Preparing to Apply
Reading this Essential Guide is a great first step in your preparation. Hopefully, this insider’s glimpse has been helpful in understanding the most important aspects of the school. However, nothing can replace gaining firsthand knowledge and experience yourself.
Reach out to current students. Even if you don’t have any personal connections to Columbia, you can reach out to current students and get their insight and advice. On the school’s Student Organizations page, you’ll find a list of all campus clubs. Find a few clubs that fit your personal and professional interests, and reach out to the officers. Remember: These are very busy MBA students, so you don’t want to intrude too much on their time, but you could ask for a 10- to 15-minute conversation or elicit some advice via e-mail. Come prepared with specific questions (preferably those that aren’t already answered online). If you’re planning to visit campus, perhaps you might even arrange a coffee chat or lunch, if they are available. Officers of major clubs like the Finance Club or Management Consulting Club have plenty of responsibilities. You might provide a quick background introduction and ask if there’s another member of their club, even one with a similar background, who might be able to offer some insights and advice about his or her Columbia experience.
Visit campus. The school’s website can only tell you so much; by far, a personal visit is the best possible research in the application process. If you have the means, we highly recommend you visit the Columbia Business School campus along with the campuses of your other top choices to understand the significant differences in culture, teaching style, student body, recruiting opportunities, facilities, and so forth. You may be surprised at just how different each school can be and how the reality can differ from the perception. We can pretty much guarantee that Uris Hall, the building where most MBA classes are held, will not become a selling point that convinces you to attend Columbia. You’ll be hard pressed to find another top-tier program that has worse facilities, although the school has invested in recent years to update some of the classrooms before it moves to the ultramodern Manhattanville campus in coming years.
We encourage you to take advantage of opportunities while you’re on campus, including a class visit, information session, and student chats, as available. Because informal and impromptu encounters can be the most informative, don’t be afraid to approach students in less-formal settings.
Other events. We know that many applicants will not be able to travel to New York City to visit campus, but you should take advantage of other worldwide admissions event, such as information sessions, virtual sessions, and specific-audience events. In fact, these off-campus events can offer great opportunities for quality time with admissions officers and even other applicants, who can be a great resource and support through the admissions process. Get to know the school and its culture as well as you can, because your familiarity can shine through your application and essays to help you stand out.