Columbia’s rolling application process, the J-Term, plus Early Decision vs Regular Decision – it’s all discussed in our Columbia MBA essay guide — now updated to the 2018 edition!
Columbia 2018 Full-Time MBA essay questions: Class of 2021 / J-Term Class of 2020
The 2018 Columbia MBA app has three essays plus a short-answer question, all of which are mostly in line with what we expected.
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
Please note! Those are characters – not words!! You have very limited space to work with. This is intended to be literally a statement of what job what you will be recruiting for when you are ready to graduate. You’ll use this as the centerpiece of Essays 1 and 2.
- Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)
This is the same question as last year — though we had expected them to drop the “long-term dream job” phrasing since many BSers have tended to go waaaay out there in their “dreaming” aspect, which isn’t necessarily the most solid way to pitch!
This type of “short-term/long-term goals” prompt is nearly identical to the main career goals question that Columbia has asked for several cycles now. They tend to reward applicants who are grounded and down to earth in what they pitch. You are going to run into trouble, for example, if you say your short-term goal is to become a consultant and your long-term goal is to open a restaurant. You can play that card if you like, but thar be dragons!!! Despite Columbia’s lofty adjectives of “imagination” and “dream” we still advise BSers to be reasonable in what they define as a L/T goal. Our Columbia guide explains.
- How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? [with instructions to ‘click photo’ which as of 5/21/18 takes you to https://www.youtube.com/user/ColumbiaBusiness/ (250 words)
Hmmm… Columbia has regurgitated a question it asked in the past, including as recently as 2016 when it was phrased like this: “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’?” What happened with that year’s question was, lots and lots of applicants just recited the same stuff that the adcom had in the prompt; they’d talk about the Master Classes and the immersion thingy and an internship. Which is really not what the adcom wants. Don’t just parrot back what they’ve cited themselves. They want to know what YOU plan to do with the opportunity to get your MBA at Columbia Business School. That means, DO YOUR RESEARCH!! Reviewing a gazillion of those Columbia YouTube videos is a great place to start, but obviously that’s not the full extent of what you should be focusing on. There are plenty of blahg posts on the “center of business” essays here to dig through — check out the list of titles below and you can use our handy search function on the home page of the site.
- Please provide an example of a team failure of which you have been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently?
Great question — one that other schools have used in the past, and one which is not easy to do well!! We’ve got a bunch of posts on the blahg about “failure” essays — here’s a good one to start with from way back in the ‘snarchives. The key things to watch for: Are you presenting a TEAM story? And: Are you presenting a FAILURE story? Many people use a “mistake” story which is just not the same. You also really should look for ways to show how YOU contributed to this failure, and also, don’t overlook the very important second part of the question, asking how you’d do it differently. Don’t you dare throw anyone under the bus with this story!! You need to show maturity and insight and hopefully some form of leadership here, too. This question is how Columbia is going to evaluate fit to their culture. The Columbia 2018 Application Guide will of course go into great detail on pitfalls and opportunities of this question, too!
EssaySnark’s Columbia 2018 MBA application guide is up to date for the Class of 2021.
You can see Columbia’s essay questions on the Columbia application website .
Applying early to Columbia is always recommended! We have many posts on this blahg about what “early” means – see below for the key ones you’ll want to read.
And, our Complete Essay Package is ***awesome*** to guide you through the full development process of nailing these essays. Because of how straightforward their questions are, Columbia is an excellent application to tackle as your first project, and since you should be planning to submit ahead of deadline, then this is the perfect choice for starting NOW, and the Complete Essay Package is the perfect way to do so!
Want a jumpstart on how to approach your Columbia essays? Take a look through the commentary we’ve offered in the last season or two, including on Columbia MBA essays of the recent past — here’s a few to begin with.
2017 Columbia Essay Critiques
- Short term goal, long term goal, dream job – OH MY! (October 2017)
- essay critique: Columbia essay 1 and an edtech career (September 2017)
You can also check out what we said about past season questions on this page; those discussions may help you see how Columbia is consistent in its strategies for how it’s recruiting all you Brave Supplicants. Lots more essay critiques of Columbia MBA essays linked from this page! Pretty much all of them relevant to your process of writing today!
Average GMAT at Columbia is up significantly, to 724, on the back of another 3% increase in applications. Admit rate also dipped. Because of these factors and due to rolling admissions, applying well before the deadline is recommended! Details on all of these strategies are below on this page, in our Columbia essay guide, and throughout the ‘snarchive of Columbia posts here on the blahg.
Columbia 2018 Dates and Deadlines
Columbia Full-Time MBA Application Deadlines – rolling admissions, so APPLY EARLY!
- Accelerated J-Term (one round only): October 3, 2018 – this will put you into the Class of 2020, graduating with the cohort that starts August 2018
- Binding Early Decision: October 4, 2018 – this is for the standard two-year program that graduates in May 2021. Early Decision is the recommended application option if Columbia is your #1 choice; it’s binding though, so go Regular Decision if you would not be able to commit to them in advance.
- Regular Decision Fellowship deadline: January 4, 2019 The Fellowship deadline is a quasi “Round 2”: If you’re serious about this school and not applying Early Decision, this is your drop-dead date for when your app should be in. However, this is not the IDEAL date to submit for Regular Decision! It should be significantly earlier than this! We have a detailed discussion of this in our Columbia strategy guide. Their final Regular Decision deadline is in April 2019 but applying in February or later will just be too late for most people. We get nervous when someone applies past mid-January.
Again, our Columbia MBA application guide tells you the best time to apply this season, based on changes at the school, for each of the different application options you have available — or keep reading below and check out the many posts here on the blahg on Regular Decision vs Early Decision vs J-Term.
Columbia’s confusing application options
Here’s an overview of the Columbia MBA application options (May 2015) – explains rolling admissions and talks about the advantages of Early Decision.
The rest of the posts in this section were written for past admissions cycles. The information is largely applicable to this season too but there have been slight changes in recent years such as with the RD open date, as noted above.
Yes it’s an advantage – and it’s also binding. Only do this if you’re committed to choosing Columbia if they choose you!
- Columbia’s Early Decision option (August 2011 but still relevant!)
- Renegging on an Early Decision offer (November 2010 – everyone please read this)
- “I’ll just apply to Columbia Early Decision as an insurance policy.” (June 2014)
- Applying to Columbia’s Regular Round (November 2012)
- If you’re aiming at Columbia Regular Decision… when to submit (October 2014)
- “Should I apply to Columbia? Like, now?” (January 2012 – Read this if you’re thinking of applying anytime past the Fellowship Deadline)
- If you’re just joining us: Why applying to Columbia now is a bad idea (February 2014 – Read this especially if you’re thinking of applying in February or later)
- All rounds are not created equal (July 2011)
- “how long does it take to hear back from cbs” (October 2011)
- Timing of interview invites (February 2012)
The Columbia J-Term
This is not an application option – this is a different MBA track. It’s an accelerated 16-month MBA that offers the same full-time experience, just no internship. You must demonstrate fit in order to have a shot at acceptance. There is one deadline only (no Early Decision option). J-Termers do not qualify for any fellowship awards. Essay questions are the same for J-Term and August Start. Your J-Term application is not binding.
- Speaking of which: Who’s a good fit for the Columbia J-Term? (April 2015; reblahgged in May 2017)
Recorded webinar from Columbia featuring J-Term students(April 2015 – one hour long update 4/19/16: sorry, that page requires a sign-in now – if we can figure out how to access we will update here)
Want to get started? Check out our 2018 Columbia MBA Application Guide for strategies and guidance on everything we’re talking about here!
Columbia MBA recommendationsColumbia used For 2018-2019, Columbia is using the second set of standardized recommender questions.
- Two recommendations for new applicants; one for reapplicants
- Two questions for your recommenders to answer :
- How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.
- Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.
If you want to give your recommenders a resource for how to most effectively write about you for Columbia and other schools, check out our Recommenders’ Instruction Sets.
The 2018 Columbia MBA Application Guide for full-time applicants is your best tool for presenting a strong set of essays to this school!
Also helpful: Check out Columbia MBA essay critiques from past seasons.
Columbia Links, Important App Info, and More Snark
official school pages:
- Columbia Application Requirements
- Columbia Business School Class Profile
- Columbia Business School Admissions Blog
stuff you should know about Columbia, by EssaySnark:
- Just because the school has some cool program does not mean you should talk about it in your essay (December 2014 — and 2016 version, The Lemming Effect)
- ($) If scholarship money is important to you, don’t apply to Columbia. (May 2014)
- Entrepreneurship at Columbia: One student’s report (January 2014)
- Considering Columbia? Some quick facts (June 2012)
- Columbia no longer a favorite? (September 2012)
- If you’re in NYC and you applied to Columbia, read this (January 2012)
Also interesting to know about the culture:
- CBS Reflects: Columbia and gender on campus (October 2014)
- Culture: Columbia, NYC and Wall Street (March 2014)
- Queries from a concerned BSer: Columbia’s culture? (March 2014)
- Columbia and NYU: What’s the difference? [be warned, it’s another post where we’re accused of posting unhelpful stuff] (October 2012)
And just for fun:
- Success Story! Second time lucky at Columbia (November 2014)
Tired of clicking through posts? Want to just start writing essays? Get it all in one place! For a thorough and very detailed analysis of everything you need to grapple with for this school, pick up the 2018 SnarkStrategies Guide for Columbia – there is so much important information in there on strategy and when to apply and how does Early Decision work, that this will put you on the right path, even if you’re not planning to submit till later in the season. Setting your strategy with Columbia early can ease your burden of figuring out your approach to ALL schools! Our essay guides are written from scratch to walk you through the necessary details – they are not simply reformatted blahg posts.
For Reference: Columbia’s Past-Season MBA Essays & Analysis
We’ve covered Columbia a lot on the blahg… and most any of our previous posts are absolutely relevant today. Columbia has changed its questions from year to year, but they’re largely asking the same thing as they always have: career goals, plus Columbia differentiators. Anything we’ve said about Columbia’s essays in the past will steer you in the right direction with this year’s MBA application, too. Study these!
This is truly a gold mine for those trying to figure out how to pitch Columbia!
2017 Columbia MBA Essay Questions & Essay ReviewsClick to view the 2017 questions
Last year’s questions and what we had to say about them (this stuff is old but still pertinent)
As has been the case for a very long time, the 2017 Columbia MBA app had three essays plus a short-answer question:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
First up, we have to point out that those are characters – not words – which means you have next to nothing in terms of space to work with. This is intended to be literally what you will be recruiting for when you are ready to graduate. Then you can expand upon that in Essays 1 and 2.
- Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words) This is nearly identical to the main career goals question that Columbia has asked for several cycles now, with a key improvement of specificity on timeframes for the S/T goal, and a new twist where they’re looking for a “dream job” — which could prove tricky for some! You are going to run into trouble, for example, if you say your short-term goal is to become a consultant and your long-term goal is to open a restaurant. You can play that card if you like, but thar be dragons!!! Despite Columbia’s lofty adjectives of “imagination” and “dream” we still advise BSers to be reasonable in what they define as a L/T goal. Our Columbia guide explains.
- 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? (250 words) Another simplified version of a Columbia classic! This one is, again, less ambiguous in its phrasing, which is awesome. Have we mentioned recently how important school research is?
- Please select and answer one of the following essay questions: (250 words)
a. Please tell us what you feel most passionate about in life.
b. If you were given a free day and could spend it anywhere, in any way you choose, what would you do?
These two are simply alternatives to the previous seasons’ versions of Essay 3, where they want to get to know you as a person. The most important objective with this question? AUTHENTICITY. Please don’t come up with something you think “sounds good.” Think about what the REAL answer is (yeah, we know, not easy!!) and go with that.
The other good news? Columbia is now back to being super specific on essay length. Last year they tried an experiment with offering applicants a sliding word count, which we predicted they would ditch this time, and boy, are we glad they did! BSers do much better with clear direction and no ambiguity. The essay lengths this year are reasonable: Not so long you don’t know what to do with yourself, but long enough to answer the question sufficiently.
For the record: A 500-word essay should fit on one page; 250 words is two decent-sized paragraphs. Don’t go over. Or at least, not by much.
[end discussion of 2017 questions]
2016 Columbia MBA Essay Questions & Essay ReviewsClick to view the 2016 questions
Really Columbia?!?? You increased the allowed length for the short-answer question on goals from 50 to 51 CHARACTERS?!!!? We don’t know whether to laugh or cry at that. (We sort of did both in this post.) We had a follow-up post about another change to the essays that we take issue with. Our faith in Columbia has been (once again) somewhat rattled by this.
Three essays plus that oh-so-generous 51-character short-answer question:
- Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them?
This is the same question as they used last year, but now they tell you that you can use from 100 to 750 words to answer it. To do a good job with this, you really need to write a minimum of 500 words. Anyone who does only 100 words is likely cheating themselves out of a clear presentation of their pitch to the adcom. We are doubtful that you can do a good job with anywhere less than 400. That doesn’t mean you need to use the full 750 words – and it definitely doesn’t mean you can go over 750. Tell them why you want an MBA – and why from Columbia. It needs to be clear and direct.
- 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”?
[Not to be confused with this place that’s apparently “the center of everything” – ES]
This is nearly the same as they asked last year except they ditched the reference to “theory and practice” (see our 2016 Columbia guide for a discussion of whether that’s relevant to you or not). The essence of this question is, how will you use the resources that they have available? Please note: You don’t have to tell the adcom about what those resources are; they know them. They just highlighted a bunch in the question itself. Instead, this is an opportunity to further expand your pitch. Essay 1 is, “These goals are the reason why I need an MBA.” Essay 2 is, “This is how I’m going to make the most of my time at Columbia to achieve those goals. The other big change? Again they’re stating an acceptable word count range: 100 to 500 words. In most cases you should aim for 500 words of strong content (writing 500 words of fluff should be avoided).
- CBS Matters , a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (100-250 words)
Identical to last year except that they emphasized the word “pleasantly” – which is what we’ve been emphasizing to BSers in our Essay Reviews for Columbia all along! We have reviewed essays for this question in past years and which we discuss in detail in the essay guide – be authentic!! Again, using that full allotment of 250 words is likely wise.
And the STILL SHORT! short-answer question:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (51 characters)
This question started out ages ago as a 200-character response. Columbia has been whittling away at it until last year it was down to 50 characters. Which we said was ridiculous. Which we still think in the +1 form is ridiculous. Gee thanks Columbia.
So as you can see, they tweaked the essays a bit, though as we’ve long said, directionally Columbia is still Columbia. We know exactly what they respond best to; we have quite the track record of helping BSers with successful apps to this great school. All of it is fully explained in the 2016 Columbia MBA Application Guide – which has been expanded almost 10 more pages from last year’s edition.
Note: Despite all our kvetching about the lengths of the essays, we do have to point out that Columbia made it to our list of Five Favorite Schools back in 2014.
In August we talked about the dangers with choose-your-own-length variable word count thing that Columbia has implemented – 100 to 750 words for Essay 1? What’s not to like? Hmmm. We also cover best practices and guidelines for what makes a good length for each of these questions in that Columbia essay guide.
In 2013 and 2014, Columbia began processing Regular Decision applications in mid-November. In years before that, this typically didn’t happen until sometime in December. Now, they state on their Application Process page that Regular Decision apps won’t be reviewed earlier than December 1st. Our application guide tells you the best time to apply for each of the different application options.
[end discussion of 2016 questions]
2015 Columbia MBA Essay Questions & Essay ReviewsClick to view the 2015 questions
2015 questions (these are even older)
For 2015, Columbia changed things up a bit, though as we’ve been saying, directionally Columbia is still Columbia. We know exactly what they respond best to; we have quite the track record of helping BSers with successful apps to this great school. Information on their updates are below and are also fully explained in the Columbia MBA Application Guide – which has been expanded another 10 pages from last year’s edition.
These essays are nearly identical to what they had in 2014 – our predictions were spot-on! The main difference is there is now ONLY 50 CHARACTERS (down from 75!!!) to say what you want to do after bschool.
- Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (Maximum 500 words) (This appears to be an interesting borrowing of language from other schools like HBS and Booth – but it’s still a quintessentially Columbia question. They want to know why you want an MBA – and why from their school. Focus on clear and direct post-MBA goals and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.)
- Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words) (What a relief that they modified the wording of essay 2 this year! We’re betting that people are able to do a better job than last year’s crop of applicants did. The key to this question is to go beyond a recitation of lists. You don’t have to tell the adcom about what resources Columbia has. They already listed those things out! Instead, focus on YOU and why a specific thing matters, and how you’ll put it to use. It’s also interesting that they’ve resuscitated their “theory and practice” theme from many years back. Give that some thought too, Brave Supplicant!)
- CBS Matters , a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words) (Essentially the same as 2014 – which was the same as 2013 – which we reviewed in past years and which we discuss in detail in the essay guide – be authentic in this one!!)
And the SHORT! (!!!!) short-answer question:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal?
75 50 characters (!!!!) permitted now. We blahgged about the The 2013 100-character version (“post-MBA professional goal”) – but unfortunately as we posted right when the 2015 app was released, EssaySnark’s opinion is that this question is near-useless at 50 characters.
2015 Essay Reviews
- We love Columbia’s new essay questions (except for…) (April 2015)
[end discussion of 2015 questions]
2014 Columbia MBA Essay Questions & Essay ReviewsClick to view the 2014 questions
2014 questions (these are EVEN OLDER)
- Given your individual background and goals, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (Maximum 500 words) (They added the “and goals” part to the question this year to remind you that you’re applying for admission to an MBA program – and Columbia wants to hear about what you plan to do with the MBA. Don’t omit that part in your answer! It’s exactly the advice we gave in last year’s strategy guide too. Glad to see the change in the question.)
- View video “The Center” then answer this question: How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words) (This is essentially the same as the prior year without the geographically-challenged component that we called out then 😉 ).
- What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words) (Identical to last year.)
And the short-answer question:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal?
Only 75 characters permitted now. [For the 2015 app it’s 50 characters! eek! -ES] The 2013 100-character version (“post-MBA professional goal”) is discussed here.
2014 Essay Reviews
- essay critique: Columbia essay 1 (background and goals) (November 2014)
- essay critique: Columbia essay 1 (career goals) – critique of a 2013 essay but written in context of changes with the 2014 question, and still relevant for 2015 too (June 2014)
- essay critique: Columbia background and goals essay 1 (Part 2) (June 2014)
As you can see, the essence of what makes for a strong Columbia application remains the same today.
[end discussion of 2014 questions]
2013 Columbia MBA Essay Questions & Essay ReviewsClick to view the 2013 questions
2013 essay questions – these are REALLY OLD — but the essay reviews below may still be super helpful!
- Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (Maximum 500 words)
- 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? [includes two videos about the Columbia NYC experience: video 1: New York City – limitless possibilities – titled “New Neighborhood, New Outlook, New York” on the video page; and video 2: New York City – fast paced and adaptable – titled “Columbia MBA Program: New York, New York” on the video page] (Maximum 250 words)
- What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)
Don’t forget the short-answer question! Only 100 characters permitted. Discussed here.
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal?
2013 Columbia MBA Essay Reviews
- 2013 Columbia MBA essay analysis – a quick rundown of the questions (and some snark) – 5/17/13
- Columbia’s short-answer question on the “immediate post-MBA goal” – covers the REALLY BIG CHANGE that year – 5/20/13
- essay critique: Columbia’s “Why are you pursuing an MBA?” (July 2013)
- essay critique: Columbia in the heart of NYC (January 2014)
[end overview of 2013 questions]
2012 Columbia MBA Essay Questions & 2010-2012 Essay ReviewsClick to view the 2012 questions
2012 questions – these are EXCEPTIONALLY OLD
- A) Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals? (Maximum 500 words)
B) [View the video on their site, then] Describe why you are interested in becoming a part of the Columbia community. (Maximum 250 words)
- Describe a personal experience and how it has influenced who you are today. This essay should have a personal rather than a professional focus. (Maximum 500 words)
The short-answer question was a lot longer then – 200 characters allowed
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal?
[end overview of 2012 questions]
2012 Essay Reviews
- essay critique: another Columbia essay 1: “immediate and long-term post-MBA goals” (December 2012)
- essay critique: Columbia essay 1: “Why are you pursuing an MBA…?” (November 2012)
- More on Columbia’s “life experience” essay (July 2012)
- Columbia essay 1 (2012 version) (July 2012)
If you want to dig even deeper into the archives, there’s these – yes, still relevant, we promise!
2011 Columbia Essay Reviews
- Discussion of Columbia’s 2011 essays
- essay critique: Columbia essay 2 “life experience” (October 2011)
- Columbia’s outrageous business plan question (July 2011)
Even this ancient post from way back in 2010 still has some life left in it!
2010 Columbia Essay Reviews
Obviously we’ve been helping people with Columbia for a long time! There are lots of former Brave Supplicants wandering around the Upper West Side every single year.
Again, The Columbia MBA Application Guide is the definitive book covering everything that this school values in its applicants.
Want to get that Columbia application DONE?
Use our Complete Essay Package to develop the strongest pitch possible – each step in the process was originally designed especially for Columbia’s essays!
Wow – you made it all the way to the bottom of the page?!?? Here’s some posts about Columbia Admissions that don’t actually have to do with your application strategy but hey, you’re clearly bored, so why not:
- A BSer’s comparison of Columbia and NYU (June 2016)
- Really, Columbia? (April 2016)
- We love Columbia’s essay questions except for… (April 2015)
- An Early Decision idea for Columbia to consider (July 2014)
- Columbia no longer a favorite? – post 1 in a 4-part series along with Why Columbia got schooled Why Columbia got schooled; More theories on why Columbia got dinged; and Why were NYU’s numbers off too? (another Columbia rant) (September 2012)
- Finally, a Columbia post that looks to the positive (October 2012)