Columbia Business School: Everything You Need to Know


The tag line of Columbia Business School (CBS) is “at the very center of business,” a marketing pitch that fits the school very well. MBA candidates say CBS’s New York City location stands out—for the access students have to industry leaders, alumni, notable faculty drawn from the local community, and plentiful opportunities for in-semester internships and experiential learning.

As one of the top-ranked business schools in the United States, Columbia Business School typically draws approximately 6,000 applicants a year for its August- and January-entry programs, with an intended total class size of roughly 750–780 students. MBA candidates want to join the ranks of powerhouse alumni such as famed investor Warren Buffett (MS ’51) and modern-day start-up success Siggi Hilmarsson (MBA ’04), who founded the Siggi’s yogurt brand, now sold in supermarkets globally. Although Columbia Business School is best known for its finance program, more of its graduates entered the consulting field (34.0%) than finance (33.2%) in 2020, and interest in media/technology has soared in recent years, with 7.6% of graduates entering the industry in 2010 and 19.8% in 2020. The five companies that hired the most Columbia Business School graduates in 2020 were McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, Amazon, and Deloitte. Earning a spot in this competitive program requires time, effort, and preparation, and mbaMission offers several resources and services to help you on your application journey.


mbaMission’s Columbia Business School Insider’s Guide

Columbia Business School Insider’s Guide

Our Columbia Business School Insider’s Guide takes an in-depth look at life as a CBS student. Informed by insights from students, alumni, program representatives, and MBA admissions officers, this robust guide offers detailed descriptions of the school’s location, class size, curriculum, teaching methods, facilities, alumni involvement, and rankings, as well as courses, faculty, and clubs related to the most common career paths for Columbia MBA program graduates. Learn more about CBS’s cluster system, core curriculum, Master Classes, and hybrid teaching method, in addition to the Leadership Lab, the Jerome A. Chazen Institute’s Global Immersion Program classes and Global Study Tours, the famed Value Investing Program, the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate, and the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise. The Columbia MBA Program Insider’s Guide also discusses opportunities to bond with classmates via such things as CBS Follies and the Fall Ball.


Columbia Business School Interview Guide

Columbia Business School MBA Interview Guide

Drawing on our extensive communications with Columbia MBA students, admissions officers, and alumni, and incorporating insights from our clients who have interviewed at the school, we at mbaMission have developed the Columbia Business School Interview Guide to help you prepare for this part of the MBA application process. This free interview guide shares details on what CBS hopes to gain through its invitation-only interviews, which are conducted primarily by alumni. The guide also includes Columbia Business School’s most common interview questions and themes, as well as our tips on how to prepare for and respond to these questions. Columbia MBA program interviewers want applicants to explain their career goals and why CBS is the right business school for them. Remember that the goal of a Columbia Business School interview is to determine whether the applicant will be a good fit for the MBA program—so you should focus on letting your true self shine during this conversation!


Columbia Business School Essay Analysis, 2021–2022

Columbia Business School requires its applicants to submit three written essays but provides some level of agency by allowing them to choose from multiple topics for two of the essays. A short-answer goal statement of just 50 words must also be provided. One essay is 500 words and asks applicants to demonstrate that they have a good understanding of their career goals in both the short and the long term and of why an MBA is a crucial step in their professional path. Applicants can then choose two of three prompts for the 250-word essays—one focused on why CBS is a good fit, one on a diversity challenge, and one on a favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with them. Something important to consider when deciding which of these shorter essays to write is how you will showcase who you are beyond the professional realm. Columbia Business School highly values MBA applicants who present a well-rounded view of themselves.

In our MBA essay analysis, we provide in-depth guidance on each of Columbia Business School’s 2021–2022 essay questions:

  • Short Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)
  • MBA Essay 1: 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)
  • MBA Essays 2 and 3: Please respond to two (2) of the three (3) essay questions listed below:
    • Option 1: The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a new 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, Communicating Across Identities, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Managing Difficult Conversations. Tell us about a time you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)
    • Option 2: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)
    • Option 3: Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)

Click here to read our analysis

Columbia Business School MBA Class Profile (Class of 2023)

MBA Applications Received 6,535
Admitted 1,215
Enrolled 847, divided into 11 clusters
January-Entry Class Size 233, divided into three clusters
August-Entry Class Size 614, divided into eight clusters
GMAT Scores (Average) 729
GMAT Scores (Range) 540–780
GMAT Scores (Middle 80%): 700–760
Undergraduate GPA (Average) 3.5
Undergraduate GPA (Middle 80%) 3.1–3.9
Average Years of Work Experience 5
Range of Years of Work Experience (Middle 80%) 3–8
Average Age 28
Age Range 23–43
Age Range (Middle 80%) 25–31
Women 41%
Minority of U.S. Origin 40%
International Citizens 48%

Columbia Business School MBA Rankings

The 2020 Poets&Quants national ranking placed the Columbia MBA program at number seven, unchanged from the previous two years, and Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the school sixth domestically in 2021, up three spots from its 2019 position (Bloomberg Businessweek suspended its MBA rankings in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic). In the 2020 Financial Times rankings, Columbia Business School was ranked fifth in the United States, up from sixth the previous year, and rose one spot to eighth internationally. In The Economist’s 2019 survey, CBS ranked 12th in the United States and 15th globally—down three and five spots, respectively, from the previous year. In the 2022 U.S. News & World Report survey, the school tied with Berkeley Haas at seventh after ranking at eighth the previous year, and was ranked fourth in the following specialty areas: executive MBA, finance, and real estate.

Columbia Business School MBA Deadlines (2021–2022 Application Season)

Early Decision/January Term
October 6, 2021

Rolling admission for entire cycle,
with an end date of April 8, 2022

Apply by January 5, 2022,
to be considered for merit-based fellowships

mbaMission Testimonials from Columbia Business School Applicants

Incredibly Helpful!

Rachel [Beck] immediately connected with my story, and unlike several other consultants I had spoken with, she was optimistic about my credentials. Rachel’s process is thorough—she requests a ton of information up front to better understand the candidate’s background, and she is masterful at synthesizing that information into a compelling application tailored for each program. Additionally, her superior knowledge of the CBS admissions process was invaluable for crafting an application that would ultimately resonate with the admissions committee. I was admitted to CBS, and I am forever grateful to Rachel for helping me achieve that outcome.

Susan is Awesome

Susan’s [Kaplan] knowledge about CBS and its values and criteria shaped the way I approached my application and essays—and she has the same knowledge for any school you apply to. I can’t understate how important this is. Every call, despite my hours of research online, she would bring up several points that would improve my application and essay for CBS specifically and that only someone with her experience could know.

Highly Recommend Melissa Merchant!

When I first started the MBA application process, I doubted whether my profile was competitive enough to get in to a top school. Melissa [Merchant] helped me identify and capitalize on the unique stories and experiences from my background, helping me craft applications where I could highlight my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses. I thought I knew what I wanted to write in my essays, but Melissa helped fine-tune my ideas and pointed out experiences that she felt were unique which I wasn’t considering before. She’s also a skilled editor—I tend to be a verbose writer, and Melissa easily cut 200+ words from my essays while still maintaining the content and emotions of my story. Additionally, she is an incredible mentor and cheerleader, answering my questions candidly but compassionately and reassuring me when I was overwhelmed or anxious about the process.