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Texas McCombs MBA Essays: Tips & Strategy

Austin Texas

In a new essay prompt introduced in its 2024-25 application, the University of Texas McCombs School of Business declares that it “does things a little differently.” Indeed, McCombs has shifted its application format in recent years, first introducing videos, and then replacing its required essay with a cover letter. This year, the essays are back. 

We expect this is partly due to increased application interest McCombs saw in R2 and R3 in 2024, receiving more interest for their 260-seat class than in previous years due to the pull of Austin and economic trends that are sending more professionals to business school than ever before.

Through the three McCombs essays with brief 250-word limits, the school seeks to learn about your ambitions and goals, why McCombs should be your launch pad, qualities you possess that will help you shake up the status quo, and your motivation to drive change. 

If you’re sensing a theme of bold transformation matched with strong interpersonal skills in these McCombs essay examples, you’re on the money. The school’s motto is “make it together with others here,” and they are looking for students who have the vision and drive to lead change, individually and collectively.

As a former MBA career coach at UT-Austin who reviewed applicants with the Admissions Committee,  I have insights on how to master the McCombs MBA essays and showcase  your fit.

Showcasing Your ‘Fit’

McCombs considers itself a place where “heart and hard work meet.” It prides itself on placing “perseverance, drive, and a welcoming sense of encouragement at the center of everything” happening at Rowling Hall, its new cutting-edge building. Standing on the corner of Guadalupe and MLK Street, it feels like its own “business acre” within UT’s larger 40 acres. 

With fewer than 260 students, its full-time class is one of the smaller top 20 MBA programs, so a fit with its unique culture is critical. Thus, it’s essential to use the limited space of the three essays to showcase yourself as a hard-working, self-starting world-changer who can clearly articulate why an MBA, why McCombs, and why Austin?  

McCombs is sincere when it says it’s looking to get to know who you are in the application process. After submitting the application, you’ll be required to respond to four video questions that let the admissions committee get to see, hear, and know you more directly, and we have advice on what to expect and how to prepare for that here

As a Fortuna Admissions coach who is experienced in helping candidates position a successful application to McCombs, I have summed up my insights on how to respond to the McCombs MBA essays here.

Tips for the McCombs Essays

Essay 1 

At Texas McCombs, we do things a little differently. We embrace those who take the initiative and forge new paths. What ambitious goal or change do you aim to achieve with an MBA, and why is Texas McCombs your ideal launch pad?  (250 words)

This is McCombs’ version of the classic question about your career goals and why you want to attend this school. Start by stating your career goals in a straightforward way in 100 words or less, dedicating more of your allowed word count to the “why McCombs” portion. 

Like several other schools this year (Kellogg, Ross, Anderson), McCombs has introduced this “why this school” element to be able to better triage between speculative and ill-informed applicants and those who have truly done their research and are genuinely motivated to join the school. So you need to show them some burnt-orange love. If you weren’t already aware, Longhorns are keen to don their school colors on and off campus, even if a football game isn’t happening on Saturday.

In your research, don’t just skim through the website and then point to a few obvious facts about the program in your response to this essay. Rather, seek to engage with the community; reach out to students (they are friendly and usually say “yes” to info chats), alumni, and staff, attend online or in person events, and watch student videos, etc. This engagement will enable you to share some genuine insights about your fit with the program that go beyond platitudes. 

McCombs is very intentional about providing multiple touchpoints throughout the year when you can visit Rowling Hall in person and interact with students, staff, and faculty. You’ll want to prioritize an in-person visit if possible during one of their Explore McCombs one-day and two-day experiences prior to submitting your application. If you’re a veteran or part of another underrepresented group, the program often hosts events specifically for you, so keep an eye on their event calendar.

 

Essay 2 

At this pivotal crossroads where you’re deciding your future path, the Texas McCombs MBA experience will equip you with the tools and mindset to make “what’s next” happen in your career. Please share unique qualities you possess that highlight your potential to shake up the status quo in your professional life. (250 words)

Describe your strengths that position you well to achieve your career goals. Avoid abstraction; back up claims with evidence. Cite specific examples where you have demonstrated those strengths — the more memorable, the better. Notice the wording around “making what’s next happen” and “shake up the status quo.” McCombs is looking for change-makers. Drawing on an experience where you have succeeded in driving change or doing something in an innovative fashion is ideal. 

In all of these essays, McCombs is focused on the future; indeed, one of the guiding  principles of the school is to be “future-focused,” as well as  “human-centered.” Be sure to tie past evidence of your change-making qualities to “what’s next” — in your career, your industry and the roles or issues you plan to take on.


Essay 3
 

The University of Texas at Austin’s motto, “What starts here changes the world,” embodies a spirit of impact and transformation. What fuels your drive to lead change and make your mark in the world? (250 words)

What are your passions and your values? What makes you tick? What desire is at the root of your career aspirations? Again, notice the language around change, impact and transformation. This essay should link to and amplify essays 1 and 2, by explaining the motives underlying your career ambitions and the values that underpin your strengths. 

Here, don’t be afraid to get personal and share a story of an experience that motivated you to push for and implement real change. You face an interesting decision of whether to then explain in detail a change you made as a result of that transformative experience, but the prompt is not necessarily expecting you to talk about concrete actions. Instead, the McCombs admissions team is focused on understanding your motivation and influences. It is therefore fine to share a time or times in your past that pushed you toward being a change-maker in your community, at work or in your personal life. McCombs will value dimensionality here, so you are welcome to talk about non-work contexts if you’d like — especially if experiences outside work have inspired you more than life at the office.

 

Optional Statement

Please explain any gaps in work experience, choice of recommender, and/or academic performance issues that may help the admission committee in reviewing your application. (Limit: 250 words)

You should definitely use this opportunity if you need to address any pieces in your application that need further explanation, such as the suggested areas. What’s most important in providing an optional statement is demonstrating sound judgment and an ability to succeed in b-school. For example, if you wish to address a lower GPA while in university due to holding down a part-time job, or being overly-involved in student life, you need to show how you are now better at managing your time and priorities. Perhaps you completed a virtual MBA math course while working full-time to demonstrate your new ability to balance competing priorities successfully, or took on an additional project at work, going “above and beyond” executionally.


Optional Peer Interview

The video assessment component introduced in 2022-23 takes the place of a traditional in-person or virtual interview in the McCombs application process. However, McCombs invites all MBA applicants to complete their application process in a human-centered way with a short, optional peer interview with a current  second-year MBA student.

We encourage you to sign up for this interview. It is brief — usually 30 minutes or less — with the interviewer asking just two or three questions. This touchpoint also provides an important opportunity to ask questions from the real experts: the students going through the MBA experience. These interviews let you connect with potential classmates, and add another positive, personal impression of the “real you” that can cap off a winning application.

 

Also, McCombs tracks which candidates take advantage of this opportunity as a sign of demonstrated interest, so it’s another opportunity to impress the admissions team with your commitment. 

Want More Advice? 

For a deeper dive into all things McCombs and how to shine in your MBA video assessment, here are some useful resources: 


Let’s Get You In.

Fortuna Admissions is a dream team of former MBA admissions directors and officers from top business schools, including Texas McCombs. With our unparalleled collective expertise, we can coach you to develop a clear vision of your goals for business school and beyond. We work closely with you throughout the application process and provide expert guidance at every stage to maximize your chances of admission to a top school.

Our free consultations are consistently rated as the best in the industry. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at top MBA programs, sign up for your free consultation session now.


Scott Brownlee is a Senior Expert Coach with Fortuna Admissions. He formerly was a Senior Admissions Counselor at Wharton, an MBA career coach at UT-Austin, and a Forté Foundation team member.

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