by Evan Forster

So you want to go to Columbia? You and everybody else. There are a ton of things you need to do amazingly well to have a shot. This is about perhaps the most important one – your essays. Don’t overcomplicate this advice, but don’t dismiss it either, after twenty-five years of a near-perfect success rate, believe me, I know of what I speak.

Essay #1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia GSB MBA help you achieve them? (100-750 words)

College is for finding yourself. Grad school is for people who know what they want. So don’t tell me you’re “not sure yet,” “thinking about it,” or “going to figure it out while I am there.” That means pretty much game over at a place like Columbia Business School, or any b-school for that matter. Think about it. All things being equal—your grades, scores and experience—the only aspect of your candidacy that says “I have a vision that you and your community want to be a part of” is that specific long term goal, something bigger, better and bolder.

So when Steve began to see b-school as more than a mere opportunity to gain some skillz, a resume bump and a better job, he drew that much closer to the gates. Steve, who was in a large real estate management and investment firm, realized that after three years of seeing possible development deals in Detroit glossed over in favor of a quick transactions, he wanted to help transform communities in his backyard through real estate.(Note the little bit of background about himself.) Basically, he saw the possibility of Brooklyn and London’s East End everywhere. And that’s what he wrote about—how CBS would take him from one small rehabbed building to Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill or Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan neighborhood springing up in 8 Mile. I’m not saying you have to create a tectonic plate shift on the planet, but you do have to at least be up something greater than yourself if you’re going to stand out.

So sit down and figure out what you want to do long term, and make sure it’s not just working at a hedge fund. (Sigh) Look into your life and see what’s missing –at work or at play—and consider what you could do to fix it. Give us the context of why you want to be a part of this change and how it relates to what you’ve done in the past. It can’t come out of nowhere. It has to make sense.

Then, figure out the short term stepping stone you need in order to walk across the river without falling in. In other words, you can’t just go from CBS to world domination. There’s a middle ground. In Steven’s case, it was a year long internship with an NYC real estate development corporation at the Hudson Yards project to hone his skills.

After that, you’ll need larger representation of how CBS is going to help you gain the skills and the community you need to get to where you want to go. I am talking big picture, with an academic focus such as Real Estate, Health Care or management. Maybe mention Columbia’s various institutes, like the Lange Center for Entrepreneurship, that will be of help to you. Then get specific about the skills you need in order to reach your short and long term goals. Some soft skills like decision-making, negotiation, assessment and/or team-based problem solving. Some hard skills like you’ve been in Marketing and PR now you need to understand DCF or discounted cash flow. Mention the type of classes—two or three that CBS has to offer and, and, of course, who do you want to study under? Don’t just drop names. Get specific about who you’re excited to meet—all in to order reach your goals.

Essay #2: Columbia Business School’s students participate in industry focused New York immersion seminars; in project based Master Classes; and in school year internships. Most importantly, they complete a questionnaire taught by a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (100-500 Words)

Yup, Columbia has changed this second question up again. This year its simple -- how is Columbia’s NYC location going to help you reach your long and short term goals? This time we are talking VERY SPECIFICALLY about courses, professors, speakers, externships, etc. that are at your fingertips because you’re in the hood. What resources does Columbia have, thanks to its NYC location that you need to achieve your goals, as stated in essay 1?

Remember, if they think you’re running the old “hallowed halls of academia game, then two things are possible in the minds of admissions officers: 1. You’re BSing and didn’t do your homework or 2. If you’ve got really great stats, story and experience, you might not show up. In other words, if you’ve got that 740 GMAT, killer resume, and a 4.0, you really need to SHOW Columbia that you know how its program is going to help you get to where you’re going.

Figure out exactly what you’re going to take and who you’re going to study with each semester. Envision your time there and then break it down for them—courses, professors, and internships. Who will you meet—from fashion to finance, real estate to the art? How will Master Classes Executives in Residence help you and why? Use this essay to drill down even more deeply into the curriculum. Explain how Columbia will give you all the resources and advantages you need to achieve your goals.

Essay #3: CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (100-250 Words)

This is so, so simple. Why do so many people love to make this complicated? Look, they even boldfaced the most important word for you. Pleasant. You know, like grandma’s doilies or a Kenny Chesney single. Don’t you dare take that as carte blanche to send me something boring, I hate boring. But don’t try to show off, don’t try to prove what a gold-plated bad boy you are, and don’t waste your precious time and word count writing about people and things that aren’t you!

Pick a hobby, or a habit, or something you love, that you can nerd out about. Write about your favorite Game of Thrones character, or an ode to Cherry Coke, or Havana Cigars. Write about your love for backyard baseball, or teaching your cousins to ski on the bunny slope, or setting up free Wi-Fi for your home town. Should your story reflect well on you? Well, you shouldn’t come away looking like a dog! But gloating is not the point. The point is relating.

**

So that’s what’s up, kids! I really hope that after my master class, you don’t have any lingering questions. But just in case you do, feel free to call. Always happy to scream in your ear until you get clear!

Lovingly,

Auntie Evan


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.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Does my MFA film program require the GRE?

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By Ben Feuer, Photo by Ryan McGilchrist

 

Many prospective film students are intimidated by the idea of taking the GRE — the good news is that at this point in time, the vast majority of top MFA film programs no longer require it.  Here’s a list, accurate as of 2015, about which schools need the GRE and which do not.

USC: only for PH.d
Columbia: No
UCLA: No
NYU: only for PH.d
Chapman: The GRE is required if your cumulative GPA from your degree granting undergraduate school is under a 3.0. A minimum score of 153 on the verbal section and 4.5 on the analytical writing section is required.
UT Austin: GRE is required for everyone.
Cal Arts: No
AFI: No
Emerson: Optional for Film&TV Writing, No for Media Art
FSU: No for production, Yes for Writing

Have more questions about the MFA application process?  Drop us a line.


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School Nickname: P&S

Median MCAT: 36

Median GPA: 3.79

Associate Dean: Stephen Nicholas, MD

Dr. Nicholas is a pioneer in the care of HIV-infected children and an advocate for the medically underserved. In Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Dominican Republic, where his work has primarily taken place over the past 25 years, he has created innovative community-based educational experiences for medical and public health students and resident physicians. He was director of pediatrics at Harlem Hospital Center from 2000 to 2006, during which time he started the Harlem Children's Zone Asthma Initiative, funded by the Robin Hood Foundation.

Letter from the Dean: Highlights below

One of the most distinctive features of our medical school is the P&S Club, the most comprehensive student activities organization in American medical education.

New York City is a big draw for our students, and so is the vibrant neighborhood of Washington Heights, where P&S is located.

 

 

Top Residencies: 
anesthesiology orthopaedic surgery
emergency medicine pediatrics

Application: More here

Two-stage.  First stage MUST be done through AMCAS, with a deadline of October 15th.  There is then a secondary application for P&S with a deadline of November 15th.

It is rare that we admit individuals from foreign universities because the Admissions Committee does not have satisfactory means of evaluating premedical educaiton at universities outside of the United States and Canada.

Required Courses --

  • At least three full academic years at an accredited college in the U.S. or Canada
  • One year of English
  • One year of Biology with labs
  • One year of Physics with labs
  • Two years of Chemistry, one of which must be Organic Chemistry, both with labs
Applicants may apply if they lack one or two of the above prerequisites, but completion of these courses is a requirement for enrollment. 

A final grade lower than C minus in any required courses is not regarded by the Committee as satisfactory completion of our requirements.

Previous Year P&S Questions:

1. Please describe your parents' occupations: (250 char.)

2. If your first and last name is often mispronounced, how do you pronounce it? (250 char.)

3. Have you previously applied to P&S? (Yes/No)

If yes, briefly summarize your activities since your previous application:

This is an important field for reapplicants -- be sure and affirm that you have grown since your previous application, and use specific incidents and examples to talk about how you have grown.  Even small experiences can carry big lessons with them, so don't feel constrained just because it's been a relatively short period of time since you last applied.

4. If you took time off from your undergraduate studies, please briefly summarize your reasons for doing so. (250 words)

5. In what collegiate extracurriculars did you engage? (250 words)

6. Did you work for compensation during college during the year or the summer?
YesNo
If so, what did you do? How many hours a week did you work? (250 words)

7. If you have graduated from college, please briefly summarize what you have done in the interim. (300 words)

8. What challenges do you expect to arise from living and working in a complex urban environment? How will you meet them? (250 words)

This is an inversion of a typical "What's great about NYC" question -- simply, put, it's asking if you can handle the city.  Be specific about two concerns you expect to come up, and use examples from your past to illustrate why you'll be able to handle the pressure.

9. Is there anything else you would like us to know? (300 words)

 

 

Dr. Nicholas is a pioneer in the care of HIV-infected children and an advocate for the medically underserved. In Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Dominican Republic, where his work has primarily taken place over the past 25 years, he has created innovative community-based educational experiences for medical and public health students and resident physicians. He was director of pediatrics at Harlem Hospital Center from 2000 to 2006, during which time he started the Harlem Children's Zone Asthma Initiative, funded by the Robin Hood Foundation. - See more at: http://ps.columbia.edu/news/stephen-nicholas-appointed-associate-dean-admissions-0#sthash.NnViFJmr.dpuf
Dr. Nicholas is a pioneer in the care of HIV-infected children and an advocate for the medically underserved. In Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Dominican Republic, where his work has primarily taken place over the past 25 years, he has created innovative community-based educational experiences for medical and public health students and resident physicians. He was director of pediatrics at Harlem Hospital Center from 2000 to 2006, during which time he started the Harlem Children's Zone Asthma Initiative, funded by the Robin Hood Foundation. - See more at: http://ps.columbia.edu/news/stephen-nicholas-appointed-associate-dean-admissions-0#sthash.NnViFJmr.dpuf
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