Columbia MBA Admission Counselors

A Guide to the Columbia MBA Admissions Process - Essays, Interviews & Deadlines

About Columbia

The Columbia MBA experience is all about learning to solve real-world and real-time issues. At CBS, students learn to solve current business challenges from not only full-time and tenured faculty but a slate of over 100+ adjunct faculty who are concurrently working in their respective fields. As one of the New York City schools, Columbia grads and students take advantage of its location, a subway ride away from Wall Street, and its powerful alumni and corporate network, further cementing their strength as a world class Finance program.

While most schools offer mainly summer internships, CBS students can opt to take advantage of in-semester internship opportunities with local companies, a strong selling point for many. Calling New York home affords them the ability to offer programs like Master Class and Entrepreneurs in Residence, both of which bring local executives to campus to work with students on real-world application practice of what they’re learning in the classroom.

Columbia MBA Admissions Counselor

What is Columbia Business School Looking For?

The class size averages around 782 students, who will eventually join an alumni network of over 48,000. The Columbia community is made up of students from over 90 different countries, impressive for any top business school. CBS boasts an outstanding brand reputation in many countries as well. Columbia’s core curriculum includes one pre-term experience called Lead: People, Teams, Organizations. In the first year, students take two full-term courses and eight half-term courses of core fulfilling course options. In the second term, all students take operations management as well as .3 full-term electives and 3 total half-term electives.

The curriculum incorporates both a case-based method as well as collaborative learning. Students have the opportunity before each term to take part in exemption exams that can allow them to replace core courses with electives. There are over 300 electives to choose from and students can also opt to take classes within Columbia’s other graduate programs. Students can even enter into one of 11 duel degree programs.

Columbia MBA Application Process

MBA hopefuls may start the program in either August or January, offering more flexibility than most MBA programs with single annual entry points. Those who begin in January complete a condensed 16-month program verse the two-year standard. More than half of students begin in August, completing their internship the following summer. Early Decision candidates will be asked to sign a statement of commitment indicating that CBS is their first choice and will decline all other offers of admission, in addition to a $6000 non-refundable tuition deposit. While this is beneficial for those set on CBS, others should be cautioned to think about what application round works for them as they may still want to consider other MBA programs or scholarship packages from other schools.


Columbia’s evaluation process incorporates looking for some key characteristics that will merit a spot in the class, and then further dwindling candidates down to the strongest of all applicants. With a current acceptance rate hovering at 19.7%, the academic background will be weighed heavily.

Academic Background

This includes a strong GPA and competitive test scores. The average GPA of the last incoming class was near 3.6, with 30% of students having a business undergraduate major and 20% an economics major. Speaking more than one language, leadership experience, strong career success, or international experience are all very attractive to this admissions committee.

Fit & Desire

But perhaps the most crucial message will be a candidate's fit and desire to be at Columbia Business School. Those who show weakness in one of these key areas, namely in academics, despite an otherwise strong application, will be at a disadvantage that may prove hard to overcome.

Columbia Essay Prompts

The Columbia Business School essay requirements consist of one short answer question, three essay questions, and one optional essay prompt. This year the second question about fit with CBS is new as the school looks towards narrowing down its pool among those applying to the country’s other top programs. Each of these questions leaves the candidate's room to share a lot of detail, yet still, challenge them to use their words wisely within these modest word limits.

  1. Short answer question - What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)
    This is your opportunity to be clear about your future plans, but in the most concise way you‘ve ever been asked to explain them! You can see some examples on the school website. For the most part, short, sweet, clear, and compelling is what you’re aiming for here.
  2. Essay - 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)
  3. Essay - Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)
  4. Essay - Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)
  5. Optional Question - Is there any further information that you wish to provide to 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)

The essay questions are very straightforward yet still provide an opportunity to show clarity in your current goals and what you will do with your Columbia MBA, as well as give you the opportunity to show all that you can bring to the CBS community. Like other schools, an optional essay should be used to explain any anomalies in your application or overall candidacy. It is not suggested to use this essay as an opportunity to clarify anything already mentioned in your other essay responses. For other merit-based award opportunities, there are additional essays to prepare. As with any MBA program’s application, thoughtfully answering their specific questions will be crucial as recycled or massaged essays written for other schools will be quite obvious to any professional committee.

Columbia Business School Test Scores

Applicants are asked to submit a self-reported GMATExecutive Assessment, or GRE score that is less than five years old. As is customary for top programs, your highest score will be used to evaluate your candidacy.

As with any competitive business school, standards are very high and we recommend considering professional MBA admission consulting.

Letters of Recommendation

While recommendations may feel like a standard requirement, Columbia gives clear suggestions on who should write your two required letters. For those who have been employed full-time for a minimum of six months, one letter from a current supervisor is required. Unlike other schools that give more open guidelines for the second letter, the Columbia MBA program cites preference for a former supervisor or another professional resource.

On the school’s website, Columbia Business School is uniquely clear about why the letters are so similar to those of other programs, offering clear discouragement to those who may want to draft letters or notes for their recommenders. This should be taken as a clear guide to avoiding this at all costs.

MBA Application Interview

Interviews at Columbia business school are conducted by alumni, and usually can be offered in a city near the applicant, unless of course, you opt to travel to New York. If that isn't possible, a video call is arranged, with an alum or an alternative interviewer like a student or admissions representative. It should be expected that while the interview is conversational, your desire to attend CBS and your plans for making the most of living in NYC will be addressed at some point in your 45-60 minute meeting.

Columbia business school employs a blind interview process, meaning the alumnus/a will not have anything but your resume before your interview, should you choose to provide it. Since the admissions process is rolling, one can be invited to interview at any point after the completed application is evaluated. After hitting submit, applicants will see the status of their application online cycle through one of the CBS evaluation stages:

  • Application Submitted/Received
  • Invited to Interview
  • Complete
  • Final Decision is Rendered
  • After the interview, CBS aims to have a final decision for candidates within a 2-week time frame.

Apply to Columbia Business School

With consistent top rankings and a stellar brand, the business school has high expectations for applicants. The Columbia MBA application and essay require a great amount of advance planning and a deep understanding of the Columbia business school program, culture, and community. With three deadlines and two entry point to begin your MBA, make sure to have a clear idea of where your top schools rank for you personally to help inform what deadline is right for you.

Check Out the Top MBA Acceptance Rates

For more information about the Columbia application process, reach out to us via any of the contact options below.