Are you ready to dig into your essays? Application essays are specifically and cleverly designed to get into your head. We like to turn the tables on the admissions committees and get inside their heads. Why are they asking these questions? What are they looking for? Read on as our experts break down application essay questions to help YOU plan the attack.
Two Essays, 300 words each. Carnegie Mellon Tepper doesn’t give you a lot of room for error, but they still expect you to make an impression. Let’s get into it.
Carnegie Mellon Tepper MBA Essay Question 1
Essay 1 (Maximum 300 words):Describe a defining moment in your life, and explain how it shaped you as a person.
Folks, this question is 100% about Before & After, which is proving to be a fairly consistent theme this year. B-Schools are all interested “personal inflection points.” Please do not pick a resume moment and hope that’s gonna rock their world on its own. Gotta dig deeper than that.
Two possible approaches here–feel it out and see which ones ignites for you.
Approach #1 – Work backwards. We’ve seen people veer a bit off course here by leaping to the most obvious “defining moment” in their lives, write up a potentially compelling narrative, but end up with an essay that doesn’t create a spark in the reader that allows him to get excited about this person as a BUSINESS SCHOOL CANDIDATE.
Think about where you’re headed. Your ambitions. What you wanna achieve. The difference you wanna make. The people you wanna inspire. The opportunity you wanna seize. Good, now imagine that ten other people SHARE EVERYTHING on that list, and there’s only room for ONE GUY to be given the opportunity to pursue that chance. Why should it be you? What trait distinguishes you from Joe Applicant, that will make you the most promising person to “win”? Once you’ve isolated it, now think back on your life and career and identify, say, three BIG moments that would show up on a timeline on your life. Big failures, big changes in the way you act/behave, big influences that affected your outlook on something, big external events that profoundly altered something for you personally, etc. Pick (up to) three of the biggest ones. Now take another look at that “distinguishing” characteristic from the previous exercise. Do you see a line emerging between any “big” event and this distinguishing characteristic? You should be able to find a relationship there that connects one of the pivotal moments in your past, to your personal development that is directly or even indirectly related to your promise to succeed in life. This could work. First you’ll wanna walk us through the pivotal moment, and end your essay with an extrapolation of how this will manifest in your future, helping us to connect the dots.
Approach #2 – You may have some obvious pivotal moments in your past that you would be foolish to ignore. If that’s the case, don’t waste much time, explore incidents or moments that almost automatically spring to mind as “defining moments.” Could be a military operation, could be the time you betrayed someone, could be the time you told a shameful lie, could be the time your world view changed on a dime, etc. The way to mine gold here is to figure out how this incident/moment/node ALTERED your trajectory. Where were you headed? Who were you before this moment? What would life have looked like had this “thing” not happened? And more importantly, how DIFFERENT would that version of your life looked? Why is “today’s” version so much more preferable? This story just writes itself, because you’re essentially explaining why you were heading toward unknown (or even known) destination A. But now you’re heading toward new destination B (because of “defining moment X”). Explain the destination (which will almost certainly include some allusion to future goals as well as personal ones) and why this is the better path.
Carnegie Mellon Tepper MBA Essay Question 2
Essay 2 (Maximum 300 words): Based on your research and interactions with the Tepper community, please share why you are a good fit with the Tepper MBA program.
Not exactly a new concept. 300 words is not much room folks. What we need here is proof that you’ve done your homework. We wish there were a slick short-cut here, but folks… you simply need to invest some focused hours on research. Familiarize yourself with the program, read as much as you can about alumni, professors, visit the campus, talk to current students, read read read, explore explore explore… if you make a generic argument to support your case for why you’re a good fit, you’ll be making it clear that you DIDN’T do the homework that others clearly HAVE done.
When you talk about fit, you need to make the argument that you’re determined to achieve what you wanna achieve, no matter what. But that certain pathways, certain “encounters” along the way will help to OPTIMIZE this plan. “Tepper” is one of those optimizers. Why? If competitor school X helps you to achieve a 94% on your test for “how well you’re progressing toward your goals” and competitor school Y helps you get up to a 96%… what is it about Tepper that gets you all the way up to 100%? Is it something about the people? Something specific about their class offerings? Something specific about their outside-of-class offerings? Something about the location? And the local businesses? Something about their alumni network in particular? Be careful here… for ANY of these arguments, if you can swap out Tepper for another school, the argument is flawed. The argument must ONLY hold water for this and only this program. That’s the whooooole point.
We’re always surprised why 97% of folks miss this one on the first try. If you’re just making generic remarks on fit simply listing a class name or a professor name in the hopes that that by itself shows familiarity, think again. You’re not just showing familiarity or fit – the question should really read “Why, over all other business school options, will Tepper specifically help you achieve the BEST version of your goals?” Try answering THAT question and see where it takes you…