How To Get Into Columbia | Essential Advice from an Admissions Expert

If you’re considering an MBA at Columbia Business School and aren’t sure about how to approach the Columbia MBA essay questions, fear not!! Angela Guido takes you beyond the Columbia admissions requirements in this week’s #MBAMonday, and has an expert strategy on how to tackle your MBA application essay. Looking for Columbia MBA tips? (Hint: start by getting your career game plan in order to prepare for future career success!)

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

All right, it's time to talk about Columbia University Business School, the biggest, most famous MBA program in the city of New York. This is MBA Monday and I'm Angela Guido. OK, welcome back to MBA Monday.

Get Your Post-MBA Career Plans In Order

Today, we're talking about Columbia Business School secrets, but if you've watched my other “secrets” videos, you know that I really believe that there aren't any secrets because the schools are really transparent about what they want to know about you. They tell you what matters to them by how they construct their essays and how they ask you to complete them. Columbia is really easy to read because the very first question they ask is a short answer question about your goals. They want to know, in 50 characters or fewer: “What do you hope to do immediately post-MBA?” Then, their first big essay question for many, many years running now is some version of: “What are your goals and what do you hope to do post-MBA?”. They recently have taken to making it even more clear that they really don't want you to talk about your past at all in this essay, they just want to know about the future. Here's a recent version: “Through your résumé and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. (i.e., we're pretty good on your past). What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what in your imagination would be your long-term dream job? They're asking about your future. Even the second essay question, at least in the last couple of cycles, is: “Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you?”.

So the first seven hundred and fifty words of the Columbia Business School application is all about your future. Do you think Columbia cares a bit about your future? As it turns out, what the Columbia Business School Admissions Committee, is most vigilant about, let's put it that way, is career placement. They have an incredibly pragmatic view of the MBA which, if you hang around Career Protocol at all, you'll understand I share and really admire, which is that the MBA is just a tool. It's not a destination. It's a step on your route to career success and whatever that looks like for you. So they really, really care whether or not you can get the job that you say you want to have. That's why so much of their application is focused on your career game plan. It's focused on your post-MBA job and your long-term plan and how Columbia uniquely is going to facilitate your success because they don't want you to come to their program if they can't help you get what you want in your career. It's pragmatic and it's awesome. So, as you're constructing your Columbia Business School applications, your first, second and third strategy are to focus on your career game plan. We've got a ton of other videos on this channel about creating your career game plan. Click the link down below to read about our career placement report and several other links to videos that will help you cultivate your own career game plan. But don't even consider applying to Columbia unless you've got an airtight career game plan. That means you've got short-term goals that are credible, require an MBA and that you can actually achieve from where you're coming from, plus your own research, your own networking and a little bit of Columbia resources. It also needs to have a long-term vision that's inspiring to you, that paints the picture of a future that you genuinely want to have, and that, again, is supported by the Columbia MBA. And then in most cases, you also need to be taking short term actions to prepare for those goals. You need to be doing informational interviews, networking, talking to people who have these jobs. You need to build a plan that's going to make sense and most importantly, inspire you in a really tangible way. And frequently these two things are in conflict. So if you're applying to Columbia, your real work is figuring out what you want from your future and then laying out a plan that makes sense from where you are now and genuinely inspires. If you've done that, you've already tremendously advanced your candidacy to Columbia Business School.

Use The Final Question To Your Advantage

And then you've got that last essay question, which has changed a lot in recent years. But it's always a kind of fun chance for you to show the admissions committee your personality. It's less about values and character than, say, the likes of Harvard or Stanford or even Booth, because it's 250 words and it's usually a fairly light question, like: “Tell us your favorite book, movie or song and why it resonates with you.”, or “Tell us about a leader you admire and why.”. Sometimes it can get a little bit heady, like: “Tell us about a team failure you were a part of and what you would do differently.”. Regardless of how it's framed in any given year, that third question is really your opportunity to show who you are beyond your career to date and your career goals. So, think through what information can you add beyond what you've already said in your other essays about your career goals and your future, that will give the admissions committee a chance to appreciate your personality, your character, your idiosyncrasies, whatever it is that makes you unique. Whatever it is that makes you more than just a resume and a plan, the stuff that makes you you. So use that question to show them something meaningful about you. Even if it seems to be a question about a book or movie, it's much deeper than that. It's your chance to show your character and your personality.

It’s Not Just Location, Location, Location!

Last little tip about your Columbia essays is, remember, even though being in New York City is no doubt a big part of your motivation in applying to Columbia Business School, it is far from the only thing they have to offer. So be sure to dig into the school resources, the community, the classwork. Columbia actually has a really uniquely structured curriculum. It's not like any other program. So dig in and get to know the school beyond its location in New York City, as you're showing the admissions committee why Columbia is the best school for you, and you'll do the best that you can do to present a very strong candidacy to Columbia that also makes them understand that they're the best fit school for you, which is really what all business schools want to know. They want that love to be completely mutual. So give it your best, do your research. And don't forget to build an amazing career game plan before you apply to Columbia. Thanks for watching. We'll see you next week.

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Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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