The Best Application Guide to The Columbia MBA Program

Columbia Business School, Columbia University.

The #1 reason to attend Columbia is to take advantage of its NYC location. Although you might briefly question whether the neighborhood of Morningside Heights is truly the “very center of business,” Columbia makes excellent use of its location.

First, Columbia brings in NYC-area executives as adjunct faculty and as Entrepreneurs in Residence. This gives you a chance to interact with senior industry professionals who could otherwise be very hard to reach, and when you approach these relationships in a patient, long-term way, they can make a huge difference to your career advancement.

Second, Columbia facilitates contact with local companies through their Master Classes, in which a company will bring a live problem to campus for student teams to work on, and their Immersion Seminars, in which students visit top executives in their NYC offices for candid discussions.

Finally, many Columbia students pursue in-semester internships with NYC-area companies. The low commitment of an internship like this makes it easy for a company to say “yes” even if you don’t fit the traditional criteria for the role. Thus, it’s a chance for you to gain broader experiences than what you might get during a full summer internship or a full-time job search.

Columbia also has a great brand in China, and its Greater China Society is one of the most active clubs on campus. So, whether you simply want to learn about doing business in China, or expect to actually move to China for your post-MBA career, Columbia can help.

This profile lays out the basic facts about Columbia and the resources you’ll need to further research the full-time MBA program.

(Looking for information on the EMBA program? Check out our Guide to the Columbia EMBA.)

Columbia Business School MBA Class Profile

Acceptance Rate16%
Sourced from P&Q article: Acceptance Rates At The Top 25 U.S. MBA Programs
Class Size782
GMAT Average726
GPA Average3.60
Average Age28
Avg. Years Work Experience5.0 years
Diversity Women40%
Diversity Intl.44%
Pre-MBA IndustriesFinancial Services: 30%
Consulting: 23%
Marketing/Media: 14%
Technology: 8%
Other: 7%
Nonprofit: 5%
Real Estate: 4%
Healthcare: 4%
Military/Govt: 2%
Energy: 2%
Manufacturing: 1%
Undergraduate MajorsBusiness/Economics: 49%
Engineering/Sciences/Technology: 27%
Social Sciences/Humanities: 22%
Other: 2%

The data above is from 2020 and represents the Columbia MBA class of 2022.*
See the full report: Columbia MBA Class Profile

Student Experiences

Columbia Business School MBA Employment Report & Careers

Salary Median$180,300.00
Salary Median is a total of Salary + Signing Bonus
Offers Upon GraduationDoes not disclose
Offers At 3 Mos.90%
Post-MBA LocationsDoes not disclose
Post-MBA IndustriesConsulting: 34%
Strategic/Management: 32.8%
Other: 1.2%
Financial Services: 33.2%
Commercial/Consumer Banking/Credit Cards:
Post-MBA Companies

McKinsey & Company: 45
Boston Consulting Group, The: 30
Bain & Company: 24
Amazon: 22
Deloitte Consulting: 21
Goldman Sachs & Co.: 14
Google: 14
PwC Strategy&: 14
Kearney: 13
Ernst & Young LLP: 11
Evercore Partners: 9
Apple, Inc.: 7
Bank of America: 7
Citi: 7
Credit Suisse: 7
L.E.K. Consulting: 7
Guggenheim Securities: 6
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.: 6
Morgan Stanley: 6
Lazard: 5
Moelis & Company: 5
Alix Partners: 4
American Express: 4
Estée Lauder Companies, The: 4
IBM: 4
MasterCard: 4
PIMCO: 4
Wayfair: 4
Alliance Bernstein: 3
Adobe Systems Inc.: 3
Barclays: 3
Houlihan Lokey: 3
KPMG Advisory: 3
Optum (United Healthcare): 3
PepsiCo: 3
PwCStrategy& Middle East: 3
Welltower: 3

Career Development Resources

Columbia Career Support

The data above is from 2020 and represents the career statistics for the Columbia MBA class of 2020.*
See the full report: Columbia MBA Employment Report

Columbia Business School MBA Academic Programs 

MBA Curriculum

Columbia’s MBA curriculum spans across four terms over two years. Applicants can either choose a fall entry date or a January, J-term, entry date for the program. Unlike the two-year MBA beginning in the fall, the J-term program does not include the possibility of a summer internship. Students take classes from the core curriculum during the first year of the program. During the first term of the MBA, students are required to complete eight half-term and two full-term courses including Managerial Statistics, Strategy Formulation, and Corporate Finance. Columbia offers over 325 courses as part of their elective curriculum. Some of the electives popular with MBA students are Applied Value Investing, Family Business Management, Global Immersion, and Managerial Negotiations. Students may also select from any of Columbia University’s graduate level classes.

See the full offering of courses: Columbia MBA Course Catalog

Majors

Columbia’s MBA program does not offer official majors or concentrations. However, students can choose to pursue an in-depth study of one of Columbia Business School’s 15 academic divisions. These academic fields include Accounting, Private Equity, Value Investing, and Social Enterprise, and others, with research centers, programs, and student clubs associated with each field.

Experiential Learning Programs

The experiential learning component at Columbia is closely tied to the program’s Tamer Center for Social Enterprise. Through the center, students can take part in initiatives such as the International Development Consulting Project Fund or the Nonprofit Board Leadership program.

Research Centers

Columbia has a wide variety of research centers, programs, and institutions that are part of the business school. The centers range from the Program for Financial Studies to the Initiative for Policy Dialogue.

MBA International Study Programs

The Chazen Institute for Global Business is the center for Columbia’s international study program. Students can experience a global business perspective through the Chazen Global Study Tours. Additionally, the Global Immersion Program allows students to engage in the business practices of a foreign country. 

Video Resources on Columbia Academics

Columbia Business School MBA Application

Essays

Here are the prompts for Columbia’s 2021-2022 application:

  • Career Goals

    Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (upload file, 500 words)

  • Choose two prompts: Phillips Pathway, Columbia Fit, or Favorite Book

    Essay 2 and 3: Please respond to two (2) of the three (3) essay questions listed below:

    1. 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 five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias, Communicating Across Identities, Addressing Systemic Inequity, 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. (upload file, 250 words)

    2. Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (upload file, 250 words)

    3. Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (upload file, 250 words)

  • Reapplicant Essay

    Reapplicant Essay. How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate how you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals. (upload file, 500 words)

Letters of Recommendation 

The recommender questions in the 2021-2022 Columbia Application are as follows:

  • Compare to other well-qualified individuals — How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (PDF)
  • Constructive feedback and the applicant’s response — Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (PDF)

Video Resources on Columbia Admissions

Columbia Business School MBA Admissions Interviews

Columbia’s MBA admissions interviews are conducted by alumni ambassadors. Columbia’s admissions office aims to complete the evaluation process for each application within 10 weeks. Often, you can receive an admissions decision within a few days or a week of conducting your interview.

For more on this, see our Columbia MBA Interview Guide.

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What Makes Columbia Business School Unique?

J- Term: January entry for the full-time MBA. You study through the summer and complete the degree in a shorter time period, making this a great fit for sponsored students, who want to return quickly to their firm, and for family business candidates who do not need an internship. Also, winning admission to this program is generally easier than the August entry program.

Value Investing Program: This program is selective and you must apply once you’re already a student.

Early Decision Program: This gives some advantage over Regular Decision, but you have to put down a $6,000 non-refundable deposit on short notice once offered admission.

The Tamer Centre for Social Enterprise

The NYC Location: Facilitates getting great adjunct faculty into the classroom and provides unique opportunities through programs such as:

  • Master Classes offer hands-on, project-based electives for second-year MBA students.
  • Immersion Seminars bring students to the offices of local companies for candid discussions with senior executives. Industries covered have included finance, consulting, luxury retail, technology, and more.
  • In-Semester Internships allow students to gain work experience with NYC-area companies during the semester and are offered to both full-time and J-Term students. These are especially useful to students who plan to enter fields in which they have no experience — it’s much easier for a company to say “yes” to a short internship placement than a months-long summer internship or a full-time role, and good performance in a short internship can lead to a larger role later.

*All data retrieved from the Columbia Business School MBA Program webpages, unless otherwise stated.