What surprised me the most about Columbia Business School

MBA admissions strategy
By Enrique

While this post originally started as a “Why I chose CBS” post, I realized halfway through writing the post that the reader (you!) would be learning a lot more about me than about Columbia Business School.  So instead of diving deep into why I chose to attend CBS, I want to spend more time telling you what surprised me the most about CBS.

For context, before attending business school, I saw myself following in the footsteps of Warren Buffet and Benjamin Graham (both Columbia alumni), hoping to become a successful value investor.  What better place to do that than in CBS’ Value Investing Program?  Additionally, I grew up in New Jersey, went to undergrad in NYC, and worked in NYC, so I ultimately wanted to attend an MBA program in the area I had already put down roots and made connections in.  Even with just those parameters, CBS became the clear frontrunner for me in terms of best fit school.

Now, looking back on my two amazing years at CBS, the reasons why I chose to apply to CBS do not exactly match up with why I enjoyed CBS so much.  As a matter of fact, the top reasons behind why I found CBS so incredibly rewarding were all things I came to know about the school after finishing the program.  So, here are the top three surprises that left a positive impact on my overall MBA experience.

Surprise #1: CBS has a great environment for entrepreneurs

Right before school started, I met the co-founder of my current venture and completely pivoted from my initial goal of becoming a value investor. I ended up spending my 2 years at CBS pursuing a path in entrepreneurship.  This pivot encouraged me to explore the various entrepreneurship resources that CBS has to offer and, during that exploratory phase, I was very surprised to learn how robust CBS’ entrepreneurship community is.  Companies such as Thursday Boot Company, Wandering Bear, Away, and Untuckit were all brands that I had heard about, but had no idea were CBS startups.  To help build this community, the Eugene M. Lang Entrepreneurship Center provides a plethora of resources to not only help founders explore and experiment with startup ideas through various course offerings, but also fundraising opportunities to help founders launch their startups.  

Surprise #2: CBS has a high “warmth factor”

When learning about my classmates’ personal and professional backgrounds, I was intimidated by the number of successful and high-performing individuals that I would be surrounded by.  This, coupled with the fact that CBS students are graded on a curve, made me worried that the school environment was going to be super competitive.  I was wrong.  CBS does a great job with encouraging a collaborative environment by placing students into learning teams – a group of 5 or 6 students that go through group assignments and group projects in the core classes.  Through this structure, I was able to work collaboratively with my learning teammates, developing personal relationships with each of them.  Professionally, students were also very willing and eager to connect me with people in their respective networks because I was pursuing a path in entrepreneurship.  These connections have proved fruitful, as many of my company’s clients today have come via an introduction from a classmate.  The willingness to help and proclivity for collaboration are two components of what I like to call the “warmth” factor in a community, and CBS scores highly in this factor.

Surprise #3: Student partners are just as big of a part of the community as the students themselves

Some of my best friends today are not only CBS students, but also partners of CBS students (or as CBS calls them, Better Halves).  There’s a specific club at CBS that is run and organized by Better Halves, and it gives partners, spouses, and children of CBS students the opportunity to connect with each other through various events and community-building activities (side note: Better Halves can also take classes!).  It will feel like your time is so limited with the abundant academic, professional, and social commitments , but CBS does a great job with encouraging students and their Better Halves to go on the MBA journey together.