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Columbia Class of 2018 Essay Analysis

May 12, 2015

Columbia Business School released their deadlines and essay prompts for the 2015-2016 MBA admissions season last week. There are slight changes from last year, however, the core questions remain the same.

2015/16 essay questions

Short answer question:

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (75 characters maximum)

Essay 1:

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? (Maximum 500 words)

Essay 2:

Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)

Essay 3:

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 Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

Optional question:

Columbia will also continue to ask an optional question. The wording of that question has not yet been shared.

2015/16 essay question analysis

The 75-character limit on immediate post-MBA goals continues to be a gift to applicants. Many applicants invest a LOT of time attempting to convey nuanced goals, which can get needlessly complicated. This question requires a clear understanding of your goals. It will save you writing time down the line, and allow you to get away with 2-3 word references to your goals in later essays, rather than having to explain yourself repeatedly. We enjoy defining your goals clearly with you! Despite concerns that we’ve heard in the past, it is surprising just how differentiated 75-character goals can be.

Essay 1

Similar to the short-answer questions re: goals. This question requires that you have a strong understanding of why Columbia in particular. Our suggestion is to create a list with 10 reasons why Columbia fits you best based on research through discussion with students, staff, and alumni, visits to the school (when possible), and online research.

Essay 2

Essay 2 can be thought of as an extension of “Why Columbia” that you began discussing in Essay 1. Successful candidates answer the question in a way that weaves in their personal background and story, rather than a generic endorsement of New York City or Columbia. Discuss the first time you visited NYC, organizations in the city that will impact your development, even pre-conceptions that you’ve learned from. Alternatively, you can discuss what “center of business” means to you and your goals. The topic is broader than it first appears, so take extra time to think about this one. 

Essay 3

While there is temptation to make Essay 3 casual, successful candidates remember that this essay has just as much impact on your application as other application materials. It is okay (and often helpful) to discuss a casual topic (travel, team-building activities, weddings gone awry, etc.), but write each story in such a way that it ENHANCES your application. This essay is an opportunity to discuss something personal…make sure the key message to the admissions staff is something positive. Asking friends for “first impressions on key themes” after writing this one usually weeds out stories that can hurt more than help.

Optional essay

As always, the optional essay should generally be used to provide context on your application. Any tough academic terms, difficult work situations, illnesses, or other challenges should be discussed here to help frame your achievements better with the admissions staff. Avoid using this space to emphasize how much you want to attend Columbia. You’ve had ample room to do that in other essays…doing it here will raise questions about gaps.

2015/16 deadlines

Early action: Application deadline: October 7, 2015 at 11:59pm EST

Merit Fellowship deadline: Application deadline: January 6, 2016 at 11:59pm EST

Regular decision: Final application deadline: April 13, 2016 at 11:59pm EST

For early action applicants: Candidates have decided that Columbia is their first choice and must sign the following statement of commitment within their applications: I am committed to attending Columbia Business School and will withdraw all applications and decline all offers from other schools upon admission to Columbia Business School.

Note: Because Columbia uses a rolling admissions process, it is always to your advantage to apply well before the deadline.

Other application details

The application is expected to be released in Summer 2015.


Check out information here.

Columbia resources

Check out our links to several of Columbia's resources, including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.