The following essay topic analysis examines Columbia Business School’s (CBS) MBA admissions essays for the 2019-2020 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.
2019-2020 Columbia Business School MBA Essay Analysis
Compared to last year, the adcom has kept their longstanding goals essays and introduced a question about fit with CBS and leadership. 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.
Let’s take a closer look at each prompt:
Short Answer Question
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
For the ninth 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.
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 third 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. The important thing is to avoid repeating material detailed in the second prompt.
Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)
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. To get as much mileage as possible out of this essay, you should aim to develop a very detailed response that explains how lessons from key classes and participation in certain student organizations will position you to accomplish your professional and/or personal objectives. 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 naming some events that you would like to help organize or a club you would hope to lead 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 the aspects of the CBS MBA program that are most closely aligned with your goals will be important to developing an effective response; an in-depth review of the program website, conversations with current students and alumni, reading the Clear Admit School Guide, or visits to campus, are all viable sources of the information you’ll need here.
Who is a leader you admire, and why? (250 words)
When thinking about a leader to write about, you may find that you can likely cite any number of leaders who have done something you admire, or whose leadership style fits with your own. Of course, with this in mind, writing about figures such as Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, or Bill Gates might be challenging. First, the reader will likely have seen many essays on the same leader before and also, in the case of famous leaders, it’s likely you would not be able to draw on personal experience with them.
Another topic that may be fraught with challenges would be your parents. While it could be acceptable in certain cases to state your admiration for a sibling or grandparent, avoid discussing your mother or father. CBS is looking for people who display innate maturity and leadership capacity. If your chief role model is your mother or father, this may indicate that you haven’t fully “left the nest,” and it could raise questions about your ability to think independently. Therefore, to keep things interesting, try picking someone slightly more esoteric.
Use this question as an opportunity to color the adcom’s perception of what your leadership style is like. Take this chance to position yourself. For instance, if your career goals are in healthcare management, perhaps you admire someone who has revolutionized the way hospitals have handled patient care. No matter the example, be sure to relate in terms of leadership style. Do not just blindly pick a popular leader; choose someone with parallels to your candidacy, future or goals.
To address the “why” element of this prompt, talk about specific traits the person has, and how you may have enacted these values yourself. You need to be familiar with the leader’s style – not just his or her reputation. Were they collaborative? A visionary? Persuasive? What is it about them that you like? Ideally, this will all relate to your candidacy in some way.
Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, 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:
- Columbia School of Business Profile on the Clear Admit website: up-to-date advice and admissions information
- Clear Admit Columbia School Snapshot: overview of key curricular details and application information
- Clear Admit Columbia School Guide: in-depth program and campus information and side-by-side school comparisons; everything you need to know for a successful application!
- Clear Admit LiveWire: admissions updates submitted in real time by applicants to CBS
- Clear Admit DecisionWire: school selections in real-time by admits to CBS