Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)
This essay is new this year, but it’s not very original—this is a basic MBA fit essay. It replaces last year’s more specific fit essay, which asked about how the applicant would take advantage of Columbia’s NYC environs. Applicants will certainly still talk about the city in response to this prompt, but now we also have the flexibility to spend time on other unique aspects of the program. We’re always in favor of more choices!
Let’s start off our writing process with a fun hypothetical: pretend you get into ALL M7 schools. Extrapolate your future lifetime success/happiness as a graduate of each school. Let’s say each one gets a total score out of 100. They all score high, great, but Columbia’s number is somehow slightly BEYOND the rest. Why? What is it about Columbia that makes the “Columbia alumnus” version of you better than the other six hypothetical versions? What makes “Columbia you” more successful (however you define that)? Explain what it is you’re aiming for, and then why CBS somehow leads to that best version.
With this in mind, let’s drill down a bit further. What are some dimensions along which CBS may perform better than another?
- Location, location, location. There’s a reason this prompt asked specifically about NYC last year… it’s definitely one of CBS’s distinguishing features. But just being in the city is not enough. Maybe New York beats Boston, but would you pick NYU over HBS because NY > Boston? No, you probably wouldn’t. What really matters is the career opportunities within the city that Columbia (and only Columbia) can make available to you. In what ways are those opportunities inherently different from other top schools? What resources and programs does Columbia offer to open those doors? Is there something that happens at CBS that is game-changingly different than any other program?
- Campus vibe. This has to be personal to you: “I do better in X environment. So, yah, I’d rather perform at Carnegie Hall in front of 10,000 than in a room with 25 people.” Explain WHY you prefer a certain type of campus experience, then show how CBS has that type of experience.
- Industry specializations. Does Columbia offer unique expertise in your field? The school certainly has a reputation for strength in finance, media, real estate, and other stereotypical NYC industries, but reputation doesn’t really matter here. What you’re looking for is PEOPLE—professors or alumni who worked or are working in your target firms. Keep it at the person-to-person level… “professor XYZ would be a good mentor because she did X, Y and Z, and I want to do ABC similar thing….”
The key is to develop your argument with respect to some IDEAL you have that’s already set—probably your goals. That way your reasoning maps to something. It’s meaningless to say “I feel like this fits me,” without any more context. The “fit” has to matter somehow, it has to improve your ability to succeed. Otherwise, why should you or the adcom care?
To organization. This is a two-three paragraph essay. The very first thing you need to establish in order for this to pack punch is. . . what YOU need in order to flourish. If you explain the fit first, it has nowhere to go. First, explain what you need from ANY program. From “the best theoretical program ever.” Explain what you need, and why that stuff will make you stronger and better, and more able to succeed at your goals, and in life. Do that quickly, and in a straightforward manner. 75-100 words max.
Now, walk us through (essentially) a series of “aha, Columbia has an incredible (or the best) version of THIS thing I just talked about.” And again! Here’s an example of ANOTHER thing CBS has. And again! Do this two or three (or more, if you can) times. Spend most of your time here explaining the match, and revealing your understanding of what that CBS element is and how it connects to you. 125-150 words.
Hopefully, you have room for a final thought, a sentence’s worth, that serves to imply that you’ve done your homework, and that there are other programs that can hit some or all of the needs you just walked us through. BUT, that CBS either hits MORE and is, therefore, the best fit. Or the hits are simply BETTER and it’s, therefore, a better fit. That comparative sense will serve you well.