How to Get Into Columbia Business School

January 03, 2022 | by Karen Hamou

Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School (CBS) set a new MBA application record, receiving 6,971 applications for the Class of 2022 (an increase of 18.6% over the previous year).

With its New York City location, CBS lauds that it’s at the “center of business,” and the symbiotic relationship between CBS and the business world is a major program benefit. 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.

In this 7-minute strategy session with Poets&Quants Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne, Michael zeros in on the essential things every Columbia MBA hopeful should know before applying – starting with what CBS is looking for – along with application advice and common mistakes to avoid. This is essential viewing for anyone with CBS on their MBA target list. 

My love for Columbia Business School 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 CBS admissions committee.

In addition to viewing Michael’s excellent insights on how to get into CBS, read on for five key tips for positioning your application for the Columbia MBA.

5 Key Tips for your Columbia MBA Application

1. Apply early.

On the heels of the highest volume MBA application season ever, there are clear advantages for applying early to Columbia: the pool tends to be smaller and your application will likely gain greater visibility. CBS operates on a rolling admissions process – both for early and regular decisions – and applications are reviewed in the order that they are received. In fact, 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.

2. Convey why CBS 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?

3. 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.”

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. 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.

Michael’s closing recommendation in the video above is fundamental for anyone applying to CBS – as well as any top school: “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. 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.”

Columbia Business School

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