The MBA Gatekeeper At UT McCombs

The McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas in Austin

The McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas in Austin

What would be different about last year’s class – rising second years – if there had been no application essay?

It would be really hard to get to know them whenever they are telling their story in the admissions process. The application essay along with the interview, we really get to know the applicant from a professional perspective of course, but also a personal one. Personal attributes that a candidate possesses are important to us. If we didn’t have an application essay there would be one less avenue for them to express their love for McCombs, which is important for us as well.

What are the three best things an applicant can do when applying?

The first thing that I always tells folks, when I’m in panels or meeting one on one, is really to be themselves. A lot of times applicants think we’re looking for a certain kind of person or a certain background. But really we’re looking for them to be themselves and be kind of genuine, of who they are and then why they want to go to business school. That allows us to make the right decision, but also because if the applicant is genuine, they’re going to be able to put their best foot forward with the admissions committee.

When you write the essays, make sure that when you write them you have someone read them without the question prompt. Make sure you’re answering the questions during the essays, during the interviews.

Especially after an applicant narrows down maybe the three or four programs they’re going to be applying to, to really do the research that’s necessary. Interact with the admissions staff, the alumni. We’re really here to help them in the admissions process. Make sure you take a look at the website . . . to get the basic questions sort of answered. Go one step forward and interact with people at the school: students that are working with admissions, admissions staff at events, or alumni that they reach out to in the process. Folks that just walk in can have a one-on-one session with a current student.

You don’t want to be kind of stalking the admissions team. Something that we’re looking for in the admissions process is the ability of the applicant to make good judgment calls. We make it really easy for people to get in touch with us. We’re putting all this out there with trust. There are some folks that go overboard and kind of ask similar questions from multiple admissions team members. You can actually hear the phone ring (from the same caller) in our offices because we sit in a row. We have a small team that communicates really well. The answers that we give are going to be complete and accurate and they’re not going to be different if you talk to me or you talk to somebody else that works on our team.

What are the three worst mistakes an applicant can make?

The stalking is a big one. Unfortunately we see some folks that are on the wait list do that a little too much. Part of the wait list process is actually waiting.

Sometimes, people, they spread themselves too thinly through the process. (They) apply to a very high number of schools, not probably putting their best product forward in any given application.

Making sure they have a realistic timelines, and be really realistic, given their professional workload and their personal life, what is really doable in applying to business schools, and not too many. Folks who list a number of schools in our applications usually don’t have strong applications. A doable number would be three to four, max. We see applicants list eight, nine, ten, even double digits. I’m so puzzled. From a time-resource perspective that’s just a little too much. (And) with application fees, you’re going to be spending a lot of money.

They try to guess what we want them to say and therefore don’t present themselves in the most genuine manner. There is no kind of right answer in our interviews; instead of trying to guess what we want to hear from them, just kind of prepare your story and have a cohesive plan of what business school will do for them, and how it fits with their future plans. Instead of spending the time kind of trying to guess what we want to hear, just kind of connect the dots between their professional and personal life. That’s more fun anyway. It’s more fun for us to hear, it’s more fun for them to do.

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