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MBA Spotlight Series: Columbia Business School

Ah, New York. The city of dreams for so many of us, which we’ve seen so many times in movies, we feel we’ve almost lived there ourselves. One of the most posh and active parts of the city is Upper Manhattan, where you’ll find instantly recognisable and iconic sights, like the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty.


But what if you want to experience that incredible area for a couple of years rather than just a week’s holiday, and conveniently end up with a top MBA degree at the end of it? Well you’ll have to look no further than Columbia Business School.

Columbia Business School's MBA is among the world's top 10 MBA programs as per FT Global MBA Rankings 2020.

The Basics


Columbia Business School was founded in 1916 in the heart of New York City. The MBA program each year admits close to 800 students, who join in the program across two entry options.


The school has 44,000+ alumni, spread across leadership roles in the biggest organizations across the globe. One of their most famous and successful alumni, Henry Kravis (founder and co-CEO of KKR, one of the biggest private equity firms in the world) pledged $100 million to the school in 2010, to facilitate the school’s expansion into a new campus in Manhattanville.


Columbia follows a rolling admission process, which means once the application opens they accept and review applications as and when received (not only after a stated deadline). With this in mind it is always advantageous to apply early in the cycle. They also have an early decision round with a deadline in early October. Students receiving an offer through this round cannot apply to other business schools and must submit a non-refundable $6,000 tuition deposit.


The average full time work experience of the current MBA batch is 5 years, with a median GMAT score of 726. Interestingly, 49% of the class had an undergraduate background of business & economics. The program was ranked 8th and 9th in the FT Global MBA rankings for 2020 and 2019 respectively

Key Program Details


  • Two intakes: Columbia has a truly unique two intake system which is unlike anything seen at other US business schools. The first option is the traditional 2 year MBA which begins in August, has one year of study, a summer internship, followed by the second full year. The second option allows students to join in January and complete their first year study by the time the August intake completes its internship. This way both intakes are aligned by the start of the second year and complete their MBA together.

  • Cluster system: Columbia places huge emphasis on peer-to-peer learning and community building, bringing together students from incredibly diverse backgrounds and careers, to enable them to grow together. At the start of the MBA program, students are assigned to clusters of 65-70 students who take their first year core classes together. Each cluster is then divided into learning teams of 4-5 who complete most assignments as a team.

  • Dual degrees: The business school collaborates with many other partner programs at Columbia University, thereby offering students a wide variety of dual degree options. In total, there are 11 established dual-degree tracks, ranging from architecture, journalism, to public health and social work. You can view all the options here.

Admissions, Essays and Deadlines


The MBA application consists of undergraduate transcripts, test scores, professional experiences, three essays and two professional recommendations. With respect to test scores, the school accepts GMAT, GRE, as well as GMAC’s Executive Assessment.


Check out the latest deadlines and essay questions for Columbia Business School here.


The three essays for the school are incredibly distinctive, with the topics:

  1. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

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

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

The first essay is a traditional career goals essays, which of course must be tailored to incorporate how an MBA fits in to your goals, and how your past experiences have prepared you for your next steps and ambitions.