Posted on September 4, 2019

Columbia Business School Essay Tips & Deadlines- 2019-20

Columbia Business School

Columbia business school has changed the questions for essay #2 and essay #3 this year, retaining its longstanding goals essay for the 2019-20 application season. The new questions about 'fit' with CBS and leadership have been introduced this year. The short-answer question and the optional essay remain unchanged.

The admission deadlines and timeline are as under:

Application Deadlines:

Entry: August 2020
Early: October 4, 2019
Merit Fellowship Deadline: January 3, 2020
Final: April 10, 2020

Entry: January 2020
Deadline: October 4, 2019

All deadlines are at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Columbia Business School is one of the first business schools to release its application essays every year. CBS makes its essays available early because it is one of the few programs to offer an early decision round. From CBS admission website, “Columbia Business School uses a rolling admissions process, which means applications are reviewed- and decisions rendered- as they are received.”


Here is MER’s analysis of CBS’s essays:

Short Answer Question:

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

This is a straightforward question about the candidates’ career goal immediately after graduating from Columbia Business School. In a mere 50 characters, including space (approximately 8 words), you have to mention the job you wish to have after completing MBA. Please make sure that your post-MBA goal aligns with your long-term goal that you will discuss in essay #1. Since the character limit is so stringent, you may not stress yourself writing complete sentences. I would encourage you to look at the sample answers on the CBS website. Please reveal your true goals, and not what CBS wants to hear.

Let’s take a closer look at the essays now:

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)

CBS is going with this prompt again this year and begins this essay prompt by clearly stating not to repeat the information already given in resume and recommendations. In other words, the Admission Committee is shoving you away from wasting their time in repeating your résumé! Though the question asks only about short term and long-term goals, a bit of context about professional history is required to explain what has led you to your career goals. Now, if you must mention some of your achievements, it should be done only to carry your career path forward.

Don’t forget to build your essay from the immediate post-MBA goal already stated in the short answer question. Make sure to keep the short-term and long-term goals aligned. Talk about your career goals over the next 3-5 years, sharing how you intend to progress from your short-term goals to the long-term dream job. Notice the phrases in the essay question “dream job” and “in your imagination”; CBS is urging you to be creative, imaginative and think big, and craft this essay prompt using illustrative examples. CBS is interested to know your dreams- your long-term goals. You may not need to conform to prescribed norms; after all, you could be the one who may pave the way for others.

You may tend to get a bit too carried away with “dream job.” But you should resist the temptation and be as realistic and grounded as possible while detailing out your goals. Try to highlight how things may change for the community or people around you when you succeed in getting your dream job. Your plans could be ambitious, but they should be viable and realistic. You may have an out of this world goal or a dream job in mind, but CBS is also looking for the viability of your “dream.” So, you should also stress your ability to fulfill your dream.

Although CBS does not ask how MBA from CBS will help you reach your goals, we believe that you can wrap up the essay with a comment on (only one sentence) how CBS will open the doors to your dream career path. You don’t want to go into details since you will talk about CBS in detail in the second question.

Essay 2: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)

Previously, CBS’s second essay talked about the school’s New York City location and the benefits that it conferred, but the admissions committee has now amplified the scope of the prompt to encompass everything the program offers. The best way to write an effective response is to do thorough research about Columbia’s intellectually driven alumni from varied backgrounds, curriculum, experienced faculty, clubs, extracurricular activities, strategic location, and recruiting strengths. Discuss your plan of action, how you intend to use the CBS MBA program to reach your short term and long-term goals already mentioned in short answer question and essay 1.

It is a good idea to highlight strengths listed on the CBS website, “Only Columbia Business School gives you the opportunity to shape your career in the very centre of business. There’s something about being positioned in New York City, where access to leaders across industry is truly advantageous”. CBS takes great pride in its strategic location, i.e. New York, I suggest you put across your plan to make the best use of CBS being at “the very center of business." Having access to the leaders across the world is emphasized by CBS as it is one of the key benefits of the program. You may indicate how you can make use of CBS’s close ties to the business, non-profit, and government communities to succeed in the fast-moving competitive environment. Make a list of the opportunities you hope to get at CBS and in New York City and then link each of these to your goals. Reviewing CBS website, conversing with the alumni, attending CBS events for prospective students and campus visits could all work to your advantage by setting your case apart.

Writing an impactful essay, highlighting how the strategic location and resources at the CBS can be a great choice for accomplishing your short-term and long-term goals in mere 250 words is not an easy task. To meet the stringent word limits, you need to be extremely precise in presenting your case and make every word count.

Essay 3: Who is a leader you admire, and why? (250 words)

This question is brand new for 2019-2020, replacing last year’s question about a team failure. Despite being very short, this question asks you to cover a lot of information. This essay prompt is a window to your thought process. Here is your opportunity to show the admission committee your idea of leadership style. Value-based essays like this one are extremely important to make your case to the Admission Committee.

Choose a leader you admire. Here, “why” becomes more important than “who.” You can watch this video by CBS which discusses business leadership worldwide. Of course, it is a lot easier to pick popular leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi or Bill Gates, but if you want your essay to stand out, you may not choose the world figures. Also, avoid using parents as your favorite leaders. Instead, choose a leader who is innovative and entrepreneurial. This way, you will be able to draw parallels with your life. You can choose your teacher, mentor, or boss, or anyone in the community you admire. For instance, if you want to lead in the field of environment management, talk about a person who either has innovative mechanisms to his creditor has made an immense contribution to this field. Dwell on his specific traits and leadership style and how you have imbibed these values yourself. While explaining why you admire that leader, you are sharing your leadership styles and values.

These 250 words essay should not only focus on that leader; it should reflect on your leadership style as well. I would say the first two paragraphs will be about the qualities of a leader (1 quality each paragraph with reasons why you like this quality). Provide examples of his/her personal and professional achievements owing to the leadership style. The third paragraph should be about how you feel that the leader’s qualities and leadership style resonate with you. Make sure to focus on why the qualities of the leader you have chosen are inspiring for you and try to build some connection to your profile or background.

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)

An optional essay is an opportunity for you to give relevant information to the Ad Com that you could not provide in other parts of your application, essays, and resume. For example, if you have a lower than average GMAT score, any grades below a C on your transcript, academic probation, or a significant employment gap, you can explain in this essay. To provide a context for a weakness in your profile, make sure your reason is genuine to convince the Ad Com that your low grades or employment gap occurred due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. Your response should be positive, straightforward, and fact-focused and should not sound like you are making excuses for a weakness in your profile. Also, if you cannot get your recommendation letter from your current supervisor, please explain that in the optional statement.

If you do not have any weakness in your profile but think that you didn’t get a chance to throw a spotlight on a significant professional accomplishment, extra-curricular accomplishments or community involvement, you may sure use this essay to share that key aspect of your candidacy.

Free Resources:

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples

Essay Analysis of Other Tops Programs- 2019-20

25 Video/Chat Interviews of Successful MER Students

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into top 20 MBA programs including Columbia Business School. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

You may email Poonam at with questions about your CBS application.

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