Columbia Business School Essay Analysis: 2013-14

Columbia Business School has two intakes per year: January intake is for candidates who do not want to change their industry and therefore, are not seeking to do their summer internship. Classes for this term begin a term late- that is in January, instead of the regular intake in August.

If you are applying to the J-term, do remember to make a note in your career goals essay about why you will not need the summer internship.

CBS also has an early decision option. This means that if you apply by October 2nd, you will hear back about your admit status from the b-school before the regular decision deadline. The flip side is that this is a binding offer – if you get an admit, you must withdraw your application from other b-schools. In effect, attempt this if you are 100% sure about attending CBS.

The application deadlines are as follows:

August 2014 Entry:
Early Decision: October 2, 2013
Merit Fellowship Consideration: January 6, 2014
Regular Decision: April 9, 2014

January 2014 Entry:
October 2, 2013

Applicants must complete one short answer question and three essays.

Short Answer Question

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (100 characters maximum)

Examples given by CBS:
“After my MBA I want to join a consulting firm specializing in renewable energy and power companies.”
“I hope to work in business development for a media company that is expanding its reach in Asia.”

This is going to be a single-line statement.  The admission team is looking for a compact answer which describes exactly what you see yourself doing post MBA from CBS. No mincing words, and no flowery sentences here.

Be to the point, and say exactly what you wish to do post MBA.

Essay 1:
Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (Maximum 500 words)

Let’s break the essay question down into its different parts:

  1. Your individual background
  2. Why Columbia MBA?
  3. Why now?

A good starting point for this answer will be to briefly mention your background, highlighting the achievements and milestones. Let this description lead you to the inflection point that made you believe you need an MBA education. Essentially this means that you found yourself lacking some skills/ tools/ knowledge that would help you reach the next stage in your career (what are commonly referred to as career goals).

Next, describe your career goals. You have already written a short sentence on what you will do post MBA. Build upon that and trace your future career path for the next 3-5 years.

Address why Columbia Business School is a perfect fit for you and how it will help you reach your career objectives.  Many applicants make the mistake of replicating information from the b-school website, but that does not help. Rather, you should make a solid case for yourself which to impress that “X, Y and Z features of the Columbia MBA are essential for me to reach the career objectives that I just told you about”.

Lastly, do remember to mention why it makes sense for you to do an MBA now? Is there a break in your career; or have you reached a plateau; or is it that the next position will come your way only if you have an MBA? Whatever the reason be, make a mention of it.

Essay 2:
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? (Maximum 250 words)

Please view the videos below:
New York City – limitless possibilities
New York City – fast paced and adaptable

Okay, New York is home to Wall Street! And it has the largest stock exchange in the world, the NY Stock Exchange. But the admissions team will want to hear better reasons about why New York excites you.

The city in which a business school is located makes a big impact on the learning of an applicant. You get access to C-suite people through seminars, guest speaker series, or guest lectures;  as well as access to the industry, thereby improving your networking opportunities.  This applies very well to New York, which has many industries to boast about- finance, consulting, retail, real estate, media and theater, to name a few. On the cultural front, you will find something for every taste, because the city attracts people from all over the world.

In this essay, go beyond the clichéd reasons for liking New York and talk specifically about why studying in the city will be beneficial for your personal and professional development.  Considering the short length of the essay, don’t go beyond 2-3 strong points about NY City’s appeal to you. A big list of 10 odd reasons will definitely not be appreciated.

 Essay 3:
What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

CBS’ Clusters are classes of 60-70 students who take their first year core classes together. What would you like to tell this class that will positively surprise them about you?

Most of us do not have exotic achievements like having run in the national games, but one may still have an adventurous streak and may have indulged in sky diving, white water river rafting, off-roading, or biking on the treacherous terrains.

This essay gives you the opportunity to talk about an interest or passion that will sound interesting to the rest of your class. It does not have to be something fancy like the examples above– you may just as well be a born number cruncher or a mental math guru, and may decide to reveal this to the class. Better still, you may be very passionate about a social cause and would ‘surprise’ the class with the efforts you have made to achieve your objective.

Go beyond just listing your commitment to explaining why it matters to you.

Optional Essay
An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.

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