. That average puts the latest CBS students at the 96th percentile of all GMAT test takers and places the school in a four-way tie for the highest reported GMATs with Stanford, Wharton and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Columbia said the range of GMATs in its newest class went from a low of 530 to a high of 790, exactly the same as last year. The middle 80% range was 700 to 760 versus 690 to 760 a year earlier. Columbia did not disclose GRE scores or the percent of students who enrolled with a GRE.

Columbia also managed to eke out an increase in the average undergraduate GPA for its latest class of MBAs: A 3.6 versus a 3.5 last year. The lowest GPA this year was 3.2, while the highest was a 3.9. Columbia said the average incoming student boasted five years of work experience and was 28 years old, with the middle 80% range of three to seven years and a range of 25 to 31.

In common with other highly ranked business schools in the U.S., Columbia said that applications fell 2.6% to 6,029 for the Class of 2020, compared to 6,188 a year earlier. The drop is below many of Columbia’s peer schools, including Wharton which has reported a 6.7% decline and Harvard Business School which saw a 4.5% drop. The application number reflects candidates for Columbia’s January and August intakes. The 756 enrolled students, versus 753 last year, is divided into 11 clusters.


But the big news in Columbia’s new MBA class profile was the increase in the school’s average. In the past five years, the average class GMAT at Columbia has risen by 16 points from 716 for the class entering in 2013. Even though applications are on the decline, several business schools have managed to up their reported GMAT scores. At Wharton, for example, average GMAT score was up two points to 732. At UVA’s Darden School of Business, where applications plunged 16.7%, the newest class average hit a record 718, five points higher than the previous record holders in the Class of 2019. And at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where apps fell 8.5%, the incoming class’ average GMAT jumped four points to 720 (see Meet The Michigan Ross Class Of 2020).

The big news this year at Columbia is the addition of two new essay questions, in addition to a short answer question and one other essay retained from last year. The short answer question, to be answered in no more than 50 characters, is: “What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal?” The school’s 500-word essay that has been kept from previous years is: “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?”

“As the only top U.S. full-time MBA program with a January class start, Columbia achieves a very high yield for the J-Term,” explains Matt Symonds, a founder of Fortuna Admissions, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm. “For September however, they inevitably lose some top candidates to Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and Palo Alto. and the yield suffers. So the CBS admissions team really wants to see how motivated you are to pursue your MBA in New York as an indicator of your future plans.”


Karen Hamou of Fortuna Admissions

He notes that in recent years Columbia required applicants to watch a video featuring Dean Glenn Hubbard that talks about being ‘at the very center of business.’ “This is part marketing – who wouldn’t use their New York location to highlight the advantages of your school – and part admissions, to assess the importance of New York to the MBA applicant,” says Symonds. “For the 2019/20 admissions cycle, Columbia no longer asks how you will take advantage of ‘being at the very center of business.’

“But as my colleague at Fortuna Admissions, Karen Hamou explains, New York is still very much part of the picture. Karen is a Columbia MBA graduate and former recruiting lead at Deloitte Consulting with a near-perfect success rate working with M7 clients. Below she takes you through the two new essays from Columbia, as well as the classic Short Answer Questions about career goals, which CBS expects you to complete in no more than 50 characters – an MBA application tweetette!”

Hamou’s advice? For essay No. 2 on why an applicant should feel that CBS is a good fit, she acknowledges that the question is “very similar” to its New York City-centric question in earlier years. “This essay question is prompting the applicant to explain why CBS is uniquely positioned to help them achieve their goals,” she says. “It is a great opportunity to demonstrate that they have done their homework and are passionate about attending CBS. Candidates should showcase their deep knowledge of the school and the engagement that they’ve had with members of the CBS community. Even though it isn’t directly in the essay prompt this year as it was last year, I would still advise candidates to explain not only why CBS’s campus life is right for them, but also why they’d like to pursue their MBA in New York City, as NYC is such an integral part of the CBS experience.”

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