Columbia MBA – Acceptance Rate, Ranking, and More

Established in 1916, Columbia University’s Business School offers its students a legacy of excellence and influence, along with a modern sense of global responsibility

The business school at Columbia hosts a number of research centers, institutes, and special programs in cooperation with other departments and schools. 

These centers conduct research on areas related to economics, marketing, investing, real estate, social behavior, technology, and accounting.

Columbia offers many cross-departmental degrees, including a JD/MBA, as well as Master of Science programs in Marketing, Management Science & Engineering, and Financial Economics. The Business School also administers a Ph.D. program focusing on research in the field.

Nobel prize winner in economics Joseph Stiglitz teaches at Columbia Business School. The extraordinary faculty also includes Presidential financial advisors, authors, venture capitalists, and global corporate leaders.

Twenty executives in residence bring real-world wisdom to the program, along with over 100 adjunct faculty from all types of business contexts. 

Programs like the Entrepreneurial Greenhouse Program and the Nonprofit Board Leadership Program give students at Columbia a chance to implement what they learn in the classroom while still earning their degrees.

As of 2021, the school established a new campus in Manhattanville, including expanded spaces for research, career advising, and for flexible learning and studying. They were architecturally designed to cultivate community, interaction, and collaboration within Columbia’s extensive program.

Columbia MBA Acceptance Rate

Columbia Business School
Beyond My Ken, Columbia University Uris Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0

Columbia Business School’s entering class of 2021 had a roughly 16% rate of acceptance; out of over 6,500 applicants, 1,215 received an offer of admission

Between its August and January entries, the program enrolled 847 students from those accepted.

Columbia’s program gives students the flexibility to begin their coursework in August or January. Each program involves the same admissions criteria and the same rate of acceptance. 

Students planning to complete a summer internship generally start in August since the January cohort uses the summer term to complete its second-semester coursework.

Undergraduates— or those completing graduate work in another field— who plan on attending an MBA program, but would like to accrue work experience first, may apply to Columbia’s Deferred Enrollment Program. These applicants complete mostly the same application, with a slightly altered essay section.

Students applying via Early Decision may have a slightly higher chance of admission as their applications will be read earlier in the review process. Applying Early Decision, however, requires a commitment to enroll if accepted.

Columbia MBA Tuition

Base tuition for Columbia Business School’s MBA program costs $77,376.00 annually; the entire first-year budget, including books, fees, room & board, and other expenses, climbs to almost $119k.

For students starting in January, their total budget runs lower since they complete the first year in 8 months. But to be considered for merit-based scholarships, candidates must apply for August admission.

Several merit fellowships exist, including the Columbia Fellows program, which provides partial and full tuition for candidates showing the most promise as future global business leaders. Some awards, like the Board of Overseers Fellowship, can renew for the second year.

While Columbia MBA scholarships are based primarily on need, some awards consider merit or student background, among other qualifications. No separate application process is necessary; all accepted applicants receive consideration for all financial awards.

Accepted students will also receive access to loan application materials with advice on applying for loans. More than half of Columbia’s MBA students secure loans to complete the program.

Financial aid counseling at Columbia encourages all accepted candidates to explore outside scholarship and loan sources

Though Columbia graduate students often supplement their financial aid by working as researchers or teaching assistants, the Business School discourages MBA students from working while enrolled in this rigorous program. 

Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program typically fill these posts in the business school.

Columbia MBA Requirements

Columbia University Business School Butler Library
Beyond My Ken, Columbia University Butler Library, CC BY-SA 4.0

Applicants must submit a one-page resume and undergraduate transcripts, along with GPA and test scores. 

Columbia does not require the GMAT; candidates may choose to take the Executive Assessment or GRE instead.

The Columbia Business School application essay section requires concise, specific information about each candidate’s career goals. 

Successful applicants should respond with detailed information about their previous work experience, as well as how they envision a Columbia MBA will enhance their career path.

The essay section begins with a short-answer question and a career goals essay. Applicants choose from a list of topics for their second and third essays, from discussing a favorite book to describing situations in which the candidate practiced one or more of the five essential diversity skills valued by Columbia Business School.

Candidates can complete an optional additional essay explaining any exceptional circumstances in their application. Deferred Enrollment applicants complete a different essay section, so all applicants should be sure to complete their required sections.

New applicants submit one letter of recommendation, usually from the applicant’s current manager or supervisor. Columbia provides specific guidelines for recommenders, focusing on performance and the personal qualities that distinguish the candidate from other qualified individuals.

Columbia invites some candidates to interview, but applicants cannot request an interview. CBS encourages undergraduates interested in the program to apply via Deferred Entry in order to gain work experience and to demonstrate their suitability to the program.

Once accepted, students must take a total of 60 credits to earn their MBA, including at least 54 in-class business courses. Most students graduate with more than 60 credit hours.

Columbia MBA Notable Alumni

Columbia’s alumni lead companies and organizations like Shearson Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, the American Red Cross, BuzzFeed, and more.

Columbia alumni in public service include multiple members of Congress and Parliament, Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, and former Secretary of State Alexander Haig. 

Deans and Chancellors of University departments and systems number among Columbia MBA graduates, including David C. Schmittlein, Dean of MIT’s Sloan School of Business.

Writers like Mitch Albom and Donna Rosato of Money Magazine graduated from Columbia’s MBA program, as did Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eudora Welty.

One of Columbia’s most illustrious graduates, Warren Buffet, remains synonymous with American finance and philanthropy. Buffet enrolled at Columbia Business School to study with Benjamin Graham, graduating in 1951. 

Today Buffet ranks as among the wealthiest men in the world, often named as one of the greatest authorities on investment practices.

Columbia MBA Ranking

Columbia Business School ranks in the top ten nationally and even globally, according to most ranking sources. U.S. News places Columbia at number 8, with individual program concentrations like Real Estate and Finance ranking among the top five.

Bloomberg estimates Columbia’s program at number 6, while QS ranks Columbia at number 8 among global business schools and at number 5 among U.S. MBA schools. Similarly, Forbes ranks Columbia at number 7, tied with MIT’s Sloan School of Business.

QS refined its ranking process for business schools in 2021, focusing on five key indicators: employability, entrepreneurship and alumni outcomes, return on investment, thought leadership, and diversity among students and faculty. QS interviews global employers and institutions to complete their rankings.

The Economist evaluates MBA programs and ranks them both generally and within specific performance areas. Columbia earns top ten rankings in areas related to graduate salary and job offers; the MBA program overall ranks at number 11 overall. 

The Financial Times’ 2020 Global Rankings includes Columbia at number 8.

Should You Attend Columbia MBA?

Business students who plan to make a mark in the high-end corporate world have strong reasons to consider a top ten program like Columbia’s. 

The program offers tangible benefits like networking opportunities, along with a level of prestige garnered over the program’s years training executives for some of the world’s largest and most influential organizations.

Columbia offers several flexible options for candidates who want to continue working through their graduate training. An Executive Education Program holds classes on Fridays and Saturdays on the New York campus, and several programs exist on other campuses in cooperation with schools like the London Business School.

With its New York City location, proximate to one of the most influential financial districts in the world, Columbia provides its students with access to the current trends, greatest minds, and daily pulse of global business.

Future business leaders looking for a place with the prestige and the level of training to place them at the highest levels of world business come to Columbia for the quality of its educational practice, and for the connections and credibility conferred with a Columbia MBA. Based on the data showing increased salary rates, the effort proves worthwhile for an elite group of motivated students.