Category Archives: Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School: 2013-14 Deadlines and Essay Analyses


Early Decision (August 2014 entry): October 2, 2013

Regular Decision (August 2014 entry): April 9, 2014

January 2014 entry: October 2, 2013

Important: Columbia admissions is on a rolling basis (first-come, first-serve), so you should apply well before the posted deadlines.

Columbia Business School offers a few different application options.

If you know for certain that Columbia is your top choice, you should definitely consider applying through their Early Decision program. The deadline is earlier (October 2 this year) and you need to make a commitment to attend if admitted. The advantage is that you can submit your application for consideration well before the rush of other applications comes in. If you’re a strong candidate and Columbia is your first choice, you will likely have your strongest chance of getting accepted in this round. It is beneficial for a school to know with some certainty that the applicant they admit will actually come.

If you’re flexible as to when you can start your MBA and you’re looking for a shorter program, you might want to consider applying for their January 2014 entering class. The January program is 16 months and can work well for you if you are looking to return to work soon and don’t need that summer internship. The deadline is also October 2.

Otherwise, there is regular admissions for entry in August 2014. I imagine that this is the most competitive round in terms of volume of applications.

Rolling admissions means that Columbia accepts applicants on a first-come, first-serve basis. If they like you, they will extend an interview invitation to you. They will then make a final decision shortly after your interview is done without waiting for and comparing you against other applicants. So, unlike most other schools that do not operate on a rolling basis, it is better to apply earlier rather than later to Columbia (do not wait until the deadline!). They won’t start reviewing applications until early January for regular admissions, but you can submit yours even before then to get yourself in the pipeline. We have had strong clients who received feedback from the admissions office that they wished they could admit them, but unfortunately there was no space left (they had submitted applications after the winter).

Below are the essay questions for the 2013-14 application and my comments and advice:

(1.) What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? Required by all applicants.

This is not technically an essay but appears in the essay portion of the on-line application. You are asked to write in one succinct sentence your post-MBA career goal. Be specific and clear here as to what you plan to be doing after graduation (e.g., “I will be returning to my company to lead the marketing department in our new office in Delhi.”).

2. Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (500 words) 

I would interpret this as the usual goals essay that is asked by most business schools. They want to know how your background has led you to apply to Columbia’s MBA program at this time. You’ll need to discuss your background (be careful not to simply repeat your resume but instead focus on the most salient points as related to your goals (talk about key points in your career development and the main experiences and issues that have led you to your goals)), your short- and long-term goals (you can go into a little more detail in this essay), and why you want an MBA now and why at Columbia in particular.

3. Columbia Business School is located in the heart of the world’s business capital – Manhattan. How do you anticipate that New York City will impact your experience at Columbia? (250 words)

Please view the videos below [available in the essay section of the on-line application]:

New York City – limitless possibilities

New York City – fast paced and adaptable

Yes! You have to watch these two videos first. However, they’re both very short (the longer one is just a little over 2 minutes). The first video provides an introduction to the atmosphere and culture of New York to those who aren’t familiar with the city, while the second talks more about the access that Columbia students have to businesses and leaders because they are studying in New York.

Looking at your own situation, why do you want to be in New York and how do you wish to benefit from the location? You’ll need to think about and write this essay from the view of your goals. Specifically, how can studying in New York help you grow in the ways that you hope? Definitely talk about the professional aspects of what you hope to achieve, but you can also talk about personal aspects. For example, maybe in addition to studying finance and doing an internship in Manhattan and listening to speakers, you also have an interest in volunteering in the ethnic communities, and you would like to explore this while you are in New York. Or perhaps you are from a remote part of the world, and it will be the first time to be in a city like New York. Think of the different ways you believe that studying in New York will help develop both your goals and your growth as a person.

4. What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (250 words)

The Cluster will be the group of 65-70 students to which you’ll be assigned once you start at Columbia. You’ll be taking most of your first year core courses with these students as well as socializing with them outside of class.

In this essay, you are asked to reveal something interesting about yourself. Since these Cluster mates will be your friends, you are invited to write something personal here. The purpose of this essay is to offer a glimpse of you that is not apparent in the other parts of your application, which will focus entirely on your professional side. Is there anything interesting or unexpected or unusual or funny that you’d like for your future classmates to know about you? This is an open ended essay and there is no set rule as to how to write it, but if applicable, talk about (as a conclusion) how you can also somehow contribute to your classmates with this particular attribute (e.g., If you choose to discuss your hobbies in singing or acting you can also mention how you would like to contribute your talents to their MBA Follies, the students’ annual comedy show.)

5. Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. (Maximum 500 words)

Use this optional essay to shed light on any aspect of your background that you are concerned might impact the way the admissions committee views your application. Examples include less than average test scores or GPA, employment gaps, and inability to secure a recommendation letter from a current supervisor. If in doubt, it is better to explain it, since the admissions committee will see the problem whether or not you actually talk about it. Without an explanation on your part, they will not give you the benefit of the doubt but, rather, assume the worst.

When addressing concerns, be sure to never offer excuses. Put yourself in the shoes of the admissions committee and try and anticipate how you can help them, by providing the information that they need. For example, if your TOEFL score is low, then you’ll need to provide them not reasons why your score is low but a description of the ways that you use English effectively. After all, the admissions committee is trying to gather evidence that you will not struggle in the curriculum.

For reapplicants:

How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate how you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals. (Maximum 500 words).

If you applied in the past but were not admitted, discuss here the different ways in which you have improved your candidacy since that application. Consider any weaknesses that you had, and talk about how you have worked on improving them. For example, if you had applied with average test scores, hopefully you can now show them higher test scores; if you had insufficient international experience then but have since gotten involved in some international projects, talk about that. The admissions committee wants to see an improved applicant.

Finally, update and reconfirm your career goals.

Columbia Business School 2009-10 Essay Question Analyses and Deadlines

Here are Columbia’s deadlines and essay questions. Please note that Columbia is one of the few business schools that uses a rolling admissions system, meaning they make their selection decisions on pretty much a first-come, first-serve basis. This explains why they have a separate date for their “application review;” this is the date on which they begin reading applications, and they will continue to do so until the deadline. However, in between these two dates they will be making offers, wait list decisions, and rejections, meaning they are forming the class with each passing day. If Columbia is a top choice, please be sure to submit your application as early as you can within your target application review period.


Application Review Begins

Decision Period

Application Deadline

January 2010 enrollment

April 30, 2009

within 8 weeks

October 7, 2009

Sept. 2010 enrollment;
Early Decision

August 17, 2009

within 10 weeks

October 7, 2009

Sept. 2010 enrollment; International Applicants

January 6, 2010*

within 12 weeks

March 3, 2010

Sept. 2010 enrollment; U.S. citizens and permanent residents

January 6, 2010*

within 12 weeks

April 14, 2010

*Candidates wishing to be considered for merit-based fellowships must submit their applications by 11:59 EST on this date.

Below I have cut and pasted their instructions and essay questions from their on-line application. As usual, my comments are included beneath each question.

**By the way, a word about the word limit: since Columbia provides a “recommended word limit,” I would take that to mean that you can write an essay that hovers around their given number. Their word limit is a target or guideline, and as long as you can come close to it, it’s fine.

Dual Degree applicants: Please address the following questions within your response to Essay 1: How will the Dual Degree enhance your short-term or long-term goals?

Reapplicants: If you have applied to Columbia Business School within the past year, you are required to submit only the reapplication essay [scroll down to the bottom of the list]. If your last application was more than one year ago, you must answer essays 1, 2, and 3.

Essay 1
What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Recommended 750 word limit)

This is the standard goals essay in which you have to explain your plans for the future (and, in the process, a bit about your career/career progression) and your reasons in choosing Columbia’s MBA program. Be sure to do thorough research of their program. Columbia prides itself on its innovative and hands-on curriculum and philosophy of teaching students how to respond to rapidly changing circumstances. You should be able to explain how this kind of curriculum and atmosphere fit in with your goals.

Essay 2
Master Classes are the epitome of bridging the gap between theory and practice at Columbia Business School. (View link below) Please provide an example from your own life in which practical experience taught you more than theory alone. (Recommended 500 word limit)

View with Real Player:

A number of applicants have some trouble with this essay, mainly because they don’t quite grasp what the question is really asking. I would recommend (of course) that you first check the link that they have included, as it will explain more about what they mean by theory vs. practice. Once you have done that, try to think of an experience in which the reality of implementing something differed from what you had assumed from pure study alone. Had you learned something in the classroom, only to realize it didn’t work perfectly once you actually tried to do it? Did you believe something about business, only to see that it didn’t include certain critical factors once you tried to apply the concept in real life? Talk about that experience and what it taught you.

Essay 3
Please provide an example of a team failure of which you’ve been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (Recommended 500 word limit)

This is a twist on the traditional failure essay. Here you are asked to talk about a team failure, something that your group as a whole did not do well in. When talking about this story, though, be sure to discuss both the team failure and your contribution to that failure. What role did you play? Remember that you are the only person the admissions committee is interested in, so don’t dwell on the mistakes of others but rather analyze what you didn’t do. Even if other team members played a bigger role in the failure, think about what you could have done to have prevented the outcome. Perhaps you could have communicated better with your team mates, or have provided more training or support.

Optional Essay
Is there any further information that you wish to provide to the Admissions Committee? (Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.)

If there is anything unusual or that may be of concern (no recommendation from a current supervisor, poor grades or test scores, employment gaps, etc.) to the admissions committee, be sure to explain that here. Otherwise, if you have a compelling story that you wish to share but were not able to include in the essay set, you may use this space to write your essay. For example, if you wrote only work-related stories above, you may want to use this essay to talk about something more personal.

Reapplication Essay

How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate your short-term and long-term goals. Explain how the tools of the Columbia MBA will help you to meet your goals and how you plan to participate in the Columbia community . (Recommended 750 word limit).

This is a straightforward question that wants to see how you have reflected on your growth and candidacy since your last application. Perhaps you took on more responsibility at work or improved your test scores. If you won any award or honors or promotion (etc.), be sure to discuss that too. Be sure you are not just copying and pasting last year’s goals essay, but take the time to write a new one based on who you are at this point in your career and life.