Scott Edinburgh
June 7, 2023

Columbia Business School MBA Application Updates: 2023-2024

Columbia University Business School campus

It is time to get started on your Columbia Business School application as the Columbia MBA essay questions for class of 2026 business school hopefuls were just released.

Columbia Business School has made some big changes for 2023-2024 MBA Applicants (applying for August 2024 Entry), removing the rolling and binding early-decision process and moving to a more traditional rounds model. 

Note: for candidates applying for January 2024 entry, the application process will continue to be rolling, with a deadline of 9/13/2023.

The 2023-2024 Columbia Business School MBA Application Deadlines are as follows:   

Round 1: September 13, 2023

Round 2: January 5, 2024

Round 3: April 3, 2024

While submitting a round 1 application is non-binding, applicants will be required to submit a $6,000 deposit to accept their offer.

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

The Columbia MBA essays changed for 2023-2024 applicants

  • Essay 1 remains unchanged
  • Essay 2 is new (though this question was an option for 2021-2022 applicants)
  • Last year’s essay 2 is now Essay 3, with a shorter 250-word limit.

Given Columbia Business School’s rolling admissions, getting an early start is particularly crucial.

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 Columbia essays work together to paint an accurate and consistent picture of your candidacy.


Columbia MBA Essay Question 1: 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 maximum)

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, former Columbia Business School Admissions Director: “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.

Columbia MBA Essay Question 2: 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)

This new second essay directly addresses a topic that continually is top of mind for nearly all top business schools. When it was asked during the 2021-2022 application cycle, it was not required for all candidates and we recognize that some applicants may struggle to answer this question.

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. You may need to consider DEI a bit more broadly and that is ok.

Columbia MBA Essay Question 3: 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 question 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. While we have always recommended that candidates consider culture as they answer this question (which, as we have shared in the past, is becoming increasingly important to many top business schools) this year CBS explicitly asks applicants to speak to why the CBS culture is a good fit. Be sure that you have done your research on CBS and its culture and community. Find out more about what sets CBS apart by visiting our CBS school guide. Plus, watch Personal MBA Coach’s Nicole Shay’s exclusive interview with former colleague and current CBS Adcom Director, Jordan Blitzer. Get insider information about CBS including what Jordan wishes applicants would do differently, what is new on campus and common misconceptions about CBS. This is a must see for prospective CBS students.


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.

Considering Columbia Business School? Find out how Personal MBA Coach’s clients are generally some of the first to get accepted into CBS (with leading scholarship $’s).