How to Get In: Columbia University Business School

What can you do to set yourself apart in your application? Admissions officials have the answers.

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We posed questions to admissions officials at Columbia University Business School regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:

1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?

Columbia Business School looks for intellectually driven people from diverse educational, economic, social, cultural, and geographic backgrounds. Our students share a proven record of achievement; demonstrated, strong leadership; and the ability to work in teams. The Admissions Committee looks for applicants who are well rounded, and interesting, and who have exhibited the will and ability to actively contribute to the well-being of their community.

2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?

The Admissions Committee looks to application essays to understand an applicant's professional promise as well as learn more about his or her personal characteristics. The essays allow applicants to describe in their own words, their experiences to date in addition to their vision for the future. There is no "right answer" for an essay; we are interested in knowing where the applicant is coming from and where he or she wants to go after business school. Through learning about the applicant's experiences and desired career path, the Admissions Committee is also able to discover more about the applicant as a person and gain insight into their individuality.

3. How important is the applicant's GMAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?

The GMAT is reviewed as one aspect of the applicant's academic profile. The Admissions Committee values academic performance and seeks candidates who demonstrate superior intellectual ability. There is no specific weight placed on the GMAT, undergraduate GPA or on any one piece of the application. The Admissions Committee reviews an application package holistically and takes every portion of the application into consideration when rendering a decision.

4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?

Close attention is paid to each applicant's professional accomplishments as well as to his or her professional ambitions. We seek applicants who have developed a strong foundation for their future professional goals. For the entering class of 2009, the middle 80 percent's range of work experience prior to entering business school was between three and seven years.

5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?

Columbia Business School offers a comprehensive business education with an exceptional faculty, groundbreaking academic programs, and an incomparable network. Our location in New York, one of the world's most dynamic cities, makes it a program of choice for exceptional applicants worldwide. Beyond simply acquiring the business and management skills that will bolster our students' career paths, the Columbia M.B.A. offers a one-of-a-kind learning experience in which our students' personal development takes center stage.

6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting? Do you put much weight on letters from prominent public figures who may not know the applicant well?

The Admissions Committee looks to the recommendation letters to provide us with more information about the candidate both professionally and personally. The recommenders should work, or have worked with, the applicant often so that they can speak knowledgeably about his or her strengths and accomplishments. We suggest applicants use recommenders who know them quite well so that the recommendation can be as robust and insightful as possible.