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Columbia MBA Essay Questions & Analysis 2023-2024

columbia mba essay questions

The following analysis examines the admissions essays for Columbia Business School. The Columbia MBA essay questions below are for the 2023-2024 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for other leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.

Columbia MBA Essay Questions & Analysis 2023-2024

Let’s take a closer look at the Columbia MBA essay questions:

Short Answer Question

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
For the 13th year in a row 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.

Columbia MBA Essay Question 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 seventh 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 transferable 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. Also, the reference to a “dream job” stands out here. In light of this language, your long-term plans should be aspirational, as top programs want to admit folks who will make an impact in the world. That said, they should be realistic, based on your short-term aspirations, an MBA and career to-date.

Columbia MBA Essay Question 2

The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias and Prejudice, Managing Intercultural Dialogue, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking.

Tell us about a time when you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)
Re-appearing on the CBS application after a year’s hiatus, this essay option asks applicants to reflect on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in their lives. All first-year MBA students are required to attend at least one PPIL-approved session and submit a post-event reflection form. Before getting started with the essay, it could help to read through the PPIL website to get a greater sense of the school’s vision for the programming and more.

No matter the DEI skill selected, applicants should ensure they were active participants in achieving a positive outcome. When tackling this option, note that CBS offers a structure at the end of the prompt, akin to the STAR method:

  • Situation – Set the stage or identify the situation and related challenge.
  • Action – Describe the actions you took related to DEI, including how you communicated your solution.
  • Outcome – Summarize the (hopefully positive) result.

Indeed, this structure should help you convey your story concisely and directly.

The door is wide open for examples, but the key is to ensure you touch on each element of the prompt to show how you are an ethical and inclusive leader. It will be important to connect to how a situation has influenced you—ideally shown through some related actions—as the adcom will want to get to know you and how you think and evolve. Action would also strengthen a response here—think beyond comments or campaigns shared on Facebook or TikTok, and reflect on advocating actively. This can be a lot of ground to cover in 250 words, but if you have room, concluding with a brief example of how you applied what you learned would show that you learned from the challenge.

Columbia MBA Essay Question 3

We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams, an extremely active co-curricular and student life environment, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program.

Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? (250 words)
To get as much mileage as possible out of this essay, you should aim to develop a very detailed response that explains how the highlighted offerings resonate with you. The adcom will also be interested in hearing about how you see yourself contributing to the community and enhancing the experience of other students, so explaining how you would add to at least one of the examples given will also bolster your case. Also keep in mind that CBS sees New York City as an extension of their campus, so you’ll want to comment on why that is significant for you.

Covering all of this ground within a 250-word essay is no easy task, so zeroing in on how these aspects of the CBS MBA program align with you academically, culturally and professionally will be important to developing an effective response. Be sure to read the material the adcom provides in the prompt and then reflect on the connections that stand out for you personally. What are you most looking forward to about the cluster experience? How would your role in team projects at work transfer to your learning team? How do you want to be involved in student clubs and why? What do you most hope to learn from an executive in your future field? Reflect on these ideas as you begin to craft your essay.

Optional Essay

If you wish to provide further information or additional context around your application to the Admissions Committee, please upload a brief explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or 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 questions. As you work on your Columbia MBA essay questions and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Columbia offerings: