Columbia GSB 2011-2012 Essay Reviews

CBS’ essays have changed a fair amount since last year with the addition of one essay and refreshing of the other two.  Question 1 focuses more on yNow and the CBS fit as it relates to your ST and LT goals; last year’s essays were more focused on your ST and LT goals.  Question 2 wants to dig deeper to get to know you more, so get ready to take a ride down memory lane.  Question 3 is a new question this year and it gives you a chance to express yourself in 250 very carefully chosen words.  With this one, your choice of essay will be very telling about what’s important to you, so choose wisely.  Grab your Metro Card and let’s head uptown on the 1 train together!

Columbia Graduate School of Business

Essay 1 (750 words): Considering your post-MBA and long term professional goals, why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? Additionally, why is Columbia Business School a good fit for you?

Admit Advantage: As an MBA admission consultant, I must tell you not to fall into the trap of taking an essay from another school and dropping it in here.  This essay does not ask you for a breakdown of your resume (there will be plenty of opportunity to submit a resume) J.  The first question has two parts: 1) why an MBA is important to you and 2) why it is important to you now. It is important for the admission committee to know that you are serious about your MBA and ready to go now.    If they just think you are fishing and there is no clear sense of purpose, you are asking for a thanks but no thanks letter.

Admit Advantage: Fit is a key part of this essay.  We strongly suggest that you visit CBS and get to know what it is all about.  Lots of people want to go to NY for business school, but it is your responsibility to make it clear why CBS is the right choice for you.  Notice that we haven’t mentioned ST/LT goals–yet.  It is important to notice that they want your ST/LT goals included in this essay as they should tie into the yMBA, and yCBS answers.

Essay 2 (500 words): Describe a life experience that has shaped you. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally.

Admit Advantage: At Admit Advantage, we spend a significant amount of time thinking about the key leadership traits and corresponding stories that support those traits.  If you haven’t really taken the time to think about you as a person and what you think makes you a future business leader, then you should pause here and do so before writing this essay.  Don’t try to fit into a MBA admission box, rather, think about what makes you the person you are and may differentiate you from the pack.  Clearly, with 500 words, you will have to choose wisely, so take the time to map out what you want to say in advance.  Make sure the experience has truly made an impact and discuss how the experience has shaped who you are today.

Admit Advantage: This may be a challenging essay to write and that’s OK.  Some people may know what they are going to write about almost immediately (I had cancer, so this would’ve been pretty easy for me to write), others may struggle, but the topic should give the CBS admissions committee a window into why you are who you are.  Grab a tissue and a glass of wine (just one) and reflect on your experiences.

Essay 3 (Choose one of the following; 250 words):

Option A: The annual A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition is a student initiative managed and run by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO). The competition encourages Columbia MBA students to explore creative, entrepreneurial ideas that are sufficiently ambitious in scope and scale to be considered “outrageous.” Students explore these ideas while learning firsthand what goes into the development and presentation of a solid business proposal.

Develop your own outrageous business idea. In essay form, compose your elevator pitch. (250 words maximum)

Admit Advantage: If you want to be an entrepreneur, look no further than Option A for your third essay question.  This gives you an opportunity to talk about your business idea and articulate your elevator pitch.  Remember, they aren’t saying that the idea has to be outrageous, rather, the question alludes to students thinking “big” (i.e. Facebook, Amazon, etc.).   If you have something in mind, develop that idea and think about how you can take it to the next level.  After reading this essay, words like “transformative”, “visionary”, and “creative” should come to mind here.

Admit Advantage: For those who aren’t familiar with an elevator pitch for a business, very simply, think about why people would want your product/service (WHY), what makes your idea different from others and what is the market opportunity (WHAT), and what resources you would need to build it out (HOW).  You can proceed to think about barriers to entry, analogues in the market (i.e. we’re a Hulu, but for college sports…don’t steal that one), pricing, and scale/scope that the idea can grow into.

Option B: Columbia deeply values its vibrant student community, the building of which begins at orientation when admitted students are assigned to clusters of 65 to 70 fellow students who take most of the first-year core classes together. During the first weeks of school, each cluster selects a cluster chair. Further strengthening the student community are the more than 100 active student organizations at Columbia Business School, ranging from cultural to professional to community service–oriented. Leadership positions within clusters and clubs offer hands-on management and networking opportunities for students as they interact with fellow students, administrators, faculty members, alumni, and practitioners.

You are running for either cluster chair or a club leadership position of your choosing. Compose your campaign speech. (250 words maximum)

Admit Advantage: Quite simply, this is an opportunity to tell CBS about you.  Going back to the elevator speech for your business in Option A, this is the elevator speech for YOU.  While you do need to talk about your credentials, remember that all of your classmates have strong credentials.  What is it that will make you a valuable leader going forward and how have you exhibited said leadership in the past?  Don’t forget to talk about exactly what position you are running for—that gives you an opportunity to talk about what you are passionate about.  If you love talking about yourself as much as I do, you should love writing this essay!

Option C: Founded nearly three decades ago, the Executives in Residence Program at Columbia Business School integrates senior executives into the life of the School. Current executives in residence include more than a dozen experts in areas ranging from media and investment banking to private equity and management. A hallmark of the program is one-on-one counseling sessions in which executives advise students about their prospective career choices.

Select one of the current executives in residence with whom you would like to meet during your time at Columbia. Explain your selection and tell us how you would best utilize your half hour one-on-one session. (250 words maximum)

Admit Advantage: This essay question is relatively self-explanatory, but takes some real thought.  First of all, you will need to research the CBS executives in residence and determine who you would want to meet with.  Some people go down the route of finding a person in their respective field and others find someone that has a particular skill set that they need to master.  Either way, make sure to articulate why you would like to meet with that particular person and how they are going to help you grow as a leader.  Don’t forget to specifically detail how you are going to use the 30 minutes with the executive (a ride in the private jet may not convince the admissions committee that you are a good fit).

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