Advice for UT-Austin McCombs School of Business Applicants

Playing my friend in chess, park in Astana, Kazakhstan

Playing my friend in chess, park in Astana, Kazakhstan

The McCombs School of Business is one of UT's most popular programs, and for good reason. It is one of the best valued business educations in the world consistently ranking in the top 6 business schools in the United States. All of their undergraduate programs rank in the top ten including the world's best accounting program.

How to apply to the McCombs School of Business?

Students interested in applying to the McCombs School of Business must select it as their first choice major on Apply Texas. All applicants apply as Business - Undeclared.

Enrolling McCombs students declare their major (like accounting, supply chain management, finance, etc.) after their freshman year. Students may have only one Business major and one minor. Double majors outside of the Business School can be pursued only after enrolling.

No student is guaranteed admission to the Business School. All spaces even for those in the top 6% are competitive. Here is three years of client data applying for McCombs. 26 out of 31 gained admission including three for honors.

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McCombs Application Requirements

Applicants must submit Apply Texas Essay A and three Short Answers about your career ambitions, academic record, and leadership activities.

Although it is optional, it is highly encouraged that Business applicants submit an expanded resume. The expanded resume allows you to upload a paper copy of your resume where you elaborate on your activities.

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You are welcome to submit optional recommendation letters, but they are effective only if they add new information or context to your file that cannot be found on your Apply Texas, transcript, essays, or resume. Recommendation letters rarely improve an applicant's admissions chances.

UT-Austin has a priority admissions deadline of November 1 for both regular and honors admission. Applicants who complete all required materials by then will receive their admissions decision no later than February 1. Early applicants are not able to update their applications after November 1 with new test scores, their resume, or recommendation letters.

How do I increase my chances of gaining admission to the McCombs School of Business?

Admissions to the McCombs School is highly competitive. Business is one of the most popular majors at all universities, and since UT has one of the strongest programs, there is a higher than average number of out-of-state and foreign applicants seeking entry.

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About one in four applicants gain admission each year. It's likely that, as application numbers have increased by 15% from Fall 2016 to 2018, that McCombs is even more selective than before.

I provide my suggested academic minimums for McCombs to be considered a “match” program.


The Office of Admissions reviews all applications. Decisions for regular admission are not made by the McCombs School of Business. You need to argue with specific examples why you deserve a space.

Reviewers in particular look for a demonstrated record of leadership activities in school and in your community. It is important that you expand upon any leadership activities in your resume and consider listing them at the very top under a dedicated leadership heading. Work experience and volunteering is also considered favorably. You should discuss your one or two most committed activities in your Leadership short answer.

If Calculus is available at your school, it is strongly encouraged you take it so you're ready to continue your math studies when you arrive on campus. If you have undertaken any independent study or certificates in personal finance, economics, statistics, programming, or entrepreneurship, discuss that in your Academics short answer.

In your Career short answer, you should tell reviewers why you would be a good fit for the business school and how UT-Austin can help you achieve your long-term professional goals. Cite specific UT resources, certificates, student organizations, or Austin-area companies that interest you.

Alternatives to the McCombs School of Business

As mentioned, admission to business is highly competitive. Many applicants choose to seek admission to less selective yet related programs.

Moreover, many current McCombs students eventually change their major to something else because they find business isn't a good fit for them. There are over 120 majors at UT yet students often default to business because it seems like the easiest pathway to a stable career.

If you don't feel like you would be competitive for business or it doesn't match your interests, consider these programs:

UT McCombs previously offered a Business Foundations Program certificate but have since discontinued it and replaced it with a Business Minor open to any UT students.

They have a number of other certificate programs in global management, real estate, public policy, and so on that students from any major can pursue.

It also seems they have a Summer Institute for Business Foundations Program open to students from any university, so if you’re aiming for a transfer or want to take UT coursework, it’s worth considering.

Applicants may also be interested in earning certificates once they arrive on campus. Students from any major can pursue Applied Statistical Modeling or Scientific Computation and Data Sciences.

One of my favorite programs open to any UT student is the Bridging Disciplines Program (BDP). BDP allows students to combine coursework outside of their major with research and internships. I completed an International Studies BDP, and business-oriented students may be interested in Ethics and Leadership in Business, Social Entrepreneurship, or Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship Certificates.

You can view the complete list of minors and certificate programs here. Interest in a minor or certificate does not play a role in the admissions process.

How does admissions to the Business Honors Program (BHP) work?

Applicants interested in BHP must select Business as their first choice. Honors reviewers will have access to everything that you submit on Apply Texas and upload on your My Status Page. They require the expanded resume and one recommendation letter. After submitting Apply Texas, you will also complete the brief Honors Application.

It is important to understand that BHP is both an honors program and a major meaning that there are many required courses throughout your four years at UT. BHP students are the only ones who can declare a double major within Business, for example BHP and a specific discipline like marketing or finance.

Applying to honors in no way impacts or influences your regular admissions decision.

They are two totally separate processes: regular admissions is decided by the Office of Admissions while BHP reviewers select their applicants. Since BHP staff selects their applicants, they are very discerning about the types of students they seek and the kind of community they are building.

Approximately 500 competitive applicants will receive phone interviews conducted primarily by BHP alumni from October - December.

Admissions to BHP is extraordinarily competitive. At minimum you should rank in the top 5% scoring at least a 32/1450 on the ACT/SAT. The typical admitted BHP student scores a 34/1484 on the ACT/SAT and ranks in the top 1.7% of their class. Many valedictorians and students with perfect exam scores will be denied.

Interested in building your best application and maximizing your BHP admissions chances? Complete my questionnaire for a free consultation.

For Fall 2018, 1,828 applicants competed for 244 spaces, an admissions rate around 14%. Of those 244, approximately half enrolled.

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The Business Honors Program (BHP) admissions review process

A letter from the BHP Director sent to alumni during the Fall 2016 applicant pool sheds light on their review process.

"Dear BHP Alums,             

Many of you have expressed interest in learning more about our admissions process. To give you some insight, let me describe last year’s admissions cycle where applications started appearing on August 1 with a deadline of October 15 for early admissions and December 1 for regular admissions.  As soon as we received access to the files from the Tower, we began poring through them.  Ultimately we received 1688 applications for a class we hoped would be 110-120.  Approximately half of those applications were for early admission and were processed and given labels of “accept, defer, or deny” before December 1.  About half were for regular admission and were processed before February 1.    

All applications are very detailed.  They contain class rank, SAT and/or ACT scores, SAT II, AP and IB exam scores, transcripts listing courses taken and grades achieved, two to three essays written by the students, a short honors essay, and one to five letters of recommendation. They also contain a resume, which is generally 2-6 pages long, and includes detailed listings of students’ activities, leadership positions, jobs, internships, volunteering activities, special awards and achievements, etc.                  

Our staff members devote hundreds of hours to scrutinizing these applications. Certainly some applicants are obviously not going to meet our standards and their files can be set to the side.  But the majority of the files are read line-by-line by BHP staffers.  

Essays are graded.  Activities are reviewed and ranked.  Letters of recommendation are carefully scrutinized.   Using our holistic review process, and paying special attention to leadership, involvement, grades/rank/performance in classes, and test scores, last year we whittled the 1688 applications down to 458 highly-qualified students.              

This is where you came in.  Those 458 students were then interviewed over the phone by BHP Alumni. Phone interviews provide valuable information about the applicant, and are also a great recruiting tool for top students. We are eternally grateful for this assistance that we receive from you alums.  Your feedback becomes an important part of the mosaic.  Interviews are certainly not always determinative, but this information often tips the scales one direction or the other. 

Once the interviews finished, the BHP admissions committee, comprised of staff members and myself, had the tough job of making admissions decisions. We spent approximately 55 hours comparing these 458 candidates.  These deliberations were often excruciating.  We reviewed some files four, five, even six times.  Due to the competitive nature of the situation, we had to reject valedictorians, students with perfect SAT scores, and other students with truly amazing accomplishments on their records.  

Space limitations required us to turn down students we would have loved to get to know and who would likely have prospered in BHP.  This process causes some sleepless nights for the committee. 

Finally, after long deliberations fueled by a never-ending supply of M&M’s and Diet Coke, we offered admission to 242 amazing students (split about half-and-half between early-admits and regular-admits) Those 242 students had an average SAT score of 1509 (on the 1600 scale), ACTs of 34, class rank in the top 2.2%, and averaged 6 leadership positions in high school. 

Eighty-one percent of those students were from Texas, 17% from 18 other states, and 2% from foreign countries (India, Korea, Ukraine). Once admitted, all 242 students were invited to our admitted student event Discover BHP. Discover was a huge success, again aided by our alums, most particularly Amy Bell (BHP ’03) who was our keynote speaker at the luncheon. When all was said and done, we had 121 students enroll for the fall 2016 semester. The class of 2020 is off to a great start and even as I write this we are working hard to select the class of 2021!"

I hope this information helps! Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions

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