December 19, 2018

Texas McCombs MS in Business Analytics

University of Texas McCombs

Masters of Science in Business Analytics


Q1: Why is the Texas MSBA the next logical step for you? How do you hope to develop, both personally and professionally, during this one-year program? (250 words)

250 words is either a beefy two-paragraph affair, or a lean and mean three-spot. That’s for later though, let’s dig into the meat first. There are two key words in here: “next” and “logical.” Let’s translate what each of those means.

“Next” = Why does a one-year stopover, scooping up a Business Analytics degree make sense for your plans, as the very NEXT thing? Why now? Why not wait two years? Or four? Might you not get more out of the program with a few extra years of work experience under your belt? Your future plans a little more fleshed out? The answer has to be no. And you gotta be able to sell it. No, waiting will only delay my ability to. . . what? Achieve X, develop Y, attack problem Z, etc. Your need for a BA degree is now because you’ve pushed yourself as far as you can, and now’s the time you need a boost of “nitro.” Your version, of course, will reveal all sorts of details about your goals and plans that are crucially missing here.

Neat trick: it’s always cool to get the sense that doing it now isn’t do or die. Do or die is actually a really WEAK position. Your posturing should be the opposite. You’ve got plenty of options. Why? Because one way or another, you’re gonna achieve your goal, and barrel forward because you’re a juggernaut. So yah, there absolutely IS a possibility of waiting a little while longer (Path B), or doing XYZ for a little bit and THEN getting this masters (Path C), or… you get the idea. The thing is, while viable, they aren’t as GOOD as Path A which is to nab this sucker NOW, for THIS and THAT and THE OTHER reasons. That argument feels badass and confident.

“Logical” = Okay, let’s say we’re sold that now’s the time for you to do . . . something other than stay on the track you’re currently on. Sell us now on why a degree in Business Analytics specifically makes sense over some alternative? First of all, what ARE the alternatives? Doesn’t have to be a degree necessarily, surely there exist other paths to get you to where you need to go (right? maybe not, you’ll tell us). Neat trick to crush this section: same deal as before, be comfortable with alternative pathways that’ll get you to your ultimate goal. Play them out mentally, and as an exercise, get EXCITED about some of em. Imagine you had to sell someone on one or two alternative paths. Cool, now stack those alternatives against getting this particular degree. And it should be plain that THIS version is way better than those other ones, even they’re all viable. This is an argument that comes from a position of STRENGTH, not weakness. The approach that is beseeching will make the admissions committee wonder if this is an application by way of last resort. Bad. Go the other way. You have TONS of options, but this degree, at this time, makes the most sense, as anyone can plainly see. That’s what we should feel after reading your actual argument.

Let’s look at a potential structure for this:

Part I

  • Good way to start is to paint the scene for where you’re headed, big picture. Why? What’s driving it? Do this quick, couple/three sentences.
  • Now, paint a clear picture of what you need to achieve in the SHORT-TERM to get you on the right track, figure a 3-5 year outlook. Walk us through specifics of how each stage logically leads to the next, advancing you along your trajectory. The crispness of this logic (when executed correctly) should reveal how much thought you’ve put into this plan, kinda like an engineer’s step-by-step protocol.
  • By now, we should be mostly sold that you know what you’re doing, you’re the kind of guy/gal who’s gonna nail it, even if “it” changes over time. This is the part where you reveal the answer to “well, why are you wasting time writing to us, when you could be out there working on that brilliant plan?” Answer? You’re missing some key pieces. Some skills. Some knowledge. Some. . . thing. Boom, a perfect bump and set to the second part of this essay.

Part II

  • At this point, probably you’re around 125-150 words in. You’ve established what you need, and where you’re falling short now. Now, simply explain in two or three clear examples, precisely how the Texas MSBA will help plug all those gaps in your particular profile. Don’t just talk broadly about what “anyone” can expect to gain from a program like this. Think of Texas MSBA as an ENABLER that will help you do something you’re unable to do today. How does that work? Take us through it. Find a few specific classes, opportunities, elements of the program that help enable you to get from A à When executed correctly, these examples shouldn’t apply to “any” other applicant, nor should they apply to ANY other Business Analytics program. They should be specific both to McCombs AND to you. If you can pull that off, now you’re playing with the big boys and gals. This should take another solid 125 word or so.

Depending on your goals, this can either be two or three paragraphs. Doesn’t much matter for your first stab it. As long as you nail the above elements, you should end up with a decent hunk of clay to mold.

Q2: Imagine that you are in a job interview. The interviewer asks you to describe a time that you have had to solve a problem, and what the results were. How would you answer? (If applicable, please describe the quantitative methods you employed.) (250 words)

Let’s start with a basic assumption: so far in your life, you’ve solved more than one problem. Phew. Now we have choices. And now the fun can begin. . .

Okay, so what makes for a good problem to pick here? Or a bad one?

Let’s take a step back. What are they getting at here, ultimately? Obviously, they don’t wanna know that you’re able to solve a problem, “at all.” Lots of people can. They don’t even wanna know that you “got the right answer” even to a ridiculously difficult question. What’s more revealing about your MIGHT is the WAY your gears churned to get you TO the solution. Couple indicators that you’re on the right track:

  • Did others attempt to solve it, but couldn’t? (good indicator)
  • Was your METHOD of solving it somehow unusual, or unexpected? (good indicator)
  • If you revealed your methodology to someone senior to you, would they impressed? If so, why? Assume that they would have gotten to a solution as well, and possibly a BETTER / FASTER one. Would there STILL be an element to your methodology that would impress them? (good indicator)

If you find yourself checking against this list and coming up empty every time, keep digging. By the way, it doesn’t need to be FLASHY. Unusual can also be “unusually” simple and clean: “Whereas others would over-complicate this by doing X Y and Z, I decided to do simply . . . Q, and voila.” Or, unusual can be the opposite: “While everyone else was obsessed with looking for the most elegant solution, I was just looking for … the solution. It was messy, but I got it done. Here’s how.” The key lies in how your brain (how “you”) kick into action when faced with a lock you can’t easily pick. Whatever you do, your story can’t leave the interviewer underwhelmed. You wanna elicit that reaction where the corners of the mouth bend down, eyebrows go up, as if to say “hunh! interesting!” The “Robert DeNiro” face.

Let’s talk structure:

  • First, give us the circumstances around how the problem came up in the first place. Don’t just throw us into the problem without any sense of who needed what, and why, and what was at stake. Set it up.
  • Now, explain what made this problem not easily solvable. Or, explain simply why it wasn’t getting solved. Maybe it had the appearance of being easily solvable, and yet, people kept failing. Or, it was obviously challenging to begin with, and freaked everyone. . . the hell OUT. Explain what wasn’t quite right.
  • Now explain what was going through your head. Did you know how you were gonna get from A to Z from the very beginning? And did you hit a major brick wall at E? Or did you not know how to even get from A to B? But figured it out eventually? Take us through those gears. Let us into your head.
  • If there was an “Aha” moment, there must have been time BEFORE that moment that was “Pre-Aha” right? Take us through THAT, a bit. And then, if you’re able, describe that light bulb moment, how it arrived, or how you “arrived it” by sheer will, whatever the case. This is the real key to it all. Showing us all the ways in which your brain works. Btw, the quantitative reasoning piece methods piece will naturally spring forth this way. But don’t rush to get to that stuff. It’s the stuff BEFORE it that counts just as much.
  • Finally, have a good answer to the question “why did you choose to tell us THIS story”? You should have an awareness of what made this particular problem-solving episode noteworthy. In a sentence or two, walk us through it.

Q3: Video Essay. Imagine that you are at the MS in Business Analytics Orientation. Please introduce yourself to your new classmates and faculty members and include any personal and/or professional aspects that you believe to be significant. Please note that the video introduction is strongly recommended and preferred by the admissions committee. The video introduction should be one minute or less.

Dear god whatever you do, don’t be boring and straightforward. This is your opportunity to sprinkle a little personality into the mix, and make yourself memorable, inside one simple minute. Yah that’s right. One minute. It’s not enough time to spin a serious yarn, but it’s enough to have some fun. Even just a little. Let’s pull back a second though to get a sense of what we’re truly after here.

What would you want to learn from watching a one-minute video of a classmate? What about ten classmates? Would you most wanna know about what cool things these guys have achieved? Would you most wanna know which one of them is cool and approachable? Has a background that complements yours? Is someone you may wanna one-day start a business with? Or work within some capacity? The answer may be a blend of some or all of these. But whether we want to admit it or not, the “cool and approachable” one may just be a necessary conduit to ALL of the others. Maybe it’s best to think about it the other way… imagine someone who scores high on all the OTHER STUFF, but seems very UNCOOL and UNAPPROACHABLE. Taints it, right? Another scenario tends to be possible also: someone comes across kinda cool, but as of yet, you’re unsure of what else that guy/gal has goin on. Doesn’t matter, the groundwork is set to wanna learn more. That’s a positive outcome. That’s kinda what we’re going for. That at the end of watching this video, the viewer should wanna learn more, or wanna hang out with you TO learn more. This is why affability, approachability, sense of humor, a relaxed vibe… are KEY.

Couple things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re telling a redux about something you’ve been doing thus far in your career, or something you’ve achieved, it can’t JUST be about that thing. Rather, what will almost always make that approach COOLER is to give it some kind of twist. Could be anything. A hilarious/memorable blunder you made, something like that. Shows you’re able to poke fun at yourself and aren’t just trying to impress others.
  • Another approach is to talk about something insane, unusual, super interesting in your personal life that simply must be told. Something you’re sure will get a reaction out of a room listening. Again, the idea isn’t to elicit a “wow, that’s impressive!” It should be more of “wow, I gotta meet this guy/gal!”

Don’t try to be too creative here, after all, it’s a one-minute introduction. If you try to get all “Godard” you’re most likely gonna look like you’re trying really hard, and it’s just not the venue for it. Be charming in a way that’s appropriate with the simplicity of the task. Less is more. It should be 70-80% straightforward, and 20-30% . . . spirited.

Read more and explore each step of the Texas Mccombs MS in Business Analytics application process here.

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