McCombs MBA Essay Analysis: Essay One
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.
Write an essay (250 words)
Share a video introduction (one minute)
Share your about.me profile
Introductions can take place in a variety of ways. Standing in a circle of a few at a cocktail party. In a one-on-one interview. First day on the job.
The version we’re after here is much different. McCombs just handed you a mic, dimmed the house lights, and threw a spotlight onto you. This is your time not just to introduce yourself, but to perform. A performance is artful. And requires a special type of messaging. Your challenge isn’t to hold the attention of the guy sitting across the desk who is usually forced to tune in. Your challenge is to capture and sustain the attention of a room full of people, whose magnitude (by itself) tends to make it an uphill battle from minute 1.
Golden Rule: Dullness is deadly.
Don’t be dull. Don’t be quiet. Don’t be average. Don’t be monotone. Don’t be… safe.
Now’s your chance to tap your inner James Bond. Your inner MLK. Your inner Seth Macfarlane. Charm. Wit. Risk. Energy. A deviating from that safe, straight, center pathway.
Whether it’s an essay, or a video, or an about.me profile, the very first thing you need to do is grab your audience’s attention. There’s no real room for a slow burn here. If this were a two hour movie, and you had a proven track record, maybe an audience would spot you an unceremonious beginning, trusting in a future payoff. You have no such luxury here, my friend. Your cohort doesn’t know you. You need to be spectacular and attention-worthy from second 1.
What makes for a good opener? Well, practically speaking, “it” can be absolutely anything, which is to say it can take the FORM of just about anything. But what most great opening moments have in common is this: they knock the reader/audience off balance. For most of you, that may sound great, but it still may not mean much. “How the hell am I supposed to throw the reader off balance?” Well, one way to think about it is to leave some stuff OUT. The more buttoned up your opening is, the more likely your audience will feel secure. And secure—for now—is lethal. Bad.
“My name is Craig Blodgitsnick. I am 27 years old. And I’m a banker.” Great. Super clear. And therefore… too clear? It’s all buttoned up. The audience needs a reason to hear more. With an opening like that, however, we’re left with no such desire. Here’s an alternative.
“I make people cry for a living.”
Um, say what? What the hell does that mean. Did he just say that? I have no idea who this guy is, I have no idea how I feel about him, I have no sense of whether that’s a good or bad thing. What I do know… is that I’m dying to hear more. Success. This speaker has the audience in the palms of his hands.
“Pond. Cigarette. Abandoned BMW. These three things almost got me arrested, led me to my future wife, and ultimately set me on a path of world domination.”
Hunh? I mean, I couldn’t be more in. Who the hell says that? How on Earth are those three things connected? After everyone gives their boring standard speech, I can bet you money I’m gonna remember the guy who said THAT.
Throw your reader off balance. Give them a reason to want to read more. Now, not to scare you, but this isn’t easy. It is a touch risky, and it requires some finesse. But it is absolutely worth working toward. But just for a moment, let’s talk about the downside…
If you can’t quite pull it off, and it seems forced and inauthentic, then you run the risk of seeming like you’re trying too hard. And that’s a liability. So, get a gut check from a second set of eyes (doesn’t have to be a pro, could be anyone—see if they buy it). If it’s just not passing muster, there is recourse. Which is to tell a very honest, earnest story. Your story, a personal story. But, it’s gotta be a cool story. If it’s a straightforward, you are toast. There’s gotta be some GRIT in there, some adversity, some uniqueness. That can be equally compelling.
“Hi, my name is Goran Crevitz and I became an adult when I was five years old when I was separated from my parents and grandparents. My first job was…”
Yah, I’d listen to that guy. (But did you notice how even here, the author has thrown the audience off balance? This is not happenstance.)
Whichever medium suits you best, take advantage of it. Don’t choose the video if all you do is read an essay. If you use video, it has to be because there’s something about your look and body language and visible energy that communicates something a written essay can’t quite capture. If you choose an essay over video, it’s gotta be because there are certain things you’re able to do with the written word that would be MORE effective than a video version.
Keep your audience on the edge of their seat, though, by throwing them off balance.
McCombs MBA Essay Analysis: Essay Two
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)
The worst thing you can do here is tee up a response that can work just as well for another school. McCombs is an outstanding program. One of the best—but, it doesn’t have the rank or reputation of “Top 10.” These guys don’t wanna be the fallback option to folks who can’t quite make it to schools that are higher up on their preference list. They’d rather take the guy who wants McCombs more than ANY OTHER program. Why? Well, when you want something badly, you tend to work harder to get it. Desire here counts for a lot.
So, in order to make this argument convincingly, you need to come across as a guy who might PREFER to go to McCombs over MIT or Wharton, etc. This argument must be as personal as it is based on logic. At some level, the argument won’t hold water if it’s too “logic-based.” Why would anyone prefer a lower-ranked program to a higher-ranked one? Well, there are lots of potential reasons, but it can’t possibly be based on certain parameters that led to that school’s ranking that is LOWER than another’s. Let’s say you were about to choose a husband and your decision was going to be based on height, and that you wanted to marry the TALLEST option available. Man #1 is 6’8” and Man #2 is 6’0”. You can’t select Man #2 “based on his height.” The logic collapses there.
Now, you CAN, however, suggest that that while height is important to you, Man #2 possesses THREE ESSENTIAL and UTTERLY COMPELLING OTHER TRAITS that ultimately make him trump Man #1. This will allow you to get out of the “wait, if these are the reasons you like McCombs, why wouldn’t you prefer Haas, or Tuck, or Duke” etc.
You MUST find those “UTTERLY COMPELLING OTHER TRAITS” that make McCombs the most desirable “man” on Earth—for YOU. (This is true of ALL programs, but is especially true of schools ranked in the mid-teens.) If your arguments aren’t specific enough, this essay will just implode on itself. Do as much research as you possibly can, and make it clear that you know everything there is to know about this school and that you would almost rather NOT earn an MBA than to earn an MBA at some place OTHER than McCombs, because McCombs is simply the best and most effective path that connects the present you to the desired future you.
Describe the fit. Explain what McCombs is, and then articulate how YOU snap into place perfectly. Explain it emotionally as well—feelings you get from your research, talking to people, visiting the campus, etc. This becomes bulletproof. No one can argue with “how much you like a place” or “the fact that a particular school energizes you” for example.
In terms of impact, you’ll want to demonstrate a clear understanding of their mission, what the value in a student body, and then to show how your presence will not just be in step with them, but also enhance it in some meaningful way. Be specific. Better to talk about something that is particularly meaningful to McCombs that may not be all that exciting to another school. (As always, if THIS response can easily be applied to another program… it’s not going to hold up.)