Columbia Business School — MBA Program & Application Overview (2024)

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Posted March 12, 2024

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Established in 1916, Columbia Business School is one of the oldest business schools in the world. With dozens of 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 (MBA Class of 2025)

  • Location: New York City, NY
  • Class Size: 900
  • # of Applicants: 5,895
  • Acceptance Rate: 15%
  • Average Years of Work Experience: 5 years
  • Average GMAT: 730
  • Average GPA: 3.5
  • Women: 44%
  • International: 47%
  • Minority of US Origin: 43%

"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

Columbia MBA Application Overview


RoundDeadlineInterview Decisions ReleasedFinal Decisions Released
Round 1September 13, 2023October 16, 2023Mid-December
Round 2January 5, 2024Early-to-mid FebruaryLate March
Round 3April 3, 2024Mid-to-late AprilEarly May
DeferredApril 15, 2024May 15, 2024Within 2 weeks of your interview

Columbia Business School uses rolling admissions for January entry, but recommends that applicants submit as early as possible. See more info on the deadlines for the 2023-2024 application cycle here.

Test Scores

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

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: The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a co-curricular program designed to provide students with the skills and strategies needed to develop as inclusive leaders. Through various resources and programming, the goal is for students to explore and reflect during their educational journey on the following five inclusive leadership skills: Mitigating Bias and Prejudice; Managing Intercultural Dialogue; Addressing Systemic Inequity; Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking; and Creating an Inclusive Environment.

Describe a time or situation when you had the need to utilize one of more of these five skills, and tell us the actions you took and the outcome. (250 words)

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)

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 (500 words)

It does not have to be a formal essay, so you can submit bullet points.


  • 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 recommenders 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 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 answer the following questions in their recommendation letter, which should be 1000 words or less:
    • 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

Click here for our free Recommender Prep Template.

Columbia Interviews

Interviews are usually conducted by Columbia alumni near your location and may be online or in-person. Interviews are invitation-only and can be sent any time after your completed application is received by the admissions office.

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.


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.


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. Accepted students will need to submit official digital copies.

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 (500 words)

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

International Applicants

  • If you are applying as an international student with documents not in English, you may translate your transcripts yourself, but you should not translate your letter of recommendation. If you are offered admission, Columbia Business School will request official transcripts directly from your previous academic institutions
  • You do not need to take the TOEFL. Your English language proficiency will be assessed through your GRE or GMAT verbal score and your interview

For up-to-date information and admissions events for prospective students, check out the Columbia Business School admissions website.

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Enrollment Options

Columbia Business School admits can enroll in either August or January. Both enrollments merge in the fall of the second year and will complete electives graduate as a single class. If you want to apply under the priority consideration of merit-based fellowships, you should apply for August entry.

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 between their first and second years

January Entry:

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

Columbia Deferred Enrollment Program

  • The Deferred Enrollment Program offers students the chance to gain a few years of work experience before pursuing a Columbia MBA two to five years after graduation from college or graduate school
  • 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
  • Students currently enrolled in a doctoral program, such as Ph.D., law, or medical students, are not eligible to apply to this program and should apply to the full-time MBA program or the EMBA program
  • Your two essay questions are:
    • Applying to a deferred enrollment program suggests that your aspirations in the next 2-5 years will include an MBA. Why do you feel you need an MBA to achieve your long-term career goals and why would you like to pursue your MBA at Columbia Business School? (300 words)
    • Contributing to the community is an important part of the CBS experience. Discuss one experience or situation in your undergraduate or graduate career where you feel you contributed to your community and what you learned from the experience. (250 words)
  • Your recommender should answer the following question in no more than 1000 words:
    • Please share how you feel the applicant will contribute to the Columbia Business School classroom and community
  • 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, 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)

Executive MBA Program

  • For students who would like to continue working while completing a business education, Columbia Business School 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-Global in partnership with London Business School, meeting for week-long classes each month alternating between New York and London
  • Executive MBA students will take electives in their last three terms and can choose from electives from the full-time MBA program or other graduate schools at Columbia University
  • First-year students in the EMBA program are divided into clusters of 30 to 70 students and will take their core courses together
  • Students in all EMBA tracks will attend an International Seminar week together
  • If you are applying to either EMBA programs in New York, you can apply early decision. The Saturday program begins in January, while the Friday/Saturday program begins in March
  • EMBA-Global begins in May. Students who are residents of the Americas or Asia-Pacific region will be managed by Columbia Business School, and students who are residents of Europe, the Middle East, or Africa will be managed by the London Business School

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Columbia Program Overview

Core Curriculum and Electives

Columbia Business School students will take core courses and electives in six different academic divisions: Accounting; Decision, Risk, and Operations; Economics; Finance; Management; and Marketing.

First Term Core Courses

  • Pre-Term: Lead: People, Teams, Organizations
  • Full Term: Financial Accounting
  • First Half: Foundations of Valuation, Managerial Statistics, Strategy Formulation, Managerial Economics
  • Second Half: Corporate Finance, Business Analytics, Marketing, Global Economic Environment

Second-Term Core Courses

  • First Half: Operations Management course, 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
  • Electives are offered in full-term, half-term, and block weeks
  • Sample electives:
    • Real Estate Private Equity
    • Value Investing Across the Capital Structure
    • Media and Entertainment: Strategy Consulting Projects
    • Analytics in Action
    • Technology Strategy
    • The Economics and Politics of Digital Disruption

Joint Degree Programs

Columbia Business School has a wide range of dual degree programs offered in conjunction with other schools in Columbia University 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:

  • MBA and MS in Urban Planning
  • DDS and MBA
  • MBA and Executive MS in Engineering and Applied Science
  • MBA and Master of International Affairs
  • MBA and MS in Journalism
  • JD and MBA
  • MBA and MS in Nursing
  • MD and MBA
  • MBA and Master of Public Health
  • MBA and MS in Social Work
  • MBA and MA in Private School Leadership

Student Life at Columbia Business School

Student Organizations

  • With dozens of student-led clubs, Columbia offers 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
  • Clubs include affinity, community service, international, professional, and social and athletic clubs
  • Students can also engage in the Student Government and leadership groups

Centers & Programs

With 26 different centers and programs, Columbia Business School offers several opportunities for students to participate in cutting-edge research and attend unique programming.


  • 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 is located in the Manhattanville campus, ten blocks from the main Columbia University campus in Morningside Heights

Welcome to Columbia Business School

The Columbia Community

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Columbia MBA FAQs

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

  • Columbia Business School uses rolling admissions for January entry and has recently moved to traditional rounds-based admissions for August entry
  • August entry applicants will be notified of the final decision by the deadlines noted above
  • January entry applicants will receive decisions on a rolling basis, with the final application deadline being in September

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

Can I apply to Columbia Business School through the Consortium?

Does Columbia accept transfer credits?

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

How many credits are required to complete the full-time MBA?

  • You will need to complete 60 credits

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

  • Admitted August entry applicants are considered for merit-based funding. Both August and January entry applicants may submit an additional application for need-based funding. Learn more here

What is the cost of attendance?

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

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

  • No. Once you start your 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?

  • Yes, your interview will be virtual and conducted by a current Columbia Business School student or a member of the admissions committee

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 reapplicant when you submit a future application

For more resources as you apply to business school, check out these resources:

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