Tips on Writing the Columbia Business School Essay: Loving that New York Frame of Mind

(Updated for 2018-2019)

Like many of us, Columbia Business School just wants to be loved.  For a successful candidate that means making it clear to CBS that it is your first (and possibly only) choice for business school, and that NYC is the best place for you to spend two years.

If this is you — and you want the best chance of being accepted — then applying Early Decision (ED) is the way to go. But remember that this decision is binding and that, upon acceptance, you will need to commit and withdraw any other applications.  If CBS is not your first choice, then apply rolling admissions.  But use good judgement, applying the day after the ED deadline signals that your application was ready to go, but that CBS is not your first choice.   Keep in mind that admissions committee evaluates applications in the order they are received.  ED applicants typically hear back in ~4-6 weeks.  So, if you submit your CBS ED application just after July 4th, you could be celebrating your seat in the class of 2020 on Labor Day!

Let’s delve into each essay:

Short Answer Question

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)

This VERY SHORT statement (remember 50 characters, not words!).  Make it as specific as possible, provide an example of a position you may want, an industry you want to join, or a company that is ideal for you.  Whatever you say here, should tie into Essay 1.

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)

Start out with what the longer-term goal is – just a very brief description.

Then offer some simple context/backstory: as the prompt states, you shouldn’t rehash your professional path, but it is good to offer just a few key points so that the goals make sense without repeating what is on other pieces of your application. Next, describe your 3-5-year career goals – and how, after completing the CBS MBA, this role will prepare you for the long-term dream job. Consider offering a specific job title and even an example of a company or organization you aspire to work for. This will help the admissions committee really connect with your goal.

Finally, delve more deeply into the long-term goal – think big, think creatively, think outside the box. Here, it’s not as essential to give a job title, but rather what sort of impact you hope to make. Give examples of how and why this might be important – to a community, to a company or organization or somewhere else. Finish with how the CBS MBA specifically will be essential for meeting these goals. You can mention certain classes, professors or organizations that are unique to CBS that would be beneficial to you. Be sure not to overlap with the next essay though, as you want to mention new information in each essay.

Essay #2

How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? Please click photo to view the video. (250 words)

Your answer to this question is one of the keys you need to unlock a future at the prestigious CBS. As in general with New York City, it really is all about location, location, location in your application, whether physically or figuratively. You need to share where you intend to go with your career and demonstrate that CBS is the best program to take the next steps towards your aspirations. Discover the opportunities that CBS is uniquely positioned to offer due to the NYC location. Are you interested in a certain industry or sector that is especially vibrant? Alternatively, do you hope to learn from a specific professor who is an adjunct faculty member who also started her own FinTech company? In addition to what you hope to learn at CBS if you find yourself in Uris Hall in 2019, how might you contribute to the school?

Essay #3

Please provide an example of a team failure of which you have been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (250 words)

This question is new for CBS and gives you the chance to showcase leadership skills. Unlike prior Essay 3 questions, which have focused on the interests of applicants, this question is geared towards understanding how applicants approach problem solving. You will need to first think of a specific example that provides a real failure that you encountered as part of a team and not in an individual capacity.

In this essay, you will need tell your story in minimal words while fully addressing the failure so that you can sufficiently answer the second part of the essay prompt and discuss what you would do differently if given a second chance. In the second part of the prompt, you should get across the lessons you learned from the experience and how you would apply those lessons to approach the situation differently. This essay allows you to showcase your ability to work effectively in teams and to be a leader in your own right, both characteristics that are important at CBS.