When to Apply to Columbia During Regular Decision

J-termers just doin' their thang (CBS Follies)

J-termers just doin' their thang (CBS Follies)

Today’s blog post concerns the tricky Columbia Regular Decision deadline, which starts the day after Early Decision (which had a deadline of October 3rd this year) and extends all the way into April. While long, rolling deadlines are commonplace in college admissions or law school admissions, they are strangely out of place in the MBA space, which creates a lot of consternation on the part of applicants everywhere. Here’s the weird part though: normally when applicants ring their hands over something ambiguous and unfamiliar we tell them to buck up and have some courage (“Stop worrying so much,” is a common refrain around here), but in this case, there actually is some very real strategy to consider. We take into consideration a few rules of thumb, some common sense, and our own experiences sitting in the admissions officer’s chair to arrive at a recommendation.

Rule of Thumb #1 – Never apply after Valentine’s Day. For those who are not as romantic as others, Valentine’s Day is February 14. There are many in the MBA admissions industry who have it on good authority that a post-February 14 application to CBS is as good as dead. This is highly relevant information, because not only does applying late to Columbia hurt a candidate for that season, but it also hurts them for the next season. Columbia is one of the hardest schools at which to reapply , so applying “too late” probably means that you will never be setting foot on the Morningside Heights campus.

Rule of Thumb #2 – Never apply after Columbia’s scholarship deadline (this year’s is January 9, 2013). This is like Rule #1, except even more aggressive/paranoid regarding timing and with a dash of practical thinking thrown in. The idea here is that if you are going to apply, you should keep scholarships in the mix. Also, the scholarship deadline acts as a signaling device for the “serious” applicants and falls on a date right around many round 2 deadlines for other schools.

All told, your best bet is to apply before January 9, both to play it safe and also to ensure eligibility for merit awards.

The Common Sense + Experience Part. Of course, there is also the question of whether you might apply too early. Can such a thing happen? After all, the Columbia website explains rolling admissions as files being read “in the order they are received” and then suggests, therefore, that it is best to get it in as early as possible. However, there is indeed such a thing as “too early” for Regular Decision and we believe that is anything between October 6 and October 31. Why? Because it will look like you could have applied Early Decision, but just didn’t want to commit. That’s obviously a big red flag for the admissions committee and they might decide to pass on someone so unlikely to attend. This is not necessarily fair, but nothing ever is. If you want to apply Regular Decision, get it in nice and early, but still showcase a lot of love and affection for CBS, wait until November 1 to submit.

Drumroll Please. That means, in the end, our recommendation is to apply Regular Decision sometime between November 1, 2012 and January 9, 2013.

You can read more about this topic and basically everything else related to the Columbia Business School application process in our “How to Apply to Columbia” guide. We make this guide – as well as guides to HBS and INSEAD – free to applicants everywhere in order to lend a hand but also show our expertise. You will see that it dwarfs other “insider guides” that are out there. If you like what you read, or are just interested in admissions consulting already, be sure to email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com to see why our team is the fastest growing in the industry.