Meet Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper Class of 2017

Ryan Swick

Ryan Swick 

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business 

Hometown: Meadville, PA

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor’s of Science, Civil Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University; Masters of Science, Civil Engineering, University of California Berkeley

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:  DGI-Menard, Inc – Project Engineer; Booz Allen Hamilton – Associate

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? First of all, give yourself plenty of time. You need to account for studying, practicing, taking the exam, and potentially re-taking the exam. Second, get a sense for what your target range is based on the schools in which you’re interested. Third, develop a realistic preparation plan. Take one or two practice tests at the beginning before commencing with any study. Then, develop your practice and study plan based on the results of your practice test(s) and score target. Decide how to balance your efforts between honing your strengths and improving your weaknesses – schools want to see strengths in both quantitative and verbal skills. Do some self-study, especially if you are unfamiliar with certain concepts, but spend the bulk of your time doing and reviewing practice problems. Take a practice test every one or two weeks to gauge progress and get used to computer adaptive scoring. Finally, spend as much time taking the exam as reviewing your correct answers and incorrect answers to learn what went right and wrong.

Other pieces of advice: During this time, dedicate yourself wholly to this endeavor, if possible, outside of work. It’s not fun to juggle essay writing, campus visits, and the general application process with serious test prep. If you’re not seeing the progress or growth in score that you’d like after a month or two of practice, consider joining a class or working with a tutor to get more robust and targeted support than self-study. All of the hard work and prep will get you very comfortable with test-taking and likely improve your score. At some point, though, you will need to let go so you can move on with the rest of your application. Remember, the test score is only one component of your application. 

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? First, be sure you need business school to achieve your career objectives. Some people go to graduate school because they don’t know what they want to do with their career. An expensive, time-consuming MBA program is not the optimal place to figure this out. Admittedly, you’re not going to know every detail about what you’ll do after school, but at least have a long-term vision and short-term tactics to help get you there. Developing this vision may take a lot of effort through informational interviews, research, and so forth, but it is well worth it. Second, figure out which schools have a strong track record for placing students into the type of jobs and industries you’d be interested in right after school and beyond. Third, of those schools that have placements in line with your career goals, read through those schools’ websites and review other literature that helps give you an inside perspective of these programs. Visit campus for those programs that most intrigue you based on you research – it’s worth the effort. Talk to everyone – students, admissions professionals, professors and alumni – about the programs to learn their strengths and weaknesses. See if any patterns emerge regarding your self-perceived fit with the culture, student body, professors, and alumni network.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf?

Be selective with the schools to which you apply.  Make sure there is a very strong fit not just on a professional level, but also academically, socially, and geographically.  Each application is an immense amount of effort so it’s critical that you’re passionate and excited about the program, and you know with certainty you’d be an excellent fit within the school.  Those feelings will carry you through your essay-writing, obtaining recommenders, and conducting interviews.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Since I did my undergraduate work at Carnegie Mellon, I became familiar with the business school. When I started getting serious about pursuing an MBA, Tepper was already high on my list. As I got to know the school better through research and visits, I noted some themes that resonated strongly with what I was looking for in my business education. For starters, with just 200 students per class, I’m excited I’ll be able to get to know each of my classmates on more than just a first name basis. Additionally, the school’s curriculum prepares its students to address business challenges through savvy use of analytics combined with effective leadership.  Also, when I consider the recruiting opportunities at Tepper and CMU, its strength in placing students within the tech and consulting industries is appealing to me as those are my target industries.

On a personal level, I’m happy to be back in western Pennsylvania. My family is nearby and I love Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams.  Although I have previously lived in the city, it’s amazing to see how much it has transformed in just the last five years. I’m finding a vibrant arts, culinary and outdoors scene flourishing alongside the already robust and proud sports culture.  Frankly, I think Pittsburgh is one of the best kept secrets out there.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? During school, I want to grow on a number of levels and also build long-lasting relationships with fellow students, alumni, and professors. I see this personal development and relationship building coming through opportunities to improve as both a leader and team player.

I am seeking to develop my leadership skills through leading a student organization that makes a positive and important impact on or contribution to my fellow classmates. I look forward to working with Tepper’s Accelerate Leadership Center to help facilitate my growth in this respect.

To better myself as a team player, I want to tap into the interdisciplinary nature of Carnegie Mellon, for example by partaking in Tepper’s academic track called “Management of Innovation and Product Development.” In the capstone course for this track, teams are built from students across the university in programs such as engineering, design and business to identify problems to solve, and then develop a solution product and business plan. For me, such an experience would be invaluable as an illustration of working on real-world, diverse teams to achieve business success.

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