Earlier this year, before the schools started announcing their essay questions, we were all ready to write a series of posts on Columbia called “BatCoB.” Thankfully, Columbia’s new essay questions do not require it.
You probably think EssaySnark has just about lost it. We were going to write a post titled “BatCoB”? What is that, Batman had a run-in with some corn at the picnic? Is BatCoB some kind of mysterious encryption algorithm? Is it a special code that we’re going to share with you, where we reveal the hidden secret of how to write a good essay?
No, Brave Supplicant. It’s Columbia Business School’s tagline: Being at the Center of Business
When a school uses its branding in its essays, it makes for some difficult essay-writing. Thankfully, Columbia fixed the error of its previous ways and this year’s questions are super awesome and wonderful.
Still, BatCoB may be relevant to ponder. After all, if the school is using its branding as an attempt to communicate to its market what they’re about, then you — its market — may want to consider that branding, as a way to understand the school.
And, very important from a practical matter, getting inside the adcom’s head a little can make it much easier to tackle their essays. Particularly with Columbia’s this year.
We’re gonna discuss this puppy today. At the end of this discussion, you will thank us.
So last year, Columbia asked this with its Essay 2:
Columbia Business School’s students participate in industry focused New York immersion seminars; in project based Master Classes; and in school year internships. Most importantly, our students are taught by a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”?
This year, much simpler:
The full time MBA experience includes academics, recruiting, and networking. What are your personal priorities and how do you anticipate allocating your time at Columbia Business School?
If you’re a wise and wooly BSer, you may be saying, “Aha! They listed out all these goodies last year! I’m going to use those in my answer for essay 2!”
Pro tip: You can’t just regurgitate the same things that a school has already told you about in their essay prompt, regardless of if it’s a past one, and expect that to impress anyone. If all you say in your essay is that you want to take master classes and immersion seminars and you’re a subway ride away from Wall St., welp, you officially phoned it in, buster. That’s a Chevy Nova in Mexico.
If instead you write about how Columbia has these important classes you want to take like statistics and marketing and oh-la-la corporate finance (sexy!), the problem with that is it’s all very basic. Every school has that.
You need to be careful with how you position things. If you decide to get all fancy and you plan on tossing out this BatCoB thing as part of essay 2, then just make sure the logic holds. Even if you dig deep into the depths of the Columbia website and you come up with never-before-discussed courses that Columbia offers, that you KNOW nobody else has discussed in their Columbia Essay 2…. you still need to BatCoB them. Just because it’s a course at Columbia, and just because Columbia is in New York, and just because you want to go to Columbia, does not mean that any course you select is automatically going to work as part of that angle.
Because we’re willing to bet that NYU Stern also has a similar course, and hey guess what? NYU Stern is in New York! Which is at the very center of business (ahem some might say even more so than Columbia).
You need to be careful how you write about things. Frequently we get BSers writing near-nonsensical statements about how they want to go to Columbia because it’s in New York and they can take corporate finance there!!! You see the issue?
You can still talk about how you want to go to Columbia, and why you want to take corporate finance, and how Columbia is in New York, but often it works better to break those ideas out.
If you want to talk about how you will take advantage of Columbia being in New York, it usually is more powerful to identify the Columbia-specific programs and opportunities that are available. Or, just skip that part, and focus on Columbia itself. That’s what the adcom has done with this year’s question. It’s totally appropriate for you to answer it exactly as it’s been asked.
You don’t need to incorporate a school’s branding into your essays. In most cases, it’ll only get you tied up in knots if you try.
Of course, if you want to talk about how going to school in New York is important to you, too, and how you’ll take advantage of those city-based resources, you can do that, too, but use a light hand, since, yes, it’s part of the Columbia MBA experience, but not exclusively so. This is particularly important if you already live in New York City! We’ve seen essays from BSers who have grown up on the Upper West Side talking about how they can’t wait to go to Columbia so that they can be just a subway ride away from Wall Street so they can network.
When you identify the answers you’re going to use to an essay question, be sure to step back and validate those answers from the perspective of this school, and your own profile. Someone applying to Columbia from Mumbai could easily write that sentence; someone applying from Hackensack is going to come across less strongly if they do.
This year, Columbia thankfully ditched the “center of New York” / “center of business” angle of their own school branding from the actual questions they’re asking you to write. This year’s essays are some of the most straightforward we’ve seen out of this school, or any school, in some time. Big Bravo to Columbia for that. Simpler is almost always better – not just from the adcoms in devising the hoops they ask you to jump through, but in the answers you construct for their questions.
In our discussion of the Strategy of Authenticity this season, one great technique to keep yourself honest as you write your essays is to avoid the gimmicks, and stay focused on what was actually asked in the question, and not get too creative with how you think up your answer. If you want to talk about Columbia BatCoB, well, do so at your own risk.
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