Columbia Business School – January 2010 Accelerated Admission

The Columbia Business School’s January 2010 application will be available on April 20th. However, they have decided to keep the same essays that they had for the September 2009 start. Below are the essay questions along with some analysis and strategies to help you answer the questions.

Columbia Business School Application Essay Questions:

1. What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Recommended 750 word limit)

The purpose of this essay is to convince the ad com of the following things:

1. You have clearly thought through your goals. You know what you want to do right after school (short term goal) and what you want to do in 5-10 years (long term goal).

2. You have tried to progress towards your goal. If you are a career changer. This will be hard to show. However, you need to show why you want to change careers. What attracts you to the new career and why will you be successful (for some reason – B School’s like successful alums :P) in the new career.

3. In the essay you want to weave in some of your accomplishments and show how you grew because of them. I know this is not required in the essay. But you want to distinguish yourself from everyone else who is just answering the question.

4. Why CBS is THE school for you. And although they love to say that they are in New York. But I think location as a reason to attend the school is a very weak reason. Especially, since there is NYU Stern also in New York. Please be more specific as to the programs, clubs, professors you like.

5. The ad com will also try to see how much in “love” are you with CBS. I personally think CBS really cares about applicant who show their “love” in the application. You want to talk about school visit, alums you have spoken to, school information sessions you have attended etc etc. Anything that shows you have gone out of your way to learn more about your “love” – CBS

6. Another important point to convey in this essay is – Why do you want an accelerated degree and not a regular degree?You need to reflect if you can achieve your goals without an internship. Be sure to highlight why the J-Term is ideal for you.

Essay Layout Suggestion: Please consider this as just a suggestion.

This is the standard question which asks you to elaborate on your short term and long term goals. I suggest clearly stating your short term and long term goals right in the beginning (preferably in the first paragraph). This will help set the stage for your reader to know what to expect in the upcoming sections. Also, in the section where you describe your short term goals. It would be a good idea to link one unique point about Columbia Business School (CBS) which attracts you to the school. This will show your interest and strong desire to attend the school.

In the next few sections you should explain why you chose that goal and what you have done so far to show your growth towards achieving your goal. I know you are applying to business school to get to your goals. However, “theoretically” business school should  just accelerate your progress towards your goals. If you are determined to achieve your goal, B School or no B School, you should get there. This is also an opportunity for you to talk about your achievements and how you have grown both professionally and personally from your experiences.

One thing to keep in mind is that the best essay’s that I have seen are those in which the applicant has tied his/her desire to attend the target school, and the strengths of the school at multiple stages in the essay. Some people leave it at the end to answer the question – Why our school? However, if you answer the question at the end it seems more of an after thought. I suggest subtly weaving CBS’s strengths in your essay and show how they will help you achieve your goals.

2. Master Classes are the epitome of bridging the gap between theory and practice at Columbia Business School. (View link below). Please provide an example from your own life in which practical experience taught you more than theory alone. (Recommended 500 word limit)

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CBS has shrewdly included a marketing video in one of their essay questions. To answer this question successfully please check out the link to Master Classes. This essay requires you to highlight a situation where you learnt much more from practical experience rather than any classes. You can talk about situation which is work related or extra-curricular. Some good topics to consider while answering this question can be social-interactions. Very few college courses talk about social interaction. Maybe while working you learned how to deal with various personalities. Or you can highlight professional learning such as some aspect of your work that you did not know, but you learned (and mastered) on the job because of practical experience. You can, at a very very high-level, view this as an achievement essay. Where you don’t know something, you learn it through practical experience and master it. However, be cautious not to use your achievement essay as-is. If you are re-cycling essays, and I know most applicants do, please spend sometime to tailor it to answer the question.

Some consultants will say that learning is not important, it is the practical experience which you need to highlight. I don’t think I fully agree with that. I think the learning is as important as the practical experience. The learning will reflect how mature you are in your thinking. Spend sometime and pick an example where you can highlight your recently (and I use the word recently loosely – in the last 3-4 years) learned something important.

3. Please provide an example of a team failure of which you’ve been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (Recommended 500 word limit)

Ahhh the dreaded failure essay. My strategy for answering the failure essay was the following. I used to spend about 100 – 150 words to set up the situation. Another 100 words to describe the failure and the remaining 250 – 300 words on the learning’s and how I grew. And if you are ambitious and have words to play then include an aspect of the business school program which you know will help you overcome my weakness.

Hint: Look out for Program on Social Intelligence (PSI) at CBS. If you have a “people” story then PSI will be a good program to bring out. This will show that you have done your research on the school. You have tied all your essays to CBS and most importantly this program is more or less unique to CBS and hence, you can show your desire to attend the school.

I am sure there are other things you can also use which will show your desire to attend CBS. My main point is to tie as many of your stories to CBS as possible.

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

Believe it or not, I think this is the hardest question to answer, if you chose to. The most common reasons for answering this questions are:

1. Below average GMAT score. And by below average I mean less than the mean for CBS which should be around 710.

2. Below average GPA.

3. Break in work experience.

4.Anything else you want to provide to AdCom.

Analysis of this question is a complete post in itself and I will try to have one soon. I will put the link to the new post here. However, in the meantime, if you have any particular questions feel free to leave a comment and I will try my best to respond as soon as possible.