The McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas in Austin recently released its deadlines for the Class of 2024, with a round one deadline of Oct. 12, 2021.
It also affirmed its MBA essay questions will remain unchanged this year, which include two required essays an optional statement. So let’s talk strategy, decoding the particulars of each essay to understand what McCombs is looking for and how you can best maximize your chances of admissions success.
Essay 1. We will learn a lot about your professional background through your resume and letter of recommendation, but we want to get to know you further. Please introduce yourself. Select only one communication method for your response.
a. Write an essay (250 words)
b. Share a video introduction (one minute in length)
Given the quantity of essays you will be writing for multiple MBA applications, there’s often a temptation to “recycle” some pieces (e.g. talking about goals) and submit an essay, but I would highly advise against this! Although creating a one-minute video requires more time and is more challenging than submitting an essay, it is a terrific way for the Admissions Committee to see who you are and whether you can present yourself in a poised and polished manner. Additionally, keep in mind that the preface to essays include: “We also use them to assess your communication and/or presentation skills.” So, although the video is presented as optional, it certainly sounds like the expectation is to submit one!
Keep in mind, too, that during the review process, a member of the Admissions Committee will review hundreds, if not thousands, of essays. Having been on that side of the table, I know I would have loved the opportunity to review a video component that brought brough the applicant to life, allowing me to have a better sense of who they are beyond transcripts, standardized scores, written essays, and letters of recommendation. I would also wonder – if an applicant didn’t share a video introduction – why did they make that choice?
The clients I’ve worked with on McCombs applications, and who have been successfully admitted, have all used the video introduction to present themselves as friendly and communicative prospective students who are eager to attend UT Austin. There’s an energy you can transmit in a video that a two-dimensional medium won’t have. Recall that the prompt says this: “We will learn a lot about your professional background through your resume and letter of recommendation, but we want to get to know you further.” Therefore, a successful video introduction will not be a rehash of your resume or an elevator pitch, but rather should be something unique about you that differentiates you from others in the pool and/or shares insight into who you are beyond your work experience.
Some of my favorite video introductions have been filmed on a hiking trail where a clients discussed her love of the outdoors, how that sparked her passion for protecting the environment and how this passion is linked to what she wanted to pursue at McCombs. In another video introduction, a client shared a picture of his grandfather, discussed the values his grandfather – who was a farmer – instilled in him, and how these values are similar to those embodied by the students at UT Austin. In both examples, what was conveyed was a depth of sincerity and authenticity that is sometimes difficult to capture in written word, plus there was a “show and tell” component, as these clients were strategic in how they positioned themselves/use of a prop AND then made a link back to McCombs.
For a great example and additional tips for your one-minute video introduction, check out Brittany Maschal’s article on the MIT Sloan Video Statement.
Essay 2. Picture yourself at the completion of your MBA journey. Describe how you spent your time as a Texas McCombs MBA student to achieve your personal and professional goals. (500 words)
What I like about this essay prompt is the self-reflection lead up in the wording, “Picture yourself at the completion of your MBA journey.” The Admissions Committee is asking for some introspection on your part: What prompted you to apply to b-school, what were your goals, and how did McCombs set you up for success to achieve those goals?
There is somewhat of a formulaic approach to tackling this essay and to show self-reflection. With my clients, I encourage them to share what their career trajectory had been prior to b-school and where they had found success and satisfaction. However, as they considered their future, they knew having X and Y skills would take them to the next level and/or allow them to pivot into a new industry or job function (this is where you should discuss short-term and long-term goals). Typically, I recommend the X should equal one hard skill and the Y should equal one soft skill AND how they recognized McCombs would help hone those skills; X could point to a class/academic opportunity, Y could be mapped to a club/conference. Finally, it’s useful to mention advantages of being on the UT campus and/or within the city of Austin.
In my coaching, I remind my clients of “The Three Cs:”
- Curriculum – Given that you will be going back to school, it is critical to mention what you wish to gain from the educational experience. Oftentimes, I would read essays that jumped right into citing the strength of clubs or becoming part of an illustrious network, which made me wonder if the applicant wanted to attend school or join a country club!
- Co-Curriculars – After sharing what attracts you to the academics at McCombs, then it’s fine to share what clubs/ activities/ conferences are of interest and aligned with short-term and long-term goals.
- Community – vibe of the place (the culture of the student body), where is it located (e.g. tech talent in Austin).
For the ending, I suggest sharing what they will be doing immediately upon graduation and how their dream job leverages what they gained at McCombs AND how they will give back as an alumnus (remember, this essay taps into imaginative writing, so feel free to aim high!). Given the “Hook ’em” pride at UT Austin, it’s important to demonstrate not only what you will take from the MBA program, but also what you will give back.
3. Optional Statement: Please provide any additional information you believe is important or address any areas of concern that you believe will be beneficial to MBA Admissions in considering your application. (250 words)
Definitely utilize the optional statement if you need to address any pieces in your application that need further explanation, such as addressing a gap in your MBA resume. What’s most important in providing an optional statement is showing sound judgment and ability to succeed in b-school. For example, if you wish to address a lower GPA while in university, while your grades might have been impacted due to holding down a part-time job, or being overly involved in student life, what you need to share is how you are now better at managing your time and priorities.
Fortuna’s Sharon Joyce is an MBA Admissions Coach and former Berkeley Haas Associate Director of Admissions. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.