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How to Get Into Columbia Business School: MBA Application Requirements

Columbia Business School

With its New York City location, Columbia Business School lauds that it’s at the “center of business.”

The symbiotic relationship between Columbia Business School (CBS) and the business world is a major program benefit. Indeed, CBS notes on its website that “more business leaders visit our campus than any other top business school.” Because of its NYC location, the school also attracts more than 100 real-world practitioners as faculty (adjunct) in the business school. While fortifying Columbia’s strength in finance, CBS boasts experiential learning, entrepreneurial thinking and global perspectives the cornerstones of the program.

My love for CBS comes from firsthand experience as an alumna. After graduating from Columbia, I joined Deloitte Consulting and served as Deloitte’s on-campus recruiting representative at CBS. Now I continue to support applicants as a Fortuna Admissions coach. As such, I’m practiced at helping MBA hopefuls extract the types of stories most compelling to the Columbia MBA admissions committee.

Read on for everything you need to know about how to get into the Columbia MBA program, from program basics and admissions requirements to our team’s insider tips for admission success. For more expert guidance and a candid assessment of your chances of admission, reach out to schedule a free consultation.

Columbia Business School Basics

Columbia Business School is known for its strengths in a wide variety of areas. Columbia MBA specializations include finance, general management, entrepreneurship, media, marketing, healthcare/pharma, real estate, and social enterprise. Students can expect a well rounded experience from their time in a Columbia MBA course.

Number of Applicants (Class of 2023): 6,535

MBA Class Size: 847 (August entry, 614; January entry, 233)

Acceptance Rate: 15.7%

Tuition: $154,752

Average Work Experience: 5 years

Average GMAT: 729

Average GPA: 3.5

International Citizens: 48%

Columbia Business School Admissions Requirements

On average, CBS students come into the program with five years professional experience and most have at least three years. If you have less than three years of work, it will be that much harder to get admitted. You will have to demonstrate to Admissions that your professional experience is either unusual or differentiating; or that you have had some significant achievements, despite your shorter professional experience.

As you prepare your application to Columbia, the super-competitive nature of the program should be front of mind, says Fortuna’s Michael Malone, former Associate Dean of Columbia Business School. (His 7-minute strategy session below is essential viewing for anyone with CBS on their target list.)

Applying to the Columbia MBA Program

There are clear advantages for applying early to Columbia: the pool tends to be smaller and your application will likely gain greater visibility. Unlike its M7 rivals, CBS operates on a rolling admissions process – both for early and regular decisions – and applications are reviewed in the order that they are received. Columbia offers Early Decision, which commits you to the school if you are admitted. Given that Columbia vies with Harvard and Wharton for top candidates, Early Decision is a great way to do so if you want to send a signal of your commitment to CBS.

Columbia allows students to enroll in August or January. Each path is comprised of four terms, although January entry allows students who do not want or need an internship to begin core classes in spring, complete the second semester of classes during summer, and merge with the other track during the following fall. The January start tends to appeal to students who wish to continue in the same industry or pursue entrepreneurial interests.

Tips for your Columbia Business School Application

1. Convey why the Columbia MBA and why NYC.

As reflected in Columbia’s branding campaign (“At the very center of business”), the importance of the business school’s location is key to articulate in your application. “You want to make a very strong case for why Columbia and also why NYC,” underscores Michael. “Is it the home of your target industry or function? Are the players you’re hoping to work with set up in New York? You need to do research on faculty members, centers, organizations, clubs – and to be able to voice why NYC and why Columbia specifically.”

And of course, New York is more than just Wall Street. From media to advertising, consulting to real estate, the school has faculty expertise and Centers of Excellence that reflect the diversity of the Big Apple. The school has also worked to distinguish its profile as a cutting-edge technology and media institution. The city is fast-paced, cosmopolitan, and decisive, so how do you fit into Columbia’s New York culture?

2. Take advantage of the alumni interview.

CBS takes a unique approach to the MBA interview by matching candidates with an alumni interviewer close by. Perceive this as an invaluable opportunity to speak with someone who has truly been in your shoes and has since gained valuable industry expertise. Do your homework, come prepared with smart questions, and be prepared to speak to why CBS, knowing that your interviewer will only be able to see your resume. As Fortuna’s Melissa Jones writes in her related article, 7 Tips for Alumni-Led Interviews, “Having an alumni-led interview is a signal the school values the perspective its grads can bring – both to you as a candidate and to the interview process itself.”

3. Show your commitment to inclusive, ethical leadership.

Like many business schools, Columbia is taking a more explicit stand around its values related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the context of cultivating essential leadership skills. One of its new MBA essay prompts invites you to speak to a time you were challenged, along with an action you’ve taken related to one of five of its DEI themes. As mentioned in my related article on Columbia MBA Essay Tips, it’s an opportunity for you to identify a meaningful example and then extract lessons learned that showcase the kind of person you are and the leader you hope to be. Your answer stands to communicate how you will engage with the very diverse and global community at CBS, and how you will add value.

4. Positioning for the J-Term.

Columbia is alone among the top US business schools in offering a January intake, which allows candidates to earn a full-time MBA in just 16 months. It can be ideal for entrepreneurs, people from a family business, or sponsored candidates who are eager to return to their company. The ‘J-Term’ replaces the summer internship with a semester of study, although candidates can opt for a school year internship.  It’s also very international; US citizens comprise less than half the class.

5. Demonstrate your fit with the program.

“You have to be able to understand and represent your own skills, values, motivators, and interests. And then try to align those with what Columbia does well to make a strong case that you can be a good fit,” says Michael. “If you do this work now, it’s going to benefit you not only during your application process for top MBA programs and Columbia, but it will benefit your career exploration as well.”

View Fortuna’s MBA Admissions Masterclass on Columbia & MIT Sloan for a deep dive on preparing your CBS application – recommender strategy, interviews, MBA culture, essays, and more.

Let’s Get You In.

Fortuna Admissions is a dream team of former MBA Admissions Directors and Officers from 18 of the top 20 business schools, including the Columbia MBA program. With our unparalleled collective expertise, we are able to coach you to develop a clear vision of your goals for business school and beyond. We work closely with you throughout the application process and provide expert guidance at every stage to maximize your chances of admission to a top school.

Our free consultations are consistently rated as the best in the industry. To learn more about Fortuna and assess your chances of admission to the GSB and other top programs, request a free consultation.

Want More Advice?

Check out our team’s latest articles, videos, and analysis related to how to get into Columbia Business School:

Updated April 2022

Fortuna Admissions Expert Coach Karen Hamou is a Columbia MBA alum and former Deloitte Consulting recruiting lead, as well as well as #2 ranked consultant globally in Poets & Quants list of the Top 20 MBA Admissions Consultants of 2021. For more free advice and a personal, candid assessment of your chances, you can sign up now for a free consultation.

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