MPA Admissions Blog

Insider Information for Prospective Texas McCombs Students

Texas McCombs MPA Admissions Update

Here is a quick MPA admissions update as we start the new year!

  • We have been reviewing completed U.S. applications and releasing decisions on a rolling basis. There is still plenty of time to apply, as the final U.S. application deadline is March 31, but apply early if you can! Admitted applicants will be considered automatically for a possible recruiting scholarship (a separate application is not required).
  • The international application deadline was January 5. The application review will begin soon, and decisions will be released in February. Please be sure to submit all of your supplemental application materials by mid-January if you would like your application to be considered in the first round of admissions decisions. Also, please send Keri Ledezma a copy of your GMAT or TOEFL score reports if they have not been posted to your application record yet.

Your admissions decision will be posted on the application status check page, and you will receive additional correspondence from the MPA Program Office if you are admitted.

Yearning to Learn Across the Globe

For the past 16 years, Texas McCombs has offered MPA students the opportunity to gain a global business perspective by studying abroad. Traditional, integrated, and economic MPA students can study overseas in Prague or Buenos Aires. Let’s learn more about this summer’s program in Argentina.

MPA students study abroad in Buenos Aires

Many of the MPA students studying in Buenos Aires explored Mendoza, a province in Western Argentina, during one of their free weekends.

Buenos Aires. The capital city known for tango, steak, and soccer. This eclectic metropolis has so many pastimes, delectable eats, incredible architecture, and outstanding educational institutions that it’s easy to see why it was chosen as an MPA study-abroad destination.

Since 2014, Texas McCombs has partnered with Universidad de San Andrés (UdeSA), a private university with approximately 2,500 students, to provide a study-abroad experience for MPA students. UdeSA offers degrees in business, law, social sciences, and economics on two campuses in the Buenos Aires area. Approximately 70 MPA students study abroad each summer. This past summer, 26 elected to study in South America at UdeSA’s downtown campus. Here, they lived, learned, and explored Argentina together.

One of the unique features of the program is that MPA students take classes with both UT-Austin and UdeSA professors. Texas McCombs faculty members Steve Goodson and Kristina Zvinakis traveled to South America to teach one of the courses in the five-week program, and a UdeSA faculty member taught the other course. “MPA students benefit by earning six credits in another country without extending their degree program,” said Emily Maxon, Executive Director of International Programs at UdeSA. “It opens their minds to the ways business is done in a different country while they are also learning to be adaptable and flexible.”

Students noted that Santiago Barraza, their UdeSA Management professor, was one of the highlights of their trip. “He was interested in each student’s experience and applied it to real world situations,” said Charlie Howell, a fourth-year student (pictured below, left) who participated in the program. Professor Barraza even took students on an office visit to a local software development company whose stock was skyrocketing at the time.

But it wasn’t just the ability to earn course credit that drew students to South America; they also participated in cultural assignments UdeSA arranged and organized excursions (both in Buenos Aires and around Argentina) for themselves. Before classes started, students toured a large swath of the city by bus to get a flavor of Buenos Aires. They also learned how to make empanadas and how to tango during their stay. “McCombs and UdeSA planned everything so well. They helped us find a balance between studying and enjoying the city,” said fifth-year student Julia Siegel (pictured below, center). On the weekends, they explored the country by hiking in Patagonia, visiting wine country in Mendoza, and experiencing the beauty of Iguazu Falls.

Fifth-year student Dean Cohen (on the right) summed up his experience stating, “We had a great, dynamic group of students, and we brought that back to Austin.” These students made a connection abroad that will stay with them throughout their time at UT, in their careers, and (we hope) their future travels.

MPA students in front of UdeSA

MPA students Charlie Howell, Julia Siegel, and Dean Cohen showcase their Longhorn pride in front of UdeSA.

 

International Applicants: January 5 Deadline

International applicants:

Your application deadline is quickly approaching! Be sure to monitor the status of your application materials in the online application status check.

What if all of your application materials are not received by January 5?

  • Please update Keri Ledezma  on the status of your outstanding application materials. If your file is not complete by the application deadline or very shortly thereafter, we will do what we can to include your file in the first round of admissions decisions. However, if your application materials arrive too late, we cannot guarantee it. As a result, make every attempt to complete your application as close to the application deadline as possible.
  • If your TOEFL/IELTS or GMAT scores are not posted to your application record by January 5, please update Keri Ledezma with the date of your test and a copy of the score report, if possible.
  • Your application will not be considered complete and reviewed for a decision until all application materials, including the official score reports, have been received. On average, it takes at least 3-4 weeks for the test scores to be sent, received, and uploaded to an applicant’s record.

Reminder: All international applications will be reviewed after the January 5 application deadline, not on a rolling basis.

MPA Admissions Update: U.S. Applications

Congratulations! You completed your application! What can you expect next? 

The MPA Admissions Committee is currently reviewing all completed U.S. applications and will start releasing decisions before UT-Austin’s winter break. The admissions decision will be posted on the Application Status Check page. You also will receive a separate message from the MPA program if you are accepted.

If you are still working on submitting your materials, you can expect to receive a decision approximately one month after your application is complete*. Please be aware that the university will be closed for winter break from December 23-January 3.

*All required materials must be received before an application will be reviewed for a decision. Be sure to check the status of your application on a regular basis. It typically takes about 3 weeks for official test scores to be sent, received and uploaded to an applicant’s record.

You were admitted to another university and the acceptance deadline is approaching, but you haven’t received a decision from the Texas McCombs MPA. What should you do?

If you receive an admission offer from another university and need to respond to the offer before you receive a decision from us, please send Keri Ledezma an email message with the name of the university and the admission response deadline. Although we cannot guarantee an earlier admission decision, we will do our best to accommodate your request.

The Accountant of the Future

Data analytics and artificial intelligence are redefining the profession and McCombs is keeping page. Story by Judie Kinonen.

Nichole Jordan

Nichole Jordan, BBA ’95, says new technologies are rapidly transforming the accounting profession.

The stereotype of the solitary accountant walled up in a cubicle and poring over spreadsheets for eight hours a day was always a little dubious. But industry expert Nichole Jordan, BBA ’95, says new technologies that are rapidly transforming the accounting profession have shattered the image of the bean-counting accountant on a mundane career path.

A CPA and member of the McCombs Accounting Advisory Council, Jordan is also national managing partner of growth and performance at Grant Thornton. “I see new staff coming to the firm with the desire and ambition to contribute at a higher level — to do the more strategic and analytical parts of the job,” she says.

Her own role with Grant Thornton sends her all over the world, meeting with business management teams and boards to listen to their concerns and introduce them to new technologies and digital strategies.

Michael Clement Data Analytics

Department Chair Michael Clement remembers noting that UT Austin’s accounting program ranked No. 1 when he was in college in 1980.

Deciding how to properly address these trends in the classroom at McCombs is top priority, says Department Chair Michael Clement.

“My main concern right now is to make sure our students can thrive in the world of big data,” he says, noting shifts in the curriculum are starting in the Master’s in Professional Accounting program, with reverberations in the undergraduate and doctoral programs likely in the near future.

All three programs have topped the national rankings for so long that it is hardly news anymore. Clement vividly recalls a day in 1980, his senior year at Baruch College in New York City, when he  walked past a bulletin board listing the top accounting programs in the country. “UT Austin was No. 1, and then I noticed that half of my textbooks were written by UT faculty,” he recalls.

Again this year, the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs at McCombs ranked No. 1 in U.S. News & World Report. The undergraduate program has held the first- or second-place spots on that list for a straight 28 years, the master’s degree for 26, and the doctoral program for an 11th year.

But Clement attests that there’s a revolution afoot, leaving the department no time to rest on its laurels. “There’s a lot going on in the industry, and we want to give our students the tools so that when things change, they can adapt to those changes,” he says.

To that end, the MPA Program recently adopted a proposal requiring every course within the next two years include content on data analytics, says MPA Program Senior Director Stephen Smith.


THE WEIGHT OF DATA

What’s new in accounting is not the idea of analyzing data — the difference is in the type of data itself. Typically, accountants are trained to handle and analyze structured data that can be easily organized and searched.

But in this era of big data, accountants must also manipulate unstructured data that appears in myriad formats and without pre-defined models. Unstructured data is more challenging to organize and search.

Steve Smith Data Analytics

MPA Senior Director Stephen Smith stays in close contact with industry partners in order to better understand how big data disruptions are transforming the profession.

Big data is causing disruption in many industries, but deciding what it means for accountants is a bit of a moving target, says Smith, who is in close communication with industry partners about how they are coping with these new forms of information.

They tell him that the skill of data cleansing is among an accountant’s greatest assets today. In the past, an auditor calculating interest expense on loans at a bank would simply sample — taking, for example, 100 out of the possible 1,000 loans and manually calculating the interest. “If you didn’t find any problems for those hundred loans, then you assume the whole interest expense line on your income statement is okay,” department chair Clement says.

But today, there’s no need to sample, he says. “Now I can do that calculation for all thousand loans and know for sure that the interest calculation is correct.”

Beyond that, today’s auditor may be asked to produce a report that includes information from several different sources. It could be customer information in one file, loan descriptions in another, Clement says.

“In order to combine all those different sources into a single, usable source, you have to have solid data manipulation and data cleansing skills.”

The ability to test every transaction has other repercussions too, says Jeff Johanns, senior lecturer at McCombs and a former partner and assurance risk management leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“If you’re testing 100 percent of transactions rather than sampling, instead of five exceptions, you may have dozens of exceptions,” he says. “Now what? What does that mean to you as an auditor? These are the things that we have to train accountants to deal with. Just because the software produces this beautiful graph is meaningless if the accountant doesn’t know what to do with it.”


“TELLING A STORY” WITH DATA

“So more and more an accountant’s job is answering the question, ‘What is the data telling us?’” says Smith.

That’s the important question, says Jordan. “Technology is crunching the numbers to a greater extent and making it possible for us to be more strategic and analytical when it comes to identifying  patterns in the data,” she says. “The job becomes more about understanding the real performance of the business.”

Patti Brown Data Analytics

Patti Brown, MPA ’89, uses a hands-on approach for teaching accounting because it instills confidence in her students.

These are skill sets already addressed in several McCombs MPA courses, including Information Technology for Accounting Control — a requirement for all MPA students — taught by Patti Brown, MPA ’89, who joined the faculty as a lecturer in 2011.

Brown says her teaching approach is twopronged: introducing the technology tools and business process methodologies, and then providing students with large volumes of real data in case studies in which they can apply the technology tools to gain insights from the data. “It’s very hands-on to help students gain confidence in working with various technologies,” she says.

Students in her class learn SAP, Tableau, Microsoft Access, and Power BI, but hers is not a static curriculum. “Given that the technology and emerging technologies are rapidly changing, I constantly have to look at what I’m offering in the course,” says Brown. “I stay connected to partners in public accounting and large companies that are hiring our students to understand what technology they’re using and how to best prepare our students.”

MPA students work with real industry data from the SAP University Alliance, which is not available in many other accounting master’s programs — and in Brown’s class they begin with data from a national coffee shop chain. Using Tableau, students go beyond number crunching and learn to “tell a story,” Brown says.

“Often, in academia, students are focused on getting the ‘right answer,’” she says. But in this coffee shop case, she asks them to identify three areas that the company should focus on for profit maximization. “So, I’m not looking for one specific right answer,” she says.

Instead, students are challenged to use their critical thinking skills, Brown says. “Why did the coffee shop spend this much in marketing in the Northeast? Why did green tea in the South not do as well as the Northeast? I want them to tell the story and point out the different insights that they’ve gained through their analysis.”

Kristina Zvinakis Data Analytics

Senior Lecturer and Assistant Department Chair Kristina Zvinakis said that critical thinking skills are a hallmark of McCombs’ MPA program.

It’s not exactly the type of task accountants are traditionally known for, but it’s not a huge stretch either, says Kristina Zvinakis, senior lecturer and assistant department chair. Critical thinking skills have always been a hallmark of McCombs’ MPA program and one reason it is consistently ranked No. 1 in the nation, she says.


SOFT SKILLS STILL APPLY

The disruption in accounting mirrors what has happened in other fields, Jordan says, and it’s no cause for alarm for those willing to adapt. “Technology will change, but not replace, the accountant’s job,” she says. “An accountant paired with artificial intelligence or machine learning-enabled technology is a winning combination.”

In fact, for new accountants, proficiency in technology and critical thinking is not more important than the skills Jordan says she most remembers learning from her time at UT: teamwork and  communication.

“The ability to build relationships will definitely become more important than it is today,” Jordan says. “I think that because of artificial intelligence, the mundane and the more basic types of work will become more automated in our profession. This means we can focus on other important things.”

With new technologies doing more of the tedious work, the accountant of the future will have more freedom and flexibility. Says Jordan: “Your ability to go down the hallway and talk to the CFO and engage in a great C-suite conversation, ask the right questions, and seek to understand and be curious will be very, very important skills.”

Read more about the latest news and happenings at the McCombs School of Business in McCombs Magazine.

 

Tips for Submitting Your Transcript(s)

How should I submit my transcript(s) for the Texas McCombs MPA application?

After you submit your online application, UT’s Graduate and International Admissions Center (GIAC) will send you an EID and password that you will use to log into the documents upload page and upload a copy of your official transcript(s). Applicants who attended The University of Texas at Austin will not be required to upload a copy of a UT-Austin transcript but rather will be assessed a $20 transcript fee. Please refer to the MPA admissions packet for further instructions.

Do I need to submit community college transcripts?

Please submit transcripts from junior or community colleges if you completed our pre-enrollment requirements or any accounting courses at these institutions.

If I need to submit a transcript from a foreign university, do I need to include a foreign credential evaluation from WES or another organization?

A foreign credential evaluation is not required. However, if a transcript is written in a language other than English, a complete and official English translation must be uploaded together with the original transcript.

Should I submit my transcript without my fall grades? 

If you are an international applicant, you should submit your transcript before the January 5 application deadline, even if the fall grades are not posted. If you prefer to send an update after your fall grades are available, please send an email to Keri Ledezma.

If you are a U.S. applicant, we recommend submitting a transcript without your fall grades if you are aiming to apply early (before your fall grades are available). We will reach out to you if we need your fall grades before making a decision. That said, you might wait and submit your transcript with your fall grades if:

  1. (For non-accounting majors:) You are taking any of the pre-enrollment courses in the fall,
  2. (For accounting majors:) You are enrolled in several upper-level accounting classes in the fall, or
  3. Your upper-level GPA will be improved substantially with your fall grades.

U.S. Applicants: December 1 Early Deadline

Our early December 1 deadline is just around the corner. If you are working on completing your application by this deadline… great! Your application will be first in line for consideration. However, do not be concerned if you are still working on your application. Why?

  • The Texas McCombs MPA uses a rolling admissions process in which we review completed applications on a continuous basis. Your chances for admission would not be affected if you complete your application after 12/1 but early in our admissions cycle.
  • You should your time to submit the strongest application possible rather than overly rushing. For example, you may need more time to study for the GMAT or GRE, or you might wait to submit your transcript until after your fall grades are posted, particularly if:
    1. For non-accounting majors: You are taking any of the pre-enrollment courses in the fall (especially the accounting courses),
    2. For accounting majors: You are enrolled in several upper-level accounting classes in the fall, or
    3. Your upper-level GPA will be improved substantially with your fall grades.

Your application will not be considered complete and reviewed for a decision until all application materials, including the official GMAT score report, have been received. Plan ahead: it takes about 3 weeks for the score report to be sent, received, and added to an applicant’s record.

Do you have any concerns about your application? Please contact Keri Ledezma.

Please note: The rolling admissions process applies to U.S. applications only. All international applications will be reviewed after the January 5 application deadline.

MPA Admissions Resume Tips

You may have noticed on the Texas McCombs MPA admissions website that we provide MPA Application Resume Guidelines and the MPA Application Resume Template. We recommend using the MPA template when possible. If admitted, you will be required to use this format during the recruiting process, and our MPA career consultants will work with you to fine-tune your resume.

The MPA Application Resume Guidelines include:

  • Resume length
  • Font and font size
  • Margins
  • Tips for listing education, achievements, experience, and work eligibility
  • And FOUR PAGES of action works for descriptions on your resume

If you already submitted your resume but prefer to upload another one in the Texas McCombs MPA format, you can do so in the document upload system.

Recommendation Letter FAQs

How should my references submit their recommendation letters?

You will provide the names and email addresses of at least two references in the online application. After UT-Austin receives your submitted application (approximately 1-2 working days after submission), your references will receive a “Request for Reference” email message with a link and instructions to upload their letters directly to our system.

Application tip: Submit your online application early so that your references receive the notification and have plenty of time to supply their recommendation letters. You can submit your application before you take the GMAT or GRE and skip past the test score section of the application.

Can I submit more than two recommendation letters?

Yes. Although only two recommendation letters are required, the online application has space for up to three references. The MPA admissions committee will review all that are submitted.

Who should write my letters of recommendation?

Choose references who know you in an academic or professional context and are familiar with your achievements, credentials, career aspirations and work history, if applicable. Also consider references who can provide unique and diverse viewpoints. Through the recommendation letters and admissions essay, we aim to learn about your strengths, personal qualities, skills, goals, and the potential for success in the classroom and as a professional.

What should I do if I already submitted my online application but need to send a recommendation request to an additional reference?

The Graduate and International Admissions Center (GIAC) will send you an assigned UT EID and password after you submit your online application. You will use the EID and password to log into the application status check. Under the “Letter of Recommendation” section, click on “Details,” and you will find a link to “Manage your recommendation requests.” From there, you will be able to send an email request to a new reference.

Stuck on Your Admissions Essay? Read On!

Texas McCombs MPA Admissions Essay Prompt:

“Explain how obtaining a Master in Professional Accounting degree at the McCombs School of Business will assist you in further defining your primary personal and/or professional life goals. Why is now the best time for you to pursue this degree? Your explanation should include, but not necessarily be limited to, a description of both your intermediate and longer-term career goals, as well as a current vision of your desired employment upon graduation.”

Admissions Tips blog post

Are you finding it difficult to write your MPA admissions essay? What should be the focus? How long should the essay be? Should it be single or double spaced? Here are some tips that will help you get started.

  • Let us know why you’re unique! There is no “right answer.” MPA applicants come from diverse backgrounds and have various professional goals… exactly what we prefer! The essay gives you an opportunity to stand out from the applicant crowd and provides us an opportunity to learn about your unique background and aspirations. Avoid a cliched response and instead provide a genuine portrayal of why you are interested in the Texas McCombs MPA. How will our program assist you in reaching your goals? If you are a non-accounting major, why have you decided to pursue a graduate accounting degree? What has been your journey up to this point? How have your experiences prepared you for success in our program and the business world?
  • Develop your ideas… but be concise. Although you should focus more on content than length, the average essay is approximately two pages long, double spaced. Avoid repeating information that is readily available in other parts of the application. Rather than simply listing your experiences, let us know how these experiences helped you to grow personally or professionally. We want to get to know you from a perspective that cannot be achieved by reviewing transcripts, test scores, and resumes.
  • Mind your writing technique. The essay is a demonstration of your written communication skills. Avoid being too wordy, stay focused and organized, and proofread. The formatting is flexible (line spacing, margins, font), but an easy-to-read layout is greatly appreciated!
  • Clarify. If you prefer, you can use the admissions essay as an opportunity to address weaknesses in your record, or you can include this information in a separate essay. If you do so, be sure to explain how you have improved.
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