This application season, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business has streamlined its essay prompts down to just one and broadened the scope of the query to leave the decision of what to share largely up to the candidate. Rather than asking applicants about a defining moment and how they anticipate contributing to and benefitting from their experience in the Tepper program, the school poses what those familiar with the entrepreneurial/start-up world will readily recognize as a kind of “elevator pitch.” Candidates must distill what they feel are the most meaningful elements of their candidacy into a brief and compelling sound bite of sorts. Read on for our suggestions on how you might accomplish this…
Your essays are a great way for us to really get to know who you are. There are no right or wrong answers here – be authentic and tell us what we won’t find in the rest of your application. Only one essay is required. There also is an optional essay if there is additional information you wish to share with the admissions committee about your candidacy.
Essay 1: (Maximum 300-350 words, 12-point font, double-spaced): Imagine that you meet up with a member of the admission committee at an airport while on a layover. You have an opportunity to make a memorable impression. Use this essay to introduce yourself. Include any information that you believe is important for the committee member to know about you both professionally and personally.
With a limit of just 300–350 words, you do not have a lot of room to get too detailed here, so heed the school’s directive—“tell us what we won’t find in the rest of your application”—and steer away from providing a basic rundown of your current job title and company, your undergraduate institution, your extracurriculars, and/or any other statistics and data points that the admissions committee will already have. This is not an invitation to just offer a laundry list of attributes or achievements but to “make a memorable impression” (emphasis ours). Although you want to use this essay to convey key information about your candidacy, before you start writing anything, take a few minutes to actually imagine yourself in this situation in real-life. What do you think you would truly say to an admissions officer in such a setting? We are pretty sure you would not whip out your resume, begin detailing your greatest achievements, and outline the career you hope to have after graduating. Some of this information may indeed be part of what you want your brief message to be, but you should be natural and realistic in your approach. And given that being able to streamline your central, most crucial messages and facts into a readily accessible, compelling, yet brief statement is a valuable—if not required—skill in the workplace, this essay may also give Tepper insight into your abilities in that regard
So, go beyond the bullet points in your resume and consider touching on personal qualities that are distinctive and representative of who you are as an individual, providing some ideas of how or what you could contribute to the Tepper environment, sharing your post-MBA goals, explaining your reason for wanting the degree, and/or clarifying why you feel you need an MBA now in particular. Business schools generally want to know (whether they ask directly or not) what candidates have in mind when they apply to an MBA program. To change careers? Advance in their current one? Hone certain skills? Gain exposure to a particular aspect of business or build a stronger network? Keep all these ideas in mind when deciding what to include in your essay, and work to supply the admissions committee with any such details you feel are most relevant for your candidacy. We recommend downloading your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide to help you better understand the primary points schools often request and get some ideas on how you might frame or incorporate them into your essay.
Though this may be easier said than done for some applicants, do your best to infuse your personality into your submission as much as possible. Let your approach and style reflect how you generally conduct yourself. Are you typically light-hearted or more blunt and forthright? Do you tend to be creative and visionary or more grounded and conservative? This essay will be the school’s first glimpse into who you are beyond the short answers, flat facts, and numbers provided in the rest of your application, so you want to try to convey your individuality and character along with your key points.
Optional Essay: Use this essay to convey important information that you may not have been otherwise able to convey. This may include unexplained resume gaps, context for recommender selection, etc. If you are a re-applicant, explain how your candidacy has strengthened since your last application.
Tepper’s optional essay prompt is somewhat broad in the sense that it does not demand that you discuss only problem areas in your candidacy. However, the second line of the prompt seems to imply that the admissions committee expects the essay to be used for just that. If an element of your profile would benefit from further explanation—such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT or GRE score, or a legal or disciplinary issue—this is your opportunity to address it and answer any related questions an admissions officer might have. We caution you against simply trying to fill this space because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you, and do not interpret this as a blank-slate invitation to dump every bit of remaining information about yourself that you feel the school is lacking or to offer a few anecdotes you were unable to use in your required essay. Although no word limit is stipulated, be mindful that by submitting a second essay, you are making a claim on an (undoubtedly very busy) admissions representative’s time, so you be sure that what you have written is worth the additional resources and effort. For more guidance, see our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice (along with multiple examples) on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay.
If you are a reapplicant, this essay is pretty straightforward. Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement, or taken on some sort of personal challenge, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Tepper wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a Tepper MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.