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Columbia Business School MBA Essay Topic Analysis

Columbia Business School Essay

The following essay topic analysis examines Columbia Business School’s (CBS) MBA admissions essays for the 2018-2019 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for all other the leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.

Compared to last year, the adcom has re-introduced a question about CBS as the “center of business” as well as brought in a new prompt about a team-based failure. Given the range of topics, these essays allow the applicant to cover a fair amount of material and present a well-rounded picture of one’s candidacy.

2018-2019 Columbia Business School MBA Essay Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at each prompt:

Goal

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
Making its eighth appearance on the CBS application form, this question asks applicants to speak directly about the job they wish to have upon graduating from business school. The adcom offers several sample answers to illustrate the sort of direct response they’re seeking. Given a short and strict limit of 50 characters, you’ll want to clearly and concisely describe your short-term goal, making sure that it aligns with what you write in Essay 1.

Essay 1

Through your résumé and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3 – 5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)
Appearing for a second year in a row on the CBS application, this first essay prompts applicants to focus almost exclusively on their career goals. We say “almost” here because a bit of context will be important. For example, applicants might remark on how their professional experiences to date have informed their interest in their post-MBA path, and might also comment on transferrable skills they’ve gained on the job that will apply to their future posts. In short, make sure that your comments build on rather than repeat material that the adcom can find in your recommendations or résumé.

While candidates will want to use the bulk of this response to outline their short- and long-term post-MBA goals, a comment on how the school’s MBA program would enable one’s goals would be useful. Because people applying to Columbia are often also considering other leading schools like Wharton, Chicago Booth, and NYU Stern, it’s especially important for applicants to convince the Columbia adcom of their sincere interest in their program.  The important thing is to avoid repeating material detailed in the second prompt.

Essay 2

How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? Please watch this short video featuring Dean Glenn Hubbard (250 Words)

This prompt frames CBS as the center of business — and of this essay. That is, the primary focus of this response should be how Columbia’s course offerings, faculty, visiting speakers, location, and industry access will serve as a springboard for one’s career. It may even make sense to consider this response to be an extension of Essay 1, as an applicant’s comments here should continue to demonstrate a link between their professional objectives and the benefits of studying at CBS. In terms of approaching this essay, it could help to first identify the skills that you need and then digging into some research regarding which opportunities best meet your needs.  Go beyond the video, too—identify specific courses, professors and immersions that fit your goals.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs, and extracurricular activities–whether through a campus visit, conversations with current students, or reading Clear Admit’s Columbia School Guide–will pay dividends here.

Of course, this response allows applicants to introduce volunteer or community involvement as well by highlighting student organizations and other offerings that align with their interests and values. Moreover, including one or two comments about the benefits of the program’s location is important, as the NYC factor does differentiate CBS from many of its competitors. This is particularly true for applicants with existing personal or professional ties to the city.

Essay 3

Please provide an example of a team failure of which you have been a part.  If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (250 Words)

While the topic of failure is a common one when it comes to MBA applications, the very tight word limit of this response makes this a relatively unusual task. With only 250 words to work with, applicants will need to summarize the team failure itself in a very high-level manner, devoting most of the response to a treatment of the lessons they learned from the experience, what they would have done differently, and perhaps a mention of the sorts of situations to which this learning has subsequently proven applicable.

Failures from the personal realm are technically fair game here, but it may be trickier to cover the team-based aspect that way.  Candidates will likely want to give first consideration to professional or academic examples, or to those from structured extracurricular activities.

Optional Essay

Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay.  You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 words)
The admissions committee offers a rather direct prompt to address liabilities in one’s application, e.g. gaps in employment, a weak quantitative record, etc. In such cases, applicants should keep their responses brief and to-the-point, offering explanations without making excuses and humbly bringing mitigating factors to the reader’s attention. That said, it’s possible that there are other elements of one’s background that would be appropriate and not covered elsewhere in one’s application, for example an anticipated promotion or an element of one’s identity not covered in the program’s data forms. While applicants should make an effort to fully represent their candidacies within the required elements of the application, this leaves a bit of room for short exceptions.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Columbia MBA essay topics. As you work on your Columbia MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Columbia offerings: