Scott Edinburgh
May 21, 2018

Columbia Business School – 2018-2019 Application Deadlines and Essay Question Analysis

Columbia Business School has just released its application deadlines* and essays for this season! Read below for Personal MBA Coach Founder Scott Edinburgh’s tips on tackling this year’s questions.

*Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis

This year, Columbia again has three essay questions. Essay 1 has remained unchanged from last year while Columbia is reverting to the previous year’s question for essay 2, with just a 250 word count. Essay 3 has changed from previous years, now focused on leadership style vs. personal interests. These three questions together will prompt candidates to cover a wide range of information about goals, plans on campus and personality. Be sure not to repeat yourself across the essays and try to have the three all work together to paint an accurate and consistent picture of your candidacy.

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 again specifically asks that candidates not repeat their resumes in this career goals question. While some mention of your 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. These goals should show a logical progression from your current experience. 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 to show not only how you envision your career unfolding but 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 will offer a nice segue into Essay #2.

Essay #2: How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? Please watch this short video featuring Dean Glenn Hubbard (250 Words)

This question was asked two years ago, but with a longer word limit. With only 250 words and a lot to potentially cover, it is important to be focused and specific. As the video discusses, Columbia prides itself on its ability to offer students unique opportunities stemming from the New York location. This essay is very straightforward, and candidates should cover a few specific opportunities they plan to take advantage of. While a laundry list is not advised, it is important to show that you have done your research on what options are available and which specifically interest you. Naturally, a tie should be made between these opportunities and your career goals.

Essay #3: Please provide an example of a team failure of which you have been a part.  If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (250 Words)

Unlike in past years, essay 3 does not ask about your personal interests. Instead, by asking about a team failure and what you would change, Columbia is probing into both your teamwork and leadership skills. It is important to show how you are and can be a team player while remaining humble and willing to grow. Regardless of the story you tell, the key here is to show what you have learned from this experience and how you have emerged a better leader.

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

If you would like individual and personal support with any aspect of the MBA application process, including early planning, school selection, GMAT/GRE tutoring, essay editing or interview preparation with former M7 interviewers, please find information about Personal MBA Coach’s comprehensive packages or contact me at to learn how I can help!

As a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan BS graduate, I have been helping candidates get into the schools of their dreams with a 96% success rate for over 10 years. Last year we not only got applicants into Columbia, but helped them to receive over $800,000 in scholarships ($4.5M+ across all schools).

Read how our client became the 2nd CBS admit last year with a 100% scholarship!

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