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Columbia Class of 2022 Essay Analysis

May 20, 2019

Although the first essay question remained the same from the previous application cycle, the second and third prompts have been changed.

2019/20 essay questions

Short Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (Maximum 50 Characters)

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)

Essay #2:  Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 Words)

Essay #3: Who is a leader you admire, and why? (250 Words)

Optional Essay: Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 Words)

2019/20 essay question analysis

Essay 1

Similar to last year, Columbia is asking for both your short-term and long-term plans. Offer context for your motivations (what is the first time you realized this was your goal? How did you feel when you first realized you could fix the “problem” your goal is centered around?), as well as what from your background makes you the best person to pursue this goal. Also, make sure you’re connecting how your short-term plans relate to your long-term objectives. For example, if you want to start a business, and then become a public servant, explain how starting the business will help you be a better public servant. Otherwise, it risks spreading your essay too thin, and making you seem aimless.

Although the question doesn’t specifically ask it, be sure to include quick references to how Columbia would help you on the path to achieving your dream job. You don’t need too much time spent on this (should be less than 20% of the words used in your essay), but 1-2 examples woven into your storytelling will help.

Finally, every year, people are tempted to recount their past career as part of this question. Avoid doing this. Talking about your professional path eats up A LOT of words, typically without answering the question directly.

Essay 2

After years of centering this question around Columbia’s location in New York City, the new essay question transitions to a more traditional “Why [our school]” that other schools ask as well. While Columbia is looking for more Columbia-specific answers to this question vs. prior years, it still will help to weave in an example drawn from the larger community that Columbia offers you a platform to interact with. Examples include discussing organizations in the city that you will reach out to and build relationships with, other regional schools to collaborate with, and even proximity to other parts of the world to deepen relationships with.

As with other schools, highlighting your personal experiences and background when explaining how you will use the particular Columbia examples you mention will help differentiate your answer from other applicants.

Essay 3

The natural inclination when responding to this question is to think of a leader universally admired (or close to it) and anchor your essay on the good characteristics of that leader. The challenge with that approach is there are few leaders that meet that criteria, and thus your answer risks blending in with those of thousands of other applicants.

Instead, use an example drawn from your personal experience. It can still be someone famous, however discuss a personal connection (i.e. they motivated you to do X [tangible professional achievement]) that differentiates what you write from the essays of other applicants. Also make sure to explain why. The success of this answer will depend more on the personal connection you make with the leader you identify, and the depth of explanation as to why you admire them, rather than just mentioning the accomplishments/profile of the leader and assuming the reader will automatically attribute that same potential for success to you.

Optional essay

The optional question is available for you to explain any additional information that you may not have had the space to clarify in other parts of your application.

2019/20 deadlines

Early Decision: Application deadline: October 4, 2019 at 11:59pm ET

Merit Fellowship Deadline: Application deadline: January 3, 2020 at 11:59pm ET

Final Decision: Application deadline: April 10, 2020 at 11:59pm ET

Other application details

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The online application for 2019/20 is not available yet; click here to access the application portal once it goes live.


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