Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business has only one required written application essay. For it, the school asks applicants to discuss how they have promoted inclusion and how they expect to apply their related skills and mind-set at Tepper. Candidates are also tasked with recording a brief video about their post-graduation aspirations. Applicants who feel the need to convey an additional important aspect or two of their candidacy to the admissions committee can take advantage of the optional essay, whose prompt is broad enough to accommodate topics other than problem areas in one’s profile. Our more in-depth analysis of Tepper’s 2023–2024 questions follows.
Carnegie Mellon Tepper 2023–2024 Essay Tips
Required Essay: The Tepper community is dynamic and unique with students who strive to be collaborative, supportive and inclusive. Please provide an example of when you experienced or created an inclusive environment and how you will use that experience to help members of the community reach their full potential. (Maximum 500 words)
As an MBA student—and in life in general—you will encounter individuals who think differently from you, operate according to different values, and react differently to the same stimuli. And success in an endeavor often involves considering and incorporating others’ input and perspectives. Via this essay, Tepper hopes to learn how you view, approach, and engage with such differences. Once enrolled in the school’s MBA program, you will be surrounded every day by people who are unlike you in a multitude of ways, and you will need to work in tandem with and alongside these individuals when analyzing case studies, completing group projects, and participating in other activities both inside and outside the classroom. The school is clearly seeking evidence that you are capable of listening, reflecting, learning, and growing and that you are interested in people and information that come from outside your usual frame of reference. And by asking you to share an example of when you “experienced or created an inclusive environment,” Tepper is requesting concrete evidence of this open-mindedness in action.
When admissions committees request examples, they invite essays that use a narrative structure, and we believe such essays are usually not only more revelatory but also more interesting to read (this is a definite plus when you are trying to make an impression on someone who sees literally thousands of essays each year!). So, consider starting your essay by launching directly into your story and immediately highlighting the actions you took to enhance inclusivity in a given situation: “When I realized that some of our new hires were reluctant to take part in our company’s weekly ‘wine wind down,’ I committed myself to finding out why and what could be done to ….”
The Tepper admissions committee wants of course to know the outcome of the incident you describe, so be sure to relate the results of your actions, but what is even more important to the committee is understanding what your motivations were, what decisions you made, and what steps you took to effect change. This means you must illustrate the values and thought process behind your efforts, in addition to clearly conveying your actions and their outcome.
Keep in mind, however, that the incident or situation you share should account for only one half of your essay. The school also asks how you expect to apply your mind-set and dedication to inclusivity once you arrive on campus. So, do your research on the program to identify specific areas and opportunities where you could contribute in this particular way, and clearly demonstrate your understanding of both the Tepper community and your potential to be additive to it.
Video Essay–Goals: We know that this is an important component of your decision to attend business school. We take it seriously as well. Please describe your post-MBA career goals.
It would be helpful to consider the following information in your response:
– You have up to 2 minutes to respond to this question.
– Please be as specific as possible. If you have not yet identified specific companies, that is okay. Just tell us what interests you for your next role or company. What about the industry, company, or functional role is appealing to you?
– If you have any criteria you are using to evaluate career opportunities, please share those as well. We may have great opportunities to add to your list.
– How does this post-MBA career goal relate to your long-term career plan?
First, take a deep breath and let it out again. We understand that video submissions can often be intimidating and make you feel like you are being put on the spot, but Tepper is really not trying to scare you. The admissions committee simply wants to collect this key information from you in a more dynamic way than a written essay generally provides, while also getting a glimpse of your personality and communication style. You cannot answer the school’s questions incorrectly, so do not concern yourself with trying to give the “right” answer. Just respond to the query honestly, as smoothly as you can (despite any nervousness you might be feeling), and be yourself. Thankfully, Tepper explains what information it wants you to provide, so you can prepare your talking points in advance and practice a bit, rather than having to go in totally blind.
For this video component, the school simply wants to understand where you hope to go professionally after earning your MBA, in as much detail as you can provide in the allotted time (more on this later). The admissions committee wants to know that you have given this topic very serious thought, have thoroughly researched your options, and are approaching business school with a strong sense of purpose—that you have fitting, attainable goals in mind and can articulate them clearly.
First, make sure that the path you have chosen is a feasible one for you and that the connection between your short-term plans and your long-term aspirations makes sense. The school wants to feel that you will be able to achieve your objectives after completing its program, so you want to avoid goals that could sound farfetched. Establishing briefly that you have the skills and knowledge to enter your target field will establish that logical connection, reassuring the admissions committee that you can be a happy and productive graduate. Note that Tepper does not ask you to recap your career thus far, and you do really not have sufficient time in which to do so. Provide this additional context only if it is absolutely needed for your stated goals to be understood and/or believable—perhaps if you are making a fairly significant career change.
Because two minutes is really not very long, we encourage you to practice a bit in advance—perhaps even in front of a mirror—to get a sense of how quickly that time will pass when you are actually recording.
When you are ready to record your video, you will have up to three attempts, so if you are not satisfied with your first (or second) delivery, you can try again. Note, however, that you cannot go back to an earlier version once you choose to record a new one, and your third video (if you use all available attempts) will automatically be your official submission. So if you stumble while answering or are unhappy with your answer, unfortunately, you cannot do anything about it. However, we encourage you to not judge yourself too harshly or become discouraged if your video is ultimately not what you would consider “perfect.” Tepper wants insight into the authentic you. If you make a minor mistake—such as fumbling for words or losing your train of thought—just laugh or shrug and continue with your response. Accepting a small blunder with a sense of humor and grace will give the admissions committee a more positive and natural impression of your personality and merely reveal that you are human—not disqualify you for acceptance.
One’s career goals are often part of a traditional personal statement, so consider downloading your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which offers tips and advice on responding to this type of query. This complimentary guide offers detailed advice on approaching and framing these subjects, along with multiple illustrative examples. Be sure to claim your copy today.
Optional Essay: Is there anything else that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee as we evaluate your application? If you believe your credentials and essays represent you fairly, you should not feel obligated to answer this question. This essay is intended to provide a place for you to add information that you think is important but is not covered elsewhere in the application. This could include clarification of your employment or academic record, choice of recommenders, or helpful context for the admissions committee in reviewing your 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 not too subtly implies that the admissions committee expects you to use the essay 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 this is definitely not an invitation to dump a bunch of remaining information about yourself that you have not included elsewhere or to offer a few anecdotes you were unable to use in your required essay.
However, if you believe you have something pivotal or particularly compelling to share that is not mentioned anywhere else in your application and that you feel would render your profile incomplete if omitted, Tepper has offered some leeway to do so here. 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 be sure that whatever you write is worth the additional resources and effort. For more guidance, download our free 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.
Are you a re-applicant? Use the optional essay to explain how your candidacy has strengthened since your last application.
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 since your previous application to do so, because an MBA from its program is important 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 are presented in the best light possible.