IMPORTANT: THIS POST WAS WRITTEN FOR 2013. The 2014 Columbia questions are almost identical, so this post is still very relevant - but there are nuances that must be accounted for (the prompts are not letter-for-letter the same). Please proceed accordingly!
As we blahgged yesterday, Columbia’s questions are out, and they’re remarkably similar to what they’ve asked for in years past. Here’s how they break down:
- Essay 1: “Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time?”
This is the same career goals question that Columbia has been asking for years, just in a different skin. Last year they had a wordier version: “Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals?” Check out our Columbia MBA essays page for variations of this essay that we’ve critiqued over the years. This first essay, plus the short-answer question that asks what, specifically, you want to do with your career, need to form the core of your entire Columbia application. Our Career Goals App Accelerator takes you through specific exercises to help you identify these goals and form your responses in the best way possible for Columbia – and many other schools, too.
- Essay 2: “Columbia Business School is located in the heart of the world’s business capital – Manhattan. How do you anticipate that New York City will impact your experience at Columbia?”
This one seems to be a direct shot across the NYU bow. NYU has touted the advantage of their location for years. It’s in their DNA.
Notwithstanding the fact that Columbia is swiping their downtown rival’s main marketing message, about NYC being part of the experience of going there, we have to stop and examine this statement. Umm… “the heart” of Manhattan? Are you serious?!? That’s disingenuous at best. CBS adcom, did you really think you’d get away with that without us calling you out on it?
If any top bschool is at “the heart” of NYC, it’s NYU – and not just because their name has “New York” in it. The Village is totally where it’s at. The key “New York City” shots in one of those videos are from Times Square, Grand Central Station, and the Empire State Building – those are all in midtown. Columbia is on the Upper West Side. The UWS – while lovely – is just NOT the hub of New York. And Columbia is really in Morningside Heights, which is stretching the definition of the UWS. AND… aren’t you guys moving even further north? The new business school is going to be in Manhattanville. That’s ManhattanVILLE. Technically a neighborhood of the Borough of Manhattan, yes – but one which starts at 125th Street.
To put that in perspective: Some of the hippest New Yorkers won’t be caught dead above 14th Street.
Columbia. You disappoint. This claim is pushing the limits. The “heart” of Manhattan. Pshaw.
OK fine, this isn’t the most important part of the question they’re asking – and it’s definitely not what you should be talking about in your Columbia essay 2 this year!! But we just have to wonder what’s up with the adcom. Like, what were they thinking? Google Maps exists, you know.
View Columbia Business School – NYU Stern in Google Maps
- Essay 3: “What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you?”
We predicted that Columbia would try to show that they’re an open, friendly school, a la Duke, who had a great question last year asking for candidates to describe how they’re unique (the “25 Things” essay – brilliant). Columbia didn’t go that route exactly. Instead, they copied one of Kellogg’s longstanding tactics, which asks the applicant something from the perspective of their future classmates. Kellogg’s version last year was “What one interesting or fun fact would you want your future Kellogg classmates to know about you?” Columbia is what Kellogg – and also Ross – have been asking for awhile. It also has echoes of NYU’s “Personal Expression” essay 3: “Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates.” Nothing too original.
The current question is a marked improvement from the one it replaces: “Describe why you are interested in becoming a part of the Columbia community.” The essays we saw from people on that question just kinda sucked last year; they were mostly suck-up, telling the school stuff about the school, and not revealing much of anything about the candidate. This question at least gives BSers an opportunity to share something specific about themselves – without going into the TMI territory that so many people did with the one about describing a “personal experience.” We approve of this new essay 3, even if it’s not completely unique.
So, takeaway messages: Columbia’s sticking to the tried-and-true, in terms of what they’re looking for: career goals and why do you want to go there. But they’re lacking in ingenuity, in their approach of copying other schools’ questions. No problem with that, except then you can hardly fault the BSer who does something similar by submitting an essay she wrote for, say, Kellogg (or NYU), in her Columbia application.
We do NOT recommend you do that. The adcoms don’t like it. It’s not the way to impress them, and to articulate your reasons why you want to go to their school.
But with essay questions like this, it’s likely what Columbia will get.
You might also be interested in
- Columbia: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? – posted 5/20/13