Admissions Q&A – Part I: Applying to Columbia Business School

What are the most important factors you keep in mind while evaluating an applicant at Columbia?

We follow a very holistic process. We look at three different areas – academics, professional promise, and personal characteristic.

For academics, we look at where the student went to school, the rigor of the courses they took and how they did. We look at GMAT, GRE, TOEFL scores.We encourage people to try for the range of 680 – 760 GMAT Score. About 80% of our class falls in that score range.

Regarding professional promise, we are looking at the candidate’s resume. From where have they come after finishing an undergraduate degree or master’s degree; how have they progressed in their career; have they switched companies; what are their areas of development; and how can they contribute to Columbia.

For personal characteristics, we look at what drives the candidate and what is he or she is passionate about. We are looking for people at Columbia who will be as actively engaged outside of the classroom as much as they are engaged inside of the classroom.

Next is the interview, where we are evaluating them as a potential student just as the students are evaluating us as a school. It’s a two way street.

What is the process post a candidate submitting an application?

We evaluate applications online. It is much more sustainable as we do not use the amount of paper we used to. When an application comes to our office, we do something called the rolling admissions. We read applications in the order in which they are submitted.

A committed group of admission staff reads each individual application and recommends whether or not the applicant should be interviewed or not. If the staff member recommends an interview, then the applicant is interviewed. If they do not recommend an interview, then a second member of the admissions committee will evaluate the application. We do this to ensure that everyone has a fair chance. If the application recommendation is to ‘deny’ a second time, then an interview would not take place.

Interviews are generally conducted by an alumnus of the school who lives in the candidate’s geographic area. Interview feedback is submitted by the alumni and that feedback is reviewed by a committee of admissions staff along with the rest of the application.

Does applying in any particular cycle give an advantage?

We have rolling admission, which means we read the applications in the order in which they are submitted. This means that if someone applies well before the stated deadline in April, it definitely helps. But whether somebody applies in August or somebody applies in January, the class is wide open at either point, so it doesn’t really matter.

I would encourage somebody to apply when they feel they have the best application put together that they possibly can. The bulk of our applications will be submitted by the end of January.