Columbia business school got some new graphics on their website. Their web designers are trying to make the MBA application process seem easier when, in fact, it isn’t. Let’s face it, now is the time to start thinking of what you will write in your essays. Take a deep breath and let’s dive in.

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)

Analysis: I like that Columbia is asking specifically about what you want to do after school. Some b-schools, such as MIT and Harvard, prefer not to hear about your goals but it can be difficult to explain why you need an MBA if you can’t talk about your future plans. So, Columbia, like a true New Yorker is asking straight out why the MBA is a crucial part of your career path and future plans. This is a decent sized essay to talk about the goals and career you will pursue after the MBA and the ways in which CBS will prepare you for that journey.

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)

Analysis: while I’ve been a New Yorker for over a decade, and I love this place, I still think that this essay is a waste of space for Columbia. New York City has so much to offer that, unless you really hate being around people and can’t stand the subway, you are sure to benefit from living here. So what should you do about this question? Be real.

  1. Think about what you want to do and the skills, network or exposure you need in order to get that job, start that company, or raise those funds for your nonprofit. Then just locate those resources at CBS and NYC.
  2. Be knowledgeable and skip the clichés; if you already live in NYC, you know what is means to be here and how it can help you. Try to come up with original thoughts on the benefits of “being at the center.” If you’re not from NY try to do some reading so you can understand how this city works and why you might enjoy it here.

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)

Analysis: this essay has been here for a while. This is the place for you to talk about yourself rather than about your professional experience. But remember, you don’t want this to be a sob story. If you listen to “The Moth” on NPR, think about the stories that have touched you. (If you don’t, it’s time to start!) . Remember, though, that you are applying to b-school; you want to tell a story that is personal but that still demonstrates your abilities. It’s a little bit tricky – you want to be honest and real but still professional.

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It’s your job to convince Columbia b-school you need to study in NYC.


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