Columbia Business School Class of 2023 - Essay Question Analysis - Fall 2020 - Spring 2021
As we predicted, Columbia Business School announced today that it will NOT be changing the three essay questions for class of 2023 business school hopefuls. 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 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: Who is a leader you admire, and why? (250 Words)
This short essay is a loaded one, prompting candidates to think about both their personal stories and leadership styles. To achieve this balance well, I would select a leader that you hope to emulate. Perhaps she comes from a similar background or has a shared career passion.
Another option for this essay is choosing a leader with a shared belief. While some context on this leader is important, remember that this essay is about you. This is your chance to show the admissions committee the type of leader you are and will continue to be AND how your experiences and passions have shaped this. Be sure to share the context behind your answer, helping the reader to understand how you developed your leadership style and philosophy.
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.
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