mbaMission: University of Texas, Austin (McCombs) Essay Analysis, 2013–2014
by Manhattan Prep
We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Texas, Austin (McCombs).
By asking candidates to submit three essays of 250 words each, the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin, has drastically streamlined its essay questions this year compared with last year—and in concert with what many other MBA programs are doing this season. Then, the length requirement for Essay 1 alone was 800 words, and applicants had roughly 600 words for the school’s three-part Essay 2. Overall, McCombs’s questions appear to have taken a more personal tone, asking candidates to introduce themselves to the student community, explain what they can contribute to the program other than professional qualities and describe how they expect to develop during their two years in the MBA program. Gone are any explicit references to short- or long-term goals and one’s career history, so the applicant’s more internal aspects and soft skills are highlighted instead.
1. Imagine that you are at the Texas MBA Orientation for the Class of 2016. Please introduce yourself to your new classmates, and include any personal and/or professional aspects that you believe to be significant. Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.
Write an essay (250 words)
Share a video introduction (one minute)
Share your about.me profile
The first step in responding to this question is choosing the format that is most compatible with your personality. If you are the quiet, thoughtful type, the essay or about.me option may be best; if you are more often the life of the party or are better at speaking than writing, the video option will likely be the advisable choice. If you are someone with more of an artistic bent and are great at visuals and graphics, the about.me option could be the optimal way to go.
As for determining what information to share, turn the mirror away from yourself to start and think about what you would like to know about your classmates and what you would find interesting. For example, do you consider a candidate’s age an important or interesting fact? Probably not, so you should probably skip including this in yourintroduction as well. More likely, you are curious about what they do in their spare time, what kind of skills or experience they bring to the table, whether they are approachable/funny/serious/etc., whether they have extensive experience in a certain area or have a more wide-ranging background and so on.
After determining what sort of information you believe would be compelling, turn the focus back to yourself. Think about the aspects of your personality and profile that you believe truly define you as an individual—not just what you do and have done, but who you are—and fully explore your background, hobbies, talents, experiences, quirks. Brainstorm a list of as many things as you can, and then go through the list to eliminate items that seem too common (e.g., a BA in finance) or basic (e.g., your age or hometown) until you have a handful of truly distinctive qualities you can weave into an engaging narrative.
Next, remember that you must bring energy and enthusiasm to your presentation. You are not filling out a job application—you are trying to connect with others, so charisma is key. For inspiration, consider listening to a few podcasts from The Moth, a not-for-profit program in which people tell personal stories live in front of an audience. You need only listen to the first few minutes of a number of stories to get a feel for how the storytellers manage to grab their audience’s attention right away. Then work to find an interesting way of beginning your introduction so that your reader/viewer is intrigued from the very first line.
As an example, let us consider a candidate who has worked as an investment banker for the past few years and as a hobby does stand-up at open mics on the weekends. He could open his essay with a statement such as “I have been an investment banker on Wall Street for the past two years, commuting to work very early in the mornings. I like to do stand up on the weekends, so I take that morning time to practice my bits.”
Pretty boring, huh? Now consider a more intriguing opening for the same story: “I can tell you from experience, the rats in New York’s subway system make a lousy test audience, especially at 5:00 a.m.” For more information on how to engage your reader/viewer from word one, see our blog post on “maintaining the mystery.” And before you submit your response to this essay prompt, have a trusted friend or colleague look it over to let you know if you have effectively crafted a compelling piece. As they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression, so dedicate the work necessary to ensure that your introduction is both engaging and true to who you are.
2. In the Texas MBA program we value our tight-knit and highly collaborative culture. Outside of your professional goals, please discuss why you are a good fit with the Texas MBA program and how you intend to impact the Texas MBA community? (250 words)
In some ways, this content for this essay could overlap the content for Essay 1, so take care to not cannibalize your message there and repeat any information. We suggest making a plan for both Essay 1 and Essay 2 before you move ahead with either one to make sure you have distinct stories for each.
Be sure to follow the school’s instructions and focus on non-work topics in this essay. If you have targeted McCombs because you feel it is the right program for you, you likely already have an idea of how it matches your personality and why you would fit in with its program. In addition to certain skills and experience, consider character traits, such as a sense of humor, honesty, dependability, optimism and the like. Although the 250-word limit is rather restrictive, and your primary focus should of course be on describing the relevant aspects of your profile, reinforce the connection with McCombs whenever possible by mentioning elements of the MBA program that align with your highlighted qualities, demonstrating that you can make unique contributions in specific classes, clubs, events, etc.
Note that the school specifies “why you are a good fit with the Texas MBA program,” rather than the other way around, so your approach should put the focus on you first and the school second. By this we mean that rather than saying “The Drama Club is appealing to me because I have been working both on and behind the stage since I was 7 years old,” you should frame the sentiment more like “With almost 18 years of experience both on and behind the stage for school and community drama productions, I could bring a real depth of experience to McCombs’s Drama Club that would enhance the group’s offerings.”
3. What do you hope to gain from your Texas MBA experience? How do you expect to develop, both personally and professionally, during the Texas MBA program? (250 words)
This essay prompt is essentially a “why MBA” question with an element of “why our school” mixed in. McCombs keeps the focus on what you anticipate your takeaways from the experience will be without explicitly asking which resources at the school will facilitate those takeaways. First, identify the skills, guidance, experience and/or other factors you need to achieve your short- and long-term goals and then briefly explain how gaining these will prepare you to succeed. Do not devote too much of the minimal allotted word count to detailing your professional career and accomplishments to date, but do include some general information about your past work experience to provide a framework for why you need an MBA education to attain your goals—you want the admissions committee to walk away with a solid understanding of where you are coming from in the context of where you are hoping to go. As with Essay 2, think beyond the classroom and career framework to determine what you believe a McCombs MBA experience would also provide on a personal level.
Because you have limited word count for this essay and the school does not ask specifically which of its offerings you will use to gain the skills and experiences you seek, you should not dedicate too much space to discussing the school’s resources. However, you will need to make sure your essay is not so devoid of McCombs-specific content that it could easily apply to any other MBA program. Work to make sure your essay clearly applies to McCombs but is still largely about what you hope to gain during your two years in the program, rather than a laundry list of classes, clubs, events, etc.
4. Optional Essay: Please provide any additional information to the Admissions Committee that you believe is important and/or will address any areas of concern that will be beneficial to the Admissions Committee in considering your application. (200 words)
For example, if your standardized test scores are not exactly what you would like them to be or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (i.e. calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting, or finance), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum.
Discuss any unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance, or any significant weaknesses in your application or extenuating personal circumstances that you think may impact your candidacy.
As we always caution in the case of optional essays, avoid the temptation to reuse an essay you wrote for another school here, just because you think you wrote a strong or interesting piece. That may indeed be the case, but that does not mean that you will be helping your candidacy by tacking it on to this application. As the school itself states in this prompt, the optional essay is an opportunity—if you need it—to address any lingering questions or concerns one might have about your profile or candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc. In our mbaMission Optional Statement Guide, available through our online store, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay (including multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.
Admissionado back once again with fresh, farm to table essay analyses for McCombs's 2017 application! We wanted to jump in and give you a head-start on those essay questions so you can spend less time staring at a blinking cursor and more time deciding between all those MBA offer letters! Soooooo, without further ado:
Texas McCombs School of Business MBA Essay 1
Introduce yourself. Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.
Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.
Write an essay (250 words)
Share a video introduction (one minute)
Introductions can take place in a variety of ways. Standing in a circle of a few at a cocktail party. In a one-on-one interview. First day on the job.
The version we’re after here is much different. McCombs just handed you a mic, dimmed the house lights, and threw a spotlight onto you. This is your time not just to introduce yourself, but to perform. A performance is artful. And requires a special type of messaging. Your challenge isn’t to hold the attention of the guy sitting across the desk who is usually forced to tune in. Your challenge is to capture and sustain the attention of a room full of people, whose magnitude (by itself) tends to make it an uphill battle from minute one.
Dullness is deadly.
Don’t be dull. Don’t be quiet. Don’t be average. Don’t be monotone. Don’t be… safe.
Now’s your chance to tap your inner Louis CK. Your inner MLK. Your inner Seth Macfarlane. Charm. Wit. Risk. Energy. A deviating from that safe, straight, center pathway.
Whether it’s an essay or a video, the very first thing you need to do is grab your audience’s attention. There’s no real room for a slow burn here. If this were a two hour movie, and you had a proven track record, maybe an audience would spot you an unceremonious beginning, trusting in a future payoff. You have no such luxury here, my friend. Your cohort doesn’t know you. You need to be spectacular and attention-worthy from second 1.
What makes for a good opener? Well, practically speaking, “it” can be absolutely anything, which is to say it can take the FORM of just about anything. But what most great opening moments have in common is this: they knock the reader/audience off balance. For most of you, that may sound great, but it still may not mean much. “How the hell am I supposed to throw the reader off balance?” Well, one way to think about it is to leave some stuff OUT. The more buttoned up your opening is, the more likely your audience will feel secure. And secure—for now—is lethal. Bad.
“My name is Craig Blodgitsnick. I am 27 years old. And I’m a banker.” Great. Super clear. And therefore… too clear? It’s all buttoned up. The audience needs a reason to hear more. With an opening like that, however, we’re left with no such desire. Here’s an alternative.
“I make people cry for a living.”
Um, say what? What the hell does that mean. Did he just say that? I have no idea who this guy is, I have no idea how I feel about him, I have no sense of whether that’s a good or bad thing. What I do know… is that I’m dying to hear more. Success. This speaker has the audience in the palms of his hands.
“Pond. Cigarette. Abandoned BMW. These three things almost got me arrested, led me to my future wife, and ultimately set me on a path of world domination.”
Huh? I mean, I couldn’t be more in. Who the hell says that? How on Earth are those three things connected? After everyone gives their boring standard speech, I can bet you money I’m gonna remember the person who said THAT.
Throw your reader off balance. Give them a reason to want to read more. Now, not to scare you, but this isn’t easy. It is a touch risky, and it requires some finesse. But it is absolutely worth working toward. But just for a moment, let’s talk about the downside…
If you can’t quite pull it off, and it seems forced and inauthentic, then you run the risk of seeming like you’re trying too hard. And that’s a liability. So, get a gut check from a second set of eyes (doesn’t have to be a pro, could be anyone—see if they buy it). If it’s just not passing muster, there is recourse. Which is to tell a very honest, earnest story. Your story, a personal story. But, it’s gotta be a cool story. If it’s a straightforward, you are toast. There’s gotta be some GRIT in there, some adversity, some uniqueness. That can be equally compelling.
“Hi, my name is Glenda Crevitz and I became an adult when I was five years old when I was separated from my parents and grandparents. My first job was…”
Yah, I’d listen to that person. (But did you notice how even here, the author has thrown the audience off balance? This is not happenstance.)
Whichever medium suits you best, take advantage of it. Don’t choose the video if all you do is read an essay. If you use video, it has to be because there’s something about your look and body language and visible energy that communicates something a written essay can’t quite capture. If you choose an essay over video, it’s gotta be because there are certain things you’re able to do with the written word that would be MORE effective than a video version.
Keep your audience on the edge of their seat, though, by throwing them off balance.
Texas McCombs School of Business MBA Essay 2
Picture yourself at graduation. Describe how you spent your two years as a Texas MBA student, and how that experience helped to prepare you for the post-MBA world. (500 words)
Start thinking about this essay with a very specific (and crucial) premise: “I am not able to achieve or even pursue my short-term goals effectively today because…” Because what? Generate a list. Are they skills? Is it a lack of certain experience? Is it a lack of plain, hard knowledge? Is it a lack of network? Got that list ready? Proceed…
Let’s play pretend one more time. Let’s say you’re like most MBA applicants and are applying to 7-10 programs. Pretend that three of those are ranked in the Top 10, and that 3-5 of those are ranked below #20. UT Austin is right smack dab in the center of it all. Admit-time rolls around and you receive invites from 100% of the schools on your list. Now YOU are in the driver’s seat. What is it about two years at McCombs that might address the items on your list in a particularly appealing way? This is the part where you need to dig deep. (Mind you, we haven’t done a THING toward writing a response to this essay yet; this is all crucial prep work.) What extracurricular offerings does McCombs have? What is it about the campus culture? What is it about certain professors? What about folks who recruit there? What is it about Austin? What is it about…. anything and everything you have researched and know about this program that has convinced you that MCCOMBS IS THE ONE to advance your objectives powerfully? This is the part where you make a second list. And even better, a second list that’s connected to all the specific items on that first list. Once you have these elements secure in your mind, now you’re ready to generate a draft because the essay has already – by now – written itself.
This essay should read a lot like a military battle plan. (You’ll hear us say that a lot, and there’s good reason for it.) This should NOT come across wide-eyed and dreamy and speculative and wishy-washy and general. It should instead feel like the result of someone with laser focus, with ultra-clear objectives, a well-thought-out plan of attack. Bonus points if there’s dried-up drool on this sheet of paper. McCombs wants feral beasts who are salivating at the opportunity to ATTACK the program, and EXTRACT. And that only happens when people have real INTENT. “Motive.” A battle plan. This is your chance to lay out that plan.
How To Organize This Essay
Part 1 – Establish the Goals
First up, we need to understand your goals, your existing skill set, and therefore, those GAPS. Best thing to do is start off with a VERY brief overview of where this WHOLE thing is headed, your overall vision. Within a sentence or two or three, we should have a decent sense for where you hope to be in twenty years. Now, walk us through what you need to do in the VERY near-term (first five years after your MBA, say), in order to get you on that overall/LT path. Remember, think militaristic. Step A leads logically to Step B which then leads to Step C, which then enables us to consider and pursue Step D. That kind of thing. Explain the stuff you need to do, and the skills required to pull that all off. (100-125 words)
Part 2 – Explain Your GAPS
First explain BRIEFLY some of the “thus-far” achievements that have brought you to 80% of the way there. Give us a sense for the stuff you already HAVE, skills-wise. Be efficient here. Now explain the stuff you need. This is that GAP section. From that first list you generated. Don’t just explain these gaps in a vacuum, explain each one within the context of why they’re relevant specifically to your goals. This context is absolutely key, because now you’re not just generic-MBA-person, you’re salivating-feral-beast-person with lusting after PREY, locked in your sights. I needed “X in order to then pursue Y aspect of my short-term goals for Z reason.” That kind of thing. (125-150 words)
Part 3 – How You Took a Bite Out of McCombs, Specifically
This is the part where you catalogue your experience at McCombs (as though in retrospect, as though it actually happened, etc.). Take us through experiences with specific classes, professors, clubs, off-campus activities, internships, socialization opportunities, anything and everything you can think of that might advance you from your 80% starting point on Day 1 to the 100% version at graduation. Explain what you did to narrow that 20% gap, bit by bit.
The key isn’t to actually write your future accurately, no one’s gonna ever check. The key is to indicate that there’s CLARITY in the way you can establish an objective, and then design a plan of attack to achieve it. Generally that comes from a plan that is detailed, and rooted in logic. As long as it makes sense, and seems achievable, the admissions committee is going to buy it. Now, if you can do that, and also let slip your passion for the program, bonus points. (200 words)
Part 4 – Next Steps
The best way to send this sucker home is to give a brief description of what happens immediately after graduation. No need to spend too much time here because you’ve already laid SOME of this out in previous sections when establishing your short-term goals. You may just want to close with a hypothetical “I will be starting as an X at Y company this fall, where I will notch Step 1 toward my short-term goals.” You can even have fun with what you plan to do in the few weeks between graduation and when you start your job, or some other character-revealing fun reveal, like marrying one of your b-school cohorts named Z that you met along the way, yadayada. (50-75 words)
Texas McCombs School of Business MBA Optional Essay
Please provide any additional information you believe is important and/or address any areas of concern that will be beneficial to the Admissions Committee in considering your application (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance, or extenuating personal circumstances). (250 words)
Read our team’s complete take on the idea of optional essay, including a brief (recent) history of b-schools’ relationship with it, and how our recommendations have evolved over the years, right here.
And that's that. Helpful, eh? If you have any questions on it or McCombs or anything, just reply here or shoot us a PM. And if you want more Essay Analysis Goodness, check out more schools here. We're updating 'em daily as new prompts are released, so keep checking back.
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Last edited by JonAdmissionado on 17 Aug 2017, 22:09, edited 2 times in total.