Woman at a desk writing with a pencil
Matthew Russell

NYU or Columbia MBA? How to Choose

December 10, 2021
image of black dots
Part 1: IntroductionPart 2: NYU vs. Columbia MBA Program Offerings Part 3: NYU vs. Columbia MBA Class Profiles Part 4: NYU vs. Columbia MBA Admissions ProcessPart 5: NYU vs. Columbia MBA Career OutcomesPart 6: NYU or Columbia MBA? How to Choose: FAQsPart 7: Conclusion

If you’re admitted to NYU Stern and Columbia, you have a happy problem; both schools are prestigious, offer great post-MBA career opportunities, and have established global alumni networks. 

Columbia and NYU Stern are both competitive schools, and U.S. News ranks them as two of the top 10 Best Business Schools in the United States. Located in Manhattan, New York City, both schools have world-class industry experts and leading businesses. So NYU or Columbia MBA? How to choose? 

Deciding which school and MBA program to choose can be challenging. There are several factors to consider: your fit with a program, desire to specialize in a specific area, course flexibility, and preferred post-MBA career path. 

To help you decide between these two exceptional programs, we’ll explore the MBA program offerings of each. We will also consider these schools’ class profiles, admissions processes, and career outcomes.

Both Columbia and NYU run competitive and rigorous MBA programs that use case studies, guest speakers, and team projects to teach their MBA students. However, while they offer an exceptional teaching experience, they have several differences. So, let’s explore NYU and Columbia’s key program offerings. 

Columbia Full-Time MBA vs. NYU Full-Time MBA 

NYU Stern’s approach to its full-time MBA program is simple — “flexible first.” Its LAUNCH curriculum aims to teach you to think broadly about how “business can transform challenges into opportunities to create value for society.” 

The LAUNCH curriculum is demanding in the first year; students must take the core “Financial Accounting & Reporting” and “Statistics & Data Analysis” courses alongside their choice of five of the following courses: 

  • Business Analytics
  • Firms & Markets
  • Foundations of Finance
  • The Global Economy
  • Leadership in Organizations
  • Marketing
  • Operations Management 
  • Strategy

However, while the LAUNCH Curriculum is strenuous in the first year, it can be far more flexible and tailored to your interests in the second. You can choose from over 200 electives and select up to three of 20 specializations in your second year of study or, if you prefer, decide not to specialize at all. 

Students can also complete up to 25% of their courses at other NYU graduate schools, including the NYU School of Law, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and Tisch School of the Arts.  

Columbia Business School’s full-time MBA program is famed for its Core Curriculum, a series of two full-term courses and eight half-term courses. This intensive curriculum teaches students to master the disciplines and areas needed to succeed in the business world. As Columbia surmises, its students learn to “analyze, decide, and lead — rather than merely know.” 

While Columbia doesn’t offer specializations in specific fields, it offers numerous elective course options. In addition to your second-term core courses, you can choose from over 300 electives and immerse yourself in specialized topics. Some of Columbia’s most popular electives include: 

Columbia EMBA vs NYU EMBA

The Executive MBA (EMBA) courses offered at Columbia and NYU are incredibly prestigious. U.S. News lists Columbia’s EMBA program as No. 4 and NYU’s as No. 6 in its Best Executive MBA Programs rankings. 

Both programs are flexible and offer several class formats to suit your schedule: 

Source: Columbia Business School, NYU Stern 

NYU Part-Time MBA 

Unlike Columbia, which only offers a full-time and executive MBA program, NYU offers several additional options. One of its most flexible options is the part-time MBA program. This program accommodates its students’ full-time careers and can be completed in two to six years, but most students complete the program in three years. 

If students choose the accelerated two-year option, their classes run Monday through Thursday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. There are also the Weeknights, Saturday, and Online/Modular scheduling options, which can take two to six years to complete. 

NYU Fashion & Luxury MBA Program and Tech MBA Program

NYU Stern provides unique opportunities for its students to pursue an MBA program with a specific focus on the fashion and luxury or tech industries. Applicants interested in pursuing a career in these industries may be drawn to NYU over Columbia because of its specialized MBA programs that accommodate their interests. 

NYU Tech MBA Program

The NYU Tech MBA program is “designed to deepen your foundation in business and expand your knowledge of technology” and prepare you for a career in that sector. Students completing this rigorous STEM-designated curriculum will graduate in one year with a focus in technology.

The Tech MBA’s experiential learning opportunities, known as Stern Solutions, will apply your knowledge to solve real-world problems. These opportunities include:

  • Skills-based workshops 
  • Company visits 
  • Guest lectures
  • Prototyping and developing product roadmaps
  • Determining revenue and costs forecasts

Alongside Stern Solutions, you will complete three elective courses. Stern offers over 200 electives, and each specialization allows you to obtain in-depth knowledge in a  specific functional business area. One such course is Cybersecurity & Privacy, which teaches you to deal with and mitigate business’ cybersecurity and privacy risks. 

NYU Fashion & Luxury MBA Program

Candidates interested in pursuing a business career in the fashion, luxury, or retail sectors may be interested in Stern’s Fashion & Luxury MBA program. Here’s an example of the courses students take to earn 52 credits to graduate:

Source: NYU Stern 

The one-year-long Fashion & Luxury MBA sets you up for a career in these industries as you’ll create a diverse portfolio of industry-related experiences during your time. Similar to the Tech MBA, it ensures students participate in real-world industry projects

In the fall semester, for example, students work closely with designers and brands of all sizes. They can learn about many aspects of real-world businesses, including digital marketing, brand strategy, supply chain optimization, and financial forecasting. 

Crucially, students complete the Fashion & Luxury MBA projects in partnership with the Fashion & Luxury Council. NYU’s partnership with the council provides excellent opportunities to connect and network with industry leaders, including: 

  • Kirat Anand, Founder & CEO, KAS New York 
  • Stacy Van Praagh, President-Americas, Alexander McQueen
  • Jack Gaffaney, Vice President, Dior Mens

NYU vs. Columbia MBA Class Profiles 

Both NYU Stern and Columbia Business School attract extremely competitive applicants, and their most recent acceptance rates are 19.5% and 18.6%, respectively. Consider the average, middle 80% range, and 100% range of admitted students’ GMAT scores at Columbia and NYU:  

Source: Columbia Business School, NYU Stern

While both schools admitted the same average GMAT scores, Stern’s most recent class profile received a tighter 100% range of scores than Columbia’s. Historically, however, NYU is more flexible and admits a broader range of standardized test scores and GPAs than Columbia. 

In the recent admissions cycle, Columbia admitted a slightly tighter middle 80% range of GPAs of 3.1 to 3.9 compared to NYU’s 3.3 to 3.9. But, NYU’s average 3.59 GPA is higher than Columbia’s 3.5 average. Columbia and NYU are also similarly competitive, with an average work experience of 5 and 5.1 years, respectively. 

NYU vs. Columbia MBA Admissions Process

NYU uses a standard round-based MBA admissions process. It has four rounds with September, October, January, and March deadlines. Apply as early as possible, as the latter two rounds are significantly more competitive. 

Source: NYU Stern 

Unlike NYU and many other business schools, Columbia uses a rolling admissions process, and its MBA candidates can enroll in either August or January. Columbia Business School is the only top full-time program in the United States to offer admission in January through its accelerated program. 

January entry is almost identical to the August option, as both paths merge into one during the fall of the second year, but there is one key difference: J-term applicants complete orientation in the spring and finish their core courses in the summer, while August-entry students begin their second term and pursue summer internships. 

The J-term option is perfect for candidates who don’t need to complete a summer internship and want to enroll as soon as possible. Columbia notes this path “tends to attract students who wish to remain in the same industry (including sponsored students), entrepreneurs, and students in family businesses.” 

Columbia also offers an early decision (ED) program for August-entry applicants, which is designed for students who are set on attending Columbia. ED applicants must sign its Statement of Commitment, which reads: 

“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.”

If you’re admitted through the ED program, you must rescind all other offers and pay a nonrefundable $6,000 tuition deposit within two weeks of your admission date.

NYU vs. Columbia MBA Career Outcomes

According to Columbia’s and NYU’s 2020 employment reports, graduates of both programs received the same median base salary of $150,000. While both schools’ median signing bonuses are similar, Columbia’s highest base salary and signing bonus are far higher than NYU’s.

Source: Columbia Business School Employment Report, NYU Stern Employment Report

In terms of placing graduates by industry, Columbia placed more into the consulting and financial services industries than NYU. NYU had more placement in its specialized program focuses like media, tech, and retail. Interestingly, a higher proportion of NYU graduates went into investment banking (25.7%) compared to Columbia’s (15.0%).

NYU or Columbia MBA? How to Choose: FAQs

So, how do you choose between an MBA at Columbia or NYU? We’ve outlined several questions and answers below to help you decide. 

1. Do Columbia and NYU have the same tuition fees? 

No. NYU Stern sets its annual tuition fees at $78,700 and Columbia $77,376. However, when students consider each school’s mandatory fees and living expenses, they will pay around $121,541 and $118,777 a year, respectively. 

2. Are the application requirements for Columbia business school different from NYU Stern? 

Columbia and NYU Stern’s application requirements are similar as they both ask students to meet the following criteria: 

  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Standardized test scores
  • Resume
  • Columbia or NYU MBA admissions essays
  • English Language proficiency test scores (if applicable) 
  • $250 application Fee or fee waiver 
  • Columbia or NYU admissions interview

However, while Columbia requires one letter of recommendation, NYU requests two EQ endorsements. Additionally, Columbia accepts either a GMAT, Executive Assessment, or GRE score to satisfy its standardized testing requirements, but NYU accepts GMAT, GRE, EA, LSAT, and DAT scores. 

3. Is Columbia Business School ranked higher than NYU Stern? 

Yes, U.S. NEWS places Columbia higher in its Best Business School rankings than Columbia. 

4. Are Columbia and NYU’s MBA admissions essays similar? 

Columbia asks you to complete one short answer question and three essays. NYU  asks you to complete one short answer question and two essays. While these MBA essays may seek to understand similar things about you, like your goals for the future, each program’s prompts can vary wildly.

In terms of career goals, for instance, NYU asks you to write 150 words responding to the prompt: “What are your short-term career goals?” Similarly, Columbia asks you to answer the following question in 500 words: 

“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, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)” 

Read the essay prompts carefully, as not every question asks for a traditional essay response. NYU, for instance, invites you to upload six images with captions for its second essay. The prompt reads: 

“Describe yourself to the Admissions Committee and to your future classmates using six images and corresponding captions. Your uploaded PDF should contain all of the following elements:

  • A brief introduction or overview of your ‘Pick Six’ (no more than 3 sentences).
  • Six images that help illustrate who you are.
  • A one-sentence caption for each of the six images that helps explain why they were selected and are significant to you.

Note: Your visuals may include photos, infographics, drawings, or any other images that best describe you. Your document must be uploaded as a single PDF. The essay cannot be sent in physical form or be linked to a website.” 

Both schools also have an optional prompt for you to provide further information or additional context around your application. You can use this to address weak areas of your application, like low test scores or a significant gap in employment history. 

5. Does Columbia have a larger entering class than NYU? 

Yes. NYU enrolled 360 full-time MBA students during its last admissions cycle, whereas Columbia enrolled 847. 

6. How much work experience do I need to get into Columbia vs NYU? 

Columbia and NYU don’t set a minimum number of required years of work experience. Columbia’s admitted students have an average of 5 years, and NYU’s admitted students have 5.1, indicating what these schools look for in a successful applicant. 

7. Are Columbia and NYU Ivy League business schools? 

Columbia is an Ivy League business school and M7 business school, but NYU is not.


So,  NYU or Columbia MBA? How to Choose? 

Both schools provide a variety of programs containing electives and immersive experiences that tailor your course to your ambitions. However, choosing a course depends on your preferred class structure, if you want to specialize in a specific field, and what post-MBA career path you want to pursue.

Both Columbia and NYU offer multiple admission rounds. Still, Columbia’s J-term option is perfect for those who don’t need to complete a summer internship and want to enroll as soon as possible. 

NYU is historically more flexible and admits a wider range of test scores and GPAs than Columbia. However, recent data shows both schools admit candidates with competitive GMAT scores, GPAs, and several years of work experience. 

Columbia is unmatched when placing students into the consulting and financial services industries, and its graduates have a higher earning potential than Sterns. If you’re interested in fields beyond finance, like tech, fashion, and retail, NYU offers specialized programs to fulfill your ambitions. 

We hope this comparison between two business-school heavyweights will make your school selection decisions easier. Good luck with your application.

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.
Get Free Consultation

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
image of black dots

You May Also Like