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Columbia Business School Essay Topics 2011-2012

The Columbia Business School essay topics for the 2011-2012 admissions season have recently been announced, following up on last week’s release of CBS’s 2011-2012 deadlines. Applicants should note that the prompts for required essays 1 and 2 are different from last year’s prompts, while the addition of a third required essay marks a significant change in Columbia’s application. The essay topics are below:

Essay 1
Considering your post-MBA and long term professional goals, why you are pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? Additionally, why is Columbia Business School a good fit for you? (Maximum 750 words)

Essay 2
Describe a life experience that has shaped you. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (Maximum 500 words)

Essay 3
(Select and answer one of the below questions)

Option A:
The annual A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition is a student initiative managed and run by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO). The competition encourages Columbia MBA students to explore creative entrepreneurial ideas that are sufficiently ambitious in scope and scale to be considered “outrageous.” Students explore these ideas while learning firsthand what goes into the development and presentation of a solid business proposal.

Develop your own “outrageous” business idea. In essay form, compose your “elevator pitch.” (Maximum 250 words)

Option B:
Columbia deeply values its vibrant student community, the building of which begins at orientation when admitted students are assigned to clusters of 65 to 70 fellow students who take most of the first-year core classes together. During the first weeks of school, each cluster selects a Cluster Chair. Further strengthening the student community are the nearly 100 active student organizations at Columbia Business School, ranging from cultural to professional to community service-oriented. Leadership positions within the cluster and/or clubs offer hands-on management and networking opportunities for students as they interact with fellow students, administrators, faculty members, alumni, and practitioners.

You are running for either Cluster Chair or a club leadership position of your choosing. Compose your campaign speech. (Maximum 250 words)

Option C:
Founded nearly three decades ago, the Executives in Residence Program at Columbia Business School integrates senior executives into the life of the School. Current executives in residence include more than a dozen experts in areas ranging from media and investment banking to private equity and management. A hallmark of the program is one-on-one counseling sessions in which executives advise students about their prospective career choices.

Select one of the current executives in residence with whom you would like to meet during your time at Columbia. Explain your selection and tell us how you would best utilize your half hour one-on-one session. (Maximum 250 words)

Optional Essay
Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. (Maximum 500 words)

Reapplication Essay
How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied, reiterate your post-MBA and long-term professional goals, and address why Columbia Business School is a good fit for you. (Maximum 750 words).

To begin an application or to learn more about the admissions process, visit CBS’s admissions website.

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Posted in: Essay Topics

Schools: Columbia


  1. Does question 1 differ at all from last year’s essay? The wording is different, but are the expectations any different? I am wondering because I already completed the essay under the assumption that the questions would not change.

  2. Hi Mark,

    Yes, this year there is more emphasis on why you are applying for an MBA now, so it will be helpful to clarify the timing of your choice to attend business school. You should still cover your career goals and interest in Columbia, but make sure to respond directly to this year’s question, paying close attention to its wording – for example, this year the adcom asks why Columbia is a good fit for you, unlike last year, when the adcom asked why Columbia would help you achieve your career goals.

    Make sure to check out our full-length Columbia Essay Topic Analysis when it is posted later this week!

  3. Re the optional essay, Columbia says “An optional fourth essay will enable you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.” In my understanding the optional essay is any-other-information type rather than extenuating-factor type. Please let me know why you interpret the original statement by Columbia as the latter type.

  4. Hi Dan,

    This is a fairly standard optional essay that for the majority of candidates should only be used to tackle extenuating circumstances (i.e. low GPA, low GMAT, criminal record). There could be a situation where a candidate has something important to convey that doesn’t fit in the required essays, but this would be something to assess on a case-by-case basis. In fact, as CBS is offering a range of required essays, most applicants should be able to convey their key attributes and stories through these required topics.

    For more information, please make sure to check out our Admissions Tip about optional essays here:


    The maximum number of faculty from top 15 global b-schools interact with IIPM students.

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