Managing Your 2015 Application: Acing the First MBA Test


handsArguably, 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 Texas MBA Admissions Committee is equally committed to a meticulous, holistic review of each and every application.  So, as we head into the Fall 2014 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 gainfully employed, 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’dtesting 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 score 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. scale 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.  For more information on choosing which test to take, check out our GRE versus GMAT blog


pathNo 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!


workingUnless 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.


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.


awardThis 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.) or someone with supervisory oversight of your work.  Their 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.


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 3 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 (see country list here).
  2. You hold a masters degree from a college or university located in the U.S. or from a country where English is the official language (see country list here).
  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 ESL course 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 McCombs Admissions Committee at or 512-471-7698 for questions or advice on your application.  Happy Applying!

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Posted in Admissions, Full-Time MBA

Letters of Recommendation: How to Leverage the “Third” Person

If you’re like me, asking your supervisor or your colleague to write a letter detailing your virtues makes you feel incredibly uncomfortable.  “So, tell me again how I’m amazing?  And don’t spare any details!”  But a glowing letter of recommendation for your MBA Admissions application is oh-so critical.  Here’s how you can leverage your personal testimonials.

Sure, you’ve worked hard over the past few years and have earned a good praising, but why must you have to ask for it, and in writing? Well, the answer is easy: as an Admissions Officer, I need perspective on your business acumen, your personality, and your leadership and teamwork skills to confirm your claims of awesome-ness from someone other than yourself. Think about it, you have complete control over every aspect of your MBA Application, except for the letters of recommendation.  You’ve already written essays, submitted a resume, took your tests, submitted your transcripts and you may have also been interviewed. Now it’s time for a third party to weigh in and offer us a new perspective that will hopefully add depth and value to your overall application, but most importantly a good recommendation will provide a CREDIBLE corroboration of your positive attributes.


The best letter of recommendation will come from a Direct Supervisor or equivalent. Nobody knows your capabilities in the business world better than the person supervising you in your current role.  This person should have some sort of oversight or supervisory involvement in the work that you do.  Even better if they write your performance evaluations!  This means they are used to thinking about you and your skill set.  This person should be able to come up with clear examples of these skills, so therefore first-hand knowledge of your measurable success is also crucial. 

There are of course some exceptions when asking your Direct Supervisor isn’t the best bet. Perhaps you’re new to the position or your Supervisor may be new to the organization or role. This could be bad news if you or they haven’t been in the role long enough to speak intelligently about your skill set and abilities.  Sometimes, it’s conflict of interest that prevents you from asking your Direct Supervisor for a recommendation letter.  For example, if your Supervisor is also your mother in the case of a family business. (See next section for advice on who to ask instead.)

Lastly, there may be another situation that complicates you asking your Supervisor; they could be opposed to you leaving your position for an MBA (if you’re applying to our full-time program), or in rare situations, you may not have a healthy relationship with your supervisor or you may feel that asking them for a recommendation to business school would jeopardize your opportunity for promotion or a raise.

All of these are valid circumstances you may want to include in the Optional Essay, to give us context and reasons for why you didn’t ask your Direct Supervisor.


Other good letter of recommendation options would be a former Supervisor at a previous job, a Project Manager, or a professional colleague. You may also consider a business client, lawyer, accountant, industry mentor or other peer professional if you’re in a family business setting or in a consulting or advertising role. Remember that whoever you choose needs to be able to discuss with us in detail your qualities, skills, and virtues. Also, don’t just pick the CEO or President of the company.  Just because they know your name and you have shared an elevator ride with them doesn’t mean they know you well enough to recommend you for b-school.  We’ve read enough letters of recommendation to know when somebody knows of you, and when they know you.


Make sure to let your recommenders know way in advance you are going to request their help. I would even suggest letting them know a good three months ahead of time if possible, so that you are not rushing them if they haven’t completed it a month out, and you start getting concerned they won’t submit the letter on time. It is also a good idea to meet with them, let them know what your short and long-term goals are and why McCombs is the best school for you, and offer them a copy of your updated resume. That way they can talk about their belief in your direction and goals with some background.


Most importantly, make sure to ask someone who actually likes you. Sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many candidates have letters of recommendation submitted by people who write just a few words (“She’s really great.”), come up with poor examples (“One time we had a problem with a client, and she handled it well.”, or clearly just don’t think that highly of you (“She performs equally well when compared to her peers at a similar level.”  Yikes.  You might as well have asked a perfect stranger to write it and it probably would have come out better.

Good luck in selecting your recommenders! We look forward to reading these glowing professional love letters soon.

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Posted in Admissions, Full-Time MBA, Uncategorized

Understanding the 2015 Essay Questions


Each year, like most business schools, we update our application essay prompts in an effort to better glean important information from our candidates.  The essay is a great opportunity to do a few things: one, it shows your writing skills; two, it gives us a glimpse into your personality; but maybe most importantly, it helps answer a few very important questions that we need answered to best determine if you are right for McCombs.  Instead of giving you a vague open-ended prompt, there are actually a few burning topics we need you to be sure to cover, namely having to do with why you want to attend McCombs, who you are both professionally and personally, and what goals you want to achieve while in our program and beyond.  You have some work to do to convince us that we are the right program for you, and I’m here to offer some advice to help you get started on this process.  

Below, you will find our new essay prompts with just a bit of guidance to help you get started. The first essay is virtually the same as last year.  I will still offer some best practice guidance to help you put your best pen forward.  The second essay consolidates what used to be multiple essays into one taut question.  Take a moment to review my suggestions, and in the end, if you still have more questions, please email us at


Imagine that you are at the Texas MBA Orientation for the Class of 2017.  Please introduce yourself to your new classmates, and include information you feel relevant to both your personal and professional life.  Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response. 

  1. Write an essay (250 words)
  2. Share a video introduction (one minute)
  3. Share your profile

AO Advice:

Be creative!  And please read the prompt.  The operative word in the first sentence is “imagine”!  We have had so many candidates simply write a paragraph about themselves, no imagination employed in the process.  If you do that, we can only assume that you either did not read the prompt, or are simply recycling an intro essay you used for another school.  We ask that you imagine you are introducing yourself to your new, fellow students, at your New Student Orientation.  You would not introduce yourself by starting out, “Plato once said…,” and therefore any essays that start as such have missed the mark. 

Also, what makes you interesting and unique are both your personal and professional interests and attributes.  Therefore, an intro that only discusses work experience, or only discusses previous life experience, is incomplete.  Give us a rounded mix, so that we better understand who you are in a more complete sense, and not only in one facet of your life. 

Finally, the choice is yours: written essay, page, or video.  We have seen significant success in each platform.  Therefore, choose your strongest suit, just make sure you use the medium well.  If your skill is in writing, focus simply on the essay.  If you have a knack for creative flare, color, design and photos, then have fun with the  And if you want to create a video, and rely on your voice and/or any video editing skills you might have, then we’re excited to meet you that way as well.  Either way have fun, and do not take this essay for granted—it can go a long way to setting the stage for your application.     


In the Texas MBA program, we promote a diverse and collaborative community by providing opportunities for growth in an academically rigorous environment.  Please discuss why McCombs is the right program for you, what you hope to gain from your time in the Texas MBA Program both personally and professionally, and how you will contribute to your classmates’ experiences. (500 words)

AO Advice:

Here we are getting to the nitty-gritty.  This is your chance to really convey to us your passion, excitement, personality, and experience, while also conveying how that experience relates to your MBA and career goals.  By the time we read your essays, we have already seen your resume and scores.  Here we need you to expand upon the bare facts, and convey to us why you are the perfect student for our program. 

I have gone in depth in a previous blog post on how to convey your personality in an essay, so I will not go deep on that topic in this post.  Instead, I am going to focus more on approach and framework, and less on content. 

First, this essay is complex, and yet we expect it to be concise and to-the-point; how do you do this in one 500 word essay?  Once again, I recommend you start first by reading the prompt carefully.  We are not asking you to be flowery and to tiptoe around the cores subjects.  We are looking for a few things, and it is in your best interest to let us know specifically what we are looking for.  I’ll map it out for you by taking apart our prompt:

  • …why McCombs is the right program for you…: Focus here on the words McCombs and you.  A word to the wise: never, ever submit this essay if you have not given us specifics!  Make sure at some point in the essay you discuss why McCombs, specifically, is the right program for you.  Classes, concentrations, organizations, professors, unique opportunities, there is so much going on at McCombs.  If you can’t outline in easy terms why you are interested in our program in particular, then you will not be competitive.  So before you write your essay, I recommend you map out in specifics why McCombs is right for you.  Then, when you write out your essay, make sure these specifics are mentioned at some point, so that we see your passion and dedication to our program, and do not assume you just reused the same generic essay you used for another MBA program. 
  • …what you hope to gain…personally and professionally…: Once again specifics!  The primary difference between this portion of the prompt and the previous is here we are asking you to connect, in clear terms, how McCombs will help you achieve your career objective.  Therefore, my recommendation is that you create a 5 and 10 year career plan, and then see what classes, organizations, and opportunities that we offer that specifically speak to this career plan.   Then connect the dots.  Once you write your essay, you should be able to easily speak to these connections.  We should not be left wondering why you, with your specific career goals, would want to come to McCombs.  This is your opportunity to convey in no complex language why we are right for your career growth.
  • …how you will contribute to your classmates’ experiences…: Lastly, as you are mapping out your reasons for attending our program based on specific course and organization offerings, also remember that we pride ourselves first and foremost on our collaborative and diverse community.  We work very hard to find individuals excited about being a part of this community in particular, so in what ways will you contribute?  What student organizations will you support and why?  Will you start a new student organization?  Will you contribute in a special way to your study groups?  Are you excited to be an active alumnus?  Convince us that you are indispensable to our community, and you will have done yourself a great service in developing a strong application. 

Those are my suggestions for mapping out your answers before you begin to weave it all together in a cohesive 500 word essay.  Now you have the challenge of putting it all together, and here is where you get to be creative.  I do not have any specific advice for you here, as I am looking forward to reading your unique responses and to see your own voice come forth in the essays.  However, if you employ standard, strong writing techniques, you should be fine.  One way or another, avoid convoluted sentences, going off topic, name dropping, vague or confusing goals, citing inaccurate classes, professors, or student organizations, or calling us by any other name besides McCombs or the Texas MBA (a common mistake for people who reuse essays).  Also, DON’T REUSE ESSAYS!  We can tell.

That’s it for my advice to you!  As always, please email us at if you have any other questions.  Get started early and edit, edit, edit!  Your essays can really send a strong application into orbit, so good luck, and happy applying! 

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Posted in Admissions, Full-Time MBA

Acing It: GRE vs GMAT

Life is all about choices.  Lease or buy?  Diet versus regular? GRE or the GMAT? But when personal preference for aspartame doesn’t immediately establish you firmly in one camp or another, it’s time to stop and think what the choice says about you.  When it comes to choosing between taking the GRE or the GMAT for your MBA application, how do you choose the right test for you?

In this post, I won’t address the logistical implications of each exam (such as the GRE is cheaper and offered at more locations and the GMAT is accepted at more business schools so it’s more bang for your buck.)  Nope, not going to go there.  You can Google yourself silly with all of their basic differences. Instead, I will address choosing the test from an admissions perspective, assuming you’re planning on submitting an application to the Texas MBA Program sometime soon.

Basic case in point:  the Admission Committee doesn’t care which test you take.  Ultimately it’s up to you.  We don’t believe intrinsically the opinion that one test is better at demonstrating your preparedness for b-school than the other because we believe that standardized test scores are not the only thing on your application that illustrate your academic abilities.  If it were used alone, perhaps the more traditional approach of using the GMAT would suffice, but it’s not.  We use many, many other things.  But that’s a whole other post.

Much like other choices you make on your application, if you choose wrong you can put yourself in a position of unnecessary disadvantage.  We realize the tests are different and applicants choose each for varied and valid reasons, therefore we couldn’t have a preference at face value.  However, what we DO prefer is that you think hard about which test you need to take within the context of your overall goals.



The GMAT is required for most Consulting and Investment Banking companies because they use your score as a baseline qualifier for the recruiting process.  If Consulting or I-Banking are in your sights, this means that the GMAT is the best choice because you could take it once and use your score for both your Admissions application as well as your career recruitment profile.

Additionally, some recruiters outside the I-Banking and Consulting space may not have a strong preference either way which test you take, however they may have more experience assessing skill set based on the GMAT.  If you choose to take the GRE you should understand that it is less common and therefore makes it more difficult for recruiters to compare these results against the majority of applicants that take the GMAT.


Sometimes, the GRE is the best choice for those applicants who are pursuing their MBAs in conjunction with another Masters, like in our Dual Degree programs.  Once again, taking only the GRE allows you to apply to both programs separately with one score, a convenience factor that most Dual Degree applicants very much appreciate given how much more paperwork is required to submit applications for two programs.


Don’t qualify as an applicant pursuing Consulting/I-Banking/Dual Degree?  There are still some key differences in the tests that may have some bearing on your decision for which to take.  A little history lesson: MBA programs only started accepting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT over the last few years.

Alumni and hiring companies are more familiar with the GMAT and its score scale.  With the GRE new on the scene, they may need clarification regarding what the GRE score actually means and how the quantitative and verbal score sections may translate to the GMAT scores they are used to.

MBA Admissions Officers are also new to the GRE setting.  However, many of us have worked with the test and have recruited amazing candidates to our programs since we started accepting it a few years ago and are more comfortable assessing verbal and quantitative skill sets based on those scores.

So ultimately, which test is best?  Our advice is to choose wisely using your academic and career goals and knowledge of each test’s reputation in both the admissions context and the professional world to make the best choice for you.  If none of the above circumstances speak to your situation, then truly you are free to pick the exam you prefer.  Either way, we say “good luck!”

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Posted in Admissions, Evening MBA, Executive MBA, Executive MBA at Mexico City, Full-Time MBA, MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth, MBA at Houston

Catching Up With Mario Barrett, MBA ’14


sockwork-newWe had the chance to chat with Mario Barrett (MBA ‘14), a West Point graduate and veteran, about his new venture, Sockwork: Socks With A Purpose. Mario started Sockwork with his wife, Tina Longo, in April of 2014. Mario recently graduated with the Class of 2014, so we wanted to catch up with him to learn more about this exciting new business now that he’s finished the program.

Tell us a little about Sockwork: Socks With A Purpose.

MB: At Sockwork: Socks With A Purpose, a sock subscription means more than never having to remember to buy socks. The venture is a sock of the month club with a great twist, in that customers get to help support this veteran-owned company and be part of creating ongoing funds to organizations that assist military veterans. Sockwork sends our customers two high-quality pairs of socks each month and allows the customer to customize their order between fun and professional styles.

In the short-term, we want to build our subscriber base to a point where it makes sense to manufacture our own line of socks here in the USA. For the long-term, we want to do two things. First, we want to create a community effect with our socks. Our socks mean something and the people that wear them not only love great socks but support a worthy cause. Second, we want to pioneer a new business model for other veteran-owned businesses to follow. This will help ensure that needed money reaches veteran charities even during times when war and the needs of people who served may be less visible to the public.

What key things do you want prospective customers to know about Sockwork?

MB: We supply socks from Richer Poorer, a brand known for high-quality and fashion appeal. Having these socks delivered serves as a personal convenience or thoughtful pampering gift for a loved one. Premium socks last and add comfort to daily life, and they’re a product that everyone uses.

Mario and Tina

Mario, and his wife Tina, co-founders of Sockwork: Socks With A Purpose

In addition to the time and money savings, a sock subscription allows people a simple way to devote some of their dollars to support people who served their country. Sockwork supplies a percentage of the money from its sock of the month subscribers to a rotating selection of veteran charities. As the network of veteran entrepreneurs grows, the volume of their donations will increase, a tried and tested method for creating lasting change.

As shoppers look for ways to make socially-conscious decisions, this company has created a hassle-free option for making a difference. Buying socks has become easier and more meaningful, thanks to the heart-centered monthly sock club, Sockwork: Socks With a Purpose.

How has your education in the Texas MBA Program influenced or helped your approach to running Sockwork?

MB: Coming from the Army, I didn’t know much about finance, accounting, or just about anything in the business world. If we had started this business two years ago, I wouldn’t have thought about tracking the cost of every variable, pricing, building a marketing plan, or how to differentiate ourselves from the competition.

The Texas MBA program provided me with the skills of how to evaluate a business model and understand if it is viable or not. I’ve learned about the importance of margin and breaking down costs to the most granular level to track profitability. My marketing classes introduced me to the basics of brand awareness and my strategic management classes taught me how to apply a Five Forces analysis to differentiate our company from competitors and execute more effectively. All in all, the Texas MBA program gave me the tools to approach this business in a much more cautious and methodical manner.

To learn more about Sockwork, visit

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Posted in Alumni, Community, Full-Time MBA

The Joy of Failure: Learn to Own Your Mistakes


By Amira Wizig Pollock, MFA

Failure is tough.  We are trained to avoid it at all costs and, if we do fail, to pretend nothing went wrong.  We lose out on numerous valuable lessons in doing so.  It is also what leads people to avoid an activity, project, or potential work promotion we are unsure we can succeed at.  We think we will fail at something so we put it off and procrastinate rather than taking a risk and giving it our best shot.  The result is something new and possibly great that was never attempted or worse, not doing a good job because the endeavor was begun too late to have a chance at success.

mistakes-imageWe must embrace failure.  Now, let me be clear.  This does not mean failure is something to strive for.  But we are human and we make mistakes.  And there is so much learning that can happen within those mistakes.  I think about my daughter, who is going to learn to walk soon.  She is going to fail many times in the process.  She will fall down, and it will hurt.  But she will get back up and try again.  Children have a healthy sense of resilience and determination.  If they were too caught up in the fact that they’d fail many times and chose to play it safe, they would go through life crawling!  As we get older, we take fewer risks and are quicker to judge and adopt avoidance behaviors.  I urge you all to consider the concept of celebrating failure.

In art, such as in the performing art of improvisation, artists regard mistakes as gifts or happy accidents.  We know that failures can sometimes lead us to the greatest rewards and discoveries.  This can only happen if we acknowledge a mistake and move on or better yet, use the mistake as inspiration.  Being willing to wade through awkward failures without ignoring what didn’t work can lead to creative problem-solving and brilliant results.  Consider these famous mistakes: Post-It notes were the result of failure; the chemists were trying to make a traditional adhesive!  Alexander Graham Bell was trying to invent a hearing aid when he ended up inventing the telephone.  Thomas Edison failed many times before inventing the light bulb.  Do you think he stopped taking risks after the first failure, or pretended it didn’t happen?  No.  He examined it, learned from it, moved on and tried again.

It is only by coming to terms with failure and accepting it that we will be able to stick our necks out and allow ourselves the opportunity to succeed and generate innovative new ideas.  Graduate school is a great environment for converting theory into practice and trying new things.  Enroll in an upper-level course with interesting content that looks a bit daunting and that at first glance you would shy away from.  The next time you make a mistake, don’t run from it.  Take some time to look back and analyze what went wrong before moving forward.  Finally, if you aren’t making any mistakes then you’re not taking enough risks and may be limiting yourself.  Leave your comfort zone, even if just for a little while.

Rewarding discoveries and big successes are out there waiting to be claimed by you, though they may be hidden behind a difficult last turn.  Push yourself to find them.  Fail until you have a breakthrough.  That is where the joy of failure lies.

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Posted in Career, MBA+ Program

Announcing the 2015 Texas MBA Application Essays


essay-imageEach year, like most business schools, we update our application essay prompts in an effort to better glean important information from our candidates.  The essay is a great opportunity to do a few things: one, it shows your writing skills; two, it gives us a glimpse into your personality; but maybe most importantly, it helps answer a few very important questions that we need answered to best determine if you are right for McCombs. 

Instead of giving you a vague open-ended prompt, there are actually a few burning topics we need you to be sure to cover, namely having to do with why you want to attend McCombs, who you are both professionally and personally, and what goals you want to achieve while in our program and beyond.  You have some work to do to convince us that we are the right program for you, therefore please take a moment to review our essay topics and begin to think about how you might approach answering the essay questions.

Our essays are now posted on our website, so please feel free to visit the site to learn more about the essays and the application process.  I have also listed the essays below. 

Stay tuned to our blog as we will be posting helpful advice on how to approach answering the essay questions in the weeks to come.


Imagine that you are at the Texas MBA Orientation for the Class of 2017.  Please introduce yourself to your new classmates, and include information you feel relevant to both your personal and professional life.  Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.

  1. Write an essay (250 words)
  2. Share a video introduction (one minute)
  3. Share your profile


In the Texas MBA program, we promote a diverse and collaborative community by providing opportunities for growth in an academically rigorous environment.  Please discuss why McCombs is the right program for you, what you hope to gain from your time in the Texas MBA Program both personally and professionally, and how you will contribute to your classmates’ experiences. (500 words)


Please provide any additional information that you believe is important and/or will address any areas of concern that will be beneficial to the Admissions Committee in considering your application. (250 words)

  1. For example, if your standardized test scores are not exactly what you would like them to be or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (i.e. calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting, or finance), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum.  If relevant to your circumstances, please also discuss any other factors that you think may impact your candidacy (i.e. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance, or any significant weaknesses in your application or extenuating personal circumstances).
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Posted in Admissions, Full-Time MBA

Meet the Graduates | Kevin Terwilliger, MBA ’14, Evening MBA



Name: Kevin Terwilliger
Program: Texas Evening MBA
Hometown: Poughkeepsie, NY
Undergraduate Institution: North Carolina State University

What were you doing professionally before coming to McCombs, and what made you decide to pursue your MBA?

Before joining the McCombs program, I was an Industrial Designer in the Dell Experience Design Group. My focus was on creating best-in-class customer experiences for Enterprise server products by developing innovative product design strategies and working directly with marketing and engineering teams on implementation. I joined the McCombs MBA program because I wanted to expand my sphere of influence from product features to more strategic portfolio-level decision. In order to do this, I needed to create a strong foundation of skills outside of the training I received in my Industrial Design undergraduate studies.

What led you to choose the Texas MBA?

Choosing McCombs was very easy for me. The evening program made it convenient for me to continue to work here in Austin while attending class, and after attending an info session and seeing the caliber of other potential classmates, I was sold on McCombs.

What has been your favorite part of the Texas MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business?

The camaraderie is by far my favorite part of the McCombs program. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed all the classes and professors, always looked forward to the Austin Intensives, and I particularly enjoyed our global trip to South Africa, but the reason I enjoyed all of these parts of the program was because of the lasting relationships that I was able to develop with other classmates.

What other activities have you been able to participate in because of your affiliation with McCombs?

There were multiple activities that I participated in during the MBA program that helped to shape me and expand my career opportunities. The first organization that I joined was the McCombs Entrepreneurship Society, and it was through this organization that I won the 2012 Pitch Competition. I pitched an idea I developed for advertising on the side of in-transit tractor trailers, which I called TEN4 Ads. Winning this competition gave me the confidence I needed for my wife and I to start this company. The venture has now been in operation for a little over a year, serving clients such as Mighty Fine Hamburgers, Capital Metro, and, among others.

The second activity that I participated in was the MBA+ Program. During the summer of my first year in the program, a group of my classmates and I formed a team to complete a strategic marketing project for a local technology company. At the end of project, we had the opportunity to present our findings to most of the C-suite and we received great feedback. This really opened my eyes to the passion that I have for strategic marketing. Although I did not know it at the time, this project also helped to pave the way for me to make a transition into marketing at Dell.

Any particular memories that stand out?

The memory that really stands out for me was the Global Trip my class took to South Africa. We had the opportunity to visit a diverse set of companies and experience the local culture over the course of a one week trip to Johannesburg and Cape Town. After we completed the required portion of the trip, many of us remained in the country for a few days. It was then that I had the opportunity to go shark diving with my fellow classmates off the coast of Cape Town – certainly a stand out memory. The day after, we took a surfing lesson, which was also a lot of fun. But if I were to do it again, I would probably choose to do the surfing lesson first, before the shark diving experience, because, at that point, we were all a little concerned after seeing an 18′ shark in the exact same water the previous day.

What about a favorite professor?

This is a really hard question to answer. Thinking back through all the classes, there were multiple professors who broadened my understanding and influenced the way I thought about different disciplines. Professor Adams made me think differently about the way I validate a market opportunity, Professor Meakin changed my understanding of the legal environment of business, Professor Dierking added significantly to my tool set as far as leading people and negotiating, and Professor Williams broadened my skill-set in strategic marketing. With that said, I think my favorite was Professor Bentzin because I really had to stretch to understand how to utilize analytical tools to drive marketing decisions. In his class we were challenged to really dive deep into marketing case studies to understand the driving forces behind decisions and the outcomes of those decisions. This class in particular really framed my understanding of marketing and positioned me for success as I transition into marketing at Dell.

Any words of wisdom for incoming students?

Take advantage of every opportunity to stretch yourself. My favorite quote is “a boat in the harbor is safe – but that is not why a boat is built”. There are so many areas within the MBA program to get involved and challenge yourself to learn something new from the Entrepreneurship Society, Consulting Club, Entrepreneur-in-Residence speaking series, MBA+ projects, and the list goes on and on. The time flies by and you only have the opportunity to get involved in these different groups while you are enrolled. Be proactive and find the time to get involved outside of just attending class. You will get so much more out of your experience.

How has your education in the Texas MBA Program influenced your approach to your career?

My undergraduate degree was specialized in product development and I wanted to be able to move beyond that toward general management long term. The MBA program gave me exposure to all the different disciplines within business that work together to drive success. While attending MBA classes, I could immediately see a change in my confidence when it came to having conversations with decision makers in other disciplines. It provided a foundation of understanding across the whole business which I will build upon for the rest of my career. I think most importantly, the focused intensity of the program accelerated my career over the last 3 years and now I feel like I am on the right path, heading toward my goals of general management.

What’s next for you?

I recently transitioned into the Global Marketing Rotation Program at Dell. I will complete three, one-year rotations in different areas of marketing to understand how all the different teams work together to deliver products to our customers. I will use my first rotation to get as close as possible to our sales force. I will be mapping out the customer journey to understand how we can make our sales touch-points more efficient. As I mentioned, my initial goal when I started the MBA program at McCombs was to expand my sphere of influence to be more portfolio focused, and I will be able to do just that with my first role.

Join us in congratulating Kevin and all of our Class of 2014 graduates. They have worked incredibly hard and have truly earned the Texas MBA.

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Posted in Community, Evening MBA, Students

There’s No Place Like McCombs: Visit Us in Austin and Around the World



Summer is here!  And with summer comes heat, sun, and travel.  We, too, will be hitting the road for a number of events around the world, and we wanted to take just a quick moment to let you know how you can find us this summer

Below, find a list of opportunities to meet us in a city near you.  If we are not visiting a city near you, then know we are always happy to have you here in Austin!  Austin is a great place to visit over the summer if you too love sun and heat, as well as live music, great food, and many places to take a dip in cool waterAdmissions Officers will be present all summer long, and if you plan in advance with us, we can do our best to have a current student or alumni here to meet you as well, just let us know. 

Without further pontificating, here is our general travel schedule.  Hope to see you on the road!

Domestic Coffee Chats

  • Our current 1st Years are all across the country now working at their summer internships.  We have asked many of them to host local coffee chats, an intimate opportunity with typically no more than 5-6 people, to discuss McCombs and their own experience during the application process through their first year at McCombs. Space is limited, so please register soon to ensure you get a seat at the table.  Visit the following link to see the full schedule and register:
  • McCombs Summer Coffee Chats Registration Link

Diversity Opportunities

  • We will be attending a number of events for the Consortium, MLT, and Forte, and if you are a member of those organizations, we look forward to seeing you there! 
  • If you are not a member of either of these organizations, or if you are and want another opportunity to meet us, we will be at the National Diversity MBA Summit in Washington, DC.  Here are the details:

International Opportunities

  • MBA Tour: We will be visiting many cities around the world with our friends at the MBA Tour.  Please visit their website for exact dates and instructions on registering.  Here are the cities we will be visiting:
    • Sao Paulo, Brazil
    • Lima, Peru
    • Bogotá, Columbia
    • Mexico City, Mexico
    • Taipei, Taiwan
    • Tokyo, Japan
    • Seoul, South Korea
    • Shanghai, China
    • Beijing, China

Come to Austin

  • If you can make it to Austin, please email us at  We will do our best to accommodate a visit with us here at the MBA Program Office.

Other Outreach

  • For a comprehensive list of our Coffee Chats and Tour Events, please visit our website.
  • If you still cannot find an opportunity to meet one of us on our travels, then please make sure to reach out to a current student or an alumnus via our student and alumni directory.  They are happy to answer your questions and offer you advice as you begin the process of researching and applying for B-School.
  • Also remember that once the Fall hits, we will have a whole host of new opportunities to meet us both domestically and around the world, so stay tuned! 
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Posted in Admissions, Events, Full-Time MBA

Meet the Graduates | Bill Blackstone, MBA ’14, Executive MBA

Bill Blackstone


Name: Bill Blackstone
Program: Texas Executive MBA
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Undergraduate Institution: Baylor University

What were you doing professionally before coming to McCombs, and what made you decide to pursue your MBA?

As a student in the Executive MBA program, I continued to work full-time at Rackspace while pursuing my MBA. When I started the program, I was a front-line manager, and, through hard work and leveraging what I learned in school, I was promoted three times in the first year of school. Currently, I am the Site Leader and local executive for our Rackspace Austin office consisting of 560 employees. With a background in musical theater and a degree in music, I felt an MBA was an important step to continued success in a business career.

What led you to choose the Texas MBA?

Following the sage advice of the ages, I put all my eggs in one basket. McCombs was the only program I wanted to attend due to its incredible network, world-class professors, and global reputation. Further, living in the best city on the planet – Austin – McCombs was an easy choice since I was able to continue working for Rackspace while attending school just a few minutes south on I-35.

What has been your favorite part of the Texas MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business?

Hands down, the people. You will regularly hear about the faculty being world-class. It’s true. But, so are the students. I will never forget walking into class for the very first time and meeting my fellow classmates: a Navy SEAL, an Air Force Fighter Pilot, a farmer and multiple doctors, lawyers, engineers, and C-level executives. Then, there was me – the Broadway turned Business dude. It was hard not to be intimidated.

Further, over the last two years, I’ve had the pleasure of being teamed up with a study group (Team Orion!) consisting of a humorous, type-A doctor; an incredibly polished non-profit consultant; a caring and thoughtful software manager; an Excel genius, bell pepper farmer; and a thought-provoking art gallery owner that we’re convinced is a CIA agent (I really hope the NSA isn’t reading this blog post). Ultimately, the diversity in experience, thought and nationality of the entire class truly created an unparalleled learning environment.

Any particular memories that stand out?

At the beginning of the EMBA program, we have a bit of a “hell week” where all of us “old folks” get re-introduced to school. Towards the middle of the week, our study groups were given a challenge of developing a strategy for a business case and pitching our idea in a competition against the other study groups and the Mexico City EMBA program. Our team made it to the finals. As the first presenter, I was promptly introduced to the brick wall named Professor John Doggett. After successfully standing my ground through the rapid succession of questions, Professor Doggett fired his last shot: “Son, do you KNOW how to answer a question in 17 words or less?!?” I immediately quipped – “Sir, yes I do. However, you haven’t allowed me to speak 10 words without interruption.” A hush of shock fell over the room. Then, Doggett let out a roar of laughter and turned to Dr. John Burrows (EMBA Program Director) and asked, “Is this one of yours?” He immediately replied, “Damn right he’s one of mine.” Thus, my MBA career began.

What about a favorite professor?

This has to be the toughest question. To be fair, I have to mention three professors who have made a profound impact on my career. First, Dr. Rob AdamsNew Venture Creations, Texas Venture Labs Practicum – truly opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship. He showed me that success in entrepreneurship wasn’t just luck but there’s a science behind solving market pain points. Second, Professor Sandy Leeds – Investment Theory – made me write out company valuations by hand. Not only did he help me appreciate Excel more than ever, he taught in such a manner that helped me truly absorb financial concepts which will help me in every aspect of my career. Finally, Dr. Violina Rindova – Strategic Innovation – taught me to look where no one else was looking. Her methods of strategic innovation have permanently altered my decision making process.

Any words of wisdom for incoming students?

Get your tail kicked. This is the only time in your career where you can flesh out new ideas, learn tough subjects and challenge others whilst challenging yourself without fear of career altering consequences. Take every advantage of the opportunities presented during your time in school.

How has your education in the Texas MBA Program influenced your approach to your career?

During the first information session I attended, Dr. Burrows described the ability of the program to change the slope and velocity of your career. Originally thinking this was marketing fluff, I’ve come to realize the truth of this statement. I can say, with confidence, the only area of my career it hasn’t influenced is my coffee consumption.

What’s next for you?

At the moment, I love my career at Rackspace. In my current role, I’m able to utilize all aspects of my MBA from Managerial Accounting to Negotiations to Leadership to Marketing and everything in between. Ultimately, I’m excited about the local and global opportunities that are now within reach because of the Texas MBA program.

Join us in congratulating Bill and all of our Class of 2014 graduates. They have worked incredibly hard and have truly earned the Texas MBA. If you’re interested in connecting with Bill, feel free to get in touch with him online via LinkedIn:  or Twitter: @BillBlackstone

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Posted in Community, Executive MBA, Students
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