For the most part, Columbia’s 2016 essay questions remain unchanged from last year— a flexible word-count being the most notable exception.
Short Answer Question:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (51 characters maximum)
While CBS is generous (?) in allowing one additional character (not word) for their 2016 short-answer prompt, think of the question as a placeholder for the rest of your essay packet. It needs to be succinct, should be realistically attainable, and provide a jumping-off point for the essays that follow.
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? (100-750 words)
This straightforward goals question requires some reading between-the lines.
Though CBS makes it clear that they are aware of your to-date professional experiences, it doesn’t mean you can’t talk about them- because you should. Not just dates and roles, but in terms of the hard and soft skills attained during these experiences— do this effectively and you will not only illustrate a clearly defined career path, but more importantly— that you have identified gaps in your knowledge and skills that can be bridged by a CBS MBA.
When writing about goals in this essay, there are 3 things to keep in mind.
1-Ilustrate the role your short-term goal will play in your long-term career objectives. This can be in terms of specific industry experience, broadening global perspectives, or building new skills and networks. This section should also be fairly brief—just enough to illustrate a logical progression toward your long-term goals and the need for a CBS MBA.
2 – Choose a goal that has impact. Top business schools seek candidates who want to transform businesses, industries and societies. And while CBS (or any other school) won’t hold you to these goals once accepted, they want to know that having an impactful career is important to you.
3 – Tie the attainment of your career goals directly to specific resources and attributes available to you at Columbia. Because connecting the dots between CBS and your impactful career is the primary objective of this essay, use up the newly minted 750-word count on specifics— and not fluff. We’re talking specific classes, professors and clubs that will have a direct impact on your career. Think in terms of “cause and effect”.
Columbia Business School’s students participate in industry focused New York immersion seminars; in project based Master Classes; and in school year internships. Most importantly, our students are taught by a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (100-500 words)
Applicants often approach this question as if it was an extension of Essay 1, and it’s not. Approaching this essay as simply another opportunity to cite pertinent courses, professors and attributes available to you in NYC through CBS is only half the challenge, the other half is found in reading between the lines.
As Columbia mentions Master Classes, immersion seminars and school year internships in their essay prompt they are all fair game for mentioning in this essay, as are the Executive in Residence program and impressive field of adjunct professors. However, focusing solely on what you can expect to get from CBS’s Manhattan location falls far short in providing a compelling answer, or essay.
Once you covered the bases mentioned above, it’s time to be proactive and talk about how YOU will take advantage of NYC. Doing this effectively means thinking about what’s available to you in NYC that has nothing to do with Columbia, but that will help make your time spent at Columbia as enriching as possible. Industry events, conferences and seminars (not tied to CBS) should be mentioned because they show depth of knowledge in regard to your career plans. Volunteering opportunities “at the very center. . .” are also good to mention, especially so if you now belong to a national/global volunteer organization with an outpost in NYC, where you can continue your efforts. As with Essay One, this year’s increased word count should be taken full advantage of, so start digging deep.
My last tip for Essay 2 provides a well-deserved nod to Columbia’s diversified student body. While Columbia prides itself in assembling one of the most diverse student bodies across all business schools, it relies on its students to build communities and lasting relationships among this diversity. A sentence or two near the end of the essay that speaks about YOUR personal interests (dining, theatre, sports, dance, music, etc.) and how you plan to enjoy and share these interests with your class mates, goes a long way in providing additional insights about you as a candidate, and how you will add value to your class.
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 Cluster mates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (100-250 words)
Surprisingly, Columbia’s Essay 3 seems to be the toughest essay for most applicants.
Columbia should have a pretty good idea of who you are professionally, but they want more—and this is a good thing.
The three most important words in this question are, Cluster, Pleasantly, and Surprised. In this case, cluster is Columbia-speak for a class section, those you will spend the most time with . Pleasantly doesn’t mean something nice, it means something that will add value to your cluster, and surprise is just that, a surprise. In broad strokes CBS is asking that you uncover something about yourself that is not apparent given how you appear through your resume, career objectives, or for that matter, in person. This essay question may also provide an opportunity to boast about an accomplishment. This essay should be FUN to write and FUN for the Admissions Committee to read.
A word about Columbia’s Early Admissions
With 40%+ of all CBS applicants applying early decision, and acceptance rates 10pts higher when compared to their rolling admissions stats, CBS has shown increased interest in “early deciders.”
Last year, Admit Success enjoyed a 100% success rate for all Early Decision applicants. While our success for Columbia’s rolling admissions was a robust 90%, we saw no material difference in the quality of applications submitted throughout the year in terms of GMAT, GPA and career experience, the one differentiator — applying Early Decision.
If Columbia Business School tops your list of B-schools- give yourself the best shot and apply Early Decision.
Contact Admit Success if you would like to discuss how we can help with all your Business School goals.