Since Columbia has now released their questions for this year, a lot of applicants are eager to start thinking about their responses. While you have plenty of time, starting early is certainly wise! Below are some quick initial thoughts about this year's essays, which are largely similar to last year's.
January Entry: Oct 7, 2015
Early Decision: Oct 7, 2015
Merit Fellowship: Jan 6, 2016
Regular Decision: Apr 13, 2016 (rolling)
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)
Examples of possible responses:
“Work in business development for a media company.”
“Join a strategy consulting firm.”
“Launch a data-management start-up.”
Pretty straightforward, though this is now just 50 characters
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (Maximum 500 words)
Also pretty straightforward. Pay attention to every word in the question though. There is no need to repeat in great detail your experiences to date, just comment on your goals. Goals not goal, so you should be discussing at minimum a short-term and long-term goal. These goals should show a logical progression after your current experience. If they do not, then a brief explanation is a good idea. When answering the part about how Columbia will help you achieve the goals, don't consider only the academic part of your experience and be as specific as possible.
Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)
Since they created a video about being at the center of business for last year's application (not part of this application), this is important to Columbia and it means more than simply being located in NYC. While at first glance, this question may seem like it won't help you differentiate yourself from other applicants, it is important to think through this in detail so that the decision to live and study in NYC does not appear to be arrived at lightly. You have a few things you could discuss (Master Classes, internships, Immersion Seminars, research faculty, etc). Don't feel like you need to or even can address all of those areas. Pick the relevant ones for you.
CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)
Watch the video and get inspired. If nothing else, it should help you develop passion for Columbia and write more powerful essays. Explain who you are and what makes you unique. There is no right or wrong answer here, the key is to make it personal and reveal something interesting about you. It isn't necessary to impress here though don't feel the need to be modest either if you have something exciting to share. Have fun with this question.
Optional Essay: Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. (Maximum 500 words)
If you have a weak area that you would like to explain, this is certainly the place. It is best to be factual, explain the situation and try not to make too many excuses. If you feel there are very strong parts of your profile that were not able to be conveyed elsewhere, you could write about them here. This is definitely optional though so don't feel the need to write this essay. If you don't have something very strong and interesting or something negative that you would like to address, it is not worth answering this question.