When Jonathan Van was in high school, he knew he wanted to study business. And as a businessperson, he says he believes in getting the best value.
He picked the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business in part because it was highly ranked, and in part because his in-state tuition would be low, compared to other schools. Now an alumnus, he says he’s happy with his education, and is also a proud donor.
But McCombs’ leadership wants to do more than simply ride off of high rankings and relatively cheap in-state tuition. The school has been going out of its way to create an environment where every admitted student has the potential to succeed. In recent years, they’ve instated diversity forums, begun offering an all-female case competition, and launched the Student Success Program for first generation and under-resourced freshmen.
“It’s something we’re constantly working on because it’s a challenge,” says McCombs Associate Dean David Platt. “We’re doing a number of recruiting things, but a lot has to do with making sure that once they get here, they won’t be prevented from succeeding. We want to make sure that students who are underrepresented are comfortable in this environment.”
Platt says the diversity forum is meant to be a space for students to discuss issues, to make sure no is being held back because they don’t feel like they fit in. Similarly, the female case competition is meant to provide an additional opportunity for women to participate. Platt says that despite having a 50/50 gender ratio, they found that women were significantly less likely to participate in case competition teams. After advisement from the student body, the female case competition was introduced, and now many more women are participating.
And having a comfortable environment is important, since McCombs students will spend all four years of college at the business school. The program kicks off with a summer orientation program, and beginning first semester, students dive right into the core fundamentals of business – economics, calculus, etc. On top of the core classes, first semester students also do a community service project, meant to help them understand the relationship between business and society.
In the second semester, students move into a course that is designed to teach them about the different business majors and different careers they can have in business. “Some know what they want to do, but most don’t,” Platt says. “So we put them in a course that teaches them about the differences between finance, and marketing, and so on, to get them attuned to the career discovery process.”
‘WE’RE ALSO EXPECTING THEM TO STEP UP WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY ARISES’
Over four years, McCombs students will take about half of their classes within the business school, with the other half for university requirements and electives. With this amount of freedom, Platt says they actually have a fair amount of flexibility to pursue other interests, or study abroad. In fact, he says they have an unusually high percentage of students who study abroad – approximately 40%.
And many participate in other extracurriculars around campus. For example, Assistant Dean Arthur Allert says McCombs emphasizes leadership training whenever possible. “We’re teaching them fundamental material, but we’re also expecting them to step up when the opportunity arises,” he says.
This past summer, he says they asked incoming freshmen what they thought about leadership, and what they thought about their strengths and weaknesses. A couple years from now, when those students are in their junior and senior years, they plan to ask again.
“Right now we’re seeing that as freshmen, they think more highly of their leadership skills than they do two years later,” Allert says. “The motto of the school is that this is where leadership is earned. Last year 87% of our graduating students had at least one significant leadership experience during their time at McCombs. We’d like to move that higher, but we’re pretty happy.”
RELATIVELY LOW JOB PLACEMENT BUT SOLID AVERAGE SALARY FOR CLASS OF 2016
The McCombs School also has an internship requirement, which students must complete in order to graduate. In the past, Platt says it was traditionally completed after the junior year. But now, with the recruiting cycle happening earlier and earlier, he says more students are opting to complete an internship after their sophomore year, giving them early exposure to companies that may offer them full-time jobs.
Even so, McCombs’ career outcomes are low compared to other top 15 schools. The school reports that 82% of the Class of 2016 had a business-specific internship before graduating. And 84% of that class was employed within 90 days of graduating, with an average starting salary of $64,354.
Eric Chou, and alumnus from the Class of 2014 who transferred to McCombs as a junior, says he struggled to find an internship while in school, and struggled again to find a job after graduating. He says he wishes the school had better professional support. “I had gone to many networking events, sought the advice of professors and counselors to no avail,” he says.
But aside from some trouble with career advising, Chou says he appreciated McCombs for the well-rounded education. Not only did the school have strong academics, he says they also emphasized social and professional training, which he found very useful.
McCOMBS SCORES VERY WELL IN ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE RATED BY ALUMNI
And while not everyone leaves satisfied, it appears that the vast majority of students do. McCombs is highly placed in P&Q’s rankings largely due to high scores on P&Q’s alumni survey.
Jonathan Van — the alumnus who initially picked McCombs as the best education for the best price — says professors were frequently available to help students, were open to negotiating on assignments for students who really wanted to learn, and were able to teach in creative ways. He says he loved the upperclassmen courses that incorporated team projects, scenario games, and case studies. “I’m very much an experiential learner, so these opportunities made high-level concepts stuck with me,” he says.
And in particular, he says he loved the fact that he got to go to a large, diverse school. “Going to a large school gave me the opportunity to experience almost everything under the sun that I wanted,” he says. “I had the chance to work with two entrepreneurs-in-residents to bring more entrepreneurs and investors on campus. These experiences directly led me to where I am today. I’m grateful that McCombs gave me the flexibility, freedom, and platform to make the most of my time where, without forcing me into some cookie-cutter path.”
In fact, McCombs is among the highest rated schools by alumni. In P&Q’s survey, participating alumni awarded the school above average scores in every category. It was the highest rated for quality of teaching, and the fifth highest concerning whether the degree was worth its cost in time and tuition.
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“My ‘signature experience’ was sprinkled throughout classes and opportunities outside the classroom. I’m happy that a school as large as UT gave me the freedom and the help to do what I wanted to get all the experiential learning I wanted as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Simulation and case study work helped me practice taking in multiple complex variables and making the right decisions. When I didn’t, we had ample opportunity to debrief and learn from our mistakes.” – Class of 2014 McCombs alum
“BHP was heavy on case-analysis and strategic thinking in all courses, particularly capstone management course. I wrote my Plan II senior thesis with my MIS professor as my adviser; I wrote about the need for foreign STEM students and why the US should restructure the H1-B visa program.” – Class of 2014 McCombs alum
“I had a marketing capstone project in which I worked with a local Austin company for an entire semester. My team assisted this company with marketing strategy, identifying target markets, and we put together a marketing business proposal for the company. It was a very valuable experience and helped me realize the type of marketing I wanted to do in the future.” – Class of 2014 McCombs alum
Where the Class of 2016 went to work:
Ernst & Young: 17
JP Morgan Chase & Co.: 15
PwC Advisory LLC: 14
Goldman Sachs: 12