by Stratus Admissions Counseling, Jun 25, 2020


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 you possess the leadership qualities to succeed.

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 judgment, 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 the 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 2022 on Labor Day!

Let’s delve into each essay:

Goal: 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: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)

Your answer to this essay should get across that the CBS MBA is THE business program for you. The reasons you give for why you want to attend Columbia should be tied to unique aspects of the school itself, like the fact that the school’s position in New York City provides unparalleled business resources, and to specific interests that you have, like a specific desire to get involved in the Lang Center for Entrepreneurship. It’s not enough to just generally list characteristics of the school, you should also tie these aspects into what you want to gain or provide during your time in the program. Prior to writing, you should do significant research into what CBS has to offer, from classes, extracurriculars, professors and networking opportunities.

Essay #3: Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you? (250 words)

This question is significantly different from the prior year’s prompt but still focuses on Columbia’s desire to get to know a more personal side of the applicant. Through asking about a favorite piece of work, Columbia is giving the applicant the chance to showcase their personality in an open-ended response. It is important to note that this question is more about why the applicant selected a piece than it is about providing a synopsis of the piece. Think of something that is interesting to you that you can pull the reader into and explain why it resonates with you. Avoid obvious responses, like top sellers or business-related topics, and select something that will allow you to explore within the essay your values, interests, and unique experiences. It is less important whether you pick a book, movie or song, and more about what you connect to within the piece.