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Texas McCombs New Video Assessment: What to expect & how to prepare

Rowling Hall Entrance at Texas McCombs

The Rowling Hall Entrance of Texas McCombs School of Business

Texas McCombs has added a fourth application round to its Full-Time MBA admissions cycle and has announced several significant changes to application components.

The changes are intended to “reduce bias, foster inclusivity, and improve accessibility in the admissions process,” according to program officials at University of Texas Austin. 

Key changes to the McCombs MBA application include:

  • A fourth deadline of May 9, 2024
  • A cover letter replaces the former required essay
  • The video assessment is reduced to a total of five questions from seven
  • More standardized tests are accepted, with waivers allowed
  • An optional peer interview is introduced

Complete details on the changes are available 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 and prepare for these new application components here.

First, a little context: Considered a “public Ivy,” the University of Texas at Austin is a world-class public university nestled in a famously quirky and colorful city. Its full-time MBA class is made up of less than 250 students, making it one of the smaller top 20 MBA programs. Its unique culture – both diverse and welcoming – is central to its identity, and the Princeton review and lauded it as the #1 MBA campus environment for three consecutive years (2019-2021). 

With a mantra of “Human Centered. Future Focused,” McCombs is sincere when it says it’s looking to get to know who you are in the application process. The school introduced the video interview last year as a more accessible, personal alternative to more traditional essays and an interview.

The video is designed to reduce bias in the admissions process by providing all applicants with a structured and consistent assessment experience. It helps the admissions committee experience the “real you,” beyond a resume, test scores, and transcripts, while applicants can share their story in their own voice. 

First, Getting Your Application In

By adding a fourth application round, McCombs has taken a bit of the pressure off candidates by giving them a bit more time to perfect and submit their applications. Deadlines for August 2024 admission are: 

  • Round 1: October 10, 2023
  • Round 2: January 5, 2024
  • Round 3: March 26, 2024*
  • Round 4: May 9, 2024

*International applicants must apply by the Round 3 deadline.

McCombs is also expanding accepted standardized test options to include the GMAT Focus (once it is available, in the fall), the GMAT, GRE, and Executive Assessment. The test score requirement may be waived if an expired test score (taken five or more years ago) is submitted or the merit-based test waiver petition is filed before applying..

New this year, instead of an essay, applicants must submit a cover letter “summarizing your aspirations, qualifications, and personal and professional experiences that make you a strong candidate for the Texas Full-Time MBA program.” This is intended to learn who you are as an applicant, so it’s essential to address the classic questions: “Why an MBA?” and “Why a McCombs’ MBA?”

At 500 words, it gives you a little more space and latitude than many essays do to make your case and convey your unique strengths, experiences, hopes and dreams. The admissions committee is, of course, also evaluating your communication and writing skills, so it’s important to be clear and concise. Previously, McCombs offered an optional essay or video to introduce yourself. Advice from my related blog on how to tackle the McCombs MBA essay may be useful for introducing yourself in the cover letter.)

How to Handle the Video  

After you submit your application and pay your fee, you will receive a link to complete the video assessment online. All candidates will respond to a total of five questions, and you’ll have seven days from receiving the invitation to complete the videos. 

First comes a fun, get-to-know-you question that the admissions committee will not score. Then you will record a response to four questions, with a 90-second time limit for each question. You can practice as many times as you wish before completing the final video assessment. You’ll have up to 30 seconds to think, then up to 90 seconds to respond to each question.

McCombs advises you to prepare for these videos much like you would for an interview. Be prepared to answer behavioral-based questions steeped in competencies that McCombs views as central to success in business school and beyond. These top three are:

  • Adaptability/Resilience
  • Empathy/Inclusivity
  • Ambition

They are also looking for evidence of motivation, career goals, well-roundedness, verbal communications skills, poise and professionalism.

With behavioral style questions, you can expect prompts on very specific examples of what you did – along with why, what was going through your mind at the time, the impact on others, and the outcome. With only 90 seconds to work with, it’s essential to make your answers clear and concise. An example behavioral question is: “Tell me about a time you faced a challenge at work and how you influenced the outcome.” 

It’s also smart to anticipate questions rooted in the characteristics McCombs cares about. Some possible questions that might map to the McCombs stated values include:

  • Human-Centered: Tell us about a time when you helped to promote diversity and inclusion.
  • Future Focused: Tell us about a time you’ve used technology to be more effective.
  • Innovator Connected: Tell us about a time you gained buy-in from others on a new idea.
  • Collaboratively Minded: Tell us about a time when you dealt with someone who was difficult. How did you handle that situation?

Finally, as you prepare, think about how to convey what’s not obvious in your resume, credentials, or LinkedIn profile. What will help make your application memorable, adding to your overall narrative? Reflect on the stories you want to tell and offer dimensions that might be missing from elsewhere in your application.

Consider the new video assessment as an opportunity to showcase your personality and character, in addition to your verbal and presentation skills. As Fortuna Director Caroline Diarte Edwards says in her related article on how to prepare for the MBA video essays, “The MBA admissions committee wants a peek into who you are in an unscripted way – your motivations, your personality, your communication style. They want to know how you think on your feet (a vital skill in the MBA classroom).”

While a video component may feel like a formidable challenge, it is a great evolution for candidates. There’s an energy you can transmit in a video that will never come across in a two-dimensional medium. Done well, you stand to express yourself with a depth of sincerity and authenticity that is sometimes difficult to capture in written words.

Check out this 7-minute strategy session on video question tips with Fortuna’s Melissa Jones and Poets&Quants’ John Byrne. Follow Fortuna’s YouTube channel for all video blogs & strategy sessions. 

Don’t Pass on the Peer Optional Interview

In keeping with its “Human-Centered, Future-Focused” culture, McCombs invites all MBA applicants to complete their application process in a human-centered way with a short, optional peer interview with a current Full-Time MBA student. 

Replacing last year’s similar Admissions Connection, the peer interview is structured similarly to a regular admissions interview. A student ambassador will ask up to three questions that focus on your collaborative skills and your motivation for earning an MBA. The rest of the interview is open to your questions. The student ambassador will provide feedback about your interaction to the admissions committee. 

McCombs highly encourages these interviews, and we concur. They’re optional, and with just two or three questions in 30 minutes or less, they are relatively low stakes. However, they give you a chance to learn more, connect with potential classmates, and add another personal impression of the real you that can cap off a winning application.

Let’s Get You In

Fortuna Admissions is a dream team of former MBA Admissions Directors and Officers from 18 of the top 20 business schools, including Texas McCombs. With our unparalleled collective expertise, we are able to 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. To learn more about Fortuna and assess your chances of admission to McCombs and other top programs, request a free consultation.

Want More Advice? 

For a deeper dive on how to shine in your MBA video assessment, including tips for preparing and sample questions, view MBA Video Essay Tips, by Fortuna’s Caroline Diarte Edwards.

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.

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