If you have your sights set on Columbia, it pays to be ready for the kinds of questions theyll ask during the interview process.
Columbia is unique among top business schools in that they dont require an applicant to undergo an interview as a requirement for admission.
However, being granted an interview can be a good sign in Columbias notoriously competitive process.
Typically, between 5,500 and 7,000 applications to the business school are received each year. In 2010, for example, only 15% were accepted.
So answering questions in the right way is key. Here are three sample interview questions from Columbia business school interviews and tips on how to navigate each.
1. What kind of leader are you?
Although this is an open-ended question, its best to respond with a concrete example. Giving a list of adjectives, such as "goal-oriented," "collaborative" or "future-focused," wont set you apart from the crowd as much as a brief yet specific story that illustrates the kind of leader you are.
Columbia is looking for high-impact leaders who seek out to achieve results and who get them. However, the way you pursue those results is also important.
The school wants students who can work well together on teams and who can leverage the best of what each person brings to the table; after all, these are skills that will serve well not only in the learning community but also in the business world beyond.
Make sure to include results in your response. Since Columbia wants high-impact leaders, show how your efforts made a positive impact on a situation or group of people.
A good response might include something like, "I am proud to report that we were able to raise $75,000 in our first year, and fueled by our success, that same group is now working to double that number next year." That specific information on results plus teamwork shows that youre focused on how to lead groups through change as well as focused on the end goal and outcome.
2. How will you act if a member of your study team at Columbia is difficult?
For many interview questions youll encounter, there is no "right" answer. The questions are designed to figure out if you know how youll contribute to a successful learning environment in the program and how youll work through conflicts.
You might say, "Ill be the member of the study team who doesnt shrink from confrontation," or, on the other hand, "I often play the role of mediator to help people with differing opinions find common ground."
Show your interviewer that you value the role of teamwork and understand how to get the most out of collaboration, even when issues arise, and youll ace this question.
Other common types of teamwork questions include, "On your first day at Columbia, what strength will you bring to your team?" or "Describe a difficult teamwork experience when you had to convince people of something they didnt want to do."
For all of these kinds of questions, the old adage "Know thyself" applies. As long as you can articulate what you bring to the table in teamwork situations, and can offer a few examples, youll show the interviewer what you will bring to the Columbia team.
3. What do you find interesting about Columbias teaching model?
If you havent done your homework, this will feel like a "gotcha" question. The interviewer and admissions committee want to know why you want to pursue your MBA at Columbia as opposed to other big-name schools ... but they also want to know that youve researched how the program works.
The interviewer isnt trying to catch you unprepared; the question is designed to help him or her understand why the learning environment at Columbia specifically appeals to you.
While classroom lessons are certainly important at Columbia, an equal focus is placed on real-world application of concepts. You may describe how youre looking forward to applying what you learn to a business idea in progress or to working alongside established entrepreneurs and learning from their experiences.
The takeaway? Be sure to do your homework, definitely. But also have a vision for how youll benefit from the unique learning opportunities Columbia offers.
Theres no guarantee that these questions will pop up during your Columbia Business School interview. However, preparing answers to them is an excellent exercise to get you ready for your interview at this prestigious school or any other top MBA program.