*Please note: You are viewing an essay analysis from the 2019-2020 admissions cycle. Click here to view our collection of essay analyses for the current admissions season.
After switching up its application essay approach last year and offering candidates three prompts from which to choose, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business has reverted back this season to posing just a single essay question that all its applicants must respond to. Candidates have up to 500 words with which to answer the school’s query, up from just 350 before, and must explain what they will bring to the Tepper community that will allow them to make an impact on it. Applicants who feel that this somewhat brief essay is not sufficient to fully convey their candidacy to the admissions committee can take advantage of the optional essay, which is sufficiently broad to accommodate discussions about more than just problem areas in one’s profile (if executed effectively). Our full analysis of Tepper’s essay prompts for 2019–2020 follows.
Required Essay: At Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School, we value our community and it is important for each person to contribute to its success. What difference will you make as a member of the MBA class at the Tepper School? (Maximum 350-500 words.)
To know how you would be able to contribute at Tepper, you must first understand the community and environment you will be contributing to, so—if you have not already done so—you must research the school in depth before attempting to craft this essay. This means moving beyond the program’s website, viewbook, and related marketing materials and making direct contact with students, alumni, and even school representatives. Attend an admissions event in your area, if available, and schedule a campus visit and sit in on a class. This kind of firsthand observation of what and who the Tepper program truly entails, paired with a profound knowledge of how it works, is key in identifying what is unique about you viewed against this backdrop—and will help highlight what you can bring to the mix and how.
Pay special attention to the aspects of and areas at Tepper that speak to you personally in some way, and consider social events/clubs and professional development opportunities along with course work and academic offerings. Business school is meant to be a comprehensive environment and experience that enriches students in ways not just related directly to business, and perhaps your best potential for contribution lies in one of these areas. If you are an avid quant wizard, you could of course help your fellow students with class work and projects. If you have a depth of knowledge or years of experience in a particular area, whether through your job or in a personal capacity (such as being a dedicated wine aficionado), you could serve as a kind of subject matter expert for those around you in the program or even a valuable component in someone’s recruiting network. If you are particularly funny, creative, or athletic, you may be the ideal fit to lead an extracurricular group or play a significant role in a nonacademic project or event.
The broad scope of this essay prompt allows you a great amount of freedom to choose and share the information you believe is most important for the admissions committee to know about you. You have as much as 500 words for this submission, which is rather substantial these days, so take care not to ramble or become repetitious. And truly focus on those elements of your personality that are most relevant to the context here: the Tepper experience. Avoid simply trying to fit in as much information as possible about yourself in hoping of stumbling on the “right” answers and instead clearly present and illustrate your most fitting qualities and show a direct connection between them and specific aspects of the MBA program. Authenticity and enthusiasm are the keys to your success with this essay.
Because a contribution essay such as this has similarities to a “why our school?” essay, and because “why our school?” is often an element of a classic personal statement, we encourage you to download a free copy of our Personal Statement Guide, which offers further guidance on preparing for and writing such a submission and includes multiple illustrative examples.
Optional Essay: Use this essay to convey important information that you may not have otherwise been 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. That said, the second line of the prompt does seem to imply that the admissions committee expects the essay to be used in this way. 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.