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  • Writer's pictureMalvika Patil

Columbia Business School MBA Essay Analysis 2023 - 2024

Updated: Jan 30

The Columbia Business School MBA application questions have changed for the 2023 - 2024 application cycle.

Here’s what’s different:

  • Essay 1 is unchanged.

  • Essay 2 is new (this was previously an option for 2021 - 2022 applicants).

  • Essay 3 is last year’s Essay 2, with a shorter word limit of 250.

Let’s explore each in turn.

Columbia MBA Short Answer Question

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

This question is unchanged from last year. This is a straightforward one-line answer discussing your immediate plan upon graduation. Think of it as the subject line to the 500 words elaborate career goals essay that follows.

Within the scope of the 50 characters limit, provide a short yet descriptive answer to give them a summary of your target role, industry, type of firm, domain of work, or interests.

The Columbia Business School admissions committee has offered a few example responses to this answer, such as:

“Work in business development for a media company”

“Join a strategy consulting firm”

“Launch a data-management start-up”

Columbia MBA Essay Question 1

Through your résumé 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)

​This question wants an action plan from you as a candidate. This does not need to be set in stone, but should provide details about your high-level career plans. Expand upon the role, industry, geography, interests mentioned in the 50 characters essay above.

Discuss how you’re planning to achieve these goals, specify the milestones, and how you think this will lead you to your dream job.

If you’re making a switch, give your reasons and why you believe this is the best path for you.

Align this further with the opportunities that Columbia Business School offers. Correlate the placement opportunities, extracurricular activities, clubs, specializations and electives with your goals and show that you can create impact.

Columbia MBA Essay Question 2

The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a new co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias, Communicating Across Identities, Addressing Systemic Inequality, and Managing Difficult Conversations.

Tell us about a time you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)

Columbia Business School has included the PPIL leadership program to build diversity, equity and inclusion skills within their MBA graduates. They want to nurture candidates who are inclusive, unbiased, and self-aware leaders, who can manage challenging situations strategically.

To answer this question, delve into your past experiences to find an instance where you were challenged around one of the five skills mentioned above.

Structure the story part of your answer using the SCAR Analysis format (Situation, Challenge, Action, Result plus Analysis) to describe the situation, a challenge you faced, how you overcame the challenge, and the result of the story. Then, analyze how the story was meaningful to you. A well-written story and analysis will demonstrate how the experience improved your decision-making, and give insight into how you’ll tackle such challenges in the future.

If you come from an under-represented minority, you may have plenty of these stories. However, if you come from an over-represented majority you’ll want to focus on a time when you demonstrated allyship towards a minority group, in your workplace or extracurricular activities.

Columbia MBA Essay Question 3

We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams, an extremely active co-curricular and student life environment, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program.

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

Business schools are aware that candidates apply to multiple schools at the same time. Frankly, you'd be stupid not to do so. ​But Columbia wants to filter out the candidates that are genuinely invested in their school.

A major reason for this is the school is known to be highly focused on "yield" - the percentage of offers that are taken up by candidates. One of our waitlisted clients last year was told by the AdCom "we can offer you a spot if you promise to accept it". Therefore, it is important that you show them specific reasons that you’re keen to join their program.

Try to create a logical, step-by-step flow in this answer. Write about the b-school’s curriculum and specializations, clubs and societies, values and alignment with their objective. Explain why these interest you, and how you think they align with your future goals. Describe your plans to engage with the available opportunities, especially how you’ll contribute.

This year, this essay prompt now has a word limit of 250, compared to 300 last year. The 250-word limit is very tight for this amount of content, so make use of each and every word. Repeatedly scan through the essay to eliminate any information repeated in other essays or superfluous to the core of the story. Be as concise and crisp as possible. Don’t be afraid of short sentences.

Columbia MBA 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)

​Most business school applications have an optional essay. It is NOT the space for a deathbed confession! Just an objective explanation of any gaps in your profile, such as low grades, overlapping experiences, job gaps, etc.

Keep your answer short, concise and focused on addressing the issue and clarifying why it wouldn’t hamper your performance in the future. In other essays, you may use stories and interesting structures. Not here. Ideally, you’ll only use 100 of the words available.


You might also want to check out our Columbia MBA Interview Guide for in-depth insights into Columbia's interview process, what they're looking for in prospective candidates, interview schedule and questions for 2024, and tips to ace your interview.

For the full Columbia Business School MBA application course with example essays based on real essays by previous applicants, check out the Columbia Business School application program on 

We help determined applicants get admitted to top business schools. Get in touch if you think we can help you with your MBA application. Book a free 20 mins chat now.


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