How to Get Into Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School (CBS), based in New York City, is one of the most highly-ranked business schools in the US. About 16% of applicants are accepted into CBS’s MBA program each year, a medium acceptance rate as compared to other MBA programs.

The Columbia Business School program is a good fit for students with an impressive academic record and notable professional experience. CBS is known for its collaborative learning environment, career mentorship opportunities, and active student community.

This article will cover everything you need to know if you are thinking of applying to Columbia Business School.

Columbia Business School

Becoming a Qualifying Candidate for Columbia’s MBA Program

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Before starting the highly competitive MBA admissions process, you should make sure you currently qualify for a Columbia MBA. To make this determination, you need to examine your GMAT score, post-college work experience, leadership skills and experience, and undergraduate GPA. Specifically, successful applicants have an average undergraduate GPA of 3.6. It is also beneficial to have a few honors or awards that you can note in your Columbia Business School application.

Generally, you are ready to apply to business school if you have an impressive GMAT score and at least 5 years of work experience.

If you are an undergraduate, you should apply for the Deferred Enrollment program, allowing you to gain a few years of work experience before beginning the Columbia MBA program. Further, if you plan to continue in the same industry, pursue entrepreneurial interests, or are not interested in having a summer internship, you should consider starting in January.

Acing the GMAT

To get into most top MBA programs, you’ll need to make sure you earn a high score on the GMAT. The average GMAT score for admitted Columbia students is 729, meaning that starting early is crucial. Specifically, in case your GMAT score is too low, you will have time to retake the GMAT to increase your test scores in time for application deadlines.

If your resume is not as impressive as you might desire, your GMAT score is an opportunity to figure out how you can build your profile to have a greater chance in the future. Further, you can make up for gaps in your profile with a unique personal history, impressive extracurricular activities, or any other outstanding achievements.

The Columbia admissions team also accepts an Executive Assessment or GRE score in place of the GMAT.

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Building the Right Profile for Columbia’s MBA Program

Along with your general qualifications, including professional experience, academic performance, and a competitive GMAT score, the Columbia admissions committee is looking for MBA students who will fit in with the rest of the student body and increase the school’s reputation. Columbia students come from diverse backgrounds, so you should complement these differences with your own story.

This is another reason you should start your CBS application process early, leaving time to compose essays that focus on what makes you unique. Further, you need to demonstrate that you fit in with the culture at CBS and have concrete reasons for why you feel Columbia Business School is program is right for you, as opposed to programs at other top-ranking business schools. One way you can do this is to cite aspects of the Columbia curriculum that will help you achieve your future goals.

Networking with Columbia MBAs

An additional way you can build a strong profile is to demonstrate that you already have a network at Columbia. As an added bonus, talking to current students and alumni will help you understand what Columbia Business School is looking for and how to market yourself as a competitive applicant. One way to do this is to attend MBA events and campus visits. Further, you can reach out to Columbia students and alumni via LinkedIn to build your network.

Writing a Great Application

The next step is to get started on your written MBA application. On the application, you will be required to submit your resume or cover letter, add references, and upload your essays.

Filling out an application might come across as a rudimentary step, but make no mistake, the process of putting all the pieces together on the application form can be deceptively time-consuming. It is crucial that you allocate enough time to get it just right.

The Columbia Essay

Essays are a big part of the application puzzle, as they are where you get to highlight your profile and demonstrate what makes you unique. This is an opportunity to engage the admissions committee with great storytelling, communicating how you fit into the Columbia MBA community. In addition to explaining why Columbia is your first-choice business school, you must also demonstrate why the New York City location is right for you.

The CBS application also gives you a place to provide additional context for any areas of concern. You do not need to write a formal essay for this question, bullet points will suffice.

Recommendation Letters

You will need two letters of recommendation to apply to Columbia Business School. To ensure that you stand out and impress the admissions committee, you should let your recommenders know early so that they have plenty of time to prepare and write a detailed recommendation. The earlier you start, the more time you’ll have to start cultivating your relationship with potential references.

Early Birds Toolkit

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In MBA admissions, starting early can significantly boost your chances. 

But there are no shortcuts, and while R1 2024 deadlines might seem far off, building your profile takes time.

Our Early Birds Toolkit has everything you need to get started right now—leave your name and email, and we’ll send you three actionable steps to elevate your profile, plus time-saving tools for faster progress.

Prepare for your Columbia MBA Interview

The final step of the Columbia MBA program admissions process is the interview. If you receive an interview invitation, you should spend time preparing with practice questions. The better prepared you are to answer any possible questions, the higher your chances are of making a good impression in the interview process. Further, practicing your interviewing skills and preparing will help you feel less nervous when the big day comes.

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Best Tips for How to get into Columbia Business School

  1. Become a qualifying candidate
    • Get the highest GMAT score possible to compete with other applicants.
    • Ensure you have five years of professional experience when you start at Columbia Business School.
  2. Build the right profile
    • Organize campus visits and network with students and alumni to ensure that you know what Columbia is looking for. Demonstrate that you understand the culture of the school (and the ways you will fit into that culture and get along with future classmates).
  3. Write a great application
    • … starting with a great personal essay! Your essays will be an opportunity for you to go beyond the stats and communicate what makes you different from other MBA applicants. Good storytelling is important and it indicates to the admissions committee that you can meaningfully reflect on your personal and professional experiences prior to applying.
    • Reach out to your references. You will be asked for two letters of recommendation, so make sure you are cultivating professional relationships and giving your references plenty of time to write their recommendations.
  4. Practice for your interview
    • Once you have been invited to a Columbia interview, it is time to begin prepping. The Columbia interviews can be overwhelming, so be diligent in your preparations. One great way of doing this is to work with practice questions.
  5. Start early!
    • Make sure you have all your general qualifications in order and that you have a long runway to work on any gaps in your profile before the application deadline. This includes time to gain more experience at work, participate in extracurriculars, and get a good GMAT score.

All of the steps outlined above will help you understand that burning question: how to get into Columbia Business Schools’ MBA program. Becoming a Columbia graduate will surely open many exciting doors and prepare you for a successful professional life.

Hopefully, our guide has not only helped to explain how to win admission but has also posed the question of whether Columbia is the right school for you. If so, then we wish you all the best on the application!