Arguably, one of the most challenging things about business school is clearing the first hurdle: completing the application. Admissions applications require quite an expenditure of effort, time, and resources. To match your laborious efforts, the Admissions Committee is equally committed to a meticulous, holistic review of each and every application. So, as we head into the 2013-14 admissions season, here are some general tips on how to master your first test as an MBA – your application.
• To Study or Not to Study: If you are a working professional, the thought of studying for a test again may seem like the last thing you want to do at the end of a long work day, but our advice is that studying is well-worth the effort. Be sure to take a formal GMAT/GRE prep course and take a few sample tests to get a feel for pace and content.
• Well, that didn’t go very well: Take your test early so that if your score isn’t what you’d hope it would be, you will have time to re-take it before your target admissions deadline. While the Admissions Committee only considers your highest scores as a key determinant of your academic propensity, it is just one aspect of a holistic review process, so don’t get too hung up on your score.
• GRE vs GMAT: As for which test to take (GRE or GMAT), admissions has no preference. However, in case you might want to pursue investment banking or consulting, some of the top companies in these industries require the GMAT for recruitment purposes, so taking the GMAT for both admissions and reusing your scores for the recruitment process may be a way to kill two birds with one stone.
No minimum number of years is required, but we strongly recommend two years of full-time post-baccalaureate work experience. Generally, students do better in the program with real-life work experience and can participate in classroom discussions with real context to draw from. The Admissions Committee considers how your skill set, leadership positions, teamwork, and responsibilities relate to your intended course of study as well as your short-term and long-term career goals, so make it easy for us to follow your journey!
Unless you write in a daily journal or diary, sitting down to write about yourself can seem like a completely foreign concept and inspires nothing but a bad case of writer’s block. Your best bet is to answer the question directly, use concrete examples, and illustrate your voice and personality, background, goals, and intentions for acquiring an MBA. The optional essay is a good opportunity for you to address anything not conveyed in the rest of your application: such as academic performance or test scores, or perhaps a personal event/circumstance that you think has an effect on your MBA candidacy.
Your resume should be professional and fit on one page unless you have more than 15 years of experience. Don’t get too creative with formatting either to squish stuff in there (8-point font is hard to ignore…), make sure your work experience is listed in chronological order, includes months and years in the date ranges, and has comprehensible titles and descriptions of duties. Also your resume is a great place to put your honors, achievements, extra-curricular activities, and volunteer organizations.
Undergraduate and Previous Graduate Experience
This section is pretty straightforward. We will see your major/minors, cumulative and major GPAs, and transcript grades on your online application. However, it’s important to take advantage of the personal essays, optional essay, and interview (if one is granted) to explain any moves between schools/majors. Also, if you already have a master’s degree, be prepared to answer how you currently use it and why you think getting another one is a value-add for your career.
Service, Activities, and Recognition
This information is used to provide some personal character to your application. We ask ourselves, what does this applicant do outside of their professional life? How did they spend the hours during undergrad when they weren’t spent in class? Highlight your personal honors and achievements, any non-professional leadership positions in the community, and any extra-curricular activities you were involved with in undergrad.
The first step to acing this part of the application is to pick the right people. After that, hopefully they will write a stellar letter on your behalf (if the wrong person is chosen, this can seriously backfire.) We think the best letters are written by current or previous supervisors (team lead, director, manager, etc.) The title isn’t as important as their experience in evaluating your performance as a professional. If you are self-employed or work for a family business, try and avoid asking Mom to write your letter. Instead, some good alternatives are a client, a professional mentor, accountant, or trusted co-worker. Try and avoid faculty recommendation letters since they tend to focus more on your ability to show up for your class and submit homework on time and don’t really give us the insight we need.
TOEFL/IELTS (English Proficiency Test for International Students)
If you are an international student, you’ll undoubtedly have questions about your TOEFL/IELTS score submission. And yes, we do grant waivers if you meet one of the three criteria:
1. You have lived and worked full-time in the U.S. or in a country where English is the official language for at least two of the past four years.
2. You hold a master’s degree from a college or university located in the U.S. or from a country where English is the official language.
3. You were educated solely in English for your undergraduate and/or prior graduate degree.
We don’t publish an average TOEFL score since it is such a small statistical subset. However, the TOEFL score is simply one measure we use to gauge English proficiency along with your personal essays and in-person interview (if one is granted.)
We hope you find these application tips helpful! Remember, we are here to help, so please reach out to the Admissions Committee at TexasMBA@mccombs.utexas.edu or 512-471-7698 for questions or advice on your application.