Are you ready to be the Queen Bee of GSB? Check out our tips to figure out how you can optimize your essays, recommendations and application.

Photo by Paramount, Article by Ben Feuer

 

Hopefully, everyone in the universe has seen Mean Girls. If you haven’t, go Netflix it. One of the most memorable characters in the coterie of teenaged back stabbers that form the core of the film is Regina George. Regina’s pretty, smart, and has everything going for her … except self-esteem. She’s insecure to the point of absurdity, and feels the need to smash anyone who looks like a threat to her.

Regina George didn’t go to Columbia GSB, but if she had, she would’ve fit right in. Of all the top business schools, Columbia is the one most afflicted with a Napoleon complex. Perhaps it’s because they struggle in the rankings compared to their somewhat loftier brethren in the Northeast. Perhaps it’s because their New York location makes them hypercompetitive. Whatever the reason, Columbia is the top B-school that is always looking for a way to belong.

You can get a great MBA education at Columbia, and it’s a fantastic feeder for all the usual post-MBA roles, including private equity, investment banking, consulting, and entrepreneurship. But in order to get in, you’re going to have to court Regina. She’s temperamental, but worth the trouble.

So what are the keys to success?

Apply early. Because of its unusual rolling admissions process and binding early decision, Columbia fills its class more quickly than its competition. This is one of the many ways they try to lock in top students. You can’t fight this, so it’s best to embrace it. If you’re considering Columbia, you give yourself the best chance by applying as early as possible -- August 1st is ideal.

Be powerful. Queen bees are drawn to self-confident people with obvious social standing and the ability to command a room. Think about how you can demonstrate transformative leadership in your recommendations, essay two, and essay three. And if you don’t know what leadership is, read our book.

Take action to understand her. The absolute worst thing you can do in a Columbia application is make it obvious to them that you’re just using them as a safety school for their competition: Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton. The best way to combat that impression, aside from applying early, is to take actions to integrate with and understand the Columbia community. Then, write at length about the research that you’ve done in your Columbia essay one and essay two, naming names and citing specific details. By showing you understand the unique appeal of the school, you make yourself more appealing.

Be pleasant. Columbia’s essay three asks what your cluster mates will be pleasantly surprised to learn about you. For whatever reason, a lot of people overthink this and try to make it into a referendum on their professional accomplishments, leadership, or general all-around awesomeness. By doing this, you reflect exactly the kind of insecurity that Columbia wants to avoid. Whatever you choose to write about, it should first and foremost be something pleasant. Not depressing, not impressive, pleasant. If it can be impressive as well as pleasant, obviously that’s great. But if you have to choose one, just make it clear that you’re an easy person to get along with, that you’re relatable, and that you don’t have an overinflated ego. There’s only room for a single Regina in a relationship.

So there you have it! These guidelines should help you prepare a top-notch application to Columbia. But if you have more questions, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help.