In the final installment in our series on the application process to grad school we’ll talk about the importance of your cover letter, what happens after your application is submitted and complete, and some subtle things you can do to make your application stand out…in a good way! (believe me, some applications stand out but not in a way you’d want to emulate).

To quickly recap, there are six required components to your application: Online application (ApplyTexas), transcripts, GMAT or GRE, resume, letters of recommendation (x2) and essays (x2). If you submit all these items your application is considered complete and will be reviewed.

That being said, there is a seventh component that I personally recommend all prospective graduate students complete, and that’s the optional cover letter. We also call this a personal statement, which is also an accurate description. The title isn’t as important as the purpose it serves.

One thing we don’t do in the application review process is interview prospective students. If we did, you’d have the opportunity to sit–literally–in front of the admissions review committee and talk about your background, your application and why you’d make a great addition to the McCoy Graduate Programs. For better or worse you’ll never have the chance to do that; your cover letter is as close as you’ll get, and for that reason I think it’s important.

If you have what I refer to as a “bullet-proof” application then I think a cover letter is less important. What I mean by that is: If your GPA is great, if your GMAT/GRE is above our average, and you generally feel great about your application then chances are that a cover letter really won’t make that much of a difference. Still helpful? Sure, but not critical.

On the other hand, if you–like most applicants–have a good application but there is that one thing that makes you a little uneasy, I think a good cover letter is important. It gives you the chance to address the “thing”, whatever that is, and emphasize your strengths. PLEASE READ THIS PART: One thing you don’t ever, ever want to do is make excuses in your cover letter. Maybe that goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. No excuses. Context, however, is very helpful. I realize it’s sometimes hard to walk the line between the two, but do your best.

Once all the components of your application are submitted, it will be forwarded to our admissions review committee. This consists of five MBA-level professors as well as our Associate Dean of Graduate Programs, who chairs the committee. We are proud to operate under a “rolling admissions” policy. This means that applications are reviewed as they come in, irrespective of the deadline. So if you are applying for spring admission, and your application is submitted in July, that’s when it will be reviewed.

From the time you submit your complete application the time it takes for you to get a reply–which will come by both email and snail mail–is about 10-14 days. We’ve all been in the position of waiting and we know how horrible it is, so we try to limit the amount of time you are forced to wonder “Did I get in or not?”

If you are accepted- great! If not, you’ll have an opportunity to remedy whatever held you back and re-apply. For most applicants this will entail retaking the GMAT or GRE.

In closing I’ll offer two bits of advice that I usually charge lots of money for. Kidding, of course. But I do feel strongly about this in the sense that I think it can help your application. The first is to have a great deal of pride in your application documents. There should be a great deal of continuity and attention to detail. The application is a direct reflection of you, the applicant. It seems painfully obvious to type that out but that point is lost on some prospective students.

The final bit of advice is this: As you complete your application, remember that the application review committee is really trying to answer just one question, and that is: If we accept you into our program, what is the likelihood that you will be successful? That’s it. If you stop and think about it, we are in the acceptance business, not the denial business. It gives us no joy to tell someone no. What we’re trying to do is predict who will be successful and that’s who we allow into the program. If your application screams, with every document, “I’m going to succeed. I will make you proud to have me as a student and graduate.” then you will get in. Tell that story.

I’m out of words, and you’re probably glad. I hope this was helpful. If we can assist you in any way please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us.