NEW MBA Essay Prompt for Columbia Business School (2023-2024)

Columbia Business School has unveiled a new MBA essay prompt for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. Dive into our top strategies for nailing this essay and securing your spot at CBS.

Posted August 4, 2023

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Applying to Columbia Business School this cycle? We’ve got you covered! In this article, we unravel Columbia Business School’s updated PPIL Inclusive Leadership prompt and provide invaluable insights to help you tackle it with confidence, allowing your candidacy to stand out amidst the competition.

Columbia PPIL Essay Prompt

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)

Understanding the Prompt

Let’s begin by carefully analyzing the essay prompt to grasp its core message and what the school is seeking in prospective candidates. Although the question involves PPIL, you don’t necessarily have to know a ton about the program or even want to join it to answer the question effectively. Rather, you need to show that you thoroughly encompass these values and are actively embodying them on a day-to-day basis.

The challenge here: you only get 250 words to talk about this. Thus, Columbia is looking for ONE specific example of ONE of these skills. They are not looking for a list of everything you have done, or a general statement of your belief system. You will need to be concise and deliberate about your writing for this question.

It is also important to realize that Columbia evidently emphasizes diversity and inclusion in their student body. Make sure ALL aspects of your application represent these values, not solely this essay.

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How to Get Started

The first step of the prewriting process is to take time to reflect on your own experiences with diversity and inclusion. Consider moments in your life or career where you have encountered diversity-related challenges, worked in diverse teams, or actively fostered an inclusive environment. Reflect on how these experiences have shaped your perspectives and values.

Next, highlight the unique perspective you bring to the table concerning diversity and inclusion. Whether it's related to your cultural background, personal journey, or professional experiences, think about how your perspective enriches the learning environment and can contribute to Columbia's diverse community.

Finally, pinpoint one moment that aligns with one the skills Columbia would like to see showcased (Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias and Prejudice, Managing Intercultural Dialogue, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking). This moment should be meaningful for you, clearly show the impact you had, and allow the adcom to understand that your commitment to diversity and inclusion is something you will bring with you to the business school and your career.

The Writing Process

  1. Structure Your Essay: Create a clear and concise essay structure. Begin with an engaging introduction that sets the stage for your story, followed by the main body paragraphs where you detail the situation, your actions, and the outcome. End with a thoughtful conclusion that emphasizes the importance of the experience and its impact on your journey.
  2. Describe the Situation: In the first part of your essay, provide a brief but vivid description of the challenge you faced. Explain the context, the people involved, and the emotions or thoughts you experienced.
  3. Actions Taken: In the next part, elaborate on the actions you took to address the challenge. Highlight any leadership qualities, strategies, or initiatives you implemented to promote inclusivity and overcome the obstacle.
  4. Outcome and Reflection: Describe the outcome of your actions and the impact they had on the situation and those involved. Reflect on what you learned from the experience and how it influenced your understanding of inclusive leadership.
  5. Connect to PPIL: Make explicit connections to the specific PPIL skill addressed in your essay. Explain how your experience aligns with the program's values and how it has contributed to your growth as an ethical and inclusive leader.
  6. Be Concise and Stay Within the Word Limit: Stick to the 250-word limit and ensure every sentence contributes meaningfully to your narrative. Use clear and impactful language to convey your message effectively.
  7. Revise and Edit: Once you've written your essay, revise it for clarity, coherence, and grammar. Eliminate any unnecessary details and ensure your response is succinct yet powerful.
  8. Seek Feedback: Share your essay with trusted peers, mentors, or experienced MBA coaches to gather feedback and gain insights into its effectiveness. Make adjustments accordingly.

Common Mistakes

When writing MBA essays related to diversity and inclusion, it’s crucial to demonstrate a thoughtful and nuanced approach. Common mistakes that people make in these types of essays include:

  1. Superficiality: Some applicants tend to provide a surface-level discussion of diversity without delving into the complexities of the topic. Avoid using buzzwords or generic statements without providing concrete examples or personal experiences.
  2. Tokenism: Some candidates may fall into the trap of tokenism by discussing diversity and inclusion solely to check a box or fulfill an application requirement. Admissions officers can easily spot insincerity, so it's important to show genuine interest and commitment to these values.
  3. Inadequate self-awareness: Demonstrating a lack of self-awareness regarding one's own biases or privilege can be detrimental. Admissions officers value candidates who recognize their limitations and show a willingness to learn and grow.
  4. Lack of action plan: Discussing diversity and inclusion without outlining how you will contribute to creating an inclusive environment is insufficient. Provide concrete examples of how you have promoted diversity and inclusion in the past and your plans to do so in the future.
  5. Not tying diversity to leadership: MBA programs seek future leaders who can navigate diverse and global environments. Show how your understanding of diversity and inclusion will influence your leadership style and decision-making.

Now that you’re on your way to mastering Columbia Business School’s new essay prompt for 2023-2024, check out these resources to help you put together an all around stellar application:

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