Welp, this post was supposed to go up yesterday, so we’re sending it along today because there’s still time to apply to both of these schools! Columbia’s Early Decision and J-Term deadlines are on Wednesday (Oct. 3) and NYU Round 1 is Oct. 15.
But these are VERY different schools. Frequently MBA applicants will target pairs of cities like this, NYU and Columbia being among the most common. Just like Booth and Kellogg, or MIT and Harvard, or Stanford and Berkeley, each of the pair actually has little in common with the other beyond the fact that they’re both located in the same geography (or practically the same zip code, for MIT/HBS).
The thing that’s most different about the Columbia/NYU pairing compared to those others is that NYU is often the afterthought school. With every other school in those other pairs, applicants are gung-ho and excited by each of the names even if they know nothing in-depth about them. Because rankings. But NYU? They’re like the unwanted stepchild who’s neglected and abused; nobody thinks about them unless they’re looking to add a safety school to the mix.
But NYU is in our opinion a total Cinderella. They’re the belle of the ball — at least, they are for their Prince Charmings who discover them and appreciate them for what they are.
(OK, fairy tale metaphors don’t hold up so well in modern 2018 America and the metaphor is obviously falling apart in how we’re attempting to apply it in this. We’re gonna abandon it now before it gets us in trouble.)
Suffice it to say, we think NYU is an underappreciated gem, and for those who discover it, and understand what it offers, and decide that they’re a good fit for the place, it can be super exciting (for us and for them!) to get in. We have seen BSers choose NYU over some other very good schools in the last year or so. It’s one to look into — that is, if for your MBA you care about:
· culture and a truly collaborative community
· connections with Wall Street and all flavors of finance
· innovation being put into practice everywhere around you
· proactive entrepreneurship and deep resources to support you
“Wait – EssaySnark – are you saying that Columbia doesn’t have those things?”
No, not at all — but there’s truly a difference in how they are implemented and the overall flavor of each individual school.
The EssaySnark refrain is always “Try to visit the school if you can!” because school visits are where this can be palpably experienced. Lacking the time or resources to pull that off (especially with deadlines in, like, a week) then you need to rely on the poor substitute of researching online and, hopefully, talking to as many people as you can.
In looking on their website, we couldn’t help but notice some angles that NYU has been emphasizing recently. And this one, it’s impossible not to call out.
The main page of the NYU Stern Full-Time program looks like this:
If you’ve done even the most cursory research at all, you’re already aware that Columbia’s tagline is “at the center of business” — it used to be “at the center of Manhattan” and we were like, “Ummm…. have you seen a map lately?” Columbia has in many application seasons used that “center of business” thing as part of their essay questions that applicants must answer (and oh hey look! we have at least one post on this essay question!). Columbia’s “center of business” question is pretty tough to do well. Pro Tip: Please don’t simply parrot back what they talk about in their video! And don’t focus only on NYC in your answer. The focus needs to be on COLUMBIA and how you will leverage what they offer. As with most essay questions, it requires some reflection to understand which direction to go with it!
Back to the NYU messaging: The “Community with Heart” angle is really appropriate. It’s not really a theme or message that we’d expect to come from Columbia. This is no diss to Columbia, it’s more a reflection of NYU specifically. Maybe when Columbia’s Dean Hubbard retires and they get a new dean next summer, the Columbia brand will move in a new direction. We’ll have to see how that plays out, but for now, Columbia is much more buttoned-up and traditional and even in some respects conservative in how their culture is experienced by many people. This is what we mean when we say these two schools are so different.
The other observation we can offer is how innovative NYU has been and continues to be. This is obvious in the ever-changing requirements in their MBA application, the new MBA programs they have launched (something like three new flavors of MBA in just two years, plus the Advanced Professional Certificates which are like an MBA-lite) and innovation is also in evidence within the curriculum, course offerings and programs.
This is again where your own firsthand research is so important. Finding out which of NYU’s innovations matter to you and your future post-MBA goals is critical to understanding if they’re a fit for you — and obviously you need to talk about fit in NYU Essay 1 about your short and long-term career goals and how with the [Stern] MBA help you achieve them. (Note the [Stern] insert there; when you talk about why you want an MBA — from Stern or whichever school you’re answering that question for — tailor it to their program specifically!)
Columbia innovates, too, but it’s not something we’d call central to their brand. And that’s okay; their MBA program is exceptionally strong and they don’t have to be branching out into new areas in order for it to be wildly beneficial to you. And also just a caution: Despite what we’re doing in this post, we do not suggest writing an essay in a compare-and-contrast style. You don’t want to say “NYU is the only school that has….” or “Columbia is better than other schools because…” Instead, talk about what the school has that you care about and how you will leverage it. That’s where fabulous “why MBA” essays are born.
So Columbia and NYU? Sure, you can apply to both if you really want to get your MBA in New York. But make sure you’ve identified WHY — not just because of New York — you’re targeting each of them individually. If we were to name schools that are more like siblings, then instead of Columbia and NYU, we’d say Columbia and Wharton. But that’s a post for another day.
For NYU and Columbia, or Booth and Kellogg, or Stanford and Berkeley, or Harvard and MIT, it’s totally possible that one applicant might be similarly excited by both of the business schools in each of these pairing. But in our experience, they each tend to attract very different types for their MBA programs. That’s especially true for NYU and Columbia.
Whereas sometimes, an MBA candidate who makes it into Columbia also makes it into Wharton, because those schools are more similar than different, it’s much more rare for someone to make it into both Columbia and NYU. It does happen, but less often, which is another sign of how the schools are unique each unto themselves.
If you’re looking for some input on whether your Columbia or NYU (or Ross or Cornell or UCLA) MBA application is ready to submit, our Sanity Check can do that for you!
Good luck to all struggling through their hopefully final apps this weekend!! Round 1 is a slog and you’ve got the finish line in sight.
Tell us what you think.