Columbia Business School Essays for 2012-2013

After releasing its application deadlines for the 2012-2013 admissions season, Columbia Business School has released its admissions essays, and we’ll dig into those today:

Columbia Business School Application Essays

Short Answer Question
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (200 characters maximum)

You read that right… It’s 200 characters, not words! This question was new last year, and naturally it made waves by being so short & sweet. It has changed every so slightly this year: Columbia added the word “immediate,” presumably to keep applicants even more focused on what they plan to do coming right out of school. Think of this “essay” as the positioning statement that sums up your career goals in one sentence. Do you want to be known as the applicant who wants to run a sports team, or perhaps the applicant who wants to launch a renewable energy startup? Columbia provides some examples on its site, and you’ll see that there’s nothing particularly creative or special about them. No need to take too many risks or get too gimmicky here, but remember that this is the one thing (about your career goals) that you want the admissions committee to remember about you.

Essay Questions

  • Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals? (500 words)

    This question has evolved a bit since last year. First of all, Columbia broke it into two parts, with Columbia moving the “Why Columbia?” question to the second part. Despite the changes, we’d still categorize it as the typical “Why an MBA?” question that many top MBA programs ask. Yes, you are right to point out that this question is a tad redundant given the Short Answer Question, but think of that as the headline that partly sums up this essay. Like every other school, Columbia asks this question to get a sense of where you’re going with your career, whether your goals are realistic, and whether you “get” what an MBA can (and can’t) do for you.
  • Please view this video, entitled Community at Columbia. Diverse, tight-knit clusters and carefully selected learning teams are defining features of the first year at Columbia Business School. Along with more than 100 student organizations and countless events each semester, the cluster system helps to create a supportive and devoted lifelong community. Describe why you are interested in becoming a part of the Columbia community. (Maximum 250 words)

    This is where those other 250 words went. As we have said before, many applicants fail to adequately to explain why Columbia is the best place for them to earn their MBA, given the school’s culture, academic strengths, ties to certain industries, etc. Yes, Columbia has a big name and proximity to Wall Street. Those strengths are obvious. What else does Columbia offer that you can’t find anywhere else? This is what the school is looking for when it asks about “fit.” Also, pay attention to how many times the phrase “Despite being in NYC…” (or something similar) comes up in the video. We’ve noted before that Columbia doesn’t want to be viewed as a commuter school in the middle of a huge city… Keep this in mind as you spell out how you will fit in at Columbia.
  • Describe a personal experience and how it has influenced who you are today. This essay should have a personal rather than a professional focus. (500 words)

    This question has been reworded, but the thrust of it is the same as it was last year, when Columbia introduced it to its application. Therefore, our advice mostly remains the same. We still like the more direct nature of this question, which asks for a specific life experience, rather than simply asking about your personal interests, which Columbia’s application used to do. Remember that, when a school tweaks an essay prompt from year year to the next, that usually means that the admissions committee wasn’t quite getting what it wanted. Our guess is that Columbia is trying even harder now t put the focus on your personal side, not the professional you. Don’t be afraid to reveal something that seems a little more personal than what you thought you would share going into this process… They clearly want to see how you have grown and evolved in your relatively young life.
  • Columbia also provides space for an optional fourth essay. Our advice here is always the same: If you really do feel the need to explain something, then address it and move on. In other words, don’t dwell on it or provide that weakness with more stage time than it deserves!

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