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CMU / Tepper Essay Topic Analysis 2010-2011

The essay topics for the 2010-2011 CMU Tepper application are the same as last year’s prompts.  Although there is no prescribed word limit, the school advises that applicants write approximately two double-spaced pages per essay.

Essay A: What are your short-term and long-term goals? How will a Tepper MBA help you to achieve these goals? (Please include any information regarding what steps you have taken to learn more about the Tepper School.)

Tepper has taken the fairly typical approach of leading off with a standard career goals essay, and at two double spaced pages they allot a reasonable amount of space to this subject.   The key for Tepper applicants will be to formulate a directed discussion that speaks to the question, making judicious mention of one’s career to date where appropriate in explaining one’s motivation and preparedness for his or her goals.

One more thing to note is that by asking applicants to detail the steps that they’ve taken to learn more about Tepper, the adcom is signaling the high importance of researching the program and understanding why it would be uniquely appropriate for you.  Discussing campus visits or exchanges with current students and alumni would be a great way to demonstrate your engagement with the community and emphasize that you are making an informed decision in applying.  To further your research we encourage you read the Clear Admit School Guide to Tepper, which contains a detailed and objective overview of the school’s academic and extracurricular offerings.

Essay B: The Tepper School’s culture relies on all members to be active contributors to our community. With your values, experiences, and interests, how will you make a unique contribution to the Tepper community? Your examples may include: classroom interaction, student activities, career development, community service, etc.

This is another classic second question in terms of MBA essays; after learning about what you feel Tepper can do for you, the adcom turns its focus to what you might bring to the CMU community.

The prompt is fairly broad and invites the applicant to imagine how his or her unique characteristics might translate into participation in the Tepper community. Remember that you want to stand out from the rest of the applicant pool, and this essay will allow you to introduce information to that purpose.

The essay question provides specific examples and guidelines as to how applicants can respond to this question.  Therefore in answering this prompt, it will be important for you to follow Tepper’s statement, specifically citing how your values, experiences, and interests will help you contribute to the Tepper community.  In order to provide a focused and effective answer to this question, applicants should use one or two anecdotes from their professional, academic, or extracurricular experiences to demonstrate how they would contribute to these three areas at Tepper.

Essay C: Please answer two of the following three questions or statements. Please clearly specify which questions you are answering. Your two answers should equal a total of two pages or less.
1. Describe an obstacle you have faced in your professional or academic life. How did you overcome this obstacle and how did it foster your development?

Whether the story is from your professional or academic life, the major themes of growth and learning remain the same. After describing the initial obstacle in detail, applicants should comment on both their thoughts and actions in response. It’s very important to present both one’s internal and external reactions in creating a full picture for the adcom.
This essay is a good place to highlight instances of resourcefulness and persistence, and provide a comprehensive picture of personal and professional development over the course of the narrative.  Applicants should keep in mind that the adcom will be using their account of their past thoughts and experiences as a barometer to measure their current attitudes and future approaches.

2. Describe a time in which your ethics were challenged. How did you deal with the situation and what did you learn from it?
Questions of this sort are designed to gauge an applicant’s ability to see two sides of a situation and appreciate the merits of both – and ultimately choose the best possible solution. The “challenged” detail in the question indicates that it’s not enough to simply discuss a situation where you chose to do the right thing; you need to be able to show that there was a compelling reason for you to have acted otherwise. The question lends itself to personal experiences as easily as professional ones, but it’s nice to give an example of how you view and handle ethical complexity in the workplace. For instance, there are often experiences of professional conflicts between people and profit that work well in this context.

After setting the scene in your essay, you should explore the dilemma in depth, analyzing each of your options and explaining the potential positive and negative consequences of each. Once you’ve acknowledged the difficulty of the situation, you should lead the reader through your decision-making process, explaining the reasons behind your ultimate decision. Ideally, your strong grasp of leadership and of problem-solving will be displayed by this analysis. Finally, you should present the results of your decision and the lessons you learned as a result.

3. One thing people would be surprised to know about me is…
This question provides candidates a chance to explore an important aspect of their candidacy not mentioned in their data forms, resume, or other responses. For applicants from oversubscribed groups in the applicant pool, this essay could offer a great opportunity to truly stand out from the crowd by sharing an interesting detail.

The element of “surprise” hints that the topic should not be one that the reader could readily discern from your essays, work history or major extracurricular involvements.  Perhaps you played the flute for 15 years, are an expert in bicycle repair or once visited ten countries in as many days.  Whatever topic you select, it would be ideal to link this surprise quality or fact to some element of your experience in the MBA program.

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