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We wanted to take some time today to comment on the UT Austin – McCombs essay topics for the 2012-2013 admissions season, which differ somewhat from last year’s two required questions. The most conspicuous change this year is the replacement of the 500-word personal strengths and contribution essay with a three-part, 600-word “positive impact” essay. Without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s essay questions in detail:
1. Describe how your professional and personal experiences have led you to pursue an MBA at this time. Please share with us your short and long term goals and why the Texas MBA at McCombs is the program best positioned to help you achieve them. (Limit: 800 words)
With the exception of a 100-word decrease in the word limit, this essay question remains unchanged from last year. While most admissions committees are interested in the professional reasons behind applicants’ decisions to apply to business school and the motivations regarding timing, the fact that McCombs specifically asks about personal experiences shows that candidates will need to expand their essay to include non-professional experiences that have influenced their future goals.
One approach to this topic would be for candidates to summarize what they’ve done thus far in their career and personal life that have led them to define their career goals. Then they can explain their future plans and demonstrate why an MBA – and in particular an MBA from McCombs – is necessary to move forward. While that approach does place this question into the general career goals essay category, it’s important to keep in mind that the McCombs adcom is clearly interested in the candidate’s assessment of their personal and professional experiences and the reasons that a turning point has been reached.
Discussing how the Texas MBA fits into the picture will be key, and you can touch on how the McCombs program will provide you with the skill set necessary to begin reaching your objectives. Taking the time to learn about the school’s special programs and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to McCombs School of Business – will pay dividends here.
2. At the University of Texas at Austin, our motto is “What starts here changes the world.” Here at McCombs, we are looking for students who share this vision. We believe that the MBA experience is a transformative one and that our students are able to have a positive impact, not only on their own lives, but also in their workplaces, their local communities, their professional industries and/or the world generally.
New this year, this three-part prompt once again signals the value that McCombs places on student contribution and involvement. Applicants are asked specifically to comment on, in approximately 200 words, the most significant impact they have had to date, how they plan to positively impact the McCombs community and what positive impact they want to have post-MBA, respectively. Finally, given the breadth of areas from which to draw topics and the adcom’s instructions to think beyond one’s own life, it would be advisable to use select topics that paint a balanced picture of your candidacy. Let’s take a closer look at each part individually.
a) In your life to date, please tell us about an instance when you felt that you had the most positive impact and why you believe it to be significant? Limit: 200 words
This is a prime opportunity to write about a professional or extracurricular achievement that positively affected your client, company or greater community. As there is not much room in the first essay to write about past leadership experiences, particularly ones that do not directly pertain to one’s career goals, these 200 words would be well spent demonstrating how your actions resulted in a positive outcome. The restrictive word limit will require applicants to be brief in their description of their actions that resulted in the positive impact so that there is ample room to reflect upon the significance of this event.
b) How do you intend to positively impact the MBA community while you are an MBA student at McCombs? Limit: 200 words
Here, applicants are given another chance to showcase their knowledge of the McCombs MBA program. The key is to comment on aspects of the program that one has not covered in his or her “why McCombs” discussion in essay 1. Because there is not much room to work with, staying focused on your contribution to a single club or organization may be more effective then glossing over potential contributions to three or four different groups/courses/aspects of community life. Either way, this prompt provides the ideal venue for writing about an interest that would otherwise have been left out of your application essays or for demonstrating the personal strengths and characteristics you’d bring to the community.
c) After graduation from business school, what kind of positive impact would you like to have? Limit: 200 words
The adcom is not asking you to restate your career goals, per se. You will have had 800 words to cover your professional aspirations in essay 1. This prompt calls for applicants to dig a bit deeper and relay to the reader what kind of impact they want to have on their employer, industry, community, region or country. Another way to respond to the question would be to move beyond your professional impact and write about something you plan to achieve outside of work. For applicants who are heavily involved in their communities, this interpretation might be a good way to highlight their intended continued commitment and vision for making a positive impact. No matter which path one takes, it would be prudent to briefly note how their McCombs education will enable them to have this positive impact.
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