separate categories: the interview; personal characteristics; the professional promise; and last, but certainly far from least, the academics. What we look for in the evaluatory interview is very much what a recruiter will look for in an MBA candidate when he's looking to hire someone. We're also looking for anything that will be in addition to what's on paper. Personal characteristics have to do with outside activities, leadership, motivation, what makes a person individual or unique. The next piece—which we will certainly pull from the essays—is the professional promise. We are looking for what the candidate has done, the level of responsibility, what they want to do, and how the MBA-particularly the Columbia MBA—is going to help them make that bridge from what they have done to what they want to do, both short- and long-term. We're really looking for focus, for people who really do have a sense of where they're headed. That's very, very important. Our first essay in particular is directed toward that. People who cannot fully define their short- and long-term goals
(although they may not know the specific job) are probably not ready to apply to a business program. Wc need to know those goals to determine whether the applicants are realistic and whether Columbia is going to be able to help them reach those goals. The degree alone will not make a major career switch happen. As an undergraduate you have four years to kind of poke around; in graduate school you have only two years. It you have no clue of where you're headed, you're really not going to take advantage of an MBA program and, in particular, our program.
One of the things you want to do when you write the essays—and I'm gleaning this from a colleague of mine at another institution because she expressed this so well—is you want to come alive off the page and write the story that only you can write. When you write your essay, don't try to impress me, don't try to impress my committee; what you really want to do is help us know who you are and what may make
You want to come alive off the page and write the story that only you can write.
you different from the other 4,576 applicants. You are a unique individual and if you remember that and that your experience is unique to you, you'll be far more effective in writing your essays.
We're looking to make sure you can express yourself well with the written word: do you use proper grammar, do you know how to use spell-check and does the essay make sense? Read the questions very carefully and answer the question that we have asked. Make sure that you don't try to adapt another institution's essay question to us; we're very, very sensitive to that. Proofread your essay and make sure that at the end, when you say "I'm really dying to be at Columbia," you really write Columbia and not another institution by mistake. Keep yourself organized; be careful and thoughtful enough to be sure that you're supplying us with our application and our information. [Sometimes] applicants have their own agenda, which they're putting forth while forgetting what we have asked. Or they send in too much supplemental information. They need to be sensitive to the fact that the person who does the first read is probably also going to be reading 1,000 or 1,200 other applications. They need to be concise, do what we ask them to do. Think what you really want to write about and say, do it concisely and clearly, don't be afraid to reveal your personality and to tell us the story that only you can tell.
We work very hard to bring into each class a wide variety of backgrounds and people; as a result, we try to interview as many people as we possibiy can. We have currently interviewed about 75 percent of our incoming class: we interviewed 60-percent-plus of the applicant pool and we'r<* looking to do more. Ninety-nine percent of the interviews are done after the application has been received in our office ¡so it's helpful to applicants that they've gone through the essay-writing process first).
Each application is given a complete, thorough read by one person and then it goes to me and 1 review. Very often the application will then go to a third person—if there is no decision that is agreed upon—and it will go to the committee. On average each application is seen by at least three people and, very often, more.
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