Scott Edinburgh
June 9, 2021

Columbia Business School MBA Application Updates: 2021-2022

It is time to get started on your Columbia Business School application as Columbia MBA essays for class of 2024 business school hopefuls were just released.

The 2021-2022 Columbia Business School MBA Application Deadlines Are As Follows:

Early Decision: October 6, 2021

Merit Fellowship: January 5, 2022

Regular Decision: April 8, 2022

Read Personal MBA Coach’s Top Tips For Tackling Columbia Business School’s Essays Below!

The Columbia Business School essays changed slightly for 2021-2022 applications.

So, what is new? Essay 1 remains unchanged while candidates have a choice for essays 2 and 3.

While the Columbia MBA application itself is not yet open, candidates should begin their essays ASAP. Given Columbia Business School’s rolling admissions, getting an early start is particularly crucial.

This spring, Personal MBA Coach was delighted to welcome Nicole Shay to our team! Nicole worked as an Admissions Director at Columbia Business School from 2015 until 2021. With Nicole’s help, Personal MBA Coach has shared our tips for approaching this year’s Columbia Business School essay questions.

The three questions together will prompt MBA candidates to cover a wide range of information about their professional goals, plans on campus, personal stories and leadership styles.

Avoid repeating yourself while ensuring that the three essays work together to paint an accurate and consistent picture of your candidacy.

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Essay #1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3 – 5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Columbia specifically asks that candidates not repeat their resumes in this career goals question. While some mention of your professional past is still expected, it should be brief and used as context to further elaborate on why your goals are attainable. This question explicitly asks for both a short-term goal and a long-term dream job so be sure to include both.

According to Nicole Shay: “Your goal should be pragmatic. The committee will be asking themselves: ‘Given the applicant’s work experience + the resources/opportunities at CBS, will this applicant be successful in achieving their short-term goal?’”

In addition, your goals should show a logical progression from your current experiences. If they do not, then a brief explanation is a good idea so that the admissions committee can understand how you will realistically attain your goals.

Discussing your long-term dream job is an opportunity to show the admissions committee your true ambitions and what really matters to you professionally. It is important that candidates have lofty goals here but ones that make sense for them and fit with both their short-term goals and overall story. This is a unique chance not only to show how you envision your career unfolding, but also to give the reader a little more insight into who you are by adding at least a brief mention of why this career interests you.

Finally, while not explicitly asked, a bit on how you will prepare for these goals while at Columbia would serve as a nice conclusion.

New this year, Columbia allows applicants a choice for essays 2 and 3.

Essay 2 and 3: Please respond to two (2) of the three (3) 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 Inequality, 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)

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Below are Personal MBA Coach’s tips for how to address each essay prompt.

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 Inequality, 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)

This first option directly addresses a topic that is top of mind for nearly all top business schools. If you have a strong story here, take advantage of this prompt to address it. With a very short word limit, it is crucial to be very direct in sharing the circumstances, your actions and the result. There is no room for fluff here. Similarly, do not force this essay and be sure your story is authentic. Not everyone will have a strong answer here and that is to be expected.

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

This option was the required essay 2 during the past few application cycles and takes a direct approach to addressing fit. During some previous cycles, CBS has asked candidates about their desire to be in New York City. While the current prompt addresses fit more broadly, mentioning how you plan to leverage the city would still be advised here.

With only 250 words and a lot to cover, it is important to be focused and specific. Show that you have done your research on what options are available on campus and which specifically interest you. Naturally, a tie should be made between these opportunities and your career goals.

According to Nicole: “In this essay, the committee is looking for which resources you are going to utilize to achieve your short-term goal and fulfill your social/cultural needs/interests. However, they are also looking at how you are going to contribute to the CBS community.”

This is the time to discuss the classes you hope to take, clubs you will join and other programs of interest to you, such as speaker series or immersion seminars. We would also recommend that candidates consider culture, which as we have shared in the past is becoming increasingly important to many top business schools.

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

This final option is also a repeat from last year. As in previous years, this Columbia Business School essay prompt is used to get to know applicants on a personal level. Use this essay to tell admissions committee members something unique about your profile. Think here about your hobbies, passions, upbringing or values. Then select a book, movie or song with parallels to your own experience(s). Perhaps you have a passion for music. Select a movie or book about a musician with similar talents. Similarly, if you have overcome a particular hardship, a song that discusses a struggle that mirrors your own could be an ideal choice. As we often say, the what matters much less than the why in this essay. Do not pick something you think will impress the reader (e.g., “Becoming” might be an overused choice this year). Instead, pick something that you truly connect with personally.

Finally, Columbia has an optional essay. As we advise for most schools, do not feel compelled to answer this unless you have something specific to explain in your background (e.g., a career gap, an unusual recommender, extreme personal circumstances, etc.) This is not the time to spend 500 words professing your love for Columbia.

About Personal MBA Coach:

Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 14 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2, currently holding the #1 ranking in the US on Poets&Quants.

We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing, and mock interview. Our team includes former M7 admissions directors and former M7 admissions interviewers.

Last year, our clients earned more than $6.5M in scholarships!

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