Columbia University (Columbia Business School) Essay Analysis, 2010–2011

Update: Click here for the 2015-2016 Columbia Business School Essay Analysis 

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

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store. Please feel free to download your copy today.

For a thorough exploration of Columbia’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to Columbia Business School.

2. Please tell us about yourself and your personal interests. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (Recommended 500-word limit)

CBS continues to slim down its essay offerings, implying that between your resume, recommendations and possibly an interview, the admissions committee will have a comprehensive window into your abilities and prospects for success. So, in this essay, the admissions committee wants to understand “who you are,” not just “what you have done,” through your life experiences. Although this essay does not need to be historical/biographical in nature, it should still tell a story about you. In some ways, rather than this being biographical in nature—relating specific chronological milestones in your life thus far—it might be more of a narrative chronicle of how you developed into the person you are today or how your personality has manifest.

With such broad parameters, this essay will likely be challenging for many. Where do you begin to brainstorm, let alone to write? To start, you could create a short list of the personal characteristics you would most like to emphasize in this essay and then work backward, considering which anecdotes from your life you could use to reveal these characteristics in your narrative. Or, you could compose a list of crucial “shaping” experiences and then focus on conveying those that have had the greatest impact on you as an individual. In 500 words, you will not be able to say everything, but you should have enough space to highlight a few powerful moments that reveal your character. Do not worry whether the specific stories you choose are “right” or “wrong,” and focus instead on the broad statement that your essay as a whole makes about you.

Remember, the admissions officer reading your file will likely have read hundreds of other such submissions, so take time to carefully consider your introductory sentence and attempt to launch into an anecdote right away, so as to seize and maintain the reader’s interest. A long “wind up” of an introduction will weaken your essay’s impact.

Optional Essay: Is there any further information that you wish to provide to the admissions committee? (Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.)

However tempted you might be, this is not the place to paste in a strong essay from another school or to offer a few anecdotes that you were unable to use in any of your other essays. Instead, this is your opportunity, if needed, to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer may have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc. In our mbaMission Optional Statement Guide, available through our online store, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, with multiple examples, to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.

Reapplication Essay: How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate your short-term and long-term goals. Explain how the tools of the Columbia Business School will help you to meet your goals and how you plan to participate in the Columbia community. (Recommended 750-word limit).

Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement or taken on a personal challenge of sorts, the key to this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. CBS wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because you feel a CBS MBA is vital to your future success. Although CBS asks you to reiterate your goals, you should not feel that you must reiterate the goals you stated in your earlier application if you have since changed your mind. If you have sincerely reflected and reconsidered your goals, you will need to discuss that path of exploration in this essay and be sure to detail your process of refining your goals to meet your personal needs.

As a reapplicant, you have already been “stung” once, but do not assume that there was something badly deficient in your candidacy before and that this is your opportunity to right that supposed “wrong.” Continue to present your strengths and personal experiences with honesty and enthusiasm. However, remember that this essay should not be solely about you to the exclusion of all else—CBS still wants to know why it is the right program for you (“Why CBS?”) and how you expect to contribute to the school’s greater community, if you are ultimately accepted. We suggest dedicating at least one-half of your essay to these topics.

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