Tag: applying (page 1 of 6)

How to Ace Your Recommendation Letters

The recommendation letter requirement is one of the more daunting parts of the application process, as it is one of the few components over which students do not have direct control. For the Type A, right-brained, checklist-making applicants among us (you know who you are), this might lead to some cold sweats.

Case in point: At an admissions event I spoke at recently, a highly-qualified woman raised her hand and asked how to request recommendation letters when you own your own business. While I don’t own my own business, when I initially applied to McCombs I worked for a start-up, and I was concerned my professional network was too close-knit to leverage. However, when I really put my mind to it, I had an abundance of people I could lean on. Here’s how I looked at my network when asking for a recommendation letter:

1) The boss.

This is arguably the person in your network that knows your strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else. Regardless of your supervisor or boss’s title, if you know you deliver great results to your superior, they are a natural fit. However, there is a caveat. Your recommendation letter request should not be the first time your boss is hearing about your MBA aspirations. If possible, start by letting your boss know you are considering applying, explain the time commitment an MBA would require, and then help him or her understand your motivations. When you later ask for a recommendation, there’s no backstory necessary.

2) The colleague.

The Texas MBA Program is a team sport, and I’ve heard it said from the Full-Time MBAs to the Executives that McCombs is known for its collaborative environment. Coworkers can vouch for your ability to work as a team, celebrate team successes, and meet deadlines. However, choose your coworker wisely — don’t simply default to your BFF from work. Your colleague should be able to speak to your professional strengths, not simply your extracurricular ones.

3) The mentor.

Mentors outside of your workplace are great to have in your corner when it comes time for a recommendation. However, be sure that your mentor has an understanding of your actual value, not just your potential. Select a mentor with whom you have worked on high-stakes tasks to ensure they will provide a recommendation with depth. If your mentor has only served in a capacity of an advisor with whom you meet regularly, consider scheduling some time to discuss your contributions and strengths so they will have some context prior to writing a recommendation.

4) The professor.

Depending on how long ago you attended undergrad, professors can provide esteem and proof of concept in their recommendations. However, they are probably one of the most constantly tapped individuals for letters of recommendations (think of all the former students, and all the graduate school possibilities, and all the job applications). If you’re going the professor route, be sure he or she is someone who sets you apart from the other students. You don’t want to be that someone in his or her inbox whose name sounds vaguely familiar but they don’t quite remember. Finally, good grades don’t always equal good recommendations. It’s the quality of your interactions, the sum of your class contributions, and the significance of your impression on that particular professor long after your final grade was submitted.

5) The outsider.

This person is an X-factor but someone who should not be overlooked. We all have them: suppliers, consultants, customers, coaches, and others. If you’ve worked closely with someone on a successful project, they are a great person to request information from.

Have another source you’ve tapped for a recommendation letter? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

5 Ways Women MBAs CAN Have It All

When I started in the Texas Executive MBA program (EMBA) last August, I fully expected life as I knew it to end. I scheduled a couple of relaxing trips — a beach vacation over Fourth of July, and a fly fishing adventure with my husband on the Salmon River in Idaho. I got my hair cut. I read Vogue and took a few spa days. I scaled back my involvement in non-priority projects. By the time August rolled around and I buttoned up my business suit for the first seminar, I was ready to kiss my “old,” pre-MBA life goodbye.

A few weeks ago, I participated in a panel at the annual Texas MBA Women’s Forum, speaking to prospective Evening and Executive applicants. I remembered how I felt just a year before as an audience member watching a similar panel and wondering whether I was ready to make the commitment to the program. Now that I’m well into my second semester as an EMBA, life has gotten complicated, but it’s not impossible, and I’m certainly still able to enjoy my “old” life. I’m here to inform women considering the program that you can have it all. Here’s how:

1) Your support network goes far beyond you.

Friends opening creditsWhether you’re married, single, or “it’s complicated,” you’ll quickly find that you need more than just the power of you to get through this program. For those who have significant others, it’s imperative that he or she be on board with your decision — they will be your sounding board and your soft place to land. But don’t think you have to have someone waiting for you with dinner on the stove to tackle an MBA. This program expands your network — intentionally so — both professionally and personally. Between your study group, your classmates at large, and your professors, you begin to develop a network that helps you answer some of the most challenging questions in your life, whether they are related to career advice, personal development, or schoolwork. Additionally, the women in the class ahead of me have done a great job at building relationships with the women in my class. I think I can safely speak for the ladies of the Class of 2016 when I say that we’re all looking forward to paying it forward to incoming female students next year.

2) You become a decision-making rockstar.

How often do you hum and haw over whether to attend a meeting or bring an issue to your boss? How many times a day do you click on the same email trying to decide how to respond? Dr. John Burrows, the EMBA program director, and one of your first-semester professors, likes to say “Begin with the end in mind.” While at first this concept can be difficult to grasp, once you get the hang of it, you start applying it to everything in your life. When a decision needs to be made, you are able to arrive at an effective, prompt, and well-supported conclusion. Not only that, but you begin to collect tools and strategies that help you dive into and analyze these challenging situations with confidence. Being in this program so quickly cuts through the chaff in your life, that you just might be surprised by how much extra time it frees up (which, of course, leaves more time for studying!).

3) You learn how to prioritize the right things, not all the things.

One of the most important parts of the program that you won’t find in any formal curriculum is that it teaches you to recognize when and how to take care of your personal life. This isn’t just something that MBAs need to learn — any executive looking to go the distance must get a handle on this lesson at some point.

Need to get some exercise? There’s no shortage of running groups or cycling teams to join (or start your own!). If you have kids, be there for them first. Your group will support you (and demand cute photos of your kids as repayment!). A few of us in the Class of 2016 have made a point to have “Manicure Mondays” every few months when we get our nails done together. It’s a simple thing but it allows us to debate cases or talk through tough quantitative concepts while doing something special and relaxing for ourselves. During my first semester, my husband and I bought a house and decided to renovate our kitchen ourselves. Did I often think I needed to be reading case studies while I knocked dry wall down off the walls? Absolutely. Did I finish reading those cases by the time class rolled around? Of course. Life has a way of expanding and contracting to your priorities. It’s up to you to ensure you put the right priorities in your life.

4) You learn how to maximize your unique strengths.

Leslie Knope quoteChanneling your strengths as a leader goes far beyond focusing on just doing what you’re good at. In fact, this program challenges you to step outside of your comfort zone and to wrestle with questions you might previously have avoided. This is where you learn how to channel your natural talents, as you start to realize — with the guidance of great professors and supportive classmates — that there are unique aspects about you that make you a unique leader. These are the stories you come into the program with: a former career as a professional athlete, or a struggle to overcome a fear of public speaking. These bits and pieces of your history are often overlooked — and sometimes even hidden from ourselves and others. But the EMBA program encourages you to really explore what parts of those stories you can leverage to make the world a better place. How does this ultimately help you have it all? You have time to reflect on and ensure that an important part of yourself is not left behind as you grow and change as a leader.

5) You can find self-fulfillment.

Remember being forced to run the mile in grade school while being timed and yelled at by some domineering gym coach? I bet you couldn’t wait to stop running. Now think about what it felt like the time you chose to train for and complete a long distance race, whether it was a 5K or an Ironman. Sure, it was daunting going into it, but the process was just as satisfying as crossing the finish line. Pursue an MBA if you are looking for fulfillment at both a personal and professional level. It requires too much time, effort, and sacrifice if you don’t plan on finding personal satisfaction and happiness in not only the outcomes, but also the inputs. In her controversial essay “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” Anne-Marie Slaughter writes about one challenge for women attempting the balancing act:

Seeking out a more balanced life is not a women’s issue; balance would be better for us all. Bronnie Ware, an Australian blogger who worked for years in palliative care and is the author of the 2011 book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, writes that the regret she heard most often was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Make sure an MBA isn’t just another item on the list of what others expect from you. If you’re true to yourself in this program, you’ll do just fine.

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 TexasMBA@mccombs.utexas.edu

ESSAY 1

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 about.me 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, about.me 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 about.me.  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.     

ESSAY 2

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 TexasMBA@mccombs.utexas.edu 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! 

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.

ESSAY 1

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 about.me profile

ESSAY 2

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)

OPTIONAL ESSAY  

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).

New Full-Time MBA Application Essay Topics are Here

2013-14 Texas MBA Full-Time Application Essay Topics

During any MBA application season, one of the many highlights of an MBA admissions officer’s day is diving into an applicant’s essays. Application essays are your one chance to speak to us directly in your own voice and tell your story in your own words. Your essays are a reflection of your aspirations, ambitions and motivations for getting a Texas MBA. On the admissions team, we want to get to know you as an individual and we appreciate the opportunity to see the real person “behind” your test scores, transcripts and recommendations.

For the 2013-2014 admissions season, we have dramatically changed our application essays from previous years. We have done this to accomplish the following:

  • Learn more about what makes you a unique addition to the Texas MBA Full-Time Class of 2016
  • Find out how much you know about the Texas MBA culture and how you plan to be an active, contributing member of our community
  • Hear how you plan to develop professionally and personally while you are in the Texas MBA Class of 2016

Additionally, we are incorporating some unique submission formats this year. In our first essay, we are giving you the opportunity to express yourself in your preferred mode of communication. You can choose to introduce yourself using a more traditional essay, doing a short video or providing us with your about.me profile.

Stay tuned here on the MBA Insider, as we’ll be posting more helpful information throughout the year to help you during the admissions process. We encourage you to meet us at events around the world and to attend our online webinars, as well as visit us in Austin by attending an information session or class visit.

We will be launching our new application by the end of August 2013 so be sure to keep an eye out for another blog post announcing when it is available.

We look forward to reading your 2013-14 application essays and learning more about you!

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