June 2, 2023

Columbia Business School Essay Tips for 2023-24: Essays 2 & 3 and the Optional Essay

Last week we shared Admitify’s guidance on Columbia Business School’s updated Short Answer Question and Essay 1 for 2023-24. Today we’d like to share our guidance on Essays 2 & 3 and the Optional Essay.


Essay 2: The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a 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 and Prejudice, Managing Intercultural Dialogue, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking.


Tell us about a time when you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)


Admitify Guidance

In many ways this is a classic accomplishment essay (situation/context—>your actions/EQ/problem-solving—>outcome (happy ending + lessons learned). What’s different is the D&IE twist. Columbia, as are other schools, is signaling its institutional interest in this urgent social/business issue. Happily, they’re giving you 5 possible sub-themes to choose from (because they know not everyone has been or is expected to be on their firm’s D&I team). Applicants who have been D&I champions at or outside of work may gravitate toward an example relevant to Creating an Inclusive Environment or Addressing Systemic Inequity. The first is asking for a direct D&I scenario; the second could work for someone who has championed broader issues of inequity (e.g., socioeconomics), even if that latter scenario had no overt diversity element. Applicants who are themselves diverse applicants and perhaps particularly those who are LGBTQ may lean toward the Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking skill (e.g., how did you break the silence around the diversity issue you faced?). Those applicants who are not traditionally considered ‘diverse’ may gravitate toward the Mitigating Bias and Prejudice skill (e.g., how did you work to offset your own bias?) or the Managing Intercultural Dialogue skill (which need not involve diversity, identity, or bias at all — e.g., how did you simply demonstrate the EQ to build a bridge between different folks?). Don’t fret if you are not in a diverse applicant group traditionally defined. Columbia’s inclusion of the bias and difficult conversations as well as its reference to ‘ethical leadership’ show that they are open to any examples that show you demonstrating EQ/emotional intelligence, good values, or integrity/ethics in a way that makes groups or organizations function more openly.


Essay 3: We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams, an extremely active co-curricular and student life environment, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program.


Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? Please be specific. (250 words)


Admitify Guidance

This is essentially a classic Why Our School? essay, but much more directive in its guidance: (1) it requires you to reflect on ‘why CBS’ from three angles–academic resources, cultural resources, and professional resources–and (2) hints at the specific resource types that Columbia is proudest of (its collaborative learning environment, its very active student extracurricular culture, and its career mentorship resources). Columbia has used a version of this essay before, but this year has shortened the length by 50 words and replaced one of the resources CBS is proud of (Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership – which this year is the focus of Essay 2) with a new proud resource: its active student extracurricular culture.


You should not assume that Columbia expects you to name all three of these resource types in your essay. Instead, start by building your essay around the academic, cultural, and professional resources that most align with your learning needs. Divide your essay into three roughly equal sections addressing traditional academic or curricular opportunities at Columbia most relevant or attractive to you, Columbia’s culture (its values—diversity, collaboration, community participation, etc.), and Columbia’s resources for your career (which are intimately connected to Columbia’s links with New York City—see our last paragraph in this section below).


Note that of the 3 resource types Columbia is proud of, “collaborative learning environment” can align with either Columbia’s academics or its culture, “active co-curricular and student life environment” clearly aligns with its culture, and “career mentorship opportunities” aligns with its professional resources. So if you want to capture/echo Columbia’s three resource hints in your essay, find specific examples of these three resource types that resonate most with you and discuss them in the essay’s three main sections on academics, culture, and professional resources.


When writing the final professional section of this essay, keep in mind that in the past Columbia has framed the Why Us? question in terms of NYC being the ‘very center of business’ and has steered applicants toward discussing its experiential and NYC-connected resources such as Immersion Seminars, master classes, practitioner faculty, etc. This year’s question, for example, references the Executives-in-Residence program. So maybe lean the essay toward the practical, hands-on side of Columbia resources — summer and in-term internships (which organizations will you pursue?), adjunct or practitioner faculty or visiting speakers that link with your goals, and any other career-related interfaces between Columbia and NYC as a career mecca.


Optional Essay: If you wish to provide further information or additional context around your application to the Admissions Committee, please upload a brief explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 words)


Admitify Guidance

Columbia is not restricting you to only extenuating circumstance (grades, GMAT, etc.) discussions here, but they are limiting you somewhat to ‘areas of concern.’ But many things – such as your age, leadership or extracurriculars – could be framed as areas of concern. Feel free to discuss multiple areas of concern but separate them into separate paragraphs with headers/titles.


Check back next Friday for more updated application dates and essay tips for 2023-24. And contact us now and speak with one of our expert coaches for help with your MBA applications!