We know you know what we think about using Columbia Early Decision as an insurance policy. If Columbia is not your first choice school, then don’t apply Early Decision. If you’re also applying to schools like Harvard and Stanford and Wharton, then it’s borderline unethical to also try for Columbia ED since you’re clearly focused…
No offense, Columbia, but this is a crappy essay question and we’re surprised that you are using it. But maybe the admissions committee knows something we don’t. Here’s what we do know: Most people’s essays about “a leader you admire” totally and completely suck. Or perhaps that was the whole point. Maybe Columbia is using…
Reblahgging this from a few years ago because it’s RELEVANT! The comments are preserved including our “Huh??” exchange with a BSer which probably explains why so few of you ever post questions to us here lol – were we too harsh on that dude? maybe. Sorry, Mr JackStack BSer Man. Hope you’re enjoying your MBA!!
and OH YEAH THIS POST HAS A MAP TO COLUMBIA ESSAY 1 ON CAREER GOALS!!!
Wanna know the longest route to a solid first draft?
Open MS Word and start typing.
That’s guaranteed to end up making this process rocky and difficult.
When you begin the task of answering the question that a particular school is asking, there is NO WAY you will know what you want to say.
Sure, you can start typing, and see what comes out. If you keep typing — and keep referring back to the question, as a reminder of what you’re supposed to be talking about — you may, eventually, come around to something worth saying.
But there will be a lot of useless words spit out onto your screen before you get there.
It’s just how things go.
Any good writer in the world will tell you, first drafts suck. That’s what they’re designed for. You don’t know what you’re saying or how you want to say it. The task of a first draft is to get the ideas captured on the page, and then you can start the real work of figuring out what it means and what actually belongs.
Most good writers don’t even harbor any fantasies that their first drafts will be usable. They KNOW that they’ll need to come back for revision. They EXPECT to do massive rewriting, and then are ready to throw writing away. Whole chunks of it. Sentences. Paragraphs. Sometimes the full draft.
You can do your MBA essays that way if you want.
Or, you can just write out a draft, and run spellcheck, and submit it.
Both methods are pretty much guaranteed to be doomed. If you submit a first draft, then we have a confidence level approaching the value of 0 that the essay will invite an adcom reviewer to look twice at you. That’ll put you on a fast path to rejection. If you start your first draft by just writing-writing-writing, then we also guarantee that that draft will be near-useless as a final document that appropriately answers the question and demonstrates who you are as an applicant. That first draft will need to be rewritten. Probably from scratch. As in, a start-over File->New clean-slate rewrite.
So what other options are there? How else would you do it, if you’re not writing a first draft of your essay?
The other method of building your MBA apps is to construct your essays.
You take the first question you’re answering.
You parse it out to its separate components.
You tackle each one of them individually — through a process of research and discovery and self-reflection.
Take Columbia’s Essay 1 on career goals:This special nugget of advice is offered to our blahg members. If you’re seeing this message and you have an active blahg membership then please log in to view the Columbia essay question breakdown. Otherwise consider becoming a member! (end special nugget o’ Columbia essay 1 dissection)
Really what we’re saying here, Brave Supplicant, is break down the question, examine each piece individually, and then go off and think about it for awhile.
Taking each prompt apart and answering each element separately is super important. If you don’t do that, then you’re nearly guaranteed to be writing an essay that is half-baked and unfinished.
Each part that you answer needs significant attention, and brainstorming, and planning. It’s not a matter of dividing the page into sections and blah-blah-blahhing for each part of the question for a couple hundreds words, and you’re done.
Crafting out the nuggets from your background, and polishing up each individual item you will be presenting, will let you have these bite-sized chunks of material that you can then ASSEMBLE into a meaningful whole for your reader.
If you do the groundwork and lay the foundation in this manner, you will have significantly more ammunition at your disposal to apply to all the different essay questions that will be thrown at you this season.
(And oh yeah, shameless plug: The Complete Essay Package guides you through this whole process! Start to finish! We help you with the exercises for brainstorming and the techniques for examining your ideas in separate contexts, so that you have the building blocks you need to tackle all of the essays you’re trying to
write assemble this season.)
When you have your first drafts assembled, then they will still need some revision. They are not going to be “done” just because you built them up from those nuggets. But they’re much more likely to be much closer to your target than if you’d just freewheeled it with randomness. Then, you’ll have a shot at making that multidimensional presentation to the adcom we’ve been advocating.
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DISCLAIMER: This post is not trying to tell you that you can reuse your essays from one school to another! Because really, you can’t. Even if the essay prompt is nearly exactly the same — which, this year, there’s at least one pair of schools where this is true — even when the questions are…
Some of you may have guessed what we were alluding to in yesterday’s “What’s wrong with this picture?” post, but if not, here you go.
That person sounded like they were definitely headed to Booth, right? Based on how they related the results? Did you examine where else they applied and what their outcomes were?
You may have noticed the admit to the Columbia J-Term, and wondered if we were going to comment on that. Nope, that’s not the issue. The J-Term is not binding. The potential wrinkle is that this person also applied to Duke.
The results didn’t say, but Duke has a Round 1, and an Early Action. Early Action at Duke is like Early Decision at Columbia: They are both binding.
It’s totally possible that this applicant applied in Duke Round 1 with no strings attached. But just in case there are some people considering Duke EA along with their other schools in Round 1, or Columbia ED, we’d like to talk through the options you’re looking at.
We already posted about Columbia Early Decision at the end of June, so none of this is news. We spoke there about how it’s a binding process — but we know that this seemingly obvious stance on how to navigate decisions in life is not universally shared. There are many MBA admissions consultants out there who apparently have no qualms about advising their clients to act unethically. It’s not something we will ever be able to understand. 😕
From a purely practical level though, the advice is flawed from its foundation. The idea is this: Try for Columbia Early Decision. If you get in, then that means you have a chance at a better school, because clearly you did something right!
But actually, no.
Columbia Early Decision tends to be easier to get in through – marginally so, at least, and dependent upon many factors.
So the logic being proposed is: “I’m going to try clearing an easier bar, and that means I’ll have success at the harder one!”
It’s like saying you are going to send your resume out for jobs at the Manager level, and if you get a job offer, then you’ll accept that offer, and then immediately send your resume out for jobs at the Director level, to see what happens.
These are different playing fields entirely.
Maybe the issue is, you’re thinking about it a little bit off. Maybe you’re thinking of it like running.
You run a 5K as preparation for the marathon.
Does that analogy hold?
Well, kinda. If your goal with trying for Columbia first is to learn what’s required to put a good application together, then sure. Applying to Columbia and getting accepted means you did a good job on that.
But these two separate goals — getting into Columbia, versus getting into Harvard or Stanford — they require optimization on different dimensions.
What Columbia cares about in its applicants is really not the same as what Harvard or Stanford care about.
Sure, there are overlaps.
But making it to the end of a 5k isn’t that big of a deal. Heck, OutOfShapeSnark can do it.
Making it to the end of a marathon is a whole ‘nother beast.
They’d be scooping this ‘Snark up off the course at sundown if it were us that were trying it.
The execution of a 5k and a marathon are really quite different.
If you want to get into Harvard or Stanford or wherever, then apply to Harvard or Stanford. Getting into Columbia first does not say anything about whether those other schools will work out. It just says you got into Columbia.
While we understand the thinking with this strategy, to try for Columbia ED and then use that to determine trying for other schools, and while yes, we know people do it all the time, that does not make it right.
Just because other people do it does not mean it’s okay. Do you want to be like other people?
Here’s the real problem with the Columbia/Duke “early” app as a planned first step and a H/S/W/whomever later app in the works (in case our point has escaped you):
Columbia Early Decision is binding.
You would be giving your COMMITMENT to Columbia by applying through their Early Decision process.
Your commitment is your word. It’s about honor. It’s not about the money that you would forfeit by paying a deposit and walking away from it if another school lets you in. It’s about following through on a promise that you make. You can examine the text in the Columbia application and reflect on what you would be promising to them. It may feel trivial, but in our perspective, decisions on every level matter in life.
We have many posts about this:
- “I’ll just apply to Columbia Early Decision as an insurance policy” (because obviously you’re not the first person to be thinking this way)
- Renegging on an Early Decision offer
There are actually more posts than that, in case you’re really into hearing us lecture, but those capture the gist of it.
Ethics are what let us live a noble life, one of honor and character. That’s what EssaySnark stands for, and we are always so inspired to work with others who share those values.
Oh hey wait.
Where have we heard that word before???
Oh that’s right. It’s what so many schools are saying they care about now.
And, the best part is: You don’t need to cheat in order to get in to Columbia!
If you have a solid profile, you’re going to have just as much shot at getting in through Regular Decision, if you apply at the right time and you present yourself effectively. Early Decision has been an advantage more so in highly competitive seasons. Which this season is unlikely to be (at least, not at that level). There is strategy involved, yes. There is execution required, yes. (Shameless plug: We go into all of this in our Columbia Essay Guide!!)
What could be a “weakness” for Harvard or Stanford is not even going to be noticed at Columbia — provided your essays are really strong, of course! Columbia cares a lot about the essays; the essays are very important there, regardless of which round.
This means that there isn’t much logic to the plan of trying for Columbia before trying for the others. That’s a common fallacy of a “trade-up strategy” and we just don’t see it work out that often. Admissions to each school is an independent event; the only reason that there is correlation between admits to multiple schools is based on underlying attributes in a profile, but the execution of each of those apps needs to be quite different in almost every case – and that’s ESPECIALLY true for the presentation of material for Harvard and Stanford compared to Columbia.
Someone who’s admitted to Harvard or Stanford, also being admitted to Columbia and MIT? Yes, absolutely, that’s going to happen all the time.
Someone admitted to Columbia or MIT also having a solid chance at Harvard and Stanford? No, sorry. Doesn’t work that way. Correlations fall apart when you move that direction.
Oh hey look! We cover this in multiple posts, too!
- The typical futility of aiming higher
- You got in somewhere good. Should you now try for somewhere better?
- Round 1 and your favorite school
There have been several years in a row now where admissions was all whack. The adcoms didn’t know what to expect in terms of numbers of applications, and how many would matriculate. This year is likely to have some uncertainty associated with it, but unless there’s a major shock to the economy, we do not expect it to be anything like what’s been seen previously. In other words: It looks like things are more stable. Predictable. If you want to play a risky strategy and try “trading up” then there’s no harm in trying — but having a sound Round 1 strategy in place first is really important. That’s the conservative way to do it.
Try for your most important schools early. Then if they don’t pan out, figure out why, and go at it again in Round 2 with that learning under your belt.
If you’d truly be thrilled with an admit to Columbia and wouldn’t be tempted by other schools later, then go for Columbia Early Decision. If you cannot commit to them upfront, then don’t.
It’s not necessary, and every time we compromise our values, a little shadow darkens our souls.
The other takeaway message from that results post from yesterday: This is a GREAT TIME to be reapplying to bschool! With a forecast of a softer season ahead — especially if you’re trying in Round 1 — it could totally turn into a set of happy results like this other BSer racked up. Congrats to him from last year! Maybe you’ll be in a similar wonderful (difficult!) position of having to choose between great programs in a few months.
We’re reblahgging this from the ‘snarchives since it’s an important topic!! You can see some comments below from BSers who’ve gone before, asking about their own strategies — feel free to post your own such questions too if you have them! Should you apply Early Action? (Note: Not to be confused with MIT Sloan’s…
Used to be, the answer to that was “Not really anywhere.” If you wanted to go get an MBA, many schools wouldn’t even consider an app from you until you’d accrued some work experience. Regardless of how motivated you may have been, you couldn’t apply to business school straight out of college. Well guess what? Times have changed!
Now, a bunch of MBA programs are practically falling over themselves to get undergraduates to apply.
Just this season alone, a bunch of business schools launched or expanded formalized programs where they will accept you even if you have not graduated from college yet. This gives you a guaranteed deferred admission to a future entering MBA class.
The new ones this season are being offered at:
- Columbia Business School who is calling this Deferred Enrollment (note: totally different from Columbia Early Decision, and also totally different from applying through a school’s standard admission, getting accepted, and then asking for a deferral)
- MIT Sloan MBA where it’s called Early Admission
- University of Virginia Darden who’s named it Future Year Scholars
These are tracks of admission for a specific cohort: Seniors, as well as students who are in their final year of another (non-MBA) graduate program (with certain restrictions).
What schools have had this for awhile?
- HBS 2+2 was the first track of its kind, launched over 10 years ago now
- Then came Yale Silver Scholars
- This season, Booth expanded its Booth Scholars program to allow rising seniors from any university to apply, rather than limiting it only to University of Chicago students as it had previously been.
There’s also at least one such track available at MBA programs in Europe, such as the Young Talent Path MBA track at IESE in Spain .
These new opportunities mean that graduating college students have more options than ever before if they’re motivated to aim for a top-tier business school early on and they like the idea of setting up options ahead of time. We’ve heard it said multiple times recently that a college degree is what a high school diploma used to be, and that a graduate degree is becoming an expectation as part of a typical career path, rather than a possibility or nice-to-have.
If as a college student you’re wondering about committing yourself too early, don’t worry: You’re never locking yourself in to any one specific future through these programs. If anything changes for you as you go out into the world and build your career, and when it comes time to start the MBA, you realize that maybe it’s not the right next step for you, or not at that exact time, then you don’t absolutely have to attend. There may be some deposits that are unrefundable, but you’re not sealing your future fate 100% by applying or accepting an admit to one of these programs. The schools understand that you still have a lot of Real Life to experience, and that maybe you’ll change your mind.
However, more and more college students are becoming more and more motivated to tackle their careers with a vengeance, and this is one option to consider. It can sure be nice to embark onto the first phase of your post-college career knowing how the next three to five years will play out for you! Some people really like that sense of security and enjoy putting a longer-term plan into place when they can.
You also get to avail yourself of tremendous resources from your school: You’ll be part of the student community, with all sorts of mentoring opportunities and special programming, and at some schools you’ll have access to the fellow students and alumni as you navigate your career and think through possible career paths. It can be a tremendous resource and support system, almost like a built-in ecosystem to nurture your career.
If you’re wondering how competitive these programs are, it’s harder to say, based on all these changing factors. There’s a lot more awareness of these opportunities at college campuses all over the world, which means the schools are seeing more applications. We can tell you that way back when Harvard Business School first launched its 2+2 program in 2008 or so, they got 630 applicants and admitted 106 — which was around a ~17% admit rate, which was INCREDIBLY favorable for those candidates compared to the realities of getting into HBS in their standard cycle.
Now that there are so many of these tracks available at so many different schools, it’s possible that some of them will become less competitive (maybe). It unfortunately also means that the increased awareness among college seniors will lead to way more candidates for the limited spots. Many schools may implement a waitlist for these deferred-start programs just as they have with their full-time MBA admissions — but don’t worry, if you’re on the waitlist to start at a top school in the Fall, you’re considered separately from these college-senior waitlisters. Those pools don’t mix. You won’t be competing against an experienced-admit if you’re a coming-from-college admit (and vice versa).
EssaySnark can help college seniors looking to lock in their MBA admits early — check out our MBA admissions consulting services or hit us up if you have questions! Our MBA Application Guides also may be useful, though do note that many schools have different essay questions and specific requirements for their college-senior applicants, and those are not necessarily covered in our individual school guides, which by definition focus on the standard MBA admissions process of applying to school the year that you want to begin.
We’re happy to help if you have questions! Please post them in the comments section and we’ll let you know what we can about your situation and the schools that you’re interested in.
We’re more and more impressed by the caliber of talent coming out of college these days and if you’re a go-getter who has an MBA in your sights some day, then putting the foundation for that now might be a decision that truly pays off!
Used to be, certain schools would hardly even consider an applicant without at least three-ish years of post-college work experience. Those particular schools still have a relatively high average number of years of experience for their entering classes but we’re seeing signs of cracks in the walls, where they’re now being more open to considering…
Note: Just because we’re blahgging about this today is not meant as a signal that you should try submitting a Columbia full-time MBA app right now! The rolling admissions means that they’re really far along with their admits and it’s got low probability of a win at this stage of the cycle. However, the Columbia…
Columbia Business School is as you know a great school, but they do their entire process differently, both because they don’t have rounds in the same way as other schools, and instead have rolling admissions. And this could trip an unsuspecting Brave Supplicant up. So every year around this time, we take it upon ourselves…