Columbia Essay Notes

I've started providing notes to aid with topic choices on selected essays, particularly for new or unusual essays. Last time I covered Stanford's optional essays. This time it's Columbia.  I know the early round deadline is just around the corner, but this will be for all the late birds and second rounders out there.

(Required) Master Classes are the epitome of bridging the gap between theory and practice at Columbia Business School. View link below. Please provide an example from your own life in which practical experience taught you more than theory alone. (Recommended 500 word limit)

Last year Columbia asked a different but related question requiring applicants to expound on the value they would receive from an MBA education. They seem to be tackling this more obliquely with this question about theory vs. practice. (One of the criticisms against MBA programs is that they only teach theory. Columbia seems to have developed its Master Classes in direct response.)

This question asks you to walk a thin line. You have to describe an experience (in reality, an accomplishment) before which you had certain expectations, thoughts or beliefs. Then you have to describe how reality got in the way, forcing you to adapt, expand or apply the theory in a different way than expected. In other words, show how theory alone was not sufficient to succeed. You cannot discount the value of theory completely, of course, since theory is a mainstay of any MBA curriculum. By the end of the essay, you should have shown that you can appreciate the synergy of a theoretical foundation supplemented by real world experience.

(Required): Please provide an example of a team failure of which you’ve been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (Recommended 500 word limit)

This is a fairly typical failure essay with the condition that it has to have occurred in a team context. As with all failure essays, you should choose an experience in which you were directly responsible for the failure, either through your actions or inactions, in order to be able to show what you learned and how you grew as a result. Hint: try to choose something that happened a few years ago so you have the chance to show not only what you would do differently but what you did do differently.