Tuesday Tips: CMU Tepper School Fall 2019 MBA Essay Tips

Tepper essay tips

Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business continues to ask for only one required essay for the MBA application, though has expanded the options for that essay this year. Your resume, transcripts, recommendations and other application data will tell the story of your career achievement and academic accomplishments, so the essay should describe your character and personality.

CMU Tepper has a new building called the Tepper Quad, which delivers a campus with several interconnected parts. Tepper considers the program to be interdisciplinary and embraces unique centers like Sustainability & Architecture, Technology and a start up incubator. As part of the new Tepper Quad space, CMU will look to increase the size of the Tepper school.

The Tepper community is diverse with various goals, and Tepper is not looking for one particular profile, but rather candidates who are willing to engage with a tight-knit community and are interested in a highly analytical course structure.

Questions about your Tepper MBA application? Contact us to learn more about how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.


At Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School, we love to tell our story. Below is your chance to tell yours. Please select only ONE of the options below to complete the essay requirement (maximum 300–350 words).

Option #1: Carnegie Mellon University is an institution that never stops looking and moving ahead, pioneering the next way forward with technology, business and research to answer questions big and small. Personally, or professionally, in what way have you been a pioneer?

Option #2: Amidst the ambiguous and unchartered nature of change, Carnegie Mellon University students and alumni rise above to envision and create. Discuss how you have anticipated change in your professional life. In what ways did you effectively collaborate to create your desired outcome?

Option #3: At Carnegie Mellon University, our difference is what we imagine for the world and how we answer its challenges. What impact have you had on the world around you?

There are three options for this required essay, and each allows you to highlight a different aspect of your character. That said, there are a few universal values of the CMU community you should keep in mind.

CMU values analytical skills, so you may want to highlight your analytical skills or that you enjoy intellectual challenges at work. Perhaps you have a story that shows how you learned on the job and applied your decision-making skills to a tough problem.

On the personal side, CMU Tepper has a small and close-knit community, and your personality and background will be of interest to the admissions committee. Think about what your future classmates and professors would want to know about you?

Each of these essay options asks for an example of a time you have demonstrated the quality described. This is a behavioral essay question, and helps the admissions committee to see beyond your resume to how you think and act in real-life situations. Think about an experience that would show the admissions committee what kind of character you have demonstrated in your career or life thus far.

Once you have a few examples that seem appropriate and interesting, think about how they might fit into one of the three options: innovation/pioneering, teamwork/collaboration or community orientation/impact on the world.

Whichever question you choose, make sure you are explaining the details of what the situation was, your actions, and the result of those actions. Lessons learned are always useful for the admissions committee to understand how you think and grow over time.


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.

CMU Tepper’s optional essay provides room to explain any important context to potential issues in your application. As outlined, resume gaps, a recommendation that is from someone other than a current or former supervisor, etc.
Other possible areas you might want to explain include academic issues like low grades in quantitative classes or academic probation. A low GMAT score or other profile issue may be worth addressing if applicable.

Re-applicants should always use this space to showcase a strengthened candidacy. If you have improved your profile with a stronger GMAT score or new grades from quantitative classes, that is great information to highlight. If you have increased your responsibilities at work, refined career goals or added new extracurricular activities those are also valid updates to communicate.

Note this is not an open-ended essay, and CMU Tepper is not asking for you to explain anything you want in this essay. Therefore, it is wisest to stick with the two categories of information specifically outlined. The required essay is open-ended enough to give you the space for other information you want to convey.

If you are looking for MBA application guidance but are always on the go, consider downloading the audio version of The MBA Application Roadmap. Now you can develop your admissions strategy while you exercise, clean up or during your morning commute.

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