Columbia Business School Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Columbia Business SchoolThis year Columbia Business School leads the charge, releasing its MBA application essay prompts before any other top business school. The school has also released the admissions deadlines for its two intakes in 2014.

Remember that Columbia is unique among top U.S. business schools because each year it has a large January intake in addition to the more common August/September intake. Columbia’s “J-Term” program allows students to complete their degrees in less than a year and a half, and is ideally suited for applicants who don’t plan on switching careers or may want to start their own venture after school. The January intake deadlines are also covered below.

Here are Columbia Business School’s admissions deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

Columbia Business School Application Deadlines
January 2014 Entry: October 2, 2013
August 2014 Entry (Early Decision): October 2, 2013
August 2014 Entry (Merit Fellowship Consideration): January 6, 2014
August 2014 Entry (Regular Decision): April 9, 2014

Many business school applicants don’t realize that Columbia Business School actually uses a rolling admissions cycle. In some respects, this rolling cycle means the one truly hard deadline for entry in Fall ’14 is April 9, 2014. However, even though Columbia doesn’t have a traditional Round 1, Round 2, etc., our advice still holds: We recommend that you apply early rather than later. Applying as late as March or April means competing for one of the very few seats still open at that point. Remember that “Early Decision” means that you’re committing to attend Columbia if you’re accepted. The police won’t haul you away if you break that promise, but you’d be taking a seat from someone else who may truly hold Columbia as their first choice. So, only exercise this option if Columbia truly is your first choice.

Columbia Business School Application Essays

Short Answer Question
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (100 characters maximum)

Holy smokes… Two years ago some applicants (and a few MBA admissions consultants) blew a gasket when Columbia introduced this question and gave it a 200 character limit. Now that limit has been cut in half! We think there’s surely a bit of “Hey, lets’ get with what the Twitter kids are doing” in this decision, but the more important takeaway for you is that the Columbia admissions committee truly just wants a super brief headline about your post-MBA career goals to better understand what to make of you. Think of the Short Answer Question as the positioning statement for your short-term career goals. Do you want to be known as the applicant who wants to run a sports team, or perhaps the applicant who wants to launch a renewable energy startup? Columbia provides some examples on its site, and you’ll see that there’s nothing particularly creative or special about them. Avoid the temptation to get too gimmicky here, but remember that this is the one thing (about your career goals) that you want the admissions committee to remember about you.

Essay Questions

    • Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (500 words)

      This question has changed quite a bit since last year. Not only has it gotten shorter (going from 750 to 500 words), but it also has been reworded to put more emphasis on “your individual background” and less emphasis on your longer-term career goals. Overall, even though this question has changed, we still would characterize it as the fairly typical “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that many top MBA programs ask. Many applicants fail to adequately to explain why Columbia is the best place for them to earn their MBA, given the school’s culture, academic strengths, ties to certain industries, etc. Yes, Columbia has a big name and proximity to Wall Street. Those strengths are obvious. What else does Columbia offer that you can’t find anywhere else? And why — given your individual background — is Columbia the best place for you to grow as a business leader? This is what the school is looking for when it asks about “fit.”
    • Columbia Business School is located in the heart of the world’s business capital — Manhattan. How do you anticipate that New York City will impact your experience at Columbia? (Maximum 250 words)

      Please view the videos below:
      New York City – limitless possibilities
      New York City – fast paced and adaptable

      This question is new this year. It’s interesting that the Columbia admissions team chose to put so much emphasis on its New York City roots — we don’t think that many applicants need to be alerted to the fact that Columbia is in Manhattan or need to be sold on the benefits of being in New York. If you want to go into finance, then your answer here will obviously touch upon this fact. Don’t limit yourself just to this obvious New York City tie-in, however. What other benefits do you expect you will gain from living and learning in one of the biggest cities in the world? (If you’re struggling for answers, watch those videos again!). Also, We’ve noted before that Columbia doesn’t want to be viewed as a commuter school in the middle of a huge city… Keep this in mind as you spell out how you will fit in at Columbia. Especially if you already live in New York, be sure to emphasize that you’re excited about immersing yourself in the Columbia culture.
  • What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (250 words)

    This is also a new question for this year, and it replaces a more buttoned-down-sounding question that asked applicants to “Describe a personal experience and how it has influenced who you are today.” It isn’t mandatory that this essay be whimsical, but it should present something that’s interesting about you as a person, rather than rehashing something that’s already in your application or your resume. Go back to our comments above about fit and about Columbia wanting to build a strong community. Have an unusual hobby or funny story that people enjoy hearing? This may be the place to use it!

Like may other MBA programs, Columbia also provides space for an optional fourth essay. Our advice here is always the same: If you really do feel the need to explain something, then address it and move on. Whatever you do, don’t dwell on it or provide that weakness with more stage time than it deserves!

Want to get into Columbia Business School? Download our Essential Guide to Columbia Business School, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Columbia and other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum