What It's Like To Be A Student At Columbia's Elite Business School

Columbia Business School

Photo: David Lerman

Columbia Business School is the only Ivy League business school based in Manhattan.Its Morningside Heights campus is just a 20-minute train ride to the Flatiron District — or Silicon Alley, where many of New York’s tech start-ups are based — and a 30-minute train ride to Wall Street.

Only 16% of applicants are admitted, and many of these students go on to work for consultancies like McKinsey, or banks like Goldman Sachs.

We recently visited the campus and caught up with David Lerman, a first-year student who works as an intern for High Peaks Venture Partners. Before Columbia, he was an associate at Spectrum Equity Investors, a $4.5 billion tech-focused growth equity fund in Menlo Park, and worked as an investment banker. He earned his undergraduate degree at Wharton.

“I came to business school for access to resources — connections, proximity,” he says. “I did a cost-benefit analysis and decided it’s worth the investment.”

We were curious about what life is really like at Columbia, so David offered to take a camera around with him for a day. 

While many students choose to live around Morningside Heights to be close to Columbia's campus, I chose to live further downtown in Chelsea. By living a block from the 1 train, my commute is an easy 20 minutes right to the school's front gates. It's a perfect time to scan the morning news and read the daily tech email newsletters on my phone

As a native New Yorker who just spent the last two years in San Francisco, strolling through the Upper West Side of Manhattan is still one of the best parts of my day. It also distracts me from dwelling on the fact that I had to arrive early to Uris Hall (the business school's main building) to review an Operations project with my learning team

9:00am – Corporate Governance panel – I'm not a big coffee drinker, but when you're pretending to be venture capitalist Tom Perkins during a heated, dysfunctional HP board meeting, you need all the energy you can muster. This class has provided great exposure to the many colourful ways corporate boards can destroy shareholder value

10:30am – Swing by Watson Library in Uris Hall to give my Marketing write-up a final read through, and confirm my afternoon meetings. Watson is the hub of activity, where people can get their work done and catch up with fellow students. Part library, part social hall, it's where most students end up at some point during their day

Compare calendars with a friend to plan lunch for later in the week. No matter how well she colour-coded her calendar, it doesn't make finding a free half hour any easier

Lunch: On many days, I'd typically pick up a quick lunch between classes in the business school cafeteria (Uris Deli) or a local sandwich shop, but…

2:00pm – As part of an annual initiative with the Technology Business Group (TBG), January's Silicon Valley Trek includes company visits to technology companies including Google and Dropbox, as well as itineraries for Private Equity/Venture Capital, Green, and Healthcare. Today, we continue to confirm company meetings and brainstorm outreach options for those companies which have been less responsive

2:30pm – Presentation by David S. Rose, serial entrepreneur and angel investor. This is what I love about going to school in NYC: the city is the business epicentre of the world, providing CBS students the unique opportunity to meet with prominent investors and entrepreneurs. Today's topic: How to Present to VCs/Angels

4:00pm – Group work on a Capital Markets problem set. It's hard to think about portfolio optimization strategies when all I wanted to do was pepper David Rose with questions about starting a business

4:30pm – I have about an hour in the late afternoon, so I settle into the quiet floor of Watson Library. Not enough time to go back down to Chelsea, so I might as well get some work done. It's a great opportunity to plow through emails and start working on an upcoming Corporate Finance case

6:00pm – Innovate or Die. Tonight we discuss the story of Grameen Bank, and what it took for Muhammad Yunus to launch such an ambitious venture. This is my favourite class so far. How can you not like spending 3 hours discussing the storied histories of wildly successful businesses like Apple, FedEx, & Starbucks?

9:00pm – Walk through campus en route to the subway home, passing by the esteemed Low Library. There's a quintessential university feel here, and I begin to forget that I'm in the Upper West Side of Manhattan

9:30pm – After grabbing take-out from Spice (my neighbourhood Thai spot), I compose several follow-up emails to the tech start-ups I met at last Friday's Silicon Alley Talent Fair. My course load is lighter tomorrow, so I'll have a chance to make progress on a report I'm working on for a local early stage venture capital fund. Until then, time to finish up these emails and get to sleep before my next morning lecture

Want to know what life is like at MIT's Business School?

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