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2011 CMU Tepper MBA Admissions with James Frick

Audio for Q&A (Click to listen now, or right click and choose “Save As” to download and listen later.)

Linda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s chat. First I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business. It is critical to your decision making process and your admission chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to. Being here today allows you to ask experts about this top business school.

I also want to give a special welcome to James Frick, Director of MBA Admissions at CMU Tepper. James joined the Tepper Admissions team in 2003, and assists in all phases of the admissions process, as well as taking the lead roles in communications and web and database initiatives. He has worked at the Tepper School since 1998, and before joining the Admissions team, served as the Associate Director of MBA programs. James holds a BA from the University of Pittsburgh, an MA from Radford University, and is currently pursuing his doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a diehard fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Also joining us today is Ashley Carnahan, MBA class of 2011, currently studying at Tepper. She is originally from Pittsburgh, PA. She went to Westminster College for her undergraduate degree where she studied Business Administration and Spanish. While at Tepper, Ashley is pursuing concentrations in Marketing, Strategy, and Organizational Behavior. In addition to serving as the Admissions Officer for the Graduate Business Association, Ashley is involved with the Marketing Club, Tepper Women in Business, and the Organizational Leadership Club. She is a huge advocate for MBA programs and looks forward to answering any questions you may have! Thanks to everyone for joining. I am going to take advantage of my position as moderator, and ask James and Ashley what's new at Carnegie Mellon Tepper.

James Frick: First of all, I want to say thank you very much Linda for hosting this and inviting us, and thanks to everyone who is joining us. It's a great pleasure to speak with you today. I've spent a lot of time traveling around the world and country, meeting a lot of great candidates at this time of year when we do a lot of external recruiting events. There are two things I know that we are very excited about here on campus right now. We are in the middle of what we call Global Entrepreneurship week, and it is a really good model as it relates to entrepreneurship because it is very much a campus-wide celebration. A lot of keynote speakers are coming in, and we are going to have a lot of networking events. I believe there is a business plan competition associated with that as well. Additionally, I know there is a lot of buzz and excitement around the announcement of Dale Mortensen as a Nobel Laureate, and he joins a very prestigious lineage, and is the eighth Nobel Laureate as a part of the CMU Tepper community.

Ashley Carnahan: From a student perspective, there is always a lot that is new and going on. We are right in the middle of Mini 2, so things are nice and busy. But I know that they are in the midst of a curriculum review, so what's nice is that they are always taking student feedback to learn what we are looking for from our program. And I know that they are working right now on reviewing the classes that we are taking, so that is definitely something that we are hearing a lot about. We are also in the midst of a lot of companies coming in for corporate presentations, to come in and tell us about who they are and what opportunities they offer. So those are a couple of other things that are going on from a student perspective as well.

Linda Abraham: Let's start with the applicant questions. Divya asks, "What are the different experiential learning opportunities at Tepper, especially in General Management and Tech?"

James Frick: There are many opportunities. Within a curriculum, there is certainly the opportunity for what we would call Capstone Courses or Industry Project Courses, where a group of students work very closely with professors and company executives, and really work on a very real problem. I know we've had some very good outcomes. A couple of years ago, we worked very closely with Ford, and I know there were a number of new patents that came out of that. So that is one good opportunity within the curriculum. Outside, I think club involvement is going to be really helpful there. At the end of Mini 1 and going into a break, and during the break between Mini 2 and Mini 3, students are likely to be involved in some treks, and many of them are career focused. They do spend a lot of time out in the Bay Area, and I know the High-Tech Club will go to Seattle for specific networking opportunities.

Ashley Carnahan: I'm actually in a class right now where we are working with Deloitte Detroit, and we're looking at the future of cars within the automotive industry. So that is just one example of a lot of different courses that are offered. Another course that I'm involved with right now is a Commercialization and Innovation course, and we are working with local firms to introduce added value products into supermarket retailers. So those are really just a couple of examples. There are a lot of different projects, courses, and opportunities for experiential learning, depending on what you are interested in. And what is really nice is that if you do find something that you are extremely interested in but don't see the opportunity for yet, a lot of times companies, students, and professors will work with you in order to create something for you to work more closely with the company, and apply what you've learned at Tepper. Our Capstone is called Management Game, and we are working with a simulation with running a business, but we are also presenting to a Board of Directors made up of Tepper alumni. So there are really a lot of great opportunities to implement what we are learning at the Tepper School.

James Frick: You get the sense that Ashley doesn't get a lot of sleep.

Linda Abraham: It keeps you busy Ashley?

Ashley Carnahan: Yes, it most certainly does.

Linda Abraham: Saurav asks, "What cities in the US would you say are the strongest as far as your alumni network?"

James Frick: I think you can look at the network predicated on what industry in our functions our students most tend to gravitate to. Definitely with financial services and consulting we have a strong presence in the Northeast; cities like Boston, New York, a very big presence down in the D.C. area. With strengths in technology, I see a very big presence in California, particularly the Bay Area. Amazon comes to mind as a great example of a company that has taken a lot of our students recently. I was just out there last week for an event, and we had a mini alumni reception that broke out, so we are kind of jokingly calling that Pittsburgh West.

Linda Abraham: Tanu asks, "I understand that re-applicants have the option to resubmit essays. What is the process for doing this? Should we rewrite the essays in the old application profile? Also in Essay C, can we choose a new question to answer this time?"

James Frick: As a re-applicant, we ask a few nominal things. One is simply a cover letter that would outline significant enhancements or changes to your application since the time that you first applied. That is generally a one-two page statement. We do find very often that as applicants go through and maybe have a feedback interview or simply reflect, they realize that maybe some goals have been further defined or sharpened. And we do welcome them to submit additional essays. They have the option to submit all of them again or some of them again or really none of them again. But we are not asking them to update anything that they've given in the online application; we will do that on our end. So we simply ask that when you send your supplemental materials to our MBA Admissions wait-list, you can simply include those as an attachment. I hope that helps.

Linda Abraham: Sonul asks, "What kind of diversity goals does Tepper have?"

James Frick: I think you can really measure that in a lot of different ways. To me, one of the fantastic things about this degree is that there is no one template, there is no one career path. We look at diversity in a number of ways. One, you can think we're an analytical MBA, so this is often a very appealing place for people with a technical or engineering background. But it also tends to be a very appealing place for people who don't have that background and feel that that is a very useful skill set or set of experiences to round out their education. So in that sense, we usually strive for right around a 50-50 split. And in recent years, we almost hit that dead-on. I do know that it is a strategic initiative of the school to really increase the number of women that are in the program, and of course going out to do great things as alum. So we had a lot of really good events recently; in the last month we had a fantastic "Women in the MBA" workshop. But also some very good partnerships, and one that comes to mind is the Forte Foundation, which is really a great network of other schools.

Linda Abraham: This is a follow-up on your statement about the analytical focus at Tepper. It is from Dylan, and he is asking "Tepper's reputation is renowned in particular for its analytical focus. How does the initial rigor of the analytical core courses transfer into classes regarding leadership, innovation, strategy, and other general management classes?" James, please can you answer this on a more general level. And Ashley, one thing that struck me when I read your bio is, of course Tepper does have this analytical, very quantitative reputation. Your particular focus is not the one that is known for the most analytical or quantitative approach. Why did you choose Tepper considering your goals, and could you respond to the question also from your perspective?

Ashley Carnahan: I had a smaller analytical background just from having studied Business Administration. So I had a pretty brief introduction into the world of statistics and probability, and those types of courses. But I knew that I was really interested in marketing so when I came here, I was looking for a program that would allow me to combine my passion for marketing and consumer behavior with that analytical program. So really depending on what you are interested in, an analytical background and analytical coursework is going to be crucial for whatever you are doing, whether it be Strategy or General Management or International Business. You need to have that quant background and focus and understanding, and comfort with numbers. And Tepper provided me with a really great opportunity to combine all of these things. My current concentrations are Marketing, Strategy, and Organizational Behavior. Now none of those are extremely analytically focused. However, within all of my marketing courses, undoubtedly we are doing analytical work, we are doing data analysis, and we're trying to figure out consumer behavior and those types of things. And the same thing with Strategy and even Organizational Behavior. It comes up more than you would expect, so it really serves as a wonderful foundation whenever you come and you start with the core. You have a lot of analytical courses to start off with, but this becomes a really great foundation moving forward for whatever you are interested in, because it gives you the comfort in the spaces of what to go from. We obviously have a lot of students who are in Finance and are in Accounting where they are more involved in analytical coursework, but it really becomes extremely relevant no matter what you are doing at Tepper.

Linda Abraham: So you don't feel that the quantitative focus has taken away from the "soft courses", if you will?

Ashley Carnahan: No, not at all. With the "softer courses", if anything, it really just adds to it. It gives you another perspective and another lens to look at things through. So you have your typical "softer courses", but then you have this additional lens and perspective that you can use to look through things. "How could we look at this statistically?", or "What could we pool within Marketing or Strategy?" So it is really just added to the program; it hasn't taken away at all.

Linda Abraham: Divya asks, "How does the placement scenario look for international students now?" And let's just say, how is recruiting growing in general?

James Frick: I'm happy to speak to that, and I'll certainly preface that I'm not an employee of the Career Opportunity Center, so I can definitely paint broad strokes, but if there are more specific questions and I don't have the answers, I would be thrilled to follow up specifically. But generally, going back to last summer, we saw three very positive indicators. The first was that from the folks that graduated last May and into the summer, we started to see an up-tick in the number of offers reported. So that was a sign that companies were maybe starting to relax some of the freezes that they had. Moving forward, we took a measure in August of the companies that had scheduled interviews for the coming year, and of course that is a very dynamic number. But at that point in time, it was up 25% from the point prior. And then again, a very incomplete number because students are just starting the report, but looking at the offers reported thus far, relative to this time last year, we've seen a 10% increase. And typically, what we are seeing is that most of those increases are coming from offers from the summer internships, which we think is a very positive indicator that a company finds a very good fit, and then has room to make the full-time hire as well. In terms of international and domestic students, the numbers don't really show a huge difference in terms of the market and opportunities that domestic students are having and international students aren’t. I think it would be safe to say that the opportunities are better in a stronger economy where there is more demand. But even in this challenging economy, I think an international student and a domestic student are really faced with the same success ratio.

Linda Abraham: The next question is from Ngoc, and he asks, "If you could improve one thing related to study and one thing related to social activity at Tepper, what are your choices?"

Ashley Carnahan: We'll start with what I like best, and this actually relates both academically and socially. The community here is unlike anything I've ever seen. And that probably sounds really cliche, but it's the honest truth. I didn't expect such a family-oriented, warm community. I was expecting it to be much more competitive. Don't get me wrong; it's an MBA program so everybody has a little bit of the competitive side in them. But it is so collaborative and so warm and friendly and community oriented. If someone has had experience with something in the past, they hold study sessions before an exam. Or people will work on a study guide and then they’ll send it over to their friends. It's just a very well-rounded community, and it's great because you spend a lot of time with these people. You are only here for two years, but when you are here studying, you are spending a lot of time with the same people. The community aspect is probably my favorite part, and that really is both within the academic environment, that collaborative classroom environment, as well as socially. So we work hard, but we play hard too. There are a lot of opportunities for students to get involved, and participate in social activities. We have pumpkin carving where our professors are the dealers, and we go and we just have a lot of different fun, social events. So the community aspect is really my favorite. I'm not sure that I would change anything. I think I wish that I would've had a different mindset coming in. I think the program is great, how it's set up. I think that I would have tried to change my mindset when I started. It's very easy to become bogged down in the work and the recruiting and all the things that you have to do. So I think if I would have known anything, I would have tried to set aside separate time for the social events and getting to know more of my classmates. Especially doing the core, you just have a lot of work and it's just very busy. So having the mindset that there needs to be a balance with everything, I think that would be something that I would have changed for myself.

Linda Abraham: So you would have given yourself more time for the social and community, and the non-academic non-professional aspects? You would have tried to change that balance a little bit?

Ashley Carnahan: Right. And that naturally happens once you move on from the core; you have a bit more time and its more well-rounded. But at the beginning, I think that is a very important aspect of the program.

Linda Abraham: The next two questions are related. Sonel asks, "Could you share some information on typical conversion acceptance rates across the various admissions rounds?"

James Frick: Typically, we'll have four rounds in a year. The first round, probably not the greatest number, but you'll see people that have been in the pipeline or the process for a long time so they have arrived at the Tepper School being a really good fit for them. So although it's not the largest number, you are likely to see a pretty strong percentage of admissions. Almost invariably, our largest round is the second round which is early January. I think that is so for a variety of reasons. Most of us get a little bit of time off towards the end of the calendar year so it is often a good time to finish the essays. So that is probably the biggest in sheer number and sheer number of admissions. Round three is one that has a little bit of variance from year to year. Typically, you'll see a similar size to round one, but the acceptances will definitely vary quite a bit there. And then with round four, there are some other indicators that will usually speak to the size of the pool; what the economy is doing at that point in time. I know that candidates hear a lot that you have to apply early. Really we say that you should apply when your application is at its strongest. And if you're a strong application in April, it's really no different in terms of financial aid considerations and having a space for you.

Linda Abraham: Is the last round used sometimes to round out the class, more in terms of ensuring diversity? Are people compared to the wait-list at that point? Is it approached somewhat differently than let's say round one when it's a blank slate and everything is open?

James Frick: It's approached differently only in the sense of we still have a lot of offers that are out there. So it's not like-- okay, here is our class size. We have a better sense of the number of seats available, but again, we are looking at the strongest applicants. It's not a matter of okay, we need five more students that are pursuing Operations, or what have you. For the candidates on our waiting-list, it's actually a fairly active process, so we'll revisit our candidates during every decision round. Having said that, the majority of decisions do tend to go out after round four, and towards the end of our final notification deadline which is typically the end of June.

Linda Abraham: A related question is from Tanu. "In round one, were the number of applications up or down from last year? And by what kind of percentage?"

James Frick: We just completed our first round at the end of October, October 25th. Relative to this time last year applications were up about 20%. Keep in mind that that is kind of a fairly small cross-section of the overall applicant pool, so I would say that there is still plenty of time and lots of seats available so don't be dissuaded by that number.

Linda Abraham: Shashi asks, "I have heard that one can interview off-campus before submitting the application. How should we go about that?"

James Frick: I appreciate that of all the components in the application, that is probably the one that has the most variance from school to school, so I could certainly see myself pulling my hair out if I were a candidate. I would describe our process as hybrid in nature. So during the fall, we are a lot more external, and we are traveling around the world. And during the fall, a lot of times we have candidates that maybe aren’t ready to apply yet but they have the time to come visit the school. So at that point, and it's usually till the point where we are now at the end of November, candidates can request an interview without a full application. Really we just ask for a copy of their resume, and the copy of the GMAT scores if you've taken the test at that point. So it's really going to align with our travel if you are looking at an external interview. We are thrilled to introduce you to any student and any alumni that you would like to meet, but they are not formally conducting the interview. The interviews are conducted by me and my colleagues, the members of the Admissions team. Once we crossed that point, which we are about to, we just run out of resources to accommodate all requests, so it does become more of an "invitation only" at that point, based on initial reviews of your submitted application.

Linda Abraham: We have a couple of question and they are related. One asks "How does Tepper differentiate itself from other schools that are similar-- small, analytical, etc.?" And another asks, "What do you view as Tepper's unique strength/ value proposition?"

James Frick: I think you articulated a few very good points of distinctions. To build off of Ashley's point, the community I think is a very important component. In the first two meetings, we craft the schedule so that you've had class with everyone. It's one thing to say we're small, but it's quite another to say you really do get to know and work with everyone. There are two other areas that I think are real points of distinction. One is an amazingly flexible degree. I think Ashley is a very good example; she is focusing on three different concentration areas. Rarely does a student have to pick something at the expense of something else. They are really able to build depth in a lot of areas, certainly within the MBA program. But another point of distinction is that the flexibility extends outside of the campus. And more and more you've got leadership in fields that are really intertwined, and it's not really pure business. It may be a combination of business and technology or business and not-for-profit or business and engineering. So of course we have some really formal programs that will help customize a course sequence, but we have a lot of other students who may be interested in more of an a la carte approach. They have in mind their career path, and feel that it would really help to just round out their experience if they took a couple of courses from the Heinz School. And it's really an amazing campus motto for students that are interested in those opportunities.

Ashley Carnahan: I absolutely agree with what James said about the community and the flexibility. Just on the flexibility, this is really your MBA degree; you make of this whatever you want. So we have people who are interested in all types of things and different career paths, and you really do have the opportunity to shape and mold this to exactly what you are looking for. So you have your foundation that sets you up, but from there it's really completely up to you. Another thing that I wanted to say is that what I think is really unique about the fact that we are known for such an analytical program is just the fact that it is extremely well-rounded. As soon as you get here, you are taking your first two minis. Tepper is on a mini system. We're in Mini 2 right now. So within your first two minis, you're taking Marketing, Financial Accounting, Marketing Organization, communications classes, Logistics, Probability, Finance, so you have classes that really run the gamut. And it provides you with a really well-rounded basis with which to start. So even though we are known for such an analytical and quant program, when recruiters come here, they know that we have that so that is almost a given. And then from there it's what you do with that foundation moving forward. But I would say as a whole, Tepper students are extremely well-rounded in what they are looking for, and the type of courses that they've added together.

James Frick: I just wanted to add one more thing if I could. One thing that you might take for granted when you come here is your ability to not only shape your own experience, but the experience of those around you. I found that it's an administrative model that doesn't have a lot of layers so it's very common that we'll see new clubs or new treks and lots of opportunities that are really student driven and student initiated. I think it's one of the strengths not only of the size, but of the fabric of the community that you have those opportunities, and really you are encouraged to do so.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. The next two questions are for James. Akshat asks, "Does the Admissions Committee release its decisions only on the given date, or could you release offers earlier too?"

James Frick: The best way I would frame it is that that is probably the logical outcome; the decisions will come on that day. It has happened occasionally that we have had decisions a couple of days earlier, but I wouldn't plan on that. The better question would be, when on that day?

Linda Abraham: Just like applicants submit the last minute, you sometimes make the decisions the last minute.

James Frick: I always say that it's a real good thing that we publish those dates because we hold ourselves to it. But often times, "when on that day?" is the question. I know our receptionist always gets a lot of phone calls starting that day with applicants asking, "Well, when?" So it's usually closer towards the end of the business day.

Ashley Carnahan: I think mine was honestly around 4:30-5:00 on that day, and I was panicking. So don't panic; they are coming on this day.

Linda Abraham: The next question is from Balakumaran, and he asks, "Can you explain how an application on the whole is evaluated generally? What makes an application stand out?" There are books written that answer that question!

James Frick: It is an extraordinarily holistic process. And one of the strengths of why I really love working here is that we do really pride ourselves in getting to know not only our students, but our candidates very well. You could break it down, and there are certainly things that we look for that are going to position students to be successful in the curriculum. No big surprises there; your previous transcripts, your standardized test, in most cases GMAT, and lots and lots of measures in terms of your potential to be successful in your post-MBA career. That is everything from your experiences that brought you till this point, what your recommenders might say, to where you identify, what you aspire to do and our ability to be a good fit or vehicle for that. We look for a variety of interpersonal skills, and our Executive Director is very fond of saying in a nutshell that we are looking for the kind of people you want to have on your team when you are faced with a very difficult project; they work under pressure, have strong team skills, and have strong leadership skills. And I think the small word that means an awful lot to us here is "fit". I think fit is most prevalent in the essays and in the interview, but it's just a level of reflection that is two-fold. It is firstly very internal. What is it that has brought you to this point? Where do you see yourself going? Why or how does the MBA help position you to get there? And then the other side is of course the school, and what it is about this program and this community that resonates or is of value to you, and you need to be able to really concretely articulate that.

Linda Abraham: Tanu asks Ashley, "Can you talk about your favorite class or professor?"

Ashley Carnahan: I think my favorite class right now is Corporate Strategy and Renewable Advantage. It is a wonderful class by a wonderful professor, Jeffrey Williams, and he has written a text book, and we use his text book. And I think that what makes it my favorite right now is that it is so interactive. So all of your classes are going to be different a little with their setup, whether it is cases or exams, or whether it is more interactive. This is a very interactive class, and we use a lot of business cases that are going on. So last week, we talked about the future of Barnes and Nobles as a result of people ordering books off Amazon and the Kindle. So this became an hour and a half discussion based on the strategy and how they are going to be able to sustain the business model that they have now. So we have those types of discussion a lot in class. But it's also nice because we have the opportunity to work on our own projects, and take our interests. It can be things that we are currently working on, or projects that we've worked on in the past or with our jobs, and then we relate that to the course principles. And that has been really great because it not only allows you to learn more about the actual course principles, but it allows you to tie it into those things that you are interested in, or things that you are interested in upon graduation. A lot of people will pool in projects that they are working on in classes that they plan on working on upon graduation. I really just enjoy that it is so interactive and that I get to hear the opinions of my classmates. And since everybody has such diverse backgrounds, that is a really great learning resource to have.

James Frick: I can actually add, if I may. I am really excited this year. I had the opportunity to participate in a larger university Leadership Academy, and it is a year-long program. And the wonderful thing for me, having worked here with professors for so many years is that I get to take courses that they are teaching. Thumbs up to Laurie Weingart. I recently did a negotiations seminar, and a lot of it was the same cases that she would do in her MBA class, and it was a really terrific experience. And I could see a lot of value that our students would get, right into negotiating a job offer, so it's kind of immediate application.

Linda Abraham: Upinder asks, "I applied in the first round, the October 25th deadline, and have not received any updates from the Admissions Committee. Are the decisions being rolled out on a regular basis or only on a fixed date? Also for international candidates, how does the interview happen, whether it's an alumni interview, telephonic, or face to face?"

James Frick: It's a great question, and I'm really glad you asked. Really understand that it is a rolling process, kind of a multiple step review process that is going to go on from the time a candidate hits "Submit" to really right up until the time that we release decisions. So in every round, of course we do start extending invitations, maybe about a week or two weeks after, and there is always a fear that you didn't get the invite. To Ashley's earlier point, always understand that we do extend invitations right up till that "reply deadline". So do not at all view it as a negative. If you are invited to interview and are an international candidate and we're not going to be traveling to see you, and it's not realistic at this time for you to come visit us which would of course be our preference because it's not just the interview, it's a really great day that Ashley and our students help craft for you, we have two options. The interviews, as I said, will all be done by our Admissions team. We can certainly do a telephone interview, but a couple of years ago we introduced a Skype option, and that is becoming very popular as well. So either one of those would be just fine.

Linda Abraham: Judy asks," What are you especially looking for while interviewing candidates? Is the interview blind?"

James Frick: That's really going to vary, and it's a fine question to ask of your interviewer, how familiar they are with your application. There are times when we've had the luxury of reading the application in advance, but it's probably more common to say that your interviewer is familiar in broad strokes with your application, but would welcome you to go deeper. I would view the interview really as a conversation. We are not trying to trick you or make you feel uncomfortable; we really simply want to get to know you better. So the general questions will be familiar to: What has brought you to this point? Why the MBA? Why now? What is it about the Tepper School? Our questions are probably a little bit more behavioral in nature; a difficult team that you've been a part of, a time when your ethics were challenged. And really I will say that it is a dialogue. We are not going to ask you to talk for forty minutes. We really do view it as a great time for you to ask questions that you haven't had a chance to have answered at this point as well.

Linda Abraham: Dylan has a related question. Tepper is a very quantitative school, and it's bringing out a very quantitative audience. "Out of the total received applications, how many of the applicants are asked to interview?"

James Frick: It really does vary by the strength of the pool. It's not that we have an allocated number of interviews and that is how it's going to be. Our Executive Director mentioned this morning that for last year's class we did probably on the order of 1,000 interviews. We are getting 1,400 or 1,500 applications, so it's a pretty high percentage.

Linda Abraham: Ngoc asks, "What extra-curricular activities are you involved in, and which ones do you get the most from? Which do you feel benefit you the most? And how do you contribute to these activities?"

Ashley Carnahan: It's kind of a joke around here that we don’t actually know how many clubs there are here at Tepper. There are currently students that are forming new ones based on their interests. I know there are a few being formed right now actually, so there is really never a number of extra-curriculars that we know that there are. But there are a lot, I'll put it that way. There are professional clubs, academic, social, and cultural clubs. I am in the Marketing Club, the Organizational Leadership Club, Tepper Women in Business, the Consultant Club, and the Latin American Business Club. However, there are different levels of engagement. With the clubs, really what you put into them is what you are going to get out of them. So they offer outstanding opportunities to go do company visits and on-site visits with different corporations. I went to Minneapolis in January, which I don't recommend, but the trip was a lot of fun. We went into a Target, we went to General Mills, and so we had the opportunity to talk to a lot of corporations. The clubs are constantly doing those types of things with taking treks to go visit different cities, and they'll have a lot of speakers come in. A lot of really great people come to speak to the clubs and offer different resources. I would say that the one that I get the most out of right now is actually the Graduate Business Association, so this is our Tepper student government. I am the Admissions Executive Officer. There are eleven of us. I think the reason I get the most out of this is because within our GBA, I have the most opportunity to contribute in different areas. So not only do I get to help with things like this and our Welcome Weekend event and those types of admissions events, but I get to work on different projects that are going on throughout the school. We instituted a Tepper Way campaign with the attributes that we are most proud of at Tepper, and the curriculum reviews, and those types of things. So you have a lot of different opportunities to be involved in what you are most interested in. I don't know of anybody actually on campus who is not involved in at least one club. And on average, I would probably say everyone is involved in three to four clubs.

Linda Abraham: The next question is from Sonal. "What would be the three must-haves you would look at when you are evaluating an application?"

James Frick: It's really wonderful to say that there aren't a lot of absolutes. GMAT is a great example. Here is your average, but it's not a deal breaker. Obviously, half the population is below it. Work experience is another good example. There is really no minimum years of experience that we want to attain. I would say in broad strokes, certainly an aptitude for mathematics. And we do have some requirements that we ask. If you haven't had it by the time you are admitted, we have what we call "admission on provision". It just says that you don’t have to come here, but you need to have completed these courses prior to your time here.

Linda Abraham: Is Calculus required?

James Frick: Yes. We'll have two. We have a Calculus, and then we have a second level which is one of the following: Calculus II, Linear Algebra, or Statistics. And for candidates that haven't had any of those, I would argue the most immediately relevant to you, especially in the core courses, would be Statistics. And we also do offer a math review program prior to the start of Orientation. Sometimes we will require candidates to take it, but a lot of students will simply opt in because it's a great review. And the nice thing is that it's a review in the context that you will see it in the core curriculum, so it's much better than doing a self-guided study.

Linda Abraham: It's very interesting that there has not been one question today about applicants worried about their GMAT scores, or about their GPA. So I'm tempted to ask the audience if that is because you are not worried about it? Are you all confident of your GMAT and GPA, or you just decided to focus on something else? I'm going to do a quick poll here. How many of you are concerned about your GPA? Right now we have 27% concerned about GPA. Now I'm going to ask are any of you concerned that your GMAT is not competitive? Okay, 18% are concerned about the GMAT. Anybody concerned that you have too much work experience/ you are too old? Another 18% there. Is there anybody concerned that you don't have enough work experience/ you're too young? It's 9%. So it's a pretty confident group. There is nothing wrong with being confident as long as it's real. I'm going to quickly add up these percentages, and you come out that almost everybody is worried about something or other; that's the bottom line. It comes out to 87% who are worried about something.

James Frick: How can I help?

Linda Abraham: So I guess the question is, given that this is a holistic process and given that almost every applicant has some weakness or something that they are not quite there on, does a person who did not raise their hand on any of these questions, are they are a sure win to get accepted? Or is the weakest element of the application the most important element of the application because it raises your concerns?

James Frick: I think there is a level of reflection or thoughtfulness that really goes into it. A colleague is very fond of saying that with everything you do, you are showing us judgment on your part. So I'm a big advocate of, and this is not always the easiest thing to do, but before you hit "Submit", put yourself in the Admissions Committee's shoes. One thing you might learn about us is that we have very active imaginations. And left to our own devices, we may draw all the wrong conclusions in your application. So it's really a very good idea to survey what would be your biggest strengths, and what would be your perceived biggest areas for improvement. And then speak to those. We do offer an optional essay. I can give you many examples. A perfect one would be if an applicant who is just not comfortable right now relaying their plans their employer, and therefore didn't really want to have a recommendation from their current supervisor. That is a very legitimate reason. And if you take a couple of lines and give us that context, it would make all the difference in the world. But absent that, we may draw some wrong conclusions. The first question would be: Why is there no letter? What is this candidate hiding? So that's one small example, and things that you can do. Not to call the optional essay an excuse essay; it's really not. But it's a great idea to address it, speak to it, give us context if needed, and then demonstrate strength in other areas.

Linda Abraham: Tanu asks, "I'd like to know about the international opportunities at Tepper. The website talks about two global treks in 2008. Have there been any similar treks since 2008?"

James Frick: Oh my goodness, yes! Certainly it's an interest area of an awful lot of our prospective students and students. We had a very traditional model many years ago when we had about ten partner schools, and one person would go there and one person would go here. And we knew they had fun, but they couldn't really speak to what they were learning. So we worked backwards from that, and first and foremost, we wanted to develop a cohort experience. We had some natural synergies with the Carnegie Bosch Institute that led us to the Bosch Corporation in Germany, and so we introduced a very robust twelve week program rooted in Germany, but spread throughout Europe, and the focus was really on emerging economies. Hands down, anybody who went on that thought that it was the best part of their time here. The problem is that it was in the curriculum, so sometimes students had to make some very difficult decisions; if they were still working on their job search, or if they had some other classes that they really wanted to take while here. So we felt that that was a really good model, and we have taken it for times when students have breaks, when they don’t have to make those difficult choices. So coming up in a few weeks will probably be the biggest break. It will be about a month long, from the middle of December till the middle of January. There is a similar two week break at the end of Mini 3 and into Mini 4. And we've been very successful here with a lot of great modules. I think a lot of schools will just give students their itinerary. We are very much a school that really asks the students not only where they want to go, but what they want to do there. I can think of one very recent example. The Latin American Business Association organized a trip, I believe it was during spring break last year, to Latin America, and I think they visited three different countries. Another good example is the China trek, which has really become a staple of the trek experience, but I would argue that they do something different every year based on the students.

Ashley Carnahan: I absolutely agree. There are a lot of opportunities especially within the international treks, so you can go to Minneapolis or you can go to China. There are a lot of different experiences. Throughout the year, I know that there was a trip to South Africa, South America, Dubai, Japan, China, and I know that there are definitely a handful of others that I'm missing. But there are a lot of international opportunities and experiences to take advantage of. And even within the school, there are different clubs and organizations that you can become a part of. The International Case Competition; there was one here last weekend. We have the Connections Weekend. So there are really a lot of different ways for both domestic and international students to become involved with both domestic and international opportunities. And as I said earlier, if there is something that you would like to do and you don't see that it is already offered, you can start it. And all of the international treks are student led so it's really about what the students want.

James Frick: I just want to clarify too. Understand that you are empowered and you have a lot of authority in those decisions, but I don't want to give the sense that you are utterly on your own. You do have a lot of great resources in the staff and in the faculty who will help you think about it and help plan it for you.

Linda Abraham: Balakumaran writes, "I'm an international student. My GPA is not on a 4.0 scale. How do I do the conversion?" And my question would be, should he do the conversion?

James Frick: There is no need to convert it. If you look on our application, we will ask a drop-down question-- Is it is on a 4.0? And then the very next question will be-- If it is not, just provide us your rank and major.

Linda Abraham: What classes among your strategy courses and finance courses did you like the best? Or would you recommend any professor that has inspired you a lot?

Ashley Carnahan: Absolutely. I have really loved all of my professors. They are extremely down to earth. They have all these awards and all these fantastic achievements under their belt, but they are so down to earth. Just a quick example. I took Strategic Corporate Management, and it was really a great class. It focused on game theory, but then we looked at a lot of real world business cases. I'll give an example of the interaction between the professors and the class. I had approached my professor and said that I would be interning at Giant Eagle which is the large supermarket retailer within the tri-state area. And I spoke to him and I said that I'm interning in their Strategy Management department, and I asked if there was anything he would recommend reading up on, or just anything that he would recommend. Well, he turned that into a business case, and we started off the next class by talking about Giant Eagle and where the company stood today, what we saw as their role, where we perceived that they would go in the future, and we talked about their strategy. So it is those types of experiences. He by no means had to do that, but it was extremely helpful for me, and I heard from classmates that it was helpful for them because it really gives you the opportunity to apply what you are learning. So that was really a great experience for me, and a wonderful strategy course that I have taken.

Linda Abraham: What would you say is the breakdown as far as specializations in terms finance, supply change, general management, etc. for MBA students at Tepper? And could you throw light on operations consulting recruiting at Tepper? I think they are very related questions. One is more about the curriculum, and one is more about recruiting, but please shed some light on that.

James Frick: I will say the preface that our Career Opportunity Center is really transparent in terms of providing resources and information on the website. They always have a three month window from the end of graduation till when we close the books on a class, so I would look in the near future to see the website updated. But in broad strokes, one of the things I really value about this community is that we have a lot of students that are interested in a lot of different things. So obviously consulting and financial services are top choices, but they don't take up the whole pie. A lot of students are interested in operations, a lot of students are interested in marketing; Ashley being a perfect example. A natural strength of Tepper and the larger university of course is information technology, so a lot of students are either on a CIO or a CTO path, or maybe a product development type role within that space. And the entrepreneurial campus is amazing too, so we do have a lot of students that even go right from the degree into their own venture. Operations is a unique area, but I think it's gotten a lot sexier in recent years. There is traditional industry and companies like Union Pacific that are long-time wonderful partners of the school. I think of a company like Amazon as a great example of really doing some fantastic new things, and new ways to think about it, and natural fit there. And you'll tend to see that a lot of students that are interested in operations will gravitate towards consulting, be it IBM Extreme Blue for example, or just within a general strategic or managerial consulting type role.

Linda Abraham: Thank you all again for participating today. Special thanks to James and Ashley for joining us today. If you have additional questions for James, please email them to mba-admissions@andrew.cmu.edu.

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