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How To Approach Tepper’s Essay

Community is important at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. And impact within your community is something that Tepper’s admissions officers look for in applicants.

The B-school’s required essay prompts applicants to answer the following: “The Tepper community is dynamic and unique. Each community member’s individual journey has shaped them into classmates who are collaborative, supportive, and inclusive. Describe how you have overcome adversity during your journey. What did you learn about yourself and how has that shaped who you are?”

Catherine Tuttle, of Fortuna Admissions, recently broke down how applicants should approach Tepper’s essay.


Tepper has a small class size of 200, so it makes sense why the B-school places a strong emphasis on community.

In asking students to answer the following prompt, Tuttle says, Tepper is looking to see who you are and what has shaped your decisions, opportunities, and overall character. In other words, being personal is the way to go when approaching this essay.

“While some may have overcome challenges such as poverty or homelessness, others may have struggled with their mental health, academics, loss of a loved one, or family dynamics,” Tuttle writes. “This essay requires that you reflect on your life so far and dare to be vulnerable. The specificity of the essay question’s wording signals that you should connect the dots for the admissions committee between where you are coming from and where you are heading.”


Tuttle recommends applicants to consider asking themselves the following questions to self-reflect before writing:

  • Are there events that have shaped your values? Your definition of family? Your self-worth?
  • What were they and how did you overcome the challenges?
  • Taking it one step further, how will this experience overcoming adversity make you a better teammate, student, and/or Tepper alumnus?

Experts stress the importance in being honest with yourself in essays and providing an authentic story.

“For example, if you haven’t been a leader in the past, you could say that you’re excited to use your time in the MBA program to push yourself and get more involved,” Cynthia Mills, a Class of 2021 Tepper MBA, says in Tepper’s admissions blog. “Researching the specific clubs/roles you’re interested in demonstrates interest. Talking to student ambassadors who are involved in those clubs is also a plus.”

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, Tepper School of Business

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