How to get into Columbia Business School


A Columbia Lions flag waves in the wind during a women’s varsity lacrosse game between the Princeton Tigers and Brown Bears, as seen in April 2022 in Providence, RI. (Photo by Erica Denhoff—Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

MBA candidates seeking to become leaders, effect change in their organizations, and make a difference in the world will be drawn to one of the top-ranked business schools in the country. Columbia Business School’s MBA program may stand out because it promises to develop leaders who transform the world and spread “breakthrough knowledge.” Getting into this highly competitive program, however, is not easy.

Last year, the acceptance rate for Columbia Business School’s full-time program, which Fortune ranked No. 6 in the country, was around 16%. There are currently over 1,500 full-time MBA students enrolled in the business school and over 500 additional students enrolled in Columbia’s Executive MBA program. And Columbia alumni do well in the job market, with employers paying up to $200,000 for recent graduates.

Because these programs attract a diverse cohort of students, it’s important to “be yourself when you apply,” recommends Amanda B. Carlson, associate dean of admissions at Columbia Business School.

“There are no molds to fit or quotas to fill at Columbia Business School,” she adds. “We are looking for talented candidates from all walks of life, with diverse experiences to bring, who will succeed academically and professionally, while contributing positively to the Columbia Business School community.”

How can you increase your chances of being accepted into Columbia Business School so you can eventually join a network of 44,000 professionals upon graduation? Admissions experts say the following four steps will help.

1. Know why you want to get your MBA at Columbia

Before you even begin the application process, you should think about why Columbia Business School is your top choice. Is it all about location for you and having access to everything New York has to offer? Do you want to learn from Columbia’s world-renowned faculty, adjunct faculty, and executives-in-residence?

Whatever your reasoning, you should be able to clearly define why Columbia is your top choice for graduate school so that you can articulate it clearly throughout the application, trial, and interview processes.

2. Make sure your test scores and GPA show you’re a top student

Columbia Business School seeks intellectually motivated individuals from diverse educational, economic, social, cultural, and geographic backgrounds. According to its website, students display a track record of achievement, strong leadership and the ability to work in teams.

You will need to be prepared to demonstrate that you are an excellent student. Columbia requires a GMAT, GRE, or Executive Assessment score for admission to its full-time MBA program, with incoming students reporting an average GMAT score of 726. Last year, incoming students had an average undergraduate GPA of 3.6. Columbia does not require a TOEFL score for international students, but all applicants must submit a letter of recommendation.

“Recommendations that provide concrete examples are most beneficial to the admissions committee,” says Carlson. “Tangible examples provide insight into the qualities and characteristics of the candidate. It is helpful for letters to contain details to support generalizations about a candidate (eg leadership, teamwork). Simply saying “Bob is an amazing team player” doesn’t provide as much information as a letter that then argues that Bob is an amazing team player with a specific example. »

3. Explain how you plan to make a difference with your MBA

Applicants who are accepted into Columbia Business School all have a vision for their lives and how they will bring about change. It’s important to explain this vision in your application, according to Devi Vallabhaneni, managing director of consultancy MbaMission and interviewer-in-residence at Harvard Business School.

Applicants Vallabhaneni has worked with have gained admission to Columbia Business School by demonstrating their commitment to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues, she said. Fortune. As the world changes, investors and businesses assess these non-financial factors to identify material risks and opportunities for growth, according to the CFA Institute.

Vallabhaneni says Columbia is positioning itself as an MBA program that is committed to integrating ESG factors into its mission, and so the admissions team is particularly interested in applicants who can show they plan to do something actionable with their diploma.

“It’s not just, ‘I want this job,'” she says. “Columbia wants to know, ‘What do you want your life to represent?’ This then dictates what your career represents. So I see that as a big commonality of successful people at Columbia. They think about issues that are much bigger than themselves.

Whatever your passion, it is important to demonstrate it during the application process. “Successful students have a vision to make an impact on something, an issue,” adds Vallabhaneni. “It could be about sustainability; it could be politics. It could be women in the labor market, a man who defends women in the labor market.

4. Effectively communicate your unique and authentic story

Every student who applies to Columbia will have an exceptional GPA and test scores, but successful applicants will effectively communicate their unique story through their essay and interview process, says Mary Banks, senior admissions consultant for the consulting firm in Admission MBA Inspira Futures. She previously served as associate director of admissions for MBA programs at Columbia, among other roles, in the 1990s.

“Be authentic. These people in admissions can read between the lines,” Banks says. that you care about the world, and how things are changing and how you can contribute.

Find out how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s ranking of top business analytics programs, data science programs and part-time, executive, full-time, and online MBA programs.


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