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Columbia Business School MBA Application Essay Questions and Tips

Columbia Business School is one of the most sought after business schools in the world. Along with being an Ivy League business school, Columbia also makes it to the prestigious group of M7 business schools.

The admissions committee at Columbia goes through thousands of MBA applications every year. If the most important factor in applicant selection was an academically and professionally perfect MBA profile, the lower GMAT score range for the school would be as high as 720. However, the lowest GMAT score at Columbia for their 2019 incoming batch was 560.

This is significant to our discussion today as it reveals that the admissions committee at Columbia places a higher emphasis on your MBA application essays and letter of recommendations.

Since the pandemic has forced a lot of business schools to re-analyse their MBA application process and change what doesn’t serve the greatest purpose, Columbia has followed suit.

In their MBA application process for 2020-2021, Columbia has changed Essay no. 3 from your “Favourite Leader” to you “Favourite Book, Movie, or Song”. The other MBA essays remain the same.

Let’s get into the MBA essay question for Columbia Business School and how to answer them.

Columbia MBA Application Essays

Short Answer Question:

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)

Examples of possible responses:

“Work in business development for a media company.”

“Join a strategy consulting firm.”

“Launch a data-management start-up.”

This is the simplest goals essay out of all top business school MBA applications. Since the word-limit (50 characters) is merely 8-10 words, all the admissions committee wishes to see is a simple statement about your post-MBA goals. You don’t even have to wreck your brain about the sentence structure.

For example, if you wish to work with Estee Lauder, all you have to say is “Work with Estee Lauder.” and that’s good enough for this essay.

Essay 1:

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 your long-term career goals essay. Unlike the previous essay, you need to be super-detailed when talking about your short-term and long-term goals.

The advice here is to start with the goal you mentioned in the previous essay and create your dream career trajectory. Do not repeat things from your resume, the admisisons committee already knows that aspect of your professional past. Instead, pick out experiences from your professional past that inspired you to pick the goals you are talking about.

Also, inform the admissions committee why you have chosen certain goals over others. If your post-MBA goal is creative or seems far-fetched, give the admissions committee proof as to why you could be the one to achieve it. While business schools generally steer clear of applicants they can’t see a good fit with their current recruiting companies, they also appreciate pioneers.

If your post-MBA goal isn’t the best fit with Columbia, share how you will use your Columbia education to reach it. don’t make them guess it instead show them that you have it all figured out. Your conviction can help them see how you and your goals fit with Columbia even though they might not have the best available employment opportunities for you at the moment.

Essay 2:

Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)

Columbia is a leading business school with a focus on creating industry leaders. While most business schools would say the same, the top business schools have a long list of alumni that backs this statement.

Thus, they are looking for students that can further this tradition set by the alumni of the school.

Showing your leadership potential is something every MBA consultant on the face of Earth would say, but it is a tricky thing to put down on paper. While sharing examples of leadership without losing the humility in your application could be difficult, you can use some other skills that would portray the same more modestly.

1. Motivating

2. Result oriented

3. Adapting well to change

4. Resolute

5. Decisive

These are a few qualities that can be transformed beautifully onto paper, without sounding arrogant, and that the admissions committee will associate with having leadership qualities.

Columbia has tried to change its reputation in recent years. The school has been known to have a cutthroat environment especially when it comes down to it’s MBA Program. This generally happens at a school with a large class size.

However, it has been working towards making a more collaborative environment.

Knowing a school’s culture is important for one reason only, to make sure you would thrive in such a culture. Apart from your MBA classes and the city you’d be living in, New York, the school’s culture will have a deep impact on your performance at the school. If you’re someone who thrives in a more collegial structure, you might sink under the pressure and competition at Columbia.

This is why the school admissions committee cares to know if you’re a cultural fit for the school. You could be an exceptional candidate, but if you show signs that you won’t handle competition well, the admission committee will drop your application as they would predict a less than average performance from you in the school’s environment.

Essay 3:

Tell us about your favorite book, movie or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)

This is an amazing open-ended essay. It gives the admissions committee at Columbia a chance to peek into your personality without adding any unnecessary pressure and making it a fun and light experience for the MBA applicant.

The main star of this essay isn’t the book, movie, or song, you chose. Don’t spend too much time explaining the plot of the book or movie, or the story behind the song.

Spend time explaining why you like it. Your complete focus should be on why this particular book, movie, or song holds a special place in your heart. Does it hold a nostalgic value for a place or incident? Do you relate to the protagonist? Did someone special introduce you to it? Does it inspire to do more?

Whatever the reason might be, don’t try to come up with one that would blow the admissions committee away. That will turn your expression bland. Instead, when you write about the real reasons why this book, movie, or song matters a lot to you, your expression will automatically be vulnerable, passionate and authentic.

Optional Essay:

Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 Words)

As the essay prompt suggests. You don’t need to make this essay super formal and structure it like you did all the other Columbia application essays.

This space is provided to applicants so that they can explain to the admissions committee why they have certain shortcomings in their profile. For example, if you have a low GPA, you can share your circumstances during the time you got that low score.

It takes out the chances of misunderstanding and guesswork for the admissions committee members.

Just imagine, your low GPA was the only thing that bothered the admissions committee while they really liked the rest of your profile. By addressing the reason behind your low GPA in this space, let’s say you had financial constraints and were working a job along with school, they can be rid of their concerns and evaluate your profile accordingly.

The most important thing while writing an MBA application essay answers is to maintain an authentic expression. No matter how much time you spend on your MBA essays, figuring out the right words, the most impressive quotes, and the prettiest sentence structures, if your expression isn’t genuine, the admissions committee will catch up to it instantly and it might hamper your chances at getting accepted to Columbia.


For over 15+ years as an Entrepreneur, and India’s Top Educationist, Jatin has led a range of initiatives in the Education Industry. In this role, he has created many successful educational services and products geared towards generating success for professionals aspiring to join IVY League and global Top Tier Universities for MBA Programs, Masters Programs, and undergraduate courses. He is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education, and has been recognized as a thought leader in the Higher education sector. Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India, India Today, Business Today, Tribune, and many other national newspapers have recognized his work, and have given him numerous opportunities to be a regular columnist. He has also served as a panelist for NDTV, and other national news channels.

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