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We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Texas--Austin McCombs School of Business regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants, and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:
1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?
Instead of trying to stand out or guess what the admissions committee is looking for, I encourage applicants to use the admissions process as an opportunity to be introspective and truly think about where they want to be from a personal and professional perspective in the short/long term. At McCombs, we are looking for individuals who are very self aware and able to illustrate what they can gain from the M.B.A. experience, and also what they can contribute to the Texas M.B.A. community.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
The essay section is where we hope to see a little bit of the personality of the applicant come through to the admissions committee. That--along with the interview--is one of the biggest areas where we start to assess fit with the Texas M.B.A. program. The essay is really your written statement of what you are all about. We like people to highlight why they want an M.B.A., why they want to come to McCombs specifically, and what they bring to the table that will leave the program better than when they started it. We look for a tight message around where the applicant has been in the past, where the M.B.A. fits within their career plans, and where they want to go after obtaining the degree.
3. How important is the applicant's GMAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
The evaluation of the application package is a holistic process at McCombs, where we give similar consideration to all key application components. Texas accepts both the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).
Texas has no minimum score, but the test scores are an extremely important component of each application. Applicants should address this application component aggressively and are encouraged to take the GMAT or GRE early in their M.B.A. application process, so that if they do not perform as well as they would like, they have the ability to retake the exam prior to our final application deadline.
4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?
We strongly suggest that all of our applicants have at least 24 months of full-time post-bachelor's work experience by program start date. Most individuals with less than 24 months of work experience are not competitive with the applicant pool. The typical amount of professional experience is 4 to 5 years, but this range can go from 2 to 12 years. We feel that students with this level of experience have been exposed to various challenges, leadership opportunities, learning environments, etc., that will enable them to fully benefit from the Texas M.B.A. program.
5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
There are many reasons the Texas M.B.A. is a highly sought-after degree, from our reputation for academic excellence to the great community and culture within and surrounding our program. Texas M.B.A.'s consistently mention the various hands-on opportunities, such as the "Texas MBA+ Leadership Program," and the uniqueness of the city of Austin as key contributors to their overall experience in the program and as reasons why they chose our program over other top programs.
6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting? Do you put much weight on letters from prominent public figures who may not know the applicant well?
Recommendation letters should complement the overall application package and we typically ask the recommender to rate the applicant on his or her leadership, teamwork, and analytical skills. While most candidates have current work supervisors write their letters of recommendation, not all do. It is most important that the recommenders know the applicant personally and be familiar with his or her work history, credentials, and career aspirations (keeping in mind that the letters should be professional in nature). It is really up to the applicant's best judgment in deciding which recommenders can provide the admissions committee with information that will enhance his/her candidacy for the Texas M.B.A.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
We process applications in rounds with submission deadlines and decision release dates posted on our website by August of every year for the following admissions cycle. All applications are verified for completeness before they enter the admissions evaluation process.
A typical admit would go through the following cycle: the application will be read by up to three different readers; the applicant will be interviewed (not all applications are invited for an interview, but all admits are interviewed by a Texas M.B.A. representative); and the application package will be discussed by the admissions committee before the admissions director signs off on the final decision.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Each year, recruiters from hundreds of the world's leading companies, representing a variety of industries and functions, come to McCombs in search of the new kind of leader being developed by the Texas M.B.A. program. Our program draws more than 300 companies and more than 3,000 on-campus interviews each year. Last year the biggest M.B.A. recruiters were from these firms:
-- Advanced Micro Devices
-- American Express Co.
-- Bank of America/Merrill Lynch
-- Booz & Co.
-- Credit Suisse
-- Ernst & Young LLP
-- Exxon Mobil Corp.
-- General Electric
-- General Mills
-- Goldman Sachs & Co.
-- Intel Corporation
-- J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
One of the biggest mistake applicants make is trying to guess what the admissions committee wants to hear. All the admissions committee is interested in is getting to know that applicant--what their goals are and if they're the right fit. It is best if the applicant has a well structured and tight application that really highlights their professional development to date, where they want to go, and why the M.B.A. is the step that they need to get there right now.
I always tell applicants to have a really cohesive story. I think a good tip is also to share [that story] with your recommenders so that they know what angle they need to take when they are writing the letter of recommendation. This holds true for the interviews as well. Make sure that you're highlighting the same things from a professional achievement perspective, but use different examples that illustrate what you bring to the table.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
In two words: collaborative and competitive. Texas M.B.A.'s are a diverse and collaborative group of innovators determined to make a positive impact in the business world and beyond. Our students live the Texas motto: What starts here changes the world. They impact every single part of our school from admissions to career management and they each strive to leave their own particular legacy at McCombs.
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