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.
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.