The Best MBA Essay Advice For Stanford, Columbia & Berkeley

2019 Columbia Business School grads. CBS photo

Columbia Business School MBA Essay Advice

Columbia Business School has released its new MBA essay questions for the 2021-2022 admissions year.

The prestigious B-school, which ranks 7th in Poets&Quants’ Top Business Schools ranking, requires students to respond to three essay questions. Students can choose to also submit an optional essay. Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently discussed the essay prompts and gave insight into what admissions officers are looking for.


The first essay asks applicants the following:

Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Blackman says this question is about your short- and long-term goals.

“As you talk about your future, you may need to refer to your past career and experiences,” she writes. “Also, think about the pivotal moments you can describe. In addition, use examples that support your future goals. In conclusion, your goals should have a logical progression, but you should show how you plan to adapt.”

ESSAYS 2 & 3

The second and third essays ask applicants to respond to two of the three essay questions listed below:

The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a new co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias, Communicating Across Identities, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Managing Difficult Conversations. Tell us about a time you were challenged around one of these five skills.  Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)

Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)

Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)

The first essay prompt highlights diversity, equity, and inclusion – which Blackman says is a critical focus for businesses today.

“To answer this question, you will use an example of a time that you used one of the skills described,” Blackman writes. “Ideally, you were in a situation where you could use some interpersonal skills. If you demonstrated a positive impact on your organization, even better. And, your experience should demonstrate a knowledge of your own biases and identity.”

The second essay prompt focuses on fit and aligns closely to the typical “why this B-school” essay question. Blackman suggests that applicants do their research on Columbia and the B-school community prior to writing this essay.

“Make sure you can show that you will benefit the community,” Blackman writes. “Think about the unique skills and experiences you will share. Columbia wants to meet students who have a strong desire to attend their program. Therefore, if you choose this question, show your passion for the school.”

The third essay is the most personal prompt and asks applicants to discuss their favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with them. This essay, according to Blackman, is less about the medium and more about how you illustrate and convey who you are as a person.

“Make sure you use specific examples that help the reader understand how you think and feel,” Blackman writes. “Finally, your essay should provide an understanding of your personality and motivations.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, Columbia Business School, P&Q

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