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Tips for Columbia Business School’s 2023 MBA Essays

Columbia Business School recently released its application and essay questions for the MBA Class of 2026.

Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC), offered insight into what Columbia adcoms are looking for and how applicants can best position each of their essay responses.


At a prestigious business school like Columbia, fit is everything.

“With CBS, it really is a holistic approach, but the fit is very important,” one of SBC’s former Columbia Business School admissions officers says. “They want to know why CBS—that is a big part of their culture. They want to know you’re going to fit in.”

Applicants, Blackman says, should start by thinking about why they want to attend Columbia.

“Students at Columbia have big plans for their lives, MBA or not,” Blackman says. “To prepare, brainstorm your career objectives, strengths, and weaknesses. Also, think about your overall life dreams.”


Columbia’s first essay prompt 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 is your long-term dream job? (500 words)

This essay is all about short- and long-term goals. When thinking about your goals, Blackman says it can be helpful to create a linear progression of those goals and show how Columbia fits into your journey.

“Think about your true passions, and feel free to explore your biggest dreams,” Blackman says. “As you talk about your future, you may need to refer to your past career and experiences. 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.”


Columbia’s second essay prompt asks applicants the following:

The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a 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 and Prejudice, Managing Intercultural Dialogue, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking.

Tell us about a time when you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)

Columbia’s second prompt is more of a behavioral interview question to gauge your fit and cultural awareness. In other words, adcoms are looking to see how you’ll contribute to the CBS culture and community. To address this question, Blackman recommends approaching your essay with the STAR method.

“First, explain the Situation,” Blackman says. “Second, the Task that needed to be achieved for success in this situation. Third, the Action you took in this story. And finally, the Result of your actions. Each step should be specific and clear.”


Columbia’s third essay prompt asks applicants the following:

We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams, an extremely active co-curricular and student life environment, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program.

Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? Please be specific. (250 words)

This essay is essentially the Why Columbia question. To start, Blackman recommends applicants to research Columbia’s MBA program and get to know the culture of the business school.

“For example, read the website, watch admissions sessions online or visit in person, and try to network with current and former students,” Blackman says. “As a result of this research, you will know the school well. As this essay prompt instructs, be specific. That means you should demonstrate your research and give examples in the essay.”

You’ll then want to tie your passions, goals, and Columbia all together.

“Think about the unique skills and experiences you will share,” Blackman says. “Columbia wants to meet students who have a strong desire to attend their program. In conclusion, show your passion for the school and make the case for your admission.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, P&Q

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