This post is marked as OLD. The information provided here is still directionally accurate, but in recent years, Columbia has been tweaking its processes and timelines are compressed in certain cases. They've also been known to open the Regular Decision app processing cycle earlier. See the Columbia MBA page here on essaysnark.com for the latest up-to-date info on Columbia.
That exact Google search brought someone to our blahg recently. We hope they found the answer — but we doubt we have ever done one full post on it. So here it is.
Columbia is great because of their rolling admissions. You get to submit early and you get to find out fast (comparatively speaking) what the answer is. Sounds awesome, right? What many do not realize is that the unpredictableness of this rolling process can drive you MAD. At least with other schools, you’re nervous with waiting but you know that you don’t have to REALLY get nervous with waiting until Day X, when they say that interviews will begin, or the mid-cycle release happens, or the final decisions are announced. Harvard is pretty good with mapping out what to expect. If you apply to HBS, you totally know when you can start freaking out.
With Columbia, people start freaking out from Day 1.
Columbia explains here how the process works and how to interpret the status messages you’ll see in the online system.
And then below are the general patterns and cycle times that we’ve observed over the past many years. NOTE: THESE ARE PATTERNS. Your case is almost definitely going to go through a different cycle, because, after all, it’s YOUR case and you wouldn’t have anything to freak out about otherwise, right??
- Apps are processed in order received. All that means is that they START TO look at your app based on when it came in; this does not mean that they will FINISH with your app and render a decision in the same order.
- They used to promise decisions within 8-10 weeks after submission of the app but they pulled back on this completely last year. It still tends to happen well within that timeline for J-Term apps, and often with ED apps too; it definitely does not apply to regular-round apps. And, a “decision” may be a waitlist/deferred decision offer, so some people end up in limbo for months.
- Interview invites can come at any time after the app goes complete. Some Brave Supplicants are reporting interview invitations came almost immediately after app submission this year (this is a new phenomena, it seems to have happened quite a bit this year – this does not mean that the interview invite is triggered automatically, there is no decision-making at any bschool that is done by computer).
J-TERM & EARLY DECISION
We’ll talk about these together since they have the same submission deadline.
- They’ve been processing both J-Term and ED apps since the application opened in May or whenever, however J-Term apps are prioritized. They tend to issue J-Term decisions by November or early December at the latest — after all, you’d theoretically be headed to school in January, so they need to get through them fast.
- If you submit in the summer, the whole thing can go like lightning. We’ve seen Brave Supplicants go from submit to acceptance within four weeks from July through September.
- In past high-volume years, for ED apps that were submitted right around the October deadline, interview invites would come by mid-November, and final decisions would come after Thanksgiving. This year we’re hearing anecdotes that maybe things are moving more quickly.
- Acceptance decisions usually come within a week or 10 days of the interview (if your Ambassador doesn’t submit the report right away then it may take longer – but frankly, it’s quite rare for this to happen, the alumni tend to be on top of it).
- If you’re being admitted, then almost always, someone from the admissions team will call you directly to let you know that you’re being accepted; this happens before you’ll get any email or system status change. See below for a special note about this.
- If you’re not being accepted after the interview, it often takes longer to find out; and they don’t call, they just change the status and you get an email to check the system.
- After the interview, J-Term candidates might end up on a waitlist. The waitlist is just for the J-Term; it doesn’t roll over to the August start, there’s no relationship between these two candidate pools in any way.
- ED candidates don’t get waitlisted, they get offered a “deferred decision” – this means that they’re putting you in with the Regular Round candidates and will decide on your fate after they’ve seen how the rest of the pool shapes up. You’re off the hook in terms of the ‘binding’ ED promise at that point. (Our rant from last year about deferred decision remains one of the most popular posts ever around here.)
- In years past, they’ve said that they accept from a third to a half of August Start students in the ED round. There are no rules; there are no quotas.
- Regardless of when you submitted, they will not even crack your application open until DECEMBER. That’s actually even earlier than they used to do it. They clear out ALL of the J-Term and ED applicants before starting in on Regular Round. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already submitted your Regular Round app, it’s not moving until then. At that point, it will be opened for first review in the order received, so applying earlier is an advantage.
- There is not a huge advantage to applying to the August Start Regular Round any sooner than December. There just aren’t that many apps ahead of you in the queue. Take your time and make it the strongest app possible. Submit by mid-December if you can.
- There is a huge DISadvantage to applying to the Regular Round late. “Late” in this context means after the Fellowship Deadline in early January. They tend to get the peak of applications then, often 1,000+ applications in that first week of January alone (out of ~6,500 total). If you apply after that, they’ll just have filled so many of the spots that there’s a chance you’ll be left in the cold. You definitely do not want to apply after Feb. 1st to Columbia; if you’re that late to the party, EssaySnark *strongly* recommends hanging tight and applying when the app opens up again for the next season.
- If you are early in the submission queue, you might get an interview invite in late December; mostly those tend to come in January. Final decisions are usually 3-4 weeks after interview for Regular Round candidates.
- Regular Round applicants might end up on the waitlist. If you were an ED candidate who went into Deferred Decision, you can expect a yes-or-no decision sometime in January (we’ve never seen them put an ED person on the Regular Round waitlist, they’ll just cut you loose).
Special note about the phone calls:
We’ve heard of two types of phone calls: Acceptances (YAY!) and Requests for Information. These both come from admissions people, and they try to call during regular business hours in your time zone, regardless of where you’re at in the world.
- The Request for Information calls typically are around career goals, or possibly about something that was unclear in your resume. These seem to occur when the interviewer didn’t submit a complete report, or maybe when the essays didn’t quite make sense. These are generally a good sign, in that they wouldn’t be bothering if they weren’t interested in you — but it’s not so great that they have to follow up like this (something fell down in the standard system). If you get ANY call from the adcom, treat it like you’re being interviewed – be brief with your answers but thorough, be friendly and enthusiastic, be polite.
The Acceptance calls also break down into two types:
- The Yay You’re In!! calls which are obvious: YAY!
- The Yay You’re In but have you thought about an EMBA instead? calls — which totally throw people for a loop. These first started happening last year. This is the deal: If you’re local to NYC and you applied to the J-Term especially, but even if you applied to the August Start, and especially if you’re a little older, and especially especially if you’re not changing your career or you’re an entrepreneur…. They’re almost definitely gonna hit you up to see if you want to enroll in one of their EMBA tracks instead of the full-time MBA. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO THIS. They are calling to accept you in whatever program you applied to, which you specifically chose, and it will NOT change their decision if you do not go for the EMBA bait. What happened (we strongly suspect) is Columbia expanded the EMBA too quickly and they don’t have enough well-qualified warm bodies to fill it… so they’re mining the rolls of the regular F/T program for takers. They can easily and always fill the F/T class with people willing to uproot their lives and move to NYC for two years. It’s not so easy to fill the ranks of an EMBA class.
If you’re already in NYC — then you’re a prime target for this EMBA pitch if they decide to accept you to the F/T MBA. Just be aware that it might happen — don’t get flustered if it does — just thank them profusely and say how honored you are that they even considered you a good candidate for that, but no thank you, you did your research and chose the exact Columbia program that you chose for a good reason, and you’d be happy to accept their offer to attend that program, Yay you!.
There are likely a gazillion other situations and permutations that we have neglected to cover here. These are the basics we can think of at this point in the day without enough coffee. If you have questions or if we missed something obvious, we’re all ears.
Here's what others have said about this:
Thank you for posting about this. I applied ED to Columbia, and I'd heard so many stories about people getting their interview invites the next day that I was about ready to write off my chances. It's good to hear that it frequently took longer to hear back in the past.
I'd love to see a post that talks about how long it has typically taken to hear back from top programs and quirks specific to their processes.
Mike E, that's a great question – we'll see what we can do about mapping out the decision processes for other schools too.
In the meantime, we found this reference chart that we've been using: http://www.primeformba.com – click the link at the top for View Application Deadlines and it gives a popup with the dates, including published response dates, from the top schools.
Many schools give decisions earlier than those final response dates, but this is a help in determining some basic strategies for Rd 2.
I applied as an international application at the deadline on 4th October for the J-term and had the interview on the 22nd October and am waiting for the final call or email deciding my fate.
The challenge i face is managing the expectation of my manager as they need to know whether i will be leaving the company or not in 2 months. Also the logistics of getting the visa paperwork and relocating my life to New York makes the time extremely difficult. Any idea if they give priority to replying to international applicants and if there is a definitive cut off date for decisions for international applicants?
Another question around the significance of the interview as i had a great interview and i even received a note from my interviewer saying that he gave a strong recommendation to the admissions board. I would like to know if you have come across people how have had brilliant interviews and have yet been rejected.
Thank you for your note above it is extremely useful and look forward to hearing more from you
Anonymous, yes they do give priority to international candidates and they're well aware of the visa requirements you face. The part about giving your employer notice is unfortunate but there's not a lot we can offer in terms of advice for that. We've also heard of a few ED candidates who seem to be in some sort of holding pattern after the interview right now. Our guess is that the adcom is trying to do at least a cursory evaluation of the entire pool of candidates before making decisions on the next batch. The waiting sucks, we know.
The interview is important but it's by no means a deciding factor… and yes, we have heard of interviews seeming to go well but the applicant was not admitted. The opposite has happened, too, though. You cannot read too much into the interview at CBS.
Please keep us posted on how things turn out – we know of a number of candidates in your shoes and we're hoping the logjam clears at CBS soon!!
Its anonymous again. I just received an email asking me to call them as they had some questions post the interview that they would like to ask me before they could make their decision.
Any idea what they could ask?
Hi anonymous – eek. This is a not-great sign but it's not the end of the world. We have seen this before when the interviewer didn't do a good job with his report (or, sometimes, when the career goals in the essays are unclear). We talked about this above, the Request for Information calls. Treat it like another interview, and good luck!! (And let us know how it goes!)
Essaynark, Its me again. I had the call with the admissions person the said they were concerned with why i wanted to do a full time program when i was in a great position and had achieved so much to date. They warned me that leaving my current job would not garauntee that i would be able to return to the same level within my organisation . They said they felt hesitant to accept me in the full-time program and urged me to consider an executive Global program as i would be a better fit. They challenged my logic and suggested i speak to one of the EMBA students and to come back to them after i had this conversation to discuss and that they would wait for me before making their final decision.
They did place doubt in my mind and i will reach out to the current student to have the conversation about the EMBA vs. fulltime program before i return to them. It feels as though they would offer me a place in the EMBA, whilst they are not sure about the full-time.
Is this something you have seen this happen before? And have already decide that i am admitted and are they simply trying to persuade me to look at the EMBA instead of full-time?
I am afraid that if i stick to my guns about a fulltime i could end up with no place at all.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Anonymous, yes, we have seen this before (as described in our post above) but in your case, it sounds like you did not do your job in the essays of explaining why you NEED the f/t MBA. (Funny, we were just talking about that at the 30 Days site: http://30days.hoop.la/displaycontent/content/250816187841947503 ) We can't advise you on what to do here since we obviously have not seen what you pitched to Columbia. Based on what you're saying, it does indeed sound like they want to give you a spot in the EMBA over the F/T program, and we honestly can't say how it will play out for you if you insist on F/T. It sounds like your profile is more suited to EMBA and we can't really argue with the adcom if that's the case. Sorry that we can't offer more! We would be doing you a disservice to tell you what to do since we haven't seen your application.
Soojin's blog is awesome and is part of why Ross is awesome. ES, your response to the recent whiner about the 2 interview invite batches was appreciated! What's not to like about Ross's straightforward and quick process??
I'll be visiting/interviewing on 12/3 and am very excited!
Erin, congrats on the Ross interview!!! You would be an excellent fit for their program, very pleased to hear you submitted there. We've heard of a number of Brave Supplicants who will be on campus for the interviews in early December – excited for all of you!! Ross is a special place, it's in our Top 5 personal favorites for sure.
I applied ED for Columbia’s NYC-Saturdays EMBA program. App in Dec. 30, interview invite Jan. 13, interviewed Jan. 27 w/ admissions officer. Interview went well I felt, lasted over an hour. At the end, interviewer said to expect decision in 7-10 days. It has now been 16 days, and I haven’t heard a word; there has been no change to my application status since submitting my application in Dec. Is this normal? Can’t find much color on EMBA timing. Should I follow up or sit tight?
Hey Curil! Thanks for the question! As hard as it is, we suggest sitting tight! Because the interviews for EMBA are conducted by admissions staff, there’s much less chance that an app falls through the cracks. That can sometimes happen with an alumni interviewer for the F/T program where the interview report doesn’t get submitted but it’s not that common even there. While 16 days seems like a lot longer than 7 days, it’s not that much longer than 10 days, right? 🙂 The waiting is definitely the hardest part so we totally sympathize, but you’re not likely to get any further action by calling. It typically won’t hurt to do so but we can also guarantee that it’s not going to increase your chances, so why risk it?
Please stop back by again and let us know what happens!!! GOOD LUCK!