3 Key Thoughts for Columbia Business School's 2015 Essays

This year the schools are releasing the essays earlier than ever and it's going to be tough to keep up with the onslaught if I write my usual multi-thousand word opus, so we're going to use a little running device of "three key thoughts" for each essay release.  If you want to get a deep dive into these essay sets, of course, the answer is probably obvious: sign up for our services and become a client, at which point we can guide you every step of the way.  Now, on to some thoughts from the new Columbia essays! 

As with last year, CBS is using three essays and for the most part, they follow the same general format: 500 words, 250 words, 250 words; goals, Center of Business, Cluster.  But I only have to look at the massive changes I made to our Columbia Strategy Memo to know that these things changed a ton at the center.  Let's dive into our 3 Key Thoughts: 

1. Do not talk abut wanting to go to Columbia because it's in New York.  We have been issuing this warning every year since I have been doing this, but it doesn't seem to be getting out there to the masses, because it seems to clearly be an ongoing problem for CBS, such that they are actually moving the Why Columbia request out of its natural place (Essay 2) and into Essay 1.  In the past, it was key to make a subtle distinction, which was to point out what awesome Columbia features, made possible by the New York "very center of business" location, were attractive to you and fueling your interest.  My guess is that too many candidates were still flipping that around and saying "I love New York and I love this and that about it" instead of looking at the ways CBS utilizes its location.  Now, by asking for Why Columbia content in Essay 1, they can force candidates to laser in on some aspects of the school.  And if those applicants fall into the New York Trap on Question 2, it won't completely bury the info the school wants.  Of course...

2. Use Question 2 to stand out.  Now that Why Columbia is going to get some coverage in Question 1, my guess is that "I Love New York!" essays are going to run wild for Essay 2.  What else is there to write about than Columbia's location, right?  Wrong.  You should be using this essay to talk about the way YOU will engage with a "center of everything" kind of place - talk about why a dynamic location and atmosphere is not only good for you, but the kind of environment where you thrive and dominate.  Talk about how it will bring our your best.  Site specific areas of interest and site specific past examples of doing this.  It's going to bring your leadership and teamwork qualities to the surface and make you seem like the kind of vibrant, "make it happen" candidate that they are looking for. 

3. Save the joke answers for the Cluster question.  Last year I couldn't definitely prove to clients that a joke/goof answer to Question 3 was a bad idea, but now I probably can.  This is because Columbia has linked to its "Columbia Matters" program, which seems to me a lot like reading Stanford Essay 1 responses out lout.  I (half) kid, but obviously the video is very serious and earnest and it's about digging deep and being vulnerable with your Cluster members.  Now, you don't have to write a deathbed confessional in this 250-essay and you can still have some fun if you want, but don't give them a goofy response when the prompt includes this really earnest content.  Take the tonal cue and dig deep enough that you are actually saying something about yourself here.  (Remember to also address both "surprise" and "pleasant" in your response.  Don't just share something weird or secretive, make sure that others around you will benefit in some way from this aspect of yourself, or there is nothing "pleasant" about the surprise of others.)

Overall, Columbia has made some very clean and beneficial changes that help candidates respond in a way that is on point, and it is our belief that the core DNA of the school - and what they are really looking for - has remained intact.  To find out more about that and how we can help you with your app, email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.