• Scott Edinburgh

Columbia Business School Class of 2023 - Updated Essay Question & Analysis - Fall 2020 - Spring 2021

As predicted, Personal MBA Coach learned today that the Columbia Business School essays will NOT be changing for class of 2023 business school hopefuls. CBS did, however, announce an update to the third essay question. While the application will open in June, candidates should now begin their essays. 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 essays 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 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. These 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 to show not only 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 will offer a nice segue into Columbia Business School Essay #2.

Essay #2: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 Words)

This essay takes a direct approach to Columbia’s “fit” question. During some previous cycles, CBS has asked candidates about their desire to be in New York City. While Columbia’s current essay #2 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 interests you. Naturally, a tie should be made between these opportunities and your career goals.

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. I would also recommend that candidates consider culture, which as I have shared in the past is becoming increasingly important to many top business schools.

Essay #3: Tell us about your favorite book, movie or song and why it resonates with you. (250 Words)

As in previous years, the third Columbia Business School essay 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 here. Do not pick something you think will impress the reader (i.e. “Becoming” might be an overused choice this year). Instead, pick something that you truly connect with personally.

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.

Need help? Personal MBA Coach is willing to be your guide. Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, we regularly help applicants navigate their applications each year. We also conduct mock interviews with former M7 interviewers on our team.

Personal MBA Coach has been guiding candidates through all aspects of the MBA application process for 13 years with a 96% success rate. Call us today at +1 617-645-2424 or email for a free consultation on your profile along with how we can help make your MBA dreams a reality!

Take a look at the following blogs for additional MBA application advice and updates:

How to Maximize Your Chance for an MBA Scholarship

Chicago Booth 2020-2021 Essay Analysis

Stanford GSB 2020-2021 Essay Analysis

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