Scott Edinburgh
May 5, 2017

Columbia Business School Class of 2020 – Fall 2017 Essay Question Analysis


Happy Cinco De Mayo! Once you are finished celebrating, you may want to get started on your Columbia essays. Columbia Business School has just released its application deadlines and questions for the class of 2020! Read below for Personal MBA Coach Founder Scott Edinburgh’s essay analysis.

Early Decision / January Term (J-Term)
October 4, 2017

Merit Based Fellowship Deadline
January 5, 2018

Final Regular Decision
April 11, 2018

*Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis

This year, Columbia again has three questions, all of which have changed somewhat from last year. These three questions together will prompt candidates to cover a wide range of information about goals, plans on campus and personality. Be sure that you do not repeat yourself across the essays and that they 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. This does not mean that you cannot mention your past at all, but any mention 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. While not explicitly asked, a bit on the skills or experiences from Columbia that will allow you to achieve these goals could add some nice perspective and a segue into Essay #2.

Essay #2: The full-time MBA experience includes academics, recruiting and networking. What are your personal priorities and how do you anticipate allocating your time at Columbia Business School? (250 words)

For this question, I recommend that candidates think specifically about WHY they are getting an MBA and what it will allow them to accomplish. For instance: Are you looking to switch careers? Do you already have a post-MBA offer and need to instead brush up on very specific skills in order to succeed in that role? Are you looking to build a network and support as you launch your own company? Whatever your specific motivation might be, state that here and then include details on how you will achieve this at Columbia. Research is key to answering this question well. Take the time to learn about all Columbia has to offer and be very specific in discussing how you plan to be involved on campus and what you this will get you. Not everyone will need to touch on academics, recruiting and networking but be sure to cover off on more than one aspect of the MBA program.

Essay #3: Please select and answer one of the following essay questions: (250 words)
a: Please tell us what you feel most passionate about in life.
b: If you were given a free day and could spend it anywhere, in any way you choose, what would you do?

This third question gives candidates a chance to discuss another aspect of their candidacy with the admissions committee. In most cases, I would recommend using this to share something more personal. This does not have to be the case, but it is a good opportunity to paint a clearer picture of who you are and complement what you wrote in the first two essays.

For those selecting question A, be sure to talk about just one thing. In 250 words, a list will not be effective. This is the opportunity to share a passion, perhaps a sport or a special skill or talent that you have. If you are very involved in an extracurricular activity, this would also work well. Be sure to cover off on why it is important to you and what you have accomplished.

For those selecting question B, this should again show more about who you are personally. The why here is more important than the what and should tell the admissions committee more about what matters to you. Perhaps you have a hobby that can be best accomplished in another country, such as skiing the Lauberhorn in Switzerland. Or maybe you want to explore an important part of your culture or ancestry. Whatever you select here, make sure it serves to explain your personality and goes well beyond always wanting to visit a particular beach in Fiji.

Remember, with 1,000 words total here, it is important you are not repeating yourself too much and that you maximize every word.

If you would like individual and personalized support while applying to Columbia, please find information about Personal MBA Coach’s comprehensive packages or contact us to learn how we can help! Last year we not only got applicants into Columbia, but helped them to receive over $600,000 in scholarships ($3.5M+ across all schools).  –