McCombs School of Business Interview with MBA Admissions Director

Written by MG (Manish Gupta)

McCombs School of Business MBAIf you see the MBA placement statistics for the McCombs School of Business, you’ll see two industries dominating the charts – consulting (25%) and technology (18%). These also happen to be the two sectors that are more international applicant friendly.

But of course, there’s much more to McCombs than just great career opportunities. World renowned faculty, a high MBA ranking, the Texas MBA+ Leadership Program, and the unique city of Austin are just some of the reasons why the McCombs program is highly sought after by MBA applicants from across the world.

Manish Gupta, from the MBA Crystal Ball team interviewed Rodrigo Malta, from the McCombs School of Business to get a better understanding of the McCombs MBA admissions process, GMAT score evaluation, scholarships and placements


McCombs School of Business (Austin, Texas) Q&A

Rodrigo Malta, MBA Admissions Director, The University of Texas at Austin

Careers @ McCombs School of Business

MBA Crystal Ball: Your 2013 employment reports states that 18% of the jobs were in the Technology industry. That is an encouragingly high number compared to other top schools. Please elaborate on the functional profiles within this sector that students go to; also help us understand whether these are primarily in the products space or also in the services side of Technology. Do you see this sector as being more open for international candidates, on a relative basis, compared to the others?

Rodrigo: About 70% of those jobs in the technology industry were in marketing and sales. Of those jobs, about 50% were in software, 25% in hardware, and a handful in E-commerce.

Generally, we do see the technology sector as being more open for international candidates.


MBA Crystal Ball: A lot of our readers are curious to understand employment opportunities in the marketing space. As an international student, which industries and what sub-functions can one realistically target post an MBA from your college?

Rodrigo: Most of the careers our international students enter in the marketing space are in technology.

In our experience, international students can expect to have better success in the consulting, technology, finance, and manufacturing industries, and, in fact, about 65% of our international students have ended up in consulting or finance.


MBA Crystal Ball: Any roles that are generally preferable (analytical, planning etc) or out of bounds (e.g. front office marketing) for international students with no prior cultural exposure?

Rodrigo: For international students without prior cultural exposure, we have found that analytical, technical, industry consulting, and manufacturing roles are more preferable. When it comes to manufacturing, for example, international graduates often provide a unique cultural background that employers may need in the global marketplace.

Because we believe that each student’s path is unique, we wouldn’t necessarily put any avenues “out of bounds,” but we do know that consumer packaged goods marketing (CPG) can be difficult for international students, but not impossible.

Generally, some of the toughest areas we’ve seen for international students are in energy or energy finance, largely because the process for acquiring sponsorship can be costly and laborious for companies in these industries.


MBA Crystal Ball: What proportion of your students typically manage to switch their careers (sector/function) after the MBA? What are some of the more drastic changes that you have observed in the recent past?

Rodrigo: Here at McCombs, the majority of our students are able to get into the industry they indicate to us as their target industry.

In our experience, however, we have certainly seen many drastic changes, like engineers shifting to create successful careers in investment banking. But when we see these types of changes, they don’t necessarily come out of nowhere.

We remind our students in these situations about the importance of continuity, and, when deciding on a new direction, the importance of acting strategically, continuing to demonstrate the relevance of their prior experience.

McCombs MBA Admissions Process

MBA Crystal Ball: Give us a few put-offs, no-no’s for the application essays. Maybe share a few stories that are just not-acceptable. It will be great if you can share some DOs and DON’Ts – especially for Indian applicants.

Rodrigo: The best advice that we can offer is to explain how an MBA from McCombs can help you with your short- and long-term career goals and at the same time give us a sense of your personality and why you are unique compared to others who are applying.

It is also important that you connect your career plans with what you’ve done before your MBA. This overlap could happen because you want to stay in the same industry or because you already have the key skill set that’s required for a successful transition into the new industry.

Convince us that you’ve thought really hard about not only your goals, but also how an MBA (and specifically a McCombs MBA) can help you get there. Your essays will not be impactful if you are not able to delve into the specifics about why McCombs (concentrations, professors, classes, organizations, etc).

Demonstrate a mutual fit – why you are a good fit for us and vice versa. Consistency is also very important. The post MBA goals that you talk about in your MBA interview should be the same as those mentioned in your MBA essays.

The big “Don’t” while writing essays is to blindly reuse an essay meant for another B-school without even bothering to change the name of the school. This might seem obvious, but we’ve seen it happen. It is extremely important to customize your MBA essays for each school.

We would ideally like to see applicants using multiple stories in their narration to showcase their trajectory. It’s also important to use them sparingly and in a strategic manner. Applicants often reuse the same, singular story. That makes the application one-dimensional and doesn’t highlight the unique facets of their personality.

It’s important for applicants to give us the full picture of what makes them stand out.


MBA Crystal Ball: How has the trend of applications been to your school from India? Globally? Is it increasing or stable? With the amount of application you must be receiving, how do you ensure that the selection process is still objective? Could you share some of the parameters e.g. how do you compare someone with 8 years in the IT (information technology) industry versus someone with 3 years of experience in management consulting?

Rodrigo: We’ve seen over a 10% increase in applications across the board, from all locations and all demographics. We review each application holistically, and we take everything into consideration.

As far as work experience is concerned, we think quality is more important than quantity (in fact, we wrote a recent blog post about this very topic).


MBA Crystal Ball: Approximately what is the split of the intake between R1 and R2 in your full time program? Give us some more insight into the application evaluation process. Who does it and what is the level of rigor?

Rodrigo: We advise our prospective students to apply when they feel ready, when they feel best prepared. It is important to remember that our R2 deadline is the final deadline for international applicants.

As I mentioned previously, our evaluation process is holistic.Each application is reviewed in full two times by two different people, and interviews are by invitation only. For more information about our admissions committee, please visit our website:


MBA Crystal Ball: Only 19% of your 2015 class comprises of international candidates. The proportion for many top schools tends to be more than 35%. How do you ensure this balance? Is there any special focus that we can expect to increase this ration in the future?

Rodrigo: We have made great strides in recent years when it comes to our recruitment and admissions of international students. Our ideal class make-up would be approximately 25% international students.

Our outreach efforts include a very busy international travel schedule, an increase in webinars intended specifically for prospective international applicants, and the use of our current international students as ambassadors and contacts for prospective international applicants from their home countries.

McCombs School of Business Scholarships & Financial Aid

MBA Crystal Ball: There are a lot of scholarships and fellowships listed on your website. Approximately what percentage of the incoming class gets some sort of scholarship?

Rodrigo: About 20% of our incoming students earn financial aid.


MBA Crystal BallAre there separate scholarship/fellowship essays as part of the selection process? Are they assessed in conjunction with other parts of the application or are these evaluated on a standalone basis?

Rodrigo: No, we do not have any additional essays.

McCombs MBA GMAT Requirements

MBA Crystal Ball: A question that we frequently encounter from candidates is, ‘can a good/great GMAT score compensate for a low GPA’. What’s your take on this?

Rodrigo: Again, we look at all applications holistically. A great GMAT score doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll ignore a low GPA – we get plenty of applicants who are strong in both categories.

If a prospective student is worried about a low GPA,we’d like to know what the contributing factors were that led to the low GPA. The optional essay is the best place to address a low GPA.

For more about how we think about the GPA, we encourage prospective applicants to read another recent blog post, ‘You are Not Your GPA‘, written by one of our admissions officers


MBA Crystal Ball: Have you started considering IR scores? Any thoughts on its relevance, timelines etc?

Rodrigo: We consider the IR only in rare cases when we are on the fence about a candidate and are trying to get into the details to see if the candidate’s profile has a good fit with the McCombs MBA.

For now the IR score is not a key part of our evaluation process.


MBA Crystal Ball: How do you look at a candidates with a skewed verbal/quant break-up? Can excellent performance overcome not so great score in another?

Rodrigo: Again, our review is holistic. If an applicant has low verbal scores, for example, we will pay close attention to the quality of their essays, any foreign-language exam results, and how their communication skills are evaluated by their references.

General Queries

MBA Crystal Ball: Apart from the online events, what can international students do to learn more about the program and interact on a more personalize basis with adcom/students?

Rodrigo: Our international team travels abroad at least four times each year. We also host a variety of events, which can all be found online. We also encourage prospective applicants to connect with one of our current students or alumni here.

And again, to learn more about our admissions committee, visit our website here.

We’re happy to answer questions anytime, and we welcome an open dialogue with our prospective international applicants.


MBA Crystal Ball: How popular are your dual degree programs? What proportion of MBA students opt for those programs and are they a recommended choice for international candidates?

Rodrigo: Our dual degree programs are more popular with our domestic students, but taking this path truly depends on the individual and their goals.


Read the interviews with the Admission Committee officers of many other top bschools.


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MG (Manish Gupta)

About MG (Manish Gupta)

As a principal MBA admissions consultant & career counsellor with MBA Crystal Ball, MG has helped many get into the top B-schools from ISB to Wharton. He is an IIT topper, an ISB alumnus (Dean's list honors) and a former McKinsey strategy consultant.

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