Wow, we had Rail on Columbia Week recently didn’t we?
To summarize our theory of why Columbia Business School took a hit in their apps last season: We think that people got turned off.
There’s more than the explanation around a Wall Street stumble going on at Columbia.
It’s probably the international loan issue too – but that’s been true for awhile, so that’s not the whole story either.
We have had more than one BSer tell us that they had an uncomfortable experience at a Columbia info session, that someone from the school said something that turned them off, that they just didn’t get a welcoming vibe. Maybe what happened with the drop in apps was, BSers attended those info sessions and decided it wasn’t the place for them. Maybe they sensed the complacency or the attitude. Sure, New Yorkers have attitude, we sorta expect that – but there may also have crept in a better-than-thou mentality within Columbia Business School.
In fact, EssaySnark experienced this firsthand – we’ve met the (now former) head of admissions many times over the past few years. We go to info sessions too, you see; we have to know the market, don’t we?
And we know a thing or two about bschools.
We were pretty shocked to hear this admissions director make statements at an info session that were completely untrue.
Things like “Columbia is the only school that has such-and-such.”
And we’re sitting there going, nuh-unh. So-and-so school has that! What were we gonna do, raise our hand and say “Pardon us Ms Admissions Person but you’re wrong.”
This happened twice at one info session. We also were, shall we say, unimpressed with the attitude. We’ve met lots of admissions peeps and most of them are incredibly friendly and highly encouraging of candidates. Most info sessions are totally inspiring and make everyone in the room ready to apply. But we weren’t sure whether this Columbia person really wanted people to apply or not; we got the sense that maybe their school was too good for us. (Like that atrocious ad that’s still floating around out there from another school – the one that says it’s a program so good that you won’t even be able to get in – yikes, who in tarnation thought that was a good idea!)
Maybe others got that impression about Columbia, too.
So Columbia took a hit. Their applications went down – more than we’ve ever heard of apps going down. In fact, they tanked. At embarrassing levels.
This will almost definitely be a factor in the BW rankings that are currently being calculated – those come out every two years, in November. Columbia should be bracing to get pushed down that list, perhaps significantly. And that almost definitely will lead to further decline in apps — or maybe not, because Columbia is a powerhouse brand whether the bschool is up to snuff or not (case in point: Cornell and Duke, which both have incredible brand names due to the university but aren’t the heavy-hitter bschools that you’d expect).
The good news? Since we promised some positive with this post?
The good news is that Columbia made some changes. Starting in mid-summer, we started detecting a shifting in policies. Small changes in the admissions policies FAQ; different rules in effect on applications this year. Little things, but refereshing to see.
We’re not claiming this in the category of “good news” but… the Ms. Admissions Person – the one we had previously sat in the info session audience being aghast at – she is now gone. Apparently she’s been banished to a Siberia of sorts: she’s now program director for the Columbia EMBA-Global Asia (whose admissions, we would note, is run out of another school entirely – HKU – it’s not even managed in NYC). We would never want someone to lose their job… but this is a business school, right? Of all organizations, they should be ones that know to take action when the business is being mismanaged. Admissions is not just the sit-up-on-the-high-horse arbiter of apps. They are the school’s SALES function. If your VP of sales caused a double-digit drop-off in leads… well… he wouldn’t be around for long.
A changing of the guard is good news to us. Given how Columbia has already very quietly been adjusting some of their admissions policies – not all, but some – then we have hope that other applicant-friendly changes may be underway.
If you’re thinking about bschools, you should still give Columbia a chance. Maybe they’ll be working harder to try and attract the talent to the UWS side now, instead of assuming that everyone will just come flocking to their fabulousness. We’re guessing that they’ll be actively courting you folks, trying to make you love them. Maybe they’ll modify more of those policies at some point (unlikely they can do it now, they’re in the middle of the app season already).
And Columbia is still a great school. Is it Top 10 great? Yeah, probably. We shall see what others say on that. In the ‘Snark’s opinion, even with all this negativity this week, we don’t think you could ever go wrong with a Columbia education. (You also can’t go wrong with an NYU education – they are at least equivalent – and frankly they may be a better school for you generation of BSers. Check ’em out, it’s a nice place to get an MBA.)
As to Columbia admissions? And the Columbia administration? Well, they have some work to do.
BTW, congratulations to Amanda Carlson who got promoted and is now leading the adcom at CBS. She has a big task ahead of her. Maybe we’ll see her at a Columbia info session someday soon. 😉
And now a question to you, Brave Supplicant:
Is Columbia on your list this year?
Some of you have already said “no thanks” to Columbia – but we know others are still planning to apply, or have already submitted.
Where are you at? Feeling the love for Columbia still? Tell us in the comments!