ColumbiaBelow are MBA admissions interview questions and experiences submitted by CBS MBA applicants. If you interviewed at Columbia, we encourage you to submit a report detailing your experience!
The interview was at the alum’s place of employment. I was dressed formally and prepared fairly diligently by using personal resources as well as some of the posts found here. When I was given my choice of interviewers, I found that all of the alum offered were recent graduates. My alum was more or less of my age. We ran through some of the typical talking points:
- Walk me through your resume.
- Why B-school.
- Why Columbia.
- What I will add to Columbia.
- Backup plan if I don’t get in (I’m an entrepreneur and this question was stressed big time).
- Am I applying to other schools, and specifically, to what other schools am I applying?
I went through each of the questions and felt fairly prepared for each response. I felt comfortable, but tried to not let my guard down too much. I think that balance is key in these “casual” interview situations.
I would advise candidates to be on guard for alum interviews with a hyper-competitive tone. Although the interview was supposed to be “pretty casual” and indeed my interviewer seemed nice at the outset, the conversation quickly turned into a constant comparison of my profile with that of my interviewer and her friends. As an example, after asking which schools I had applied to, I was given a comparison of some higher-ranked schools that she considered and where her friends had attended. My interviewer proceeded to implicitly justify her decision to go to CBS by saying that since she was staying in NY, she just wanted to go to the “best school in New York”. (She seemed to imply that otherwise, she would have attended schools with her “friends in Massachusetts and California”). Kind of interesting to see an alum put their school below H/S but I played it cool thinking she was just trying to ruffle my feathers and/or gauge my response.
Professional goals were also on the table. As an entrepreneur, I was asked about back-up plans and “why an MBA”, especially given that my interviewer’s friends/contacts did not need an MBA to pursue their entrepreneurial goals. Again, I tried to calmly re-state my case for CBS by emphasizing courses, profs and resources that would accelerate goals. Also mentioned that CBS was a real dream school for me and I mentioned ways in which I was committed to contributing to the community.
One last thing: about 40 minutes into the interview, I felt my throat getting dry while speaking. Although I wasn’t offered water at the beginning of the interview, I felt it might be a little strange to ask my interviewer to get me some water. Eventually I did so (as politely as possible), but on a very basic level, I still find it pretty odd.
We closed by talking about how CBS helped her in her field and how it was necessary to achieve her goals. She seemed to think that although the skills gained didn’t apply directly to what she was doing, they did help to give her more insight into the managerial process. At this time, she had an upbeat tone when talking about the school.
Post-interview summary: I’m not really sure what to make of the interview/interviewer. I have friends currently in CBS and who’ve graduated and all of them are pretty cool and friendly. Maybe the school asked her to be tough? I think the interview went well in the sense that I smoothly handled perhaps one of the more awkward, if not competitive, interview experiences I’ve ever had. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!
Interview was concise and conversational – 45 minutes in total. I met with my interviewer at his office. Be advised, you should put in the zip code in the area you want to interview (I’m in NYC and I put my home address – Astoria, but I work downtown – so I had to trek back to LIC in the middle of a workday) – obviously this is only applicable for people in big cities.
We started by walking through my resume starting with college and going through extra-curriculars and work experience. I tried to create a narrative that would lead into why I want to do what I want to do. He asked about why an MBA and why now. Apparently I succeeded in creating the narrative because after that response, he was able to state my career goals without my explicitly having said what I wanted to do – I had talked about the industry, but had not mentioned the role I saw myself in.
He asked about a time I’ve experienced adversity, but I didn’t get the ethical issue question, which I was sad about because I had a better answer for that than for adversity. He also asked about my back-up plan, and that was pretty much it, aside from questions.
He was very positive and told me he thought I’d be a good fit and would be recommending me, but now I’m seeing that other people have been told that by interviewers and have gotten wait listed, so now I’m hyper-ventillating.
Applied 1/8, interview invitation 2/1, interview 2/7, interview information was submit same day and application status was updated. Over a week in and still no news.
First, Columbia allows you to enter your zip code to find an alumni near you. Then you are shortly thereafter emailed three alumni interviewers in the area. You are instructed to contact them going down the list. Mine was a female who graduated 4 years ago. She was very pleasant but abrupt and got right to her questions. It seems that Columbia has some standard questions each year and then the interviewer is free to add on. We met at Starbucks which has a good energy but can get loud. And tables are small so there isn’t always the most privacy. I’d advise a roomier location.
- Long term/Short term goals
- Why an MBA?
- Why Columbia?
- How will you contribute to Columbia?
- Tell me about a time you experienced a challenge and your reaction.
- Where else did you apply to and why?
- What will you do if you don’t get in? Reapply next year, etc.?
Lastly, she gave me an opportunity to ask questions. It seems they really really want to know why Columbia, so I highly recommend being prepared as far as that’s concerned. Also, have your longterm/shortterm/whyMBA story really tight. I got the impression that there’s a lot of diversity at Columbia and that there is often an overwhelming amount of things to do there, so prepare well ahead of time and know what you’ll be involved in!
I met my interviewer at a local coffee shop. He was an alum who graduated in the 80s. Prior to meeting he requested I send him my resume and an objectives statement on my short and long term goals. I was asked the following questions:
a. Tell me about a time you experienced adversity and how you dealt with it?
b. Why Columbia over other schools?
c. What’s your backup plan if you’re not accepted this year?
d. Why consulting? What do you hope to learn? What do you mean specifically by that?
e. Have you visited? How many teachers have you spoken to? How many professors?
f. What classes would you take to further your goals?
g. What will you bring to Columbia outside the classroom?
h. Do you have any questions for me?
The interview went very well (2 hours total). I would warn to be vigilant of what you say after the questions have stopped if you are in a casual setting like this. I was surprised at my interviewers candor in letting me know he would be recommending me at the end of the conversation. I was impressed that he still interviews candidates given the length of time since his MBA. I think this speaks to alum’s dedication to the school!
I applied on Dec. 15th, was invited to interview on Jan. 4th, and had my interview on Jan. 23rd. I prepared for all of the questions on this site, but my interviewer and I really just had a conversation. Over the course of the interview, he slipped in a few of the questions including:
1) Why Columbia?
2) What other schools did you apply to?
3) Why New York?
(I mentioned the adjunct professors CBS draws to campus and he asked which ones in particular I was interested in)
Other than that, we spent a lot of time talking about my first job (not much about my current position), current events, and some time on my future goals. He wanted to make sure I had fully thought through the decision to apply to business school and understood the enormity of the cost.
The best advice I’ve heard from other people is to drive home your love for Columbia and show that you really want to and will attend if admitted.
I met my interviewer at a coffee shop, and he was immediately very friendly and casual – extremely easy to talk to. I provided a copy of my resume. He began by letting me ask about his background. He and I both work in the retail industry, so it was good to establish some common ground at the beginning. then he pulled out a worksheet and ticked through some standard questions.
- walk me through your resume
- what is an ethical dilemma that you’ve faced? Do you wish you’d acted differently now?
- Why business school? Why now?
- Why Columbia?
- talk about a situation in which you demonstrated leadership
The interview lasted about an hour – I talked a lot, but he was very encouraging and supportive. Overall, it was a really good interview – not formal or awkward at all.
Applied to Columbia MBA program: Jan. 15th, 2012
Invited to Interview: Mar. 5th, 2012
Interviewed: Mar. 11th, 2012
Status Changed to Complete: Mar. 14th, 2012
We met at a Starbuck’s in Atlanta The interviewer was a recent grad who works for McKinsey. He was candid, straight-forward, and didn’t let things feel formal. He first gave me a chance to ask questions about his Columbia and work experience. It was a great way to break the ice. This lasted for 15 minutes. We thoroughly discussed the academics at Columbia (particularly around finance and Heilbrunn) along with the new grades disclosure policy during the course of my questions for him.
We then went into the set questions. The list is below, which may not be totally inclusive due to the natural course of the conversation. This lasted for 20-30 minutes or perhaps a little longer.
- Give a personal example of leadership or teamwork in a professional setting.
- Describe an ethical dilemma and how I dealt with it.
- Describe a time where I faced adversity.
- Why Columbia? Had I visited the school?
- What was my backup plan if I was not admitted to Columbia?
- Where would I want to work immediately after Columbia? Where do I see myself in 5-10 years afterward?
I emphasized why I felt that an MBA education in NYC and at Columbia was a great fit for my desired education and career. I made it very clear that Columbia was my top choice (and that I had only applied to NYU and Columbia). When asked the backup question, I did specifically state that I would care to receive feedback from the Adcom and see if there was something that I could improve on to potentially apply again next year if denied (due to Columbia being my top choice).
We continued the conversation with questions of mine for another 10 minutes after the Adcom set.
After returning home, I sent the interviewer a thank you e-mail. I usually care to send paper thank you’s, but I also wanted to increase the chance that he would receive the thank you before completing my evaluation.
Here are the questions that I remember:
- walk me through your resume
- what are your long term goals?
- how was moving to [non-U.S. city]
- describe a time that you faced a challenge
- tell me about your time as an undergrad
- why did you choose to work at [current employer]?
- what other schools are you applying to? why Columbia?
It was pretty straightforward…the “ethical dilemma” question didn’t come up. Neither did the “strengths & weaknesses” question, so I felt pretty good about it all. The whole thing took an hour, but I spent probably 20-30 minutes asking her questions about Columbia towards the end.
Submitted app: 1/2/2012 Invited to Interview: around 1/18/2012 Interview: around 1/27/2012 Status changed to complete: around 2/6/2012
I second the suggestion below – know the questions on this site, as I was asked the very same ones! Bring your resume! My alum was very nice, casual and led a conversation more than an interview. I’m a little late in posting, but I wanted to post since this site was helpful to my success during my interview.
- Walk me through your resume
- Why an MBA?
- What are your goals? (My LT goal involves starting a website and he asked if there were sites similar to it already in existence)
- Why Columbia? Why didn’t you apply ED? (I had mentioned it was one of my top choices) Why Columbia, when its known to be a finance school? (My goals were marketing-related)
- Explain an ethical dilemma that you experienced at work?
- What is your backup plan if you don’t get into school? If you dont get the job that you want?
- Describe a time where you faced professional adversity.
- Describe a time you led a team at work.
- Name a time you had to motivate a member of your team?
Time: Exactly 30 minutes and he went back to work. Results: Still waiting! Good luck!
Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Regular Decision / Off-Campus (Merit Fellowship Interview)
I just completed my interview a few hours ago. Submitted my application on 1/3/12 and was invited to interview on 2/21/12. I would definitely recommend that you prepare for all questions on this site to be fully prepared! My interviewer was really cool and the interview was really informal, so my advice is to prepare like it’s a formal interview but don’t expect one. I still recommend dressing in business attire (I wore a suit and tie on a Sunday) and to choose your interviewer carefully. And contact your interviewers early and schedule as early as I can. They get lots of requests, and I got really lucky with my interviewer, who had to turn down several interviewer requests received right after mine.
This is the order of the questions that were asked
- Walk me through your resume
- Explain a time where you worked on a team and demonstrated leadership
- Explain an ethical dilemma that you experienced sometime either at work, through volunteer services, or in personal life
- What was a time where you had to work in a difficult team and how did you handle it?
- Why do you want an MBA now?
- Why do you want an MBA, what are your short and long term goals?
- What is your backup plan if you don’t get the job that you want?
- Why Columbia?
Time: approximately 80 minutes, including 10 minutes of trying to get a table at our first meeting spot, walking to another, and waiting to get a spot at our second spot. Was definitely an unexpected start, but pretty funny at the same time.
Had my interview last week; off campus in large city (Chicago/LA/DC)
- Walk me through your resume
- Why an MBA/Columbia/Why now?
- Why Columbia?
- What other schools have you Applied to?
- Why did you decide to apply to Columbia?
- Why did you choose your undergraduate school?
- What are some example of a time you worked on a team and how you demonstrated leadership
Then there were a couple of goofy questions which I’d read about on some forums:
- Tell me something about you that would surprise me/most people
- If you could be an animal for a day, what kind would you be and would you do it?
- what does ‘leadership’ mean to you?
Applied in late December and invited for interview mid-January