Columbia Business School

How to Get Into Columbia Business School

August 13, 2021
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. About Columbia Business SchoolPart 3. Level of Competition Part 4. Application RequirementsPart 5. How to Apply Part 6. Top Tips for How to ApplyPart 7. FAQsPart 8. Conclusion


The Columbia Business School has some of the country's top programs, and their MBA program is no exception. Based in New York City, New York, the school is one of the M7 business programs and attracts many solid applicants each year.

Because of this, the admissions process can be highly competitive, so the question stands: How can you get into Columbia Business School?

About Columbia Business School

According to their website, this is the mission statement for the Columbia Business School:

“Our mission is twofold: we are committed to educating and developing leaders and builders of enterprises who create value for their stakeholders and society at large; we accomplish this through our MBA, MS, Ph.D., and Executive Education programs.

We are equally committed to developing new scholars and teachers, and to creating and disseminating pathbreaking knowledge, concepts, and tools which advance the understanding and practice of management; we accomplish this through our faculty research and PhD programs.”

From this statement, it is clear that the University of Columbia focuses heavily on both its students' education and paving the way for advancements in the field of business.

The Business School offers both an MBA and an Executive MBA, along with a Masters of Science and Ph.D. program.

Level of Competition for Columbia Business School

To understand how competitive the MBA admissions process is at the Columbia Business School, it helps to view the profiles of recent MBA classes.

The Columbia Business School’s website provides a student profile for last year’s entering MBA class. According to the profile, the school admitted approximately 1,100 students out of 7,000 applicants, indicating an acceptance rate of 16%.

GMAT scores ranged from 580-780, with the average score being 726. Finally, the average undergraduate GPA of the entering class of 2020 was 3.6, the average work experience was five years, and the average age was 28 years old.

So, what do these statistics show about Columbia Business School? First, compared to other M7 schools, the acceptance rate for Columbia is about mid-range. The Stanford Graduate School of Business, the M7 school with the lowest acceptance rate, admits around 6% of applicants.

In contrast, other M7 schools, such as Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, have acceptance rates of over 20%. These statistics show that, at least in comparison to other top MBA programs, the Columbia Business School has a medium level of competition.

Furthermore, Forbes says that Columbia has one of the largest business schools in the world. With last year’s entering MBA class having an enrollment number of around 800 students, Columbia's class size is among the largest M7 schools.

Columbia's willingness to host a large number of students, along with its mid-range acceptance rate, may make the admissions process for this school less competitive than others.

M7 class sizes

Application Requirements for Columbia Business School

Like most post-graduate programs, the Columbia Business School application has an extensive list of requirements. According to their website, to apply to Columbia’s MBA program, you must submit these items:

Transcripts, Resume, and GPA

The application requires scanned PDF transcript copies from each undergraduate and graduate program from which you have received a degree. You should also submit your current resume, along with your GPA, making sure it matches the one on your transcript.

GMAT, Executive Assessment, or GRE Score

Columbia requires applicants to report a GMAT, Executive Assessment, or GRE Score no older than five years after the test day.


The MBA Essay is a great way to showcase your personality and interests to an admissions committee. For the Columbia Business School application, there is one short answer question, three required essay prompts, and an optional essay prompt. These essays can change from year to year. The following questions are examples of prompts that Columbia has used in past applications:

Short Answer Question

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)

Essay 1

Through your resume and recommendations, 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, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Essay 2

Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)

Essay 3

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

Optional Essay

Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 Words)

Reapplicants do not have to submit these essays again. Instead, they are required to answer only one additional prompt. The following is an example of a prompt that Columbia has used in its admissions process for reapplicants:

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).

There are also essays specifically for Knight-Bagehot Fellows and students in the Deferred Enrollment Program.


Students applying for the first time must submit two letters of recommendation unless they are applying to the Deferred Enrollment Program. Those reapplying to the Columbia School of Business must submit one new recommendation. Applicants that have been working full-time for over six months should have at least one recommendation letter from a supervisor.

For those with less than six months of full-time experience, recommendations can come from at least one “person who can comment on your managerial abilities,” while the other “may be from a college professor.” There is a recommended 1000-word limit for these recommendations.

Application Fee

There is a non-refundable application fee of approximately $250 for both new applicants and reapplicants. Fee waivers are available “to full-time students, active duty US military personnel, and members of the Peace Corps, or Teach For All network partners who are currently in service” as long as you have proof of current service.

There are also certain specifications for students applying to the Deferred Enrollment program. Like other MBA applicants, Deferred Enrollment students must submit a transcript, test scores, and current resume. However, they are only required to submit one letter of recommendation and have different short answer questions than other MBA applicants.

These essay prompts also can change from year to year. The following are examples of prompts that Columbia has used previously in its Deferred Enrollment applications:

  • Short answer 1: How is a Columbia MBA going to help you? (maximum 250 words)
  • Short answer 2: What has been your favorite class, and why? (maximum 250 words)
  • Short answer 3: Who is a leader you admire, and why? (maximum 250 words)

There is no application fee for DE students who are enrolled in an undergraduate or eligible graduate program at the time of application. However, if admitted, DE students must submit a non-refundable deposit within two weeks and pay continued fees each year that they defer. 

How to Apply to Columbia Business School

When it comes to the application process, Columbia Business School has some unique factors that are extremely important to consider. Rather than operating under a “rounds” process like other schools, Columbia evaluates MBA applications on a rolling basis.

This means that the admissions committee assesses and makes decisions on candidates in the order that they apply. Because of this, it is advantageous to apply sooner rather than later to secure a place in the program before most of the spots fill up.

If you are a current student, then you might consider applying for the Deferred Enrollment program. This program allows students to gain admission to the Columbia Business School, earn a few years of work experience, and then begin the MBA program. There are specific eligibility requirements for DE applicants:

  • Undergraduate student applicants must be graduating during the current academic year.
  • Graduate student applicants are required to have started their graduate studies immediately after finishing their undergraduate degree.

Those attending law school, medical school, or those in a Ph.D. program are not eligible for the Deferred Enrollment application and must apply through the typical MBA application process. On the other hand, for non-students hoping to apply to Columbia Business School, the application process is a bit more complex.

Columbia has a variety of paths that students can take. Candidates can choose to apply for either a January or August start and can choose to meet either the Early or Regular Deadline, making this application process highly flexible to various students' needs.

However, with the number of options available, it may seem intimidating or confusing at first. You might be wondering: "When should I apply? What option is right for me?"

First, it is essential to determine when you would like to start. At Columbia, students can begin their studies in either January or August. The January-entry option, dubbed the “J-Term,” is a 16-month program that is mostly the same as the August-start option.

The only difference is in the schedule. J-Term students start a semester later than August term students and take their core courses during the summer rather than working in an internship. The program is shorter than the August-entry program yet includes the same curriculum and coursework.

According to Columbia’s website, around 30% of MBA students enroll in the J-Term. These are students that do not wish to have a summer internship and “who wish to remain in the same industry after graduation or pursue entrepreneurial interests.”

If you choose to apply for the J-Term, there is only one application deadline: The Regular Decision deadline. Also, J-Term students are not eligible for merit fellowships due to the timing of the application deadline.

In comparison, most students apply to begin in August for a 20-month program. For this application process, there are two deadlines: Early Decision and Regular Decision. There are some critical differences in these deadlines that are important to understand before applying.

The Early Decision (ED) deadline is typically in early October and is available only to August-entry students. Students applying for this deadline do have an advantage over Regular Decision applicants, as their applications are evaluated and their admission is decided upon first.

However, there are also certain factors to consider when applying for an Early Decision. ED applicants are required to sign the following Statement of Commitment: “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.”

Furthermore, ED admittees must also submit a non-refundable tuition deposit within two weeks. ED applicants must display a much higher level of commitment to the Columbia Business School than Regular Decision candidates.

The Regular Decision deadline is usually in April for August-entry students and in early October for J-Term students. These applications are reviewed after ED applications, but there is no Statement of Commitment requirement. The lack of this requirement allows you to leave your options open if you receive admissions offers from other programs.

link to a guide on how to get into Columbia Business School

Top Tips for How to Apply to Columbia Business School

These are some things to keep in mind when applying to Columbia Business School:

Apply sooner rather than later.

Because the admissions committee reviews applications on a rolling basis, applying earlier will give you an advantage, as there are more open spots in the program.

Attend an info session.

Columbia hosts many virtual events for potential applicants. Attending even one of these sessions can be a great way to learn about the program, ask specific questions about the application process, and determine which application process is right for you.

Talk to current students.

Reaching out to people currently in the Columbia Business School MBA program is a great way to learn more about the application process, the school, and the coursework. Columbia offers "Student Chat" events on most weekdays during the Fall and Spring semesters and on most Mondays and Thursdays during the summer.

These are virtual events where you can ask current MBA students any questions you have about the program. Visit Columbia Business School’s event page to sign up for one of these sessions.

Choose professional recommenders.

MBA programs prefer recommendation letters from people who have seen you in the professional sphere rather than the academic world. Try to ask previous employers or supervisors for letters of recommendation before you ask your college professors.


1. Is there an interview in Columbia Business School's application process?

Yes. After the admissions committee reviews your application, you will either be denied admission or invited to interview. This interview could be conducted in-person by alumni near your location.

However, if there is not someone available near you, it will be done remotely over Skype or telephone by a current student or admissions officer. The person interviewing you will have no prior knowledge of your application except for your resume.

According to Business Insider, here are some questions that have been asked in Columbia Business School interviews:

  • What kind of leader are you?
  • How will you act if a member of your study team at Columbia is difficult?
  • What do you find interesting about Columbia’s teaching model?

Afterwards, the interviewer will send a report to the Admissions Office within a week of the interview. Within two weeks of the completion of the report, you will then receive a decision of Admission, Waitlist, or Denial.

2. Does Columbia Business School offer research opportunities?

Yes! The school places a significant emphasis on the importance of research. You can participate in the Predoctoral Fellows Program or apply to the highly-selective Summer Research Internship.

3. Does Columbia Business School offer a dual degree program?

Yes! There are 11 different approved dual degree programs in a variety of fields. If you are interested in obtaining a dual degree, you must apply separately to both the Business School and the school from which you want your other degree.

4. Does Columbia Business School offer concentrations in the MBA program?

While the Business School does not offer formal concentrations, there are ways to tailor your degree plan to focus on an area of your choice. The school website offers informal lists of classes you can take in order to concentrate on a particular area of study.

5. Do I need to have a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field to get into Columbia Business School?

No. In fact, according to the Columbia Business School Director of Admissions, Nicole Shay, the MBA program accepts applicants from various fields of study, including “journalism, social sciences, and arts.” The school values the diverse perspectives that students of varying backgrounds can bring to the program.

6. Does Columbia Business School accept transfer credits?

No. However, the school does offer exemption exams before each semester that allow students to test out of core courses. If you test out of a subject, you must then replace it with an elective. This means that testing out of subjects will not reduce the number of hours that you must take in order to graduate from the program.


Overall, the Columbia Business School hosts one of the country's top MBA programs with a unique admissions process and many paths to take. While that does make the application process seem pretty intimidating, admission is not unattainable.

By starting early and taking the time to understand each part of the admissions process, you can determine which path is right for you.

About Inspira Futures

At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.
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