Columbia Business School (CBS) is part of Columbia University’s campus in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City. CBS provides a full-time, two-year MBA program that gives students the option of enrolling in either August or January, as well as an Executive MBA Program. Columbia MBA students enjoy the school’s location in New York City, one of the U.S.’s primary financial centers. They also receive especially strong training in finance, based in part on such customized, practical programs as the rigorous Value Investing Program for second-year students.

Columbia Business School is also an M7 MBA program –  a part of the informal super elite group of seven private business schools generally considered to have the world’s best MBA programs. If you’re applying to business school, you know the M7 like the back of your hand – the M7 constitutes: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, and MIT Sloan.

So what sets Columbia apart in this elite club? There’s an old Wall Street saying that goes – As Wall Street goes, so does Columbia. The fortunes of the school and the street are so inextricably intertwined with each other that the class profile and placement statistics at Columbia are an indicator of Wall Street Performance.


The Columbia Business School MBA Curriculum

Curriculum Columbia Business School’s MBA program exposes students to a versatile range of lecture-, case- and project-based learning and offers students a high level of flexibility.  Admitted students are divided into clusters of 65 to 70 people that take most of their core classes together in their first year.  Each cluster is further sectioned into learning teams of about five students, who tackle many core course assignments as a group.

Classes at CBS follow a semester system, with three semesters—Spring, Summer and Fall—in each academic year.  Following a weeklong orientation period for first-year students matriculating in the fall, Fall Semester courses begin in late August and run through mid-December.  There is then another orientation in early January for students who choose the “J-Term” option that allows them to enter the MBA program in Spring Semester.

Spring courses begin for all MBA students in late January and last until mid-May.  During Summer Semester, which runs from late May to mid-August, students who entered in the fall complete internships while J-Term students take classes.  All students then complete the following Fall and Spring Semesters together, with commencement taking place in mid-May.

Columbia does not offer any kind of pre-term academic refresher for incoming students, but instead incorporates opportunities for students to get up to speed on key business areas during orientation. CBS’s full-term courses span a semester and are worth three credits apiece, while half-term courses are correspondingly worth 1.5 credits each.  The full-time MBA program requires students to earn 60 credits in order to graduate, a condition students generally fulfill by undertaking 15 credits each semester.  Columbia provides students with a structured core curriculum that includes two full-term courses and eight halfterm courses, though students may choose three half-term courses from a “flex-core” section of Columbia’s offerings.

The school’s schedule is structured so that students complete their core curriculum across their first two semesters.  Prior to the start of each semester, CBS offers exemption exams that allow students who pass to trade their core courses for electives.  All students are given three slots for full-term electives beginning in their second semester.

The second year of the MBA consists entirely of electives. While students do not have the option of selecting a major at CBS, MBA students can choose to focus their studies in one of 15 predetermined areas, such as accounting, leadership and ethics, or finance and economics. One notable example of the school’s numerous special programs is the Master Classes, which are industry-focused electives that give second-year students firsthand experience in evaluating real-world problems alongside industry leaders.  Students can also study abroad through International Study Tours or CBS’s Chazen MBA Exchange Program, which gives second year students the chance to spend a semester studying at one of 25 international partner programs or the Haas School of Business in California.

Columbia Business School MBA Class Profile

CBS accepted just over 18% of applicants to the Class of 2016, and 749 students ultimately entered the program.  Eighty percent of students in the class were 25 to 30 years old at the time of matriculation, and 2014 entrants reported on average a GMAT score of 716 and an undergraduate GPA of 3.5.  Students also averaged five years of prior work experience, and 99% had at least one year of full-time work experience.  Women make up 36% of the Class of 2016, and 32% of students identify as U.S. minorities.  Forty-one percent of students are international citizens.  Those with professional backgrounds in financial services constitute 28% of the class, making financial services the most represented industry, while 25% of the Class of 2016 was previously in the consulting industry.  As undergraduates, 38% of the class majored in social sciences, while 28% pursued degrees in business and 17% studied engineering.

Columbia Business School Career Statistics

Career Statistics Ninety-seven percent of the Class of 2014 had received job offers and 91% had accepted a position by three months after graduation, a figure that does not include the percentage of students starting a new business or returning to their previous employers.  The median starting salary reported for graduates was $119,400 in a range from $24,000 to $275,000.  Approximately 35% of the class joined the financial services industry, with about 16% of graduates taking roles in investment banking.  Consulting employed the next highest percentage of graduates by industry at roughly 34% percent, followed by media and non-health technology at just over 13%.  Approximately 3% of the class chose positions in real estate. Of 2014 graduates, about 35% selected financial services roles and nearly 40% accepted consulting roles.  Marketing functions were undertaken by slightly more than 7% of graduates, while management functions were chosen by approximately 9% of the class.

Career-Focused Paths at Columbia Business School

  • Accounting
  • Decision, Risk, and Operations
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management
  • Leadership and Ethics
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Media
  • Private Equity
  • Real Estate
  • Retail and Luxury Goods
  • Social Enterprise
  • Value Investing

Columbia Business School MBA Application Essentials

Application Checklist

  • Transcripts
  • GMAT or GRE
  • Essays Recommendations
  • Interview
  • Application Fee

Columbia Business School MBA Application Deadlines

January 2017 Entry

  • Final Deadline: Oct 5, 2016

August 2017 Entry

  • Early Decision Deadline (Binding): Oct 5, 2016
  • Merit Fellowship Deadline: Jan 4, 2017
  • Final: Apr 12, 2017

Columbia Business School MBA Application Essays

  • Short Answer Question:

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (51 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 going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (100-750 words)

  • Essay 2:

Columbia Business School’s students participate in industry focused New York immersion seminars; in project based Master Classes; and in school year internships. Most importantly, our students are taught by a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (100-500 words)

  • Essay 3:

CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you?  Check the CBS Matters video on

(100-250 words)

  • Optional Essay: An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.  (500 words maximum)

Columbia Business School Recommendations

All first-time applications require two recommendations. Reapplicants are required to submit one new recommendation. If you have been working full-time for at least six months, one recommendation should be from your current supervisor. The second recommendation should be from either a former direct supervisor or from another professional associate, senior to you, who can share their insights on your candidacy.

If you are a college senior or have worked full-time for fewer than six months, at least one, but preferably both, of your recommendations should be from a person who can comment on your managerial abilities. You may ask a summer employer or another person whom you feel can objectively assess your professional promise. The second recommendation may be from a college professor.

  • How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.
  • Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

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