Columbia Business School (CBS) has chosen to revisit its application essays this year, replacing last year’s third prompt “Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you.” In its place, the school brought back a question from the previous year’s application, which is meant to highlight an applicant’s ability to be an ethical and inclusive leader.
To write successful essays for CBS, you will need to convey that you have clear goals, especially well-thought-out reasons for wanting to attend the school and live in New York City (NYC), and strong values. Moreover, you should do your homework on CBS so you can really prove that it is the best place for you. CBS doesn’t want to be a commuter school filled with people coming to Manhattan for a two-year vacation; it wants to know that you recognize and appreciate it for the world-class business school it is and that you plan to be a leader in its community. So, demonstrating “fit” is critical. Let’s delve deeper into each CBS application essay question.
Applicants must complete one short-answer question and three essays.
SHORT ANSWER QUESTION:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
This is a noticeably short statement (remember—50 characters, not words!). Make your response as specific as possible, noting the position you want, the industry that interests you, and/or a company that is ideal for you. Keep in mind that whatever you say here should tie into your first long required essay.
Essay One: 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)
By starting with some simple context/backstory, you can give the admissions reader a sense of why your stated goals are credible and exciting. Simply launching into why you want to go into consulting or edtech or whatever your interest is could be confusing if you have not yet provided some sense of why you have that interest. So, your first task is to establish that your goals are feasible without rehashing the entirety of your professional path.
Next, delve into your long-term goal. By starting with your long-term goal, you are solidifying why you absolutely need a CBS MBA. Think big, think creatively, and think outside the box. Here, giving a job title is not essential (though you can), but you do need to convey what sort of impact you hope to make—to a community, to a company or organization, or somewhere else. In addition, give examples of how and why your long-term goal will be important.
Finally, describe your three- to five-year career goals, which should directly help you achieve your stated longer-term goals. Consider offering a specific job title and an example of a company or organization you aspire to work for. This will help the admissions committee connect with your goal. You have ample word count here to show that you really know what this job entails—that you are not just chasing prestige but have really thought about fit and about how, after you have completed the CBS MBA program, your desired role will prepare you for your long-term dream job. Be sure that your long-term goal can be achieved via your short-term goal. If you cannot build the bridge from one to the other, the admissions committee will question whether CBS can support you in such an improbable endeavor.
You can briefly finish with how the CBS MBA specifically will be critical in meeting your goals. Consider highlighting certain classes, centers, programs, and/or organizations that are unique to CBS that would be beneficial to you.
Essay Two: The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) Pathway is a co-curricular program designed to provide students with the skills and strategies needed to develop as inclusive leaders. Through various resources and programming, the goal is for students to explore and reflect during their educational journey on the following five inclusive leadership skills: Mitigating Bias and Prejudice; Managing Intercultural Dialogue; Addressing Systemic Inequity; Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking; and Creating an Inclusive Environment.
Describe a time or situation when you had the need to utilize one or more of these five skills, and tell us the actions you took and the outcome. (250 words)
This essay is a great opportunity to give the admissions committee more depth and perspective on your unique background and experiences. But to begin crafting an effective response to this essay, you first need to learn more about the PPIL program, so be sure to start there.
Because this is a short essay, every word counts. Our suggestion would be to devote approximately 50–75 words to describing the situation you experienced and why it stands out for you. With such tight constraints, you clearly need to get to the heart of the matter quickly. Of course, the situation you choose to discuss is important, but what is more important is revealing your values by sharing the steps you took. You might dedicate 100–125 words to relaying those actions and then use the remainder to discuss the outcome. Remember, your results don’t all have to be rosy. For example, if one takes on systemic racism, it almost goes without saying that the experience will not be an easy one. Even amid such restrictive limits, strive to convey the reality of applying one or more of the stated skills, and make sure your values are on display in a thoughtful manner.
Essay Three: 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)
Your answer to this essay should convey that the CBS MBA is the best business program for you. Before you begin writing, do significant research into what CBS has to offer that fits with your specific goals, including classes and professors (to check the “academic” box), extracurricular clubs and unique traditions (to check the “culture” box), and local networking and internship opportunities (to check the “professional” box). The reasons you give for why you want to attend CBS should be tied to unique aspects of the school and particular interests and needs that you have. For example, you could express your desire to get involved at the Lang Center for Entrepreneurship, to enroll in the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management Program, to find volunteer opportunities in the local community through the Small Business Development Center, or to spend significant time in NYC because of the unparalleled business resources that are within arm’s reach. Just as important, remember to tie the resources you highlight to what you need to gain to attain your goals, and address how you will collaborate with classmates and offer them your experiences and time while in the program.
Research could take the form of reading the CBS website, speaking with students and alumni from similar backgrounds or in relevant post-grad roles, attending an info session, or visiting campus. The application specifically asks candidates to list the students and alumni they have connected with, so leverage such resources as the Hermes Society website to connect with students who have shared interests, backgrounds, or goals. Be aware that if you live in NYC, it is imperative that you schedule a campus visit. Not making an effort to go to campus and engage directly with students there can be a red flag.
If you wish to provide further information or additional context around your application to the Admissions Committee, please upload a brief explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 Words)
See our blog post on Optional Essay Do’s and Don’ts for guidance.
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).
This is an opportunity to explain how you have grown since you last applied. Ideally, you have improved on some aspect(s) of your profile, whether via a higher test score, more work experience or leadership, a promotion, or a similar advancement. Be sure to explain what it is about the school that motivates you to apply again. This can be a great way to show your specific and sincere reasons for valuing a CBS MBA and why you would be a great fit with the program.
In Stratus Admissions’ Guide to Getting into Columbia Business School, you will find information on a variety of the MBA program’s offerings, such as the Lang Entrepreneurship Center, J-Term, Immersion Seminars, and the CBS World Tour. Download our brand-new guide to learn more about CBS!