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CMU / Tepper 2013-2014 Essay Topic Analysis

Following up on the release of Tepper’s 2013-2014 essay topics, we’d like to offer up some commentary on this aspect of CMU’s MBA application.  Tepper has significantly revised its prompts, restructuring its previous four-essay set to now incorporate two short answer questions as well as three required essays.  The prompts themselves suggest a continued interest in the applicant’s broad goals and ability to make an impact, with an increased emphasis on how students might engage with and contribute to the Tepper community.  In another departure from the previous year’s essay set, the admissions office now specifies a word limit for each essay and response.  Let’s review the new set and see what conclusions can be drawn:

Short Answers

What is your professional goal immediately following graduation from the Tepper School? (Maximum 250 words)

What are your long term career goals? (Maximum 250 words)

The two short answers serve as the latest iteration of Tepper’s historically straightforward approach to the career goals essay.  While last year’s applicants had two, double-spaced pages in which to discuss their goals and interest in Tepper, the school has now isolated the goals conversation between these two, shorter prompts.  However, applicants still have 500 words altogether to discuss their professional aims and should therefore be able to discuss their projected career in detail.  For the first short answer, applicants should offer a description of their target post-MBA role, while the second short answer necessitates a broader discussion of what an applicant ultimately hopes to achieve in his or her career.  Applicants should keep in mind that these two responses will heavily inform their answer to Essay 1 and could therefore benefit from simultaneously brainstorming their short answers and Essay 1.

Essay 1

What transferrable skills have you developed that are related to your professional goals outlined in Short Answer 1?  Additionally, identify the skills that you will need to develop or enhance.  Specifically, how will the Tepper MBA help you develop these skills? (Maximum 500 words)

New to Tepper’s set, this essay offers candidates an opportunity for self-reflection, as well as a chance to show their fit with the Tepper MBA program.  Applicants would be well-served by sketching out the most impressive skills they have honed thus far in their career, selecting those that are relevant to their short answers before identifying which additional skills they will require a Tepper MBA to earn.  The key for 2013-2014 Tepper applicants will be to formulate a directed discussion that speaks to the question, making mention of one’s career to date where appropriate in explaining one’s transferrable skills and preparedness for his or her goals.  One more thing to note is that by asking applicants to detail how Tepper will help them develop these skills, the adcom is signaling the high importance of researching the program and understanding why it would be uniquely appropriate for an applicant.  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 2

Describe a defining moment in your life and explain how it shaped you as a person. (Maximum 300 words)

Another new, self-reflective essay for the year, Essay 2 is a more narrative-based essay than Tepper’s other prompts.  Applicants are first asked to outline a particularly noteworthy instance in their lives and then to draw conclusions about their personal development as a result.  With such a broad field of potential options, applicants should consider selecting a response to this question that covers an aspect of their profile not yet touched upon in another essay or short answer in order to present a well-rounded candidacy.  Many applicants might select a moment from their personal lives, but a professional anecdote is not out of the question so long as applicants can demonstrate that it was truly “defining” and had a meaningful impact on who they are today.

Essay 3

How will your presence in the Tepper MBA program benefit your fellow students? How will you contribute to the school as a student and as an alumnus? (Maximum 300 words)

The final topic in the set complements Essay 1 in terms of demonstrating the adcom’s interest in how much applicants have learned about Tepper’s program prior to applying.  Here, too, applicants would do well to display an in-depth knowledge of Tepper.  While crafting their responses, applicants should consider in which ways they are uniquely suited to contribute to the Tepper community—citing, for example, on-campus activities or academic programs in which they could get involved and, ideally, develop a leadership role.  Applicants should also not neglect to discuss how they will continue to serve the community as alumni, a component of Tepper’s essay prompt that is somewhat atypical among programs seeking to assess applicants’ “fit” with their schools.  With only 300 words to discuss this, however, candidates will need to be direct and succinct in their explanations and discuss only a handful of key avenues by which they will contribute to the Tepper program.

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