Columbia University (Columbia Business School) Essay Analysis

Note: The following essay questions pertain to the previous academic year. This section will be updated when the new question are released in early to mid-July of 2008.

Once again this application season, essay two is the only CBS essay to change significantly. Gone is the essay question about an effective manager — an outward-looking question that confounded many applicants who were unsure how the essay reflected their own experiences. Now, CBS offers a question that is about candidates themselves but is largely about the future – a question sure to be equally confusing to some who lack direction. Also, notably, CBS has dropped one of its traditional options in essay four, now only offering candidates a question on a passion.

Essay 1: What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Recommended 750 word limit)

Because of significant overlap from one MBA application to the next, we have produced the “MBA Mission Personal Statement Guide.” We offer our guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store.  Please feel free to download your copy today.

Essay 2: In a recent speech delivered to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, Dean Glenn Hubbard discussed the new, essential elements of the 21st century MBA. How will your MBA prepare you for a rapidly changing business environment? (Recommended 500 word limit)

Whereas the first essay demands that you discuss the specific skills that you will need to acquire in order to advance along your professional path, this essay is more philosophical – it asks that you consider how your MBA will prepare you to deal with change. Because this question is so broad and open-ended, you will need to personalize your response and discuss change, not within a generic context, but as it pertains directly to situations that you anticipate in your career. This essay will require that you express a vision for the future and an understanding of how your MBA (and thus CBS’s resources once again) will enable you to adapt and excel.

While you should read Dean Hubbard’s speech and might even reference some of his thoughts, you should not model your answer after his text. Your answer should be just that – your own.

Essay 3: The entrepreneurial mind-set is an integral component of the Columbia Business School MBA. Please discuss a time in your own life when you have identified and captured an opportunity (Recommended 500 word limit).

The key to understanding this question is to recognize that entrepreneurship is not narrowly defined to mean “creating a business” but is more broadly defined as “capturing an opportunity.” Your example certainly could come from within the confines of the typical definition, but it could also come from innovating within your existing company, expanding the role of a community organization or from your personal sphere (if you seized a remarkable growth experience), etc. The bottom line is that there are many “right” answers for this question, and you need not be intimidated if you have not started a company from scratch.

Further, in this essay, your choice of language will be key to emphasizing that you did something creative in order to identify the opportunity. (Even if the idea was near or at the surface, you still possessed vision that others did not.) After telling the story of how you identified the opportunity, you should explain the process of capturing the opportunity, focusing on the tangible impact that you had on this process and on how you helped bring the idea to life. Finally, you should briefly reflect on your accomplishment and key learnings. While CBS does not explicitly ask for such analysis, it is most often helpful, as it shows a humility and appreciation for the experience, not just the results.

Essay 4: Please tell us about what you feel most passionate in life (Recommended 250 word limit).

Because CBS’s previous questions might not allow you to discuss a full range of personal, professional and community experiences, you should approach essay four with caution and consider ways in which you can diversify the Admissions Committee’s understanding of your profile. Whether you intend to discuss a hobby, idea, ethereal experience, activity, event or moment, it is crucial that you show an inordinate commitment via your actions in order to convey true passion. Remember, the reader will not be captivated by experiences that lack intensity or emotion. Only by showing how your relationship to this passion is unique will you truly stand out.

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