Now that Columbia has officially released its 2018 MBA essays and application, and the essay questions are, as usual, focusing on career goals and “why Columbia?” with the second one asking about being at the center…. So given the focus on an “early” application that we often see at this time, we wanted to dig into one of the most common questions any BSer ever asks:
Is it easier to get into Columbia Early Decision?
Well… yes and no.
If you’re presenting in the right way, with strong messaging and detailed answers to the three questions they’ve asked you, you’re going to stand out from the crowd in any round. Doesn’t matter if you’re coming from a very overcrowded candidate pool or not. Doesn’t matter if you submit on the first day the app opens, or at the deadline.
If you’re not familiar with the rolling admissions process and the binding Early Decision option for the August Start at Columbia, then stop right here and go read about it on our Columbia MBA info page. We’re not going to go into all of it again in this post, since we explain how it works over there. There are other schools, notably Duke and this year Darden, with “early” rounds as well, however Columbia’s is unique because it’s early and they do rolling admissions. Also just a note: Duke’s Early Action is also binding, like Columbia’s Early Decision is; Darden’s Early Action is not binding.
So is Early Decision at Columbia a massive advantage?
It can be an advantage, but it’s not necessarily a massive one — and it’s certainly no advantage at all if you don’t really intend on going to Columbia if they accept you. Applying Early Decision is making a commitment upfront to the school. It’s not to be used as an “insurance policy” along with other Round 1 applications. It’s unethical to do that and it’s not at all a strategy that we condone. If you apply Early Decision to Columbia, and you do have a strong application, then you’re likely to move through the process quickly. If they like you and say yes, then you’re going to be asked to pony up a very large deposit in a very short amount of time. If you apply to Columbia ED and you are also planning on applying other “better” schools in Round 1, then (besides that whole nuisance about ethics) you run the risk of having the Columbia deposit deadline staring you in the face before you’ve gotten answers back from those other schools. So don’t get your knickers in a twist about it. Yes it can be an advantage, but it’s designed for those who are already in love with the school and would be thrilled to get accepted. If you can’t wait to be done with the whole drama of applying to bschool, then absolutely, try for Columbia ED, and do it as early as you can. You could quite possibly move through the whole cycle and have your admit in hand before your buddies have submitted their very first app. Every year we work with BSers who get their acceptance from Columbia in July, and they are home free with partying for the rest of the summer. Nice position to be in — provided Columbia is your very first choice.
But what if you’re worried that you’re not the most competitive candidate? Is Columbia Early Decision the right move?
Absolutely it is, especially if you have flaws and weaknesses in your profile — but only if you’re still a competitive candidate.
Applying early to Columbia with a too-low GMAT score is going to get you the same answer as it would later on if the rest of your profile cannot support the glitch.
Columbia does not admit on the basis of GMAT score. They are just as likely to reject someone with a 700 as they are with a 760 if the application does not come together. If your GMAT is below 700, and you really really like Columbia, and you have given up all hope for increasing it further because you’ve already tried and tried and you just can’t nail it, then definitely apply Early Decision.
But be ready for some WORK on those essays, to make them as strong as you can make them.
Very soon, you’ll start seeing reports on the admissions forums of applicants with strong stats (750, 3.6) who are turned away from Columbia without even an interview. It happens all the time, and it’s due to a failure of execution in the essays. You can have an amazing set of core stats but if you don’t put together a compelling pitch in response to their questions, you’re hosed. Early Decision won’t save you.
That’s what we mean when we say that Early Decision is, and is not, an advantage.
If your profile is borderline in some key way, and you are ready to commit to Columbia, then by all means, take advantage of Early Decision.
If you’re on the fence about whether Columbia is your #1 school, then don’t risk it. Go for Regular Decision, and apply in the sweet spot time. Don’t wait till the last minute or you’ll be up against way more competition.
The Columbia adcom has stated before that an application for Regular Decision that comes in early enough has just as much chance of acceptance as a binding Early Decision app. We don’t quite buy that; our dataset based on many many BSers going through both processes over the course of many many years indicates otherwise. But at the same time, we see plenty of BSers coming from standard subsets of the MBA applicant population — white guy in finance, Indian in tech — who do just fine with a Columbia app in December or early January.
Columbia does not reveal their admit rates for different types of candidates, nor do they share details on J-Term versus August Start, Regular Decision or Early. As with all schools these days, the class will be getting quite full as you move through the admissions season, so applying in the earlier round to ANY top MBA program is strongly strongly advisable.
If you have flaws in your profile that can be fixed, then now is the time to fix them. If you know you’ll be applying with specific weak spots in the app, then apply Early Decision if you’re ready for the commitment. Otherwise just apply in the Fall to the Regular Decision option and you’re still going to be at an advantage.
If you’re a reapplicant who knows in her heart she belongs at Columbia, then absolutely do all in your power to make it an Early Decision app. If you’re a reapplicant who’s still thinking of Columbia along with a whole collection of other schools, then it’s fine to push Columbia out.
Hopefully we’ve covered all the possible scenarios here! If you have specific questions on your own situation, feel feel to lay them on us in the comments and we’ll let you know what we think.
Ready to get started? Our Columbia MBA essay guide has been updated for 2018 to help!