Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School

Emily French Thomas, Director of Admissions Columbia Business School

What is the one area of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

People and the community make Columbia great. I constantly see our students supporting each other and pushing each other to be their best and truest selves on campus. For example, we have a Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship program through our Tamer Center for Social Enterprise that helps support students during their summer internship with a not-for-profit or social venture. The fund itself is raised in part through efforts by fellow Columbia Business School students who want to help their classmates pursue their dreams of social enterprise. Similarly we see students who are competing for the same consulting internship working together to prepare the case interview. Once they graduate, the pay-it-forward culture continues through our alumni, many of whom will meet with current students to help them think about a career move to a specific company or industry.

If you are thinking about applying to Columbia Business School, I encourage you to visit us either on campus for a class visit or student chat, or at one of our events on the road. It is the best way to get a feel for the Columbia Business School community, and meet the people who could be part of your life both during program and when you are an alum. You can find opportunities to visit on our website (

What’s the single most exciting development, change, or event happening at you MBA program this coming year?

One of the great benefits of coming to Columbia Business School is attending a great academic institution in the middle of one of the largest and most vibrant business centers in the world. Change is all around, whether it is the development of a new industry – as we saw FinTech immerge several years ago, or possible changes that may come with new healthcare policy. We are constantly adapting the curriculum, and bringing industry leaders to campus to help our students prepare to lead innovation in their chosen field. Some of our most popular classes are the New York Immersion Seminars, which are designed to bring our students into the city to visit companies and hear from executives about the real day-to-day challenges and changes in their industry. They range in topic from Management Consulting, Tech Disruption, Activist Investing, to Branding in the Arts. This year there will be a new immersion seminar on the incarceration crisis where our future business leaders will have the opportunity to explore the criminal justice system and better understand the implications of reentry on employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for people in that system.

Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)

Columbia Business School has a different process from many of our peer schools in that we have rolling admissions rather than rounds. This means that we are constantly reading applications and rendering decisions from the time the application opens up in May through to the deadline.

Once the application is complete and you hit submit multiple members of the admissions committee will read your file. We let you know within six weeks if you are invited to interview, and if you are invited, you will interview with an alum in your region. From the time we receive the interview report from that alum, we have two weeks to discuss your candidacy in a committee and to let you know the final decision.

How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? One key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write them?

The essays are not just a required field in the application. The questions we ask are as much for you as they are for us. They are designed to encourage you to think about what you really want to do in the world, and how the MBA program can help you get there. Will this school be a good fit for you, and what will your priorities be while you are here? Think of them as an opportunity for a little introspection to help you make the best decision about what program is right for you. This will also help us get to know you and what you might bring to the community on campus. There are no right or wrong answers, the most important thing is to be yourself.

Do you have any application tips (for essays & recommendations) for MBA applicants?

My tip for the essays is above. The recommendations are a chance for us to learn who you are at work, so they should ideally be professional recommendations from you supervisor or someone who has worked with you in a supervisory or senior capacity. The recommender does not need to have a C-suite title, or be an alum of Columbia Business School. It is much more important that they know you well and are invested in your development. You want someone who will take the time to write the recommendation themselves and knows enough about your work to include details of your accomplishments as well as your areas for growth.

What are the most important aspects of the MBA application process besides GMAT score, prior GPA and current job position?

It is all important because each part of the application comes together to give us a picture of you. That means that no single element of the application can get you into Columbia Business School, and no single element will disqualify you. We are looking to understand how all these different parts of your story fit together, and to see who you will be within the larger class we are building.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

First of all, remember that this is just one data point in your application, and we will look at it in the context of your whole story.

If you are unhappy with your score and feel that you can do better, you can always retake the test. We see retakes as a sign of persistence. It is rare in business to achieve everything you want on the first try, so persistence is a good quality in any MBA candidate.

If you are not sure if you have a strong GMAT or GRE score, you can always take a look at our average in the class profile, which we post on our website (

What resources are available at your MBA program to assist with internship and full-time job opportunities (or to advance their Career Path)?

There are a number of resources to help students with their career. We have a great Career Management Center that hosts seminars, and works with students to help them strategize and polish their pitch to companies, many of which come to campus to recruit. We also have a phenomenal group of Executives in Residence, former C-suite executives in a variety of industries who are available to work with students and offer that broader perspective of an industry coming from a lifetime of leadership. One of my favorite programs is the Career Fellows program, where second year students who have been through that first year recruiting experience are trained by the Career Management Center and then work with first year students in small groups to offer them tips and support as they venture through their first semester of recruiting. The list really keeps going because there are also the industry focused clubs that will bring in industry speakers and really help students who might be making a career switch to learn about their new target industry, as well as an amazing alumni network in New York and around the world that students can contact to learn about specific companies.




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