Columbia EMBA Admissions/Essay Tips

The early deadline is 1/11 for CBS EMBA Saturday – followed by the final one on 2/23. If you are just starting now – and especially if you still need to sort out your test score – do prioritize application quality over tossing something together within a couple weeks.


The Saturday program kind of operates like a PT program at CBS. One of my clients got in at the age of 25 (he did have managerial experience in market research) There really isn’t any work experience or age minimum, which is UNIQUE. I can’t think of another EMBA program without a minimum. So, if you live in the NYC or Philly area, and you have steady progression at work with a solid test score, don’t let age or years of work experience stand in your way.

Admission tips

Extracurricular activities – if this is a strength of yours, lucky you, they have 3 boxes for college and 3 boxes for post-college AND an unlimited text box to talk about your hobbies. This is unlimited for a reason – it’s more fun to be around people who are interested in a variety of different things. Rather than list your hobbies, also discuss how they have shaped you and why they are meaningful to you. If you have stuff to talk about here, this can be a game changer for overrepresented applicants.


Short Answer Question

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


Have a tight focus with regards to industry, role and geography. When you have those specifics down, you have enough information to take action steps that lead to a good outcome post-MBA. They do want you to feel it was worth it when you’re slogging through those loans or reflecting on the money spent.


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 is your long-term dream job? (500 words)


The goals need to make sense given the program format. They do offer OCR – the only one I can think of among EMBA programs – but last I checked, not summer internships so if you state IB, where you need an internship, this would be a bit of a red flag. Similar to other EMBA programs, the goal of progression within your same company or industry is ideal. Hopefully what you learn at CBS you can “apply on Monday” and progress faster. Having an altruistic-oriented long-term goal is a bonus if it makes sense with the rest of your narrative.


Essay 2

Columbia Business School’s Executive MBA will challenge you by offering a rigorous academic experience, global exposure through the international seminar, and the opportunity to immediately apply what you learn to your career. How will you approach balancing the demands of the program with your professional and personal life while you are in school? (250 words)


They want to know you are a practical person here who knows what you are in for. If you buy a new piece of clothing, you need to remove one from the closet to make room. The number one complaint among my EMBA former clients is the time demand. Get real specific in this essay about how you will make time for the program. Can you train people to take over part of your job? Can you negotiate for less work trips? Even mention things like getting a nanny, tax preparer, handyman, housekeeper and/or meal service.


Essay 3:

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

This is kind of the personality quiz. They are looking for people who are well-rounded and have an inner life beyond work (yes hard to find among hard working New Yorkers). The more your ideas come from various places, the more interesting your contributions will be inside and outside the classroom.


Optional Essay

An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (Maximum 500 words)

Sometimes the language of this prompt indicates that they only want to hear about reasons your GPA or test score is low, why you had a gap in your work history, why your recommender isn’t a supervisor, etc. However, this is fairly general and if you have some burning information about why this program, school or format is exactly what you need, go for it. This is the only place to park CBS-specific enthusiasm. If they see that CBS uniquely matches your needs, they will be less concerned about “yield-protection” with you and hence more likely to extend an offer.



Take this seriously. You want to have a claim – your USP – and then concrete and specific story(ies) to back up your claim. Recommendations are always important, but especially for EMBA because they want to know how others experience you (consider: you are the product they are selling to others). Also, it’s a way to gauge the kind of classroom contributions you would make, which is a big deal for the EMBA where ideally students learn as much or more from each other as they do the professor.


Select your recommender based on the stories they can share – they are ideally an eyewitness to you solving problems, leading and being a strong team player. Prioritize this over title or status. Brainstorm with your recommender; coach and guide them. Have transparency over this part of the application. If they make statements that conflict with other parts of the application, you will be seen as too risky and likely be dinged.

Good luck to all!


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