Most of us have spent the better part of the past year trying to convince business schools that we want them, but now it’s their turn to woo admitted applicants. These days, schools are hosting the so-called admit weekends, where they do their best to convince you to enroll. Yup, even the very best business schools have to do that – the best applicants usually get multiple admits. One of our members, kjfrench, got in at Tepper and attended their recent admit weekend. Nothing beats learning more about a school first hand, so check out his very detailed post on his experience!
I attended Tepper’s Welcome Weekend on Friday and Saturday; here is my report:
A great city and an excellent university
The first day consisted of a visit of Pittsburgh and a demonstration of the Business Acting class, followed by a formal dinner at Heinz Field (NFL Steelers).
Pittsburgh is a wonderful town, very beautiful and pleasant. The Carnegie Mellon campus is located in the Shadyside area, next to the University of Pittsburgh. Shadyside is fantastic (think relaxed yet active neighbourhood with mansions) and most of the MBA students live in this area. Walnut street (near campus) offers upscale shopping, good food and abundant nightlife. Given the proximity of several well-established university campuses, a majority of people in the area are young and cultured.
The Business Acting class demonstration was quite fun and I learned a few valuable lessons; the full course seemed very unique and challenging. CMU has a fine arts department on par with Julliard in New York, in addition to world-leading engineering and computer science programs. The university does a great job of integrating the different departments into novel educational experiences.
Talented staff and students and rigorous, quantitative training
As I mingled at the Heinz Field dinner, I was very impressed by the quality of the professors and the students. Most of the professors have a future Nobel laureate quality while at the same being approachable, personable and committed to the students. The current and incoming students were incredibly smart and accomplished, yet their attitudes were very down to earth and they were very friendly. We had a great time together throughout the weekend. I was impressed by the new Dean, Bob Dammon; he has a clear vision and the definite potential to bring Tepper into the Top 10 MBA ranking within 3-5 years.
The second day was at the Tepper School itself. We had breakfast and were introduced to the new curriculum. Tepper is perhaps the most quantitatively demanding MBA program in the world and prides itself on its analytical approach to solving complex business problems. The new curriculum, which is a significant overhaul, introduces in-depth personal/leadership development, communications training and multi-disciplinary integration into the program. The goal is to create graduates who make the best decisions, find the best solutions, communicate their ideas and initiatives most effectively and work with people for success. There is a lot of one-on-one teaching, which is absolutely amazing.
Life and recruiting as a Tepper MBA
Tepper begins the career development and job search process with students months before the beginning of classes. By the time the recruiters arrive on campus (first week of school), students have already progressed substantially in defining their job search goals and learning keys skills relevant to their area of focus. The Tepper first-year curriculum is strategically synchronized with the recruitment schedule to optimize job search.
Perhaps the main drawback at CMU is the facilities. Compared with Top 10 schools, I was not quite impressed with the current building. The new Dean is verbal about the need for a new building and plans to build one within 3-5 years (which will give Tepper a significant boost in rankings). The current classrooms are quite nice, on the other hand, so the older building does not impact the educational experience. In fact, considering the academic rigor and intellectual vitality of the program, I’m quite certain that the physical environment will matter very little in the end.
Most of the teachers whose classes I previewed were outstanding. For example, there is the witty and bold Marketing professor who likes to provoke and challenge students with novel ideas. Then, there is the impressive Strategy teacher who makes his lecture so pleasant and intriguing that the students can’t stop smiling. The teaching method is varied for the foundational courses; advanced courses seem to use cases a lot more.
Club life at Tepper is vibrant. The professional clubs (Consulting, Finance, Energy, Net Impact, etc.) contribute a lot to students in their career development and there are many dynamic opportunities to get involved with the community and socialize (Tepper Cares, Wine Club, Golf, etc.). Tepper is very tight-knit in that it only admits 200 students per year.
The small class size–smallest among top programs–is one of the most appealing features of the program. At Tepper, you are an important individual amongst a distinguished group. Professors know you and your story and call you by name (name card or not). Students are very collaborative and care about each other. The entire Carnegie Mellon campus has a great vibe. As you cross the campus to Tepper, you will witness the birth of inventions in a park, hear opera singing from a window and cross paths with impressive individuals. You have to be there to live it.
Prestige matters, but you write your own story
Having pursued only top programs during the admissions process, a big concern for me has been the prestige of my degree. I realize that while Tepper hasn’t yet gained the street cred of some other top programs, the people who matter (recruiters, business leaders, academia) have immense respect for Tepper and Carnegie Mellon as a whole. The truth is that while brand affiliation helps to get an interview (Tepper brings the best recruiters to campus), securing a top job depends entirely on the candidate’s performance. My honest feeling is that Tepper offers the best educational and developmental experience of any MBA program out there (one-on-one attention, ultra-rigorous academics, analytical emphasis, team-centric environment). The Career Opportunities Center does a fantastic job of maximizing the school’s success in job placement, as evidenced by Tepper’s impressive employment data (the report we got through the mail).
The best fit for Tepper seems to be individuals who have the humility to admit being a work in constant progress and a limitless desire to evolve in a highly potent environment with distinguished peers and from paradigm-making faculty. I decided to go the Tepper route; I think it’s where I can best prepare myself for life-long success and professional happiness. Hope to see you guys in August!
Best of luck with your bschool journey, kjfrench! Sounds like Tepper is a great fit for you. I’m sure you’ll have a terrific time there!