What Columbia Is Looking For
Intellectual, professional achievers. Columbia Business School looks for intellectually driven people from diverse educational, economic, social, cultural, and geographic backgrounds. Its admissions process favors candidates with a history of high academic achievement; those with serious blemishes on their undergraduate record tend to have more difficulty securing an offer from Columbia. Columbia students also share a record of professional achievement, clearly visible on their resumes. Columbia looks for students who are curious and informed about the world, and it tends to favor applicants who are proficient in a language beyond English. Columbia also looks for students who embody leadership, particularly in terms of social intelligence, self-awareness, and behavioral analysis. Effective and polished communications skills are a given—as is the expectation that those baseline levels can (and will) be raised during the Columbia experience.
Admissions criteria. The Columbia admissions process evaluates three dimensions equally:
- Academic strength, measured by the GMAT and undergraduate/graduate transcripts, as well as any professional certifications like the CFA.
- Personal characteristics, which need to be demonstrated throughout the essays and recommendations, but most critically coming through via specific examples in your essays.
- Professional promise, measured more acutely at Columbia than most any other top program. This is Columbia’s assessment of whether your career goals are valid, feasible, and achievable.
Professional experience. Columbia also maintains a preference for candidates with at least some work experience. While we have seen Columbia admit superlative candidates straight out of college, this is extremely rare; 99% of the last few entering classes had at least one year of work experience. Veritas Prep recommends two or more years of work experience for Columbia Business School applicants.
Cultural fit. In recent years, Columbia has also emphasized the applicant’s cultural understanding of and fit with the school and what differentiates it from other schools. This newfound focus on culture also helps differentiate current Columbia from the Columbia of old, which had a reputation for sometimes being more cutthroat than collaborative. In particular, Columbia now looks for candidates who will actively contribute to the campus community through extracurricular involvement in clubs, cluster activities, and so forth.
Serious about start dates. Finally, Columbia is also quite strict on its “no deferrals” policy. If you’re admitted to Columbia and you accept, you better plan on going for the term you applied or you’ll end up as a re-applicant like everyone else when you’re ready to try again.