Columbia’s rolling application process, setting your essay strategy, your single recommendation, and more — it’s all in our Columbia MBA essay guide!
Columbia 2023 Full-Time MBA essay questions:
Class of 2026
Columbia’s non-binding J-Term deadline is September 13 though but submitting early is highly recommended! Dates for August Start including Early Decision and Regular Decision TBD.
The Columbia MBA app has three essays plus a short-answer question.
How do you answer them?
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 Essay 1.
- Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what
, in your imagination,is your long-term dream job? (500 words)
Note the cross-out: They used to ask “in your imagination” and applicants often quite carried away with that! Columbia generally rewards those who are pragmatic and grounded in what they share about their plans for their future career. This is now a pretty traditional short-term/long-term goals prompt, which is nearly identical to the main career goals question that Columbia has asked for like, dunno, maybe 20 years now.
Stay concrete! Be practical and realistic! Show that you have given some thought to this and actually have come up with a plan – at least, a back-of-the-envelope plan, but one that actually is feasible. You could 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’suse of the word “dream” we still advise BSers to be reasonable in what they define as a L/T goal.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of restating the short-term goal that you used as your answer for the short-answer question! That should be pretty much the first thing in this essay. Build from there. The entirety of your S/T goal / 3-5 years out dream job should not get you much past the year 2030! And it could even be much more compressed of a plan. Our Columbia guide explains.
- Essay 2:The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias and Prejudice, Managing Intercultural Dialogue, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking.
Tell us about a time when you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)
Thankfully they ditched the “favorite movie or song” essay – this question is much, much more practical in terms of giving a chance to share yourself in ways that matter. This isn’t about making up some sound-good answer by picking a film that will impress them. Instead, it’s about introspection and finding an actual example of a time you did something meaningful to bring change or advocate. Stanford has had questions that similarly challenge applicants to identify how they have worked to “create an inclusive environment” and other such inquiries, and many many applicants have a tough time with this. The way to handle this is to present a specific example where you DID SOMETHING. If you hold identities that are often in the minority and you have experienced bias and oppression yourself, you maybe could make the essay about that, but again, the “actions you took” is really key as part of this opportunity to share with the adcom.
Also, it’s possible to do a good job in just 250 words, but it’s also unfortunate that this is an essay with the tightest word count restriction.
- Essay 3: We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams, co-curricular initiatives like the Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership, which aims to equip students with the skills and strategies necessary to lead in an inclusive and ethical manner, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program.
Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally?(250 words)
It’s great that they’ve preserved a standard, straightforward prompt (they just renumbered the questions this time). This is a classic “why Columbia” question, and you can sprinkle in some “why MBA” and even some “why me” content along the way. This is a good essay that should be fairly easy to write.
If this essay ends up being flat and run-of-the-mill with the same answers everyone gives for why they want to go to Columbia, then it’s not helping you. At the same time, the “why Columbia” question is almost definitely going to come up in your interview, so knowing why you are choosing them is super important! Whether you do it now or later on, you’ll need to do some real research on Columbia — figure out why you want to go there! This post can help as a start!
You can review these Columbia essay questions on the Columbia application website .
The Columbia MBA Application Guide is your best tool for presenting a strong set of essays to this school! It has been updated for this year’s questions and is here to help you get ready with the information strategy you will need for success.
You still might want to review the marketing spiel that Columbia has put out in past years, such as this (but please don’t limit yourself only to such polished promotional materials!!):
Applying ahead of deadline to Columbia is always recommended! We have many posts on this blahg about this important strategy – see below for the key ones you’ll want to read.
Also take a look through the commentary we’ve offered on Columbia MBA essays of the past:
Columbia MBA Essay & Application Help
- “Lessons learned” in MBA essays (September 2018)
- Columbia MBA essay 3 – “team failure” (September 2018)
- Is it easier to get in during Columbia’s Early Decision? (June 2018)
- Short term goal, long term goal, dream job – OH MY! (October 2017)
- essay critique: Columbia essay 1 and an edtech career (September 2017)
And there’s gobs more posts about Columbia!!
Lots more essay critiques of Columbia MBA essays linked from this page! Pretty much all of them relevant to your process of writing today.
Columbia 2023-2024 Dates and Deadlines
Columbia Full-Time MBA Application Deadlines – rolling admissions, so APPLY EARLY!
- Accelerated J-Term (one round only): September 13, 2023 – this will put you into the Class of 2025, graduating with the cohort starting August 2023
- Binding Early Decision: likely to be around September 13, 2023 but TBD – this is for the standard two-year program that graduates in May 2026. 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 100% at time of application.
- Regular Decision Fellowship deadline: likely to be around January 11, 2024 but TBD This is expected to be one of the later deadlines after the holidays. Columbia’s Fellowship deadline is typically 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 if you want to be considered for any scholarship awards. However, this is not the ideal date to submit for Regular Decision! Getting your app in significantly earlier than this is going to be way better for you. We have a detailed discussion in our Columbia strategy guide. Their final Regular Decision deadline is usually in April, but again, that would be really late to be applying here.
Columbia’s confusing application options
Here’s an overview from the ‘snarchive of the Columbia MBA application options) – explains the longstanding rolling admissions process at Columbia and talks about the advantages of Early Decision.
And the perennial question: Is it easier to get in during Columbia’s Early Decision?
The below posts 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)
- “What’s the latest I can submit to Columbia Regular Decision and still have a shot?” (January 2020)
- 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 (originally published in February 2014 and refreshed annually – 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? (May 2017)
- Recorded webinar from Columbia featuring J-Term students first published (we think?) in 2015 so details they mention may be out of date
Our Columbia MBA application guide tells you the best time to apply this season, for each of the different application options you have available — or keep reading the many posts here on the blahg on Regular Decision vs Early Decision vs J-Term.
Columbia & Tests: GMAT, GRE, Executive Assessment
Should you take the EA instead of the GMAT? Hmmm. This is a complicated situation, grasshopper! For most applicants, the GMAT would probably still be preferred at Columbia (even over the GRE, though take the test you’ll do best on). There are cases where the EA might work fine but we wouldn’t suggest it for the typical type of applicant trying for August Start especially. Your choice of test needs to be an integral part of your overall strategy to apply to a school of this caliber. Want our take on your specific situation? Our Comprehensive Profile Review can walk through all of the details!
Columbia MBA recommendationThe questions that Columbia asks your recommender are close to what Harvard requires.
- One recommendation for new applicants; one new one required for reapplicants
- For standard applicants: Two questions for your recommender 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.
Recommenders for Deferred Admission applicants will answer a different question.
If you want to give your recommender a resource for how to most effectively write about you for Columbia and other schools, check out our Recommenders’ Instruction Sets.
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 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.
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)