Columbia Business School has released its 2019-2020 MBA application details. Unlike many other top programs, CBS reviews application on a rolling basis and is now accepting early decision applications This means if CBS is at the top of your list, NOW is the time to get started on your essays.
Personal MBA Coach is here to tell you what has changed this year and how to tackle each question!
Once again, Columbia has three essay questions. Essay 1 has remained unchanged as it has for many years, while essays 2 and 3 are both new this year. These three questions together will prompt candidates to cover a wide range of information about their goals, plans on campus, personal stories and leadership styles. Avoid repeating yourself while ensuring that the three essays work together to paint an accurate and consistent picture of your candidacy.
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)
Columbia specifically asks that candidates not repeat their resumes in this career goals question. While some mention of your past is still expected, it should be brief and used as context to further elaborate on why your goals are attainable. This question explicitly asks for both a short-term goal and a long-term dream job so be sure to include both. These goals should show a logical progression from your current experience. If they do not, then a brief explanation is a good idea so that the admissions committee can understand how you will realistically attain your goals. Discussing your long-term dream job is an opportunity to show the admissions committee your true ambitions and what really matters to you professionally. It is important that candidates have lofty goals here but ones that make sense for them and fit with both their short-term goals and overall story. This is a unique chance to show not only how you envision your career unfolding but to give the reader a little more insight into who you are by adding at least a brief mention of why this career interests you. Finally, while not explicitly asked, a bit on how you will prepare for these goals while at Columbia will offer a nice segue into Essay #2.
Essay #2: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 Words)
This year Columbia is taking a more direct approach to the “fit” question. CBS previously asked candidates about their desire to be in New York City. While Columbia is now looking at fit more broadly, mentioning how you plan to leverage the city would still be advised here.
With only 250 words and a lot to cover, it is important to be focused and specific. Show that you have done your research on what options are available on campus and which specifically interests you. Naturally, a tie should be made between these opportunities and your career goals. This is the time to discuss the classes you hope to take, clubs you will join and other programs of interest to you, such as speaker series or immersion seminars. I would also recommend that candidates consider culture, which as I shared in a recent presentation to admissions directors is becoming increasingly important in the school selection process.
Essay #3: Who is a leader you admire, and why? (250 Words)
This short essay is a loaded one, prompting candidates to think about both their personal stories and leadership styles. To achieve this balance well, I would select a leader that you hope to emulate. Perhaps she comes from a similar background or has a shared career passion. Another option for this essay is choosing a leader with a shared belief. While some context on this leader is important, remember that this essay is about you. This is your chance to show the admissions committee the type of leader you are and will continue to be AND how your experiences and passions have shaped this. Be sure to share the context behind your answer, helping the reader to understand how you developed your leadership style and philosophy.
Finally, Columbia has an optional essay. As I advise for most schools, do not feel compelled to answer this unless you have something specific to explain in your background (i.e. a career gap, an unusual recommender, extreme personal circumstances, etc.) This is not the time to spend 500 words professing your love for Columbia.
Scott Edinburgh is a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan BS graduate and founded Personal MBA Coach over 11 years ago with the goal of providing customized one-on-one support. Scott also serves on the Board of Directors for AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants and is invited to speak at MBA Admissions events globally. Our clients have been accepted to all top schools globally with a 96% success rate. They received $4.5M in total scholarships last year, averaging ~$50K per scholarship recipient.