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Columbia School of Business

The claim among certain individuals that business school produces graduates well-equipped to succeed in the classroom but ill-prepared to think outside it deserves greater attention. In the classroom, students learn tools of data analysis that are extremely useful in business, but are removed from real life business dilemmas.

The Crux of MBA Education
This critique of business management education calls into question the fundamental curriculum choices made by MBA programs. For example, the case method developed at Harvard Business School (HBS) may be partly to blame for lingering sentiments among those that hire MBAs that they lack in the practical experience essential to decision making in the corporate world.

The case method used not only at HBS but throughout the world incorporates the world of real business decisions to the extent that actual cases are discussed and analyzed in the classroom. In a case method analysis, students have the complete picture; they know the beginning, middle and, very often, outcome of each case. Yet, a classroom discussion or debate on an actual case seen in hindsight is not the same as business decision in which some pieces of the puzzle may not be so apparent.

Columbia’s Innovation
It is with this in mind that Columbia Business School veered from the case method in its fall curriculum, employing a new approach to management education known as decision brief. Dean Glen Hubbard developed the decision brief method in reaction to some of the weaknesses of the case method. It approaches a case with less information and does not reveal the solution to the problem until after a full discussion. In an effort to make discussion more like the real business world, the decision brief seeks to a more plausible real world simulation, a view from the ground rather than from the air in a certain sense.

The Case Study vs. Decision Brief debate may be just part of the larger issue of MBA curricula and the changes needed to make the degree up to date with the current needs of businesses. The ability to solve problems from many different business perspectives, be it finance, operations or marketing, is necessary for a future business leader. Many schools, including Yale, Stanford, and UCLA, are addressing their curricula to keep an MBA from their school in high demand.

Too Much Information, Shortcuts, and other Criticisms
The criticism of the case method includes other aspects: There is too much information in a case study – much of the information is irrelevant or unimportant to the main points. In some cases, a large portion of the 10 page single-spaced document may be “skimable” by the student. Also, there is no macro-level recap of the information in the study; the key facts and issues are often times not salient.

Revising the Classroom Experience
Ultimately, much can be learned in the classroom, but not everything. Thus, Columbia and many other business schools around the world are seeking to stretch what the classroom can do by incorporating a revision of the case method into its curriculum. In many cases, schools are requiring students to work with companies, often abroad, on problems those companies are currently dealing with. It will be interesting to see the reaction of students and the corporate world to this adjustment in their management curriculum.

Posted on March 3, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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Columbia University is among many students’, MBA or otherwise, “dream” schools and can seem like an intimidating place. Its admissions percentage in the past few years has dropped 1%, from 17 to 16. Today we will see how Columbia’s admissions system works, what they expect from their applicants, and what make Columbia Business School special.

Admissions and Letters of Recommendation

Columbia is unique in that it has rolling admissions rather than rounds. Rolling admission is a system where there is either no set date by which applications must be in, or the deadline is at the end of a very long stretch of time. Sometimes a school accepts applications until the class has been filled. Each applicant is considered individually. According to Columbia GSB’s website, the application review for September 08 admission began on January 9, 2008 and the deadline is April 16th 2008 for US students. The decision period for the Columbia admissions team is 12 weeks.

This system has the benefit of giving the student leeway as to when they get their applications done. However it can also be seen as equivalent to having a system of rounds: Many admissions experts will still tell you to get your application in as early as possible. The school also offers an early decision (ED) option (deadline typically by mid-August for the following Fall) but you have to withdraw your applications to other schools if you want to do this. The school takes ED quite seriously calling it an “honor pledge.” In addition to withdrawing all other applications, you must pay a deposit. You are “ethically” bound due to this pledge, says Columbia. If you are not absolutely sure about Columbia, do not apply for Early Decision.

As far as recommendations go, Columbia would like you get one from the person that knows you best and can speak to your accomplishments and strong character points. The recommendation, similar to at other schools, should focus on how you will contribute to the business community and be a leader. Columbia asks the recommender to respond to 10 specific questions. The form is on Columbia GSB’s website.

Key admissions points at Columbia:

- You have the option of applying Early Decision or Regular Decision (January or September intake)
- All of these options are Rolling Admissions
- If you are completely 100% sure about Columbia, applying for ED may increase your chances
- If you are not 100%, be very, very wary of applying for ED
- If you are not admitted during the ED process, you will be rolled into the Regular Decision pool

Columbia’s Advantages

There are many benefits to getting your MBA from Columbia. One of which is its location in New York City. Because of the presence of industry and the sheer number of powerful business leaders, Columbia offers their students exposure to the best and brightest of the business community in New York.

- There are many industry professionals teaching courses at Columbia who often bring in guest speakers
- Because of the different industries, Columbia is able to offer specialized programs, e.g. for students interested in venture capital, real estate and entrepreneurship

Some key points to realize in applying to Columbia are that they have a number of admissions options including early decision and regular decision January and September intake. Remember that the processes for these can be subtly different, so prove that you are indeed detail oriented and get the process down. Columbia is extremely selective so make your application as best as it can be. Don’t worry if you don’t get in on your first try. Columbia GBS, similar to other Columbia graduate schools, has a specific system for re-applying which may be a testament to their education authority. If you are interested, the school offers a link to the re-apply page from their admissions website. When you are looking for a recommender, try to focus on people who know you well and know that you can be a leader in and out of the classroom. Columbia needs to know how you will contribute to global business after you graduate.

Posted on February 29, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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