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Columbia Business School — MBA Program & Application Overview

Applying to CBS? Read this guide for the most practical strategies and tips curated by the best MBA admissions coaches in the world and Columbia alumni to get you that much closer to your dream school.

February 3, 2023

Established in 1916, Columbia Business School is one of the oldest business schools in the world. With more than 100 student organizations, an accessible alumni network, top-of-the-line research centers, and countless events, Columbia has cemented itself as one of the top MBA programs worldwide.

Class Profile (2024)

  • Location: New York City, NY
  • Class Size: 844
  • # of Applicants: 6,177
  • Acceptance Rate: 22% (1,363 Admitted)
  • Average Years of Work Experience: 5 years
  • Average GMAT: 729
  • Average GRE: 158 (Verbal), 167 (Quant)
  • Average GPA: 3.6
  • Women: 44%
  • International: 51%
  • Minority Students: 42%

"Columbia Business School looks for intellectually driven people from diverse educational, economic, social, cultural, and geographic backgrounds. Our students share a record of achievement, strong leadership, and the ability to work in teams."

Columbia Admissions

2022 Application Overview

Deadlines

Early Decision: September 28, 2022

Merit Fellowship: January 11, 2023

Regular Decision: April 5, 2023

Jan. 2022 Entry Regular Decision: September 28, 2022

Deferred: April 15, 2023

GMAT/GRE

You will need a self-reported valid GMAT, Executive Assessment, or GRE score when submitting your application. Additional test scores cannot be added to your application once you have submitted it.

To read more, click here: GMAT vs. GRE for Business School—Which to Take and How to Ace Both

Columbia Essays

Short Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)

Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendation, 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 is your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Essay 2: 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, co-curricular initiatives like the Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership, which aims to equip students with the skills and strategies necessary to lead in an inclusive and ethical manner, 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? (300 words)

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

Optional Essay: If you want to provide further information or additional context on your application to the Admissions Committee, you can upload a brief explanation of any areas of concern in your academic background or personal history

It does not have to be a formal essay, you can submit bullet points with a maximum of 500 words.

Deferred Application Essays

If you are applying to Columbia’s deferred enrollment program, you will need to answer two short essay questions instead of the ones listed above:

  • Question 1: Why are you interested in obtaining a Columbia MBA in the future? (300 words maximum)
  • Question 2: Who is a leader you admire, and why? (300 words maximum)

Click here to read more about How to Write a Powerful MBA Essay.

Recommendations

Columbia Recommendation Requirements and Tips

  • First-time applicants are required to submit one recommendation letter.
  • Re-applicants are required to submit one new recommendation letter.
  • If you have been working in your current role for at least six months, your recommendation should be from your current supervisor. If you are unable to get one, you will need to submit a statement in the Employment section of your application.
  • Other recommender applications may include a former direct supervisor or a senior professional associate.
  • If you have less than six months of work experience, your recommendation should come from someone who can comment on your managerial skills. You may ask a summer employer or another person who can objectively assess your professional promise.
  • Columbia Business School and several peer institutions use similar, if not identical, recommendation questions to make the process easier for your recommender.
  • The school expects that you do not take part in drafting your recommendation letter.
  • Your recommender should consider the following guidelines when writing your recommendation letter:
    • The letter should be -1000 words
    • Full-Time Program Prompts
      • 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.
      • Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response
    • Deferred Program Prompts
      • Please share how you feel the applicant will contribute to the Columbia Business School classroom and community

Click here to read more about How to Get the Perfect MBA Recommendation Letter, and here for our free Recommender Prep Template.

Columbia Interviews

Interviews are usually conducted by Columbia alumni near your location. If none are available, you will interview via phone or zoom with an admissions officer or an alum. Interviews are invitation-only and can be sent any time after your completed application is received by the Admissions Office.

Find out how you can nail your interview — How to Ace Your MBA Interview: With Prep Questions and Answers

Other Information

Application Fee

The application fee is $250. You can waive the fee if you are a full-time student, active duty US military personnel, eligible displaced person, or a member of the Peace Corps or Teach For All network partners who are currently in service. You must submit proof of active service.

If you are applying to the deferred program, your application fee is automatically waived.

Resume

You will upload your professional resume and/or CV to your online application. The ideal resume is one-page in length, but up to two pages is acceptable.

Learn more here: How to Craft the Ultimate MBA Resume—With Examples

Transcripts

A bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited institution is a prerequisite to applying. All applicants must scan and submit PDF versions of their transcripts from each undergraduate and graduate institution they attended.

GPA

Report your grade point average as it appears on your transcript.

Re-applicant Checklist

You may only apply once per round of admissions. All applications are held on file for one year after the application decision is finalized.

If you are applying less than 12 months from your initial application, you will have to submit:

  • Re-application fee: $250
  • One new recommendation letter, preferably from your current supervisor. If your current supervisor wrote your last recommendation, please choose someone else from a supervisor role or a client.
  • Update the following sections “Application,” “Personal,” “Family,” “Employment,” “Education,” and “Extracurricular Activities.”
  • Answer the question “How will you finance your MBA?”
  • Submit transcripts for any additional courses.
  • Note the dates and the self-reported scores of the standardized tests (GMAT score, GRE, or the Executive Assessment) which you want to be considered in your admissions.
  • Answer the re-applicant essay question (no additional essays): 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. (Maximum 500 words)

If you are applying more than 12 months after your initial application, you will need to submit a new application.

MBA Options

Columbia Business School admits can enroll in either August or January. Both enrollments merge in the fall of the second year and will graduate as a single class. There are two application review periods: Early Decision and Regular Decision.

Early Decision:

  • Only available for August applicants.
  • The application deadline is early October.
  • Early decision applications are reviewed and decisions are given before the Regular Decision applicants.
  • Candidates that have been admitted during this term should sign the following Statement of Commitment within their applications: I am committed to attending Columbia Business School and will withdraw all applications and decline all offers from other schools upon admission to Columbia Business School.
  • Students must submit a nonrefundable $6,000 tuition deposit within two weeks of their admission.

Regular Decision:

  • As soon as the application process starts during the summer, you may apply for this entry.
  • Applications during this entry are reviewed after the Early Decision applicants, and will typically begin in late November.
  • You are not required to sign a Statement of Commitment.
  • If you want to apply under the priority consideration of merit-based fellowships, your application should be submitted by the specified deadline for the merit-based fellowship in early January.
  • The final application deadline is typically in April.

August Entry:

  • About 70% of full-time MBA students begin their studies in the fall term. Classes officially begin in September.
  • August students usually complete a summer internship before their second year.

January Entry:

  • About 30% of students enter during this term.
  • You will complete your second semester of classes during the summer.

Columbia Deferred Enrollment Program

  • The Deferred Enrollment Program offers undergraduate students the chance to gain a few years of work experience before pursuing an MBA two to five years after college graduation.
  • You are eligible for this program if you are graduating with your bachelor’s degree during the current academic year or have just started your graduate studies immediately after completing your undergraduate studies.
  • During your deferral period, you are considered part of the Columbia community and will have access to select conferences, events, and school-wide resources to enhance your academic experience and help you in your career.
  • Once you are ready to start your full-time MBA program, you must submit a letter of intent, specifying your choice of entry, January (16-month program) or August (traditional 20-month program featuring a summer internship.)

See our full Columbia deferred guide here: Columbia Deferred Enrollment Program

Expert MBA Admissions Coaches on Leland

… and many more! Click here for our full roster of world-class MBA admissions coaches.

Columbia Program Overview

Core Curriculum and Electives

The core curriculum consists of two full-term courses and eight half-term courses.

  • First Term Core Courses
    • Pre-Term: Lead: People, Teams, Organizations
    • Full Term: Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
    • First Half: Managerial Statistics, Strategy Formulation, and Managerial Economics
    • Second Half: Business Analytics, Marketing, Global Economic Environment
  • Second-Term Core Courses
    • First Half: During this term, students will take an Operations Management course and choose elective classes to fill their schedule. Elective courses are offered in block weeks, either full term or half term.
  • Electives
    • Columbia has more than 300 electives for students to immerse themselves in specialized topics with expert faculty members.
    • Students can either construct their own elective sequences or select from the recommended courses for common career paths.
    • Popular elective courses
      • Analytics in Action
      • The Economics and Politics of Digital Disruption
      • Financial Statement Analysis & Valuation
      • Foundations of VC
      • Innovate Using Design Thinking
      • The Luxury Approach
      • The Pandemic Economy: Analysis, Challenges, & Opportunities
      • Organizational Change
      • Technology Strategy

Academic Divisions

Columbia has 6 different academic divisions through which students gain expertise.

  • Accounting
    • All Columbia MBA students gain a foundational mastery of accounting principles through core classes, and can further their expertise by taking electives offered by the Accounting Division.
      • Electives include Earnings Quality and Fundamental Analysis and Financial Statement Analysis and Valuation
  • Decision, Risk, and Operations
    • Columbia Business School’s Decision, Risk, and Operations Division offers a span of courses for students interested in pursuing a career in both operations management and decision and risk analysis.
      • Electives include Supply Chain Management, Operations Consulting, and Turnaround Management
  • Economics
    • The award-winning faculty of this division consists of a Nobel Prize winner, a winner of the Eileen Bennett Prize, a former member of the Federal Reserve Board, two Fellows of the Econometric Society, and several editors of leading economics journals.
      • Core courses include managerial economics, financial economics, and a course on global economic environment
  • Finance
    • Courses from this division include Asset Management; Investment Banking and Corporate Finance; Sales, Trading, and Research; Financial Consulting; and Risk Management
  • Management
    • Students design their elective classes in Management Science to include courses for management functions.
      • Examples include Top Management Process and Managerial Negotiations
  • Marketing
    • Includes New Product Development, Social Media and Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Consumer Insights

What to Expect

Student Organizations

  • With more than 100 student-led clubs, you will receive a unique set of opportunities to improve your leadership skills, build relationships with peers and alumni, and network with business leaders by conducting conferences and seminars.

Leadership Groups

  • At Columbia, students take an active role in policy building within the school. The university has several student leadership groups that work with the administration to ensure that the school continues to evolve into a better environment for its students.
  • Columbia’s Leadership Groups:
    • Bernstein Leadership Board
    • Career Fellows
    • Dean's Advisory Board
    • Student Government
    • Hermes Society
    • Honor Board
    • Peer Advisor Program
    • Silfen Leadership Series

Clubs

  • Here is a full list of clubs at Columbia Business School: Clubs

Speakers & Conferences

  • Columbia’s MBA program, through its placement in New York City, has many close ties to business, nonprofit, and government communities. Students constantly hear from leaders who actively shape the business landscape.
  • Here is a small sample of speakers who have come to campus in recent years to work with students:
    • Warren Buffett ’51
    • Arianna Huffington
    • Bill Gates
    • Diane von Furstenberg
    • Henry Paulson
    • James Gorman ’87
    • Barbara Corcoran
    • Ron Gonen ’04
    • Henry Kissinger
    • Vikram Pandit ’80
    • Gail McGovern ’87
    • Jamie Dimon
    • Andrea Jung
    • Ratan Tata
    • Carlos Brito
    • Sallie Krawcheck ’92

International Students

  • The Office of Student Affairs offers support for incoming international students through peer advisors and international student clubs, which are great resources for foreign students adjusting to the community.
  • The Chazen Institute for Global Business also serves as a hub for the school’s major global programs and initiatives.

Diversity

  • At Columbia Business School, diversity is promoted in all forms by making sure that every racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, and professional background is represented in their community.
  • Some diversity-based associations are:
    • Black Business Students Association
    • Cluster Q (LGBTQ)
    • Columbia Women in Business
    • Hispanic Business Association
    • Military in Business Association

Faculty

  • The world-renowned faculty of Columbia’s MBA program are known for groundbreaking ideas, cutting-edge research, and enduring impact on the world. Their published books, research, and teachings are applied in the real world ranging from bias policies and diversity in organizations to the psychology of media consumption and text mining.
  • With New York City as a global center of business, students have access to a large group of professors and Executives in Residence. Professors and executives come to teach classes, network with students, and give one-on-one advice. This gives students the opportunity to build strong relationships that continue past graduation.

Academic Support

  • The Advising and Academic Success team within the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) gives MBA students guidance and support through academic resources and advice.
  • Columbia has established programs such as the English language and Core Course tutoring and has partnered with other offices such as Counseling and Psychological Services, Office of Disability Services, and Alice! Health Promotion. This is to provide wellness programming and holistic support to students. These programs work with the administration to improve the student experience both inside and outside of the classroom.

Campus

  • Columbia is in one of the most exciting, engaging cities in the world: New York City.
  • Since many businesses, business leaders, and alumni are based in NYC, Columbia has a constant stream of visitors who share their time and knowledge.
  • The business school campus is located on the University's Morningside Campus. It is an oasis in the heart of the Upper West Side in Manhattan.
  • Columbia’s Business School is set to open its new campus with state-of-the-art facilities, Manhattanville, by the end of January 2022.

Joint Degree Programs

Columbia Business School has a wide range of dual degree programs for students who also want to deepen their expertise in areas outside of business. In most cases, a dual degree requires one fewer year than if you pursue the degrees separately, though this varies depending on the program.

Established dual-degree tracks include:

  • Architecture: MBA and MS in Urban Planning
  • Dental and Oral Surgery: DDS and MBA
  • Engineering and Applied Science: MBA and MS in Industrial Engineering
  • International and Public Affairs: MBA and MIA
  • Journalism: MBA and MS
  • Law: JD and MBA
  • Nursing: MBA and MS in Nursing
  • Physicians and Surgeons: MD and MBA
  • Public Health: MBA and MPH
  • Social Work: MBA and MS in Social Work
  • Teachers College: MBA and MA in Private School Leadership

Columbia Business School Experience

Welcome to Columbia Business School

The Columbia Community

Meet Admits & Applicants in Leland’s Free Slack Community

If you’re applying to Columbia, boost your odds by joining the Leland MBA Applicant Community. It’s a free, private community of MBA applicants, admits, and world-class admissions coaches, all here to answer questions, give feedback, share stories, and help each other through the admissions process.

Membership in the community is by invitation only. To apply, click below.

Columbia FAQs

Will I qualify for admission with a three-year undergraduate degree?

  • Yes, Columbia accepts applications from candidates who have a three-year undergraduate degree. Those applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

May I submit my application if I have not yet taken the GMAT, Executive Assessment, or GRE?

  • You cannot submit an application without a valid test score. Scores will be verified upon admission.

How do I schedule an interview?

  • Applicants cannot request an interview, this is done by invitation only. You will be contacted by the Admissions Office if you are selected for an interview.

After submitting my application, when will I receive a decision?

  • Columbia uses rolling admissions. The admissions team begins reviewing January-entry applications and August-entry Early Decision applications once all required documents have been received. The team’s goal is to either send invites or deny applications within six weeks of receiving the completed applications. Once interviews are done, the school aims to finalize a decision within two weeks.
  • Please note that Columbia’s Admissions Committee will first review all the Early Decision and January-entry applications before reviewing Regular Decision applications. They begin reviewing the latter in November.

After admission, can I request a deferral to a future term?

  • No. If you apply for that term, you will need to start at that entry point. If admitted under the Deferred Enrollment Program, you may enter at any term within the two to five-year deferral period as long as you have submitted the required deposits and sent a notification of your intention to start the program by the notification deadline.

If I’ve been denied admission, may I receive feedback on my candidacy?

  • No, Columbia does not offer individual feedback on denied applications.

If I’ve been denied admission, may I appeal the decision?

  • No. All decisions of the committee are final and no appeal process is in place.

Does Columbia offer an Executive MBA?

  • For students who would like to continue working while enrolled in an MBA program, Columbia offers several Executive MBA programs:
    • EMBA-New York Saturday, meeting for six semesters on Saturdays
    • EMBA-New York Friday/Saturday, meeting for five semesters on alternating Friday/Saturdays
    • EMBA-Americas, meeting for the first three semesters on a modular one-week per month format, followed by block week electives throughout the remaining two elective semesters
    • EMBA-Global Americas and Europe in partnership with London Business School
    • EMBA-Global Asia in partnership with the University of Hong Kong and London Business School

May I request a fee waiver?

  • Full-time students, active duty military personnel, and members of the Peace Corps, or Teach For All network partners who are currently in service can have their application fee waived with proof of service.

Can I apply to Columbia Business School through the Consortium?

  • Yes. Columbia Business School is a member of the Consortium and you can apply through them.

Does Columbia accept transfer credits?

  • No. Transfer credits are not accepted by Columbia Business School.

How many credits are required to complete the MBA program?

  • 60 credits are required to complete Columbia’s MBA program.

What types of financial aid are available in the university, and who is eligible to apply?

  • There are need-based scholarships, merit-based fellowships, and federal and private loans. Domestic students, US citizens, and permanent residents are eligible to apply for all loans while international students can apply for need-based scholarships, merit-based fellowships, and private loans with or without a creditworthy US cosigner.

What is the cost of attendance?

  • You may find an updated breakdown of the cost of attendance here.

How are fellowships awarded at Columbia Business School?

  • Fellowships are merit-based and awarded on the strength of the candidate's application. Merit fellowships are awarded at the time of admission or at any point thereafter. You do not need to submit any special application forms.
  • Students who begin their MBA program in August are eligible for the fellowship. January students are not eligible for fellowship support.

When do I apply for loans and scholarships?

  • Once you are admitted to the program, you should apply for loans and scholarships. Based on your admission date, you will have a specific deadline for your scholarship.

My transcript(s) and/or letter of recommendation are not in English. What should I do?

  • You must translate all materials to English, then submit them electronically. You should not participate in the translation process of their recommendation letters. Once admitted, you must submit your official transcripts.

Do I need to take the TOEFL?

  • International students are not required to take a language test like the TOEFL. Columbia takes into consideration the verbal score on the GRE or on the GMAT. Please note that your interview will be conducted in English.

Can I apply to a dual degree program through the Deferred Enrollment Program?

  • No. Once you start your MBA program (whether through Deferred Enrollment or the traditional application process), you can apply for dual degree programs during your first year.

Is an interview required for the Deferred Enrollment Program application?

  • All MBA admits are required to undergo an interview to be conducted by a member of the admissions committee. You can choose from on-campus and virtual interview options.

If I’m not admitted to the Deferred Enrollment Program, can I re-apply?

  • Yes, if you fail to be admitted to the deferred program, you will not be considered as a re-applicant when you submit a future application.

Final Note

Leland provides you with the content, community, and coaching that you need to get into your dream MBA program and accomplish other ambitious goals. Sign up today to gain access to additional free resources, community events, small group classes, world-class coaching, and more.