Texas McCombs has made several notable and candidate-friendly changes to its MBA application. Key changes to the McCombs MBA application include:
- Singular essay question
- New video assessment
- Standardized test waiver (GMAT, GRE, or EA)
- McCombs Admission Connection – optional but highly encouraged
Among the most notable is the debut of a video assessment, which McCombs lauds as a way for candidates “to share their story in their own voice” while simultaneously reducing bias in the application process through a more “structured and consistent assessment experience.” In a recent info session, McCombs admissions reps offered some notable insights (what they’re seeking) as well as omissions (no sample questions just yet). As a Fortuna Admissions coach who is experienced in helping candidates position a successful application to McCombs, I’m offering my insights on how to prepare for this new application component.
First, a little context: Considered a “public Ivy,” Texas McCombs is a world-class public university with a 431-acre campus nestled in Austin, the 11th largest city in the United States. By contrast, 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). You’ll do well to keep this in mind in preparing your application.
McCombs is sincere when it says it’s looking to get to know who you are; more than once during a recent virtual admissions event did a McCombs rep say that the video assessment is where you can add “color and depth to your application.” As such, consider the new video assessment 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 (especially at seven questions), it is a great evolution for candidates. There’s an energy you can transmit in a video that a two-dimensional medium won’t have. Done well, you stand to express yourself with a depth of sincerity and authenticity that is sometimes difficult to capture in written word.
Check out this 7-minute strategy session on MBA video questions with Fortuna’s Melissa Jones, former INSEAD Assistant Director, and Poets&Quants Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne.
ABOUT THE NEW MCCOMBS VIDEO ASSESSMENT
Here’s what we know so far about the new McCombs video assessment: All candidates will respond to a total of seven questions – five randomly generated and two that will be the same for all applicants. While the two standard questions haven’t been released, a safe bet is that they will include some version of ‘why MBA’ and ‘why McCombs.’ It’s also valuable to know that in distilling its written essay to a single question, McCombs has done away with its ‘introduce yourself’ question, which was previously an optional written essay or 60-second video essay. (View my related blog on how to tackle the McCombs MBA Essay.)
Like the video platforms for other MBA programs like Yale or Kellogg, the video assessment will be available to candidates who have submitted an application (and fee) for seven days from receiving the invitation. You can practice as many times as they wish before completing the final video assessment. You’ll have up to 30 seconds to think, then up to three minutes to respond to each question.
Be prepared to answer behavioral-based questions steeped in competencies that McCombs views as central to success in business school and beyond. These eight competencies include:
- Career Goals
- Verbal Communications
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 three minutes to respond, 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.” While it doesn’t offer example questions, the McCombs blog says that more tips will be provided in the coming weeks. The full application will be open in August.
Beyond these stated competencies, do your research to understand the school’s values and what 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, imagine how to convey what’s not obvious in your resume, credentials, or LinkedIn profile. What will help make your application sticky and 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.
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.
Sharon Joyce is an Expert Coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions 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.