2007年4月17日にAdmissions OfficeのSenior Associate DirectorであるMr. James Frickへインタビューを行いました。Tepperを受験する方々から頻繁に聞かれる質問についてJamesから多くの情報をもらうことができました。Tepperを目指される方々の一助となれば幸いです。

Jamesのオフィスにて。写真手前がJames。後方左よりKen(Class of 2008)、Hisao (Class of 2008)、Kei(Class of 2007)。


A. Tepper promotion and expectations to prospective students
What aspects of the Tepper MBA progAnchorAnchoram would you highlight for prospective students?
How do you think of Tepper’s rank in Business Week, Financial Times, US News, Wall Street Journal, etc? How does admission process link to those ranks?
Do you observe any difference in Tepper’s reputation between U.S. and other countries?
What kind of person would you want to join our MBA program in terms of skills, experiences, mind-set, etc.?
Are there any additional qualities you are expecting for international students and, especially Japanese prospective students?
Do you have any preference between candidates from small companies and large companies?
Why students with technical background have increased a little, compared to students with non-technical background?

B. Application process in general
Any changes in the admission process recently?
Any changes in the trend of prospective students who are applying for our program?
Is there any difference in application process depending on a country or region?
Being sponsored and non-sponsored make any difference in application?

C. Application materials (essay, resume, etc.)
What would you generally focus on in reviewing application materials?
What would you particularly focus on in reviewing essays, resumes and recommendation letters?
What would you particularly focus on in reviewing academic performances and GMAT/TOEFL scores?
Any thresholds on TOEFL and GMAT scores?
Who would you send an interview invitation?
What qualities of a candidate would you focus on in the inteAnchorAnchorview?
Would you have any specific advice or comments for re-applicants? Do they have any advantage or disadvantage?
What would you advice for wait-listed students to strengthen their qualification?

D. Additional questions
What is the best aspect of your job?
I heard that you are very popular among JapanesAnchor alumni. Tell us about your friendship experiences with JapAnchorAnchornese alumni.


A. Tepper promotion and expectations to prospective students

Q What aspects of the Tepper MBA program would you highlight for prospective students?

There are many attributes that make Tepper a unique and strong program. The first quality I would highlight is the analytical approach our program provides. We create much value by emphasizing the approaches. Before I came to the Admission Office, I had worked as Associate Director of the MBA Program where I was involved in program development. So, I got to know a lot of students. Now, I am able to see how they have progressed in their careers after graduation. These alumni are very well equipped with their analytical skill sets and well prepared to analyze and solve problems. Even if there is no precedent to solve problems, they know how to crack complicated situations and get the right answers for themselves by practically utilizing analytical tools.
The second aspect I would highlight is the very flexible curriculum. At Tepper, students rarely have to choose something at the expense of something else. They can gain experience and depth in several different areas. This is extremely important, particularly as you progress higher up on your career ladder and are in a more strategic level, you have to understand how all the different functional areas relate to one another.
The third unique characteristic of our campus is that there are few boundaries. Even in our business school, you see a lot of courses taught by more than one professor or courses that extend to a lot of different areas as manufacturing, software engineering, statistics, public policy, acting and so on. We have also many students who are pursuing dual degrees. Ken (*), you are a great example!
The final attribute I would emphasize is our community, which has a very supportive and incredibly diverse environment. This is what I enjoy most. When I talked with alums, many say they received a strong education here and their careers have progressed rapidly. But going into the program, I do not think everyone realized how much they would enjoy their classmates and what a strong, useful network, professionally and personally, they would gain. There are a lot of networking opportunities among students and alumni. Our small-sized and close-knit classes help everyone to know one another better.

  • One of the interviewers (class of 2008), who is pursuing the dual degree of MBA and MSE (Master of Software Engineering).

Q. How do you think of Tepper’s rank in Business Week, Financial Times, US News, Wall Street Journal, etc? How does admission process link to those ranks?

My colleagues and I always maintain that the rankings are a very good place to start in terms of researching programs, but a very bad place to end. What I mean by that is any well ranked school would offer a fine education. I certainly understand rankings are very important for a lot of reasons for prospective students who want to go to well regarded schools, which usually will lead to strong career options and paths. But if you just went with listings of well-ranked schools, you might not find the school which best fits you.
So, I feel that prospective students need to go further in terms of their research by asking “What is this school about?”, “What is its culture and curriculum?”, “Does it have a rural or urban campus?”, “What companies recruit there?”, and more specifically, “What positions do they hire for?” That helps you to narrow down and find the better fit for you personally. Hopefully, at the point of final decisions, candidates go further and have gotten to know students and alumni well. I hope they reach their decisions by more researched information in addition to rankings. Additionally, the admissions team is always very happy to introduce prospective students to recent alumni who share similar career goals or backgrounds. We want to make it easy for you to get to know our program and community.

Q. Do you observe any difference in Tepper’s reputation between U.S. and other countries?

In countries which have a Technology driven culture such as Japan, Korea and India, we tend to leverage CMU’s strong reputation in Computer Science, Software Engineering, and so on. Tepper is also well-regarded in such countries. CMU has a lot of well-known colleges, which offers a very unique environment to students. CMU’s colleges collectively create a synergy, which benefits Tepper students.

Q. What kind of person would you want to join our MBA program in terms of skills, experiences, mind-set, etc.?

This might be the hardest question you might ask. One of my favorite aspects about an MBA program is that there is no template for the ideal candidate, no one career path or one academic major that will lead a candidate to an MBA. It’s really quite the opposite: we see candidates from very different career paths, with very different academic experiences. Also the MBA is a professional degree, meaning that the students’ learning is measured not only by learning experiences in the classroom, but also other experiences outside the classroom including clubs, cultures, social responsibilities and so on. Our job is to make the class as diverse as we can because such diversity in academic background, industry, part of the world, etc. will increase the learning opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom, for our students. Therefore, it is hard to say what exactly we expect.
In broad strokes, we look for someone who is a leader or has leadership potential and who has or shows potential to make a significant impact in an organization. The definition of ‘organization’ can be broad here as well. It can be an existing company, unit within a company, someone’s own company, or broader on a community level. So, we really look for candidates’ past leadership experiences even if they are informal leadership roles. The essays and interview questions and certainly letters of recommendations would help measure someone’s potential for leadership success.
Along the same lines, strong teamwork is also essential. In our curriculum, it is hard to succeed by yourself. Particularly, past experiences with different teams whether they are cross-functional, different parts of an entity or multicultural, help you to come to Tepper with open mind. We value the mindset -- I have a lot to offer but I have a lot to learn from the people and environment surrounding me
There are a lot of elements we value when measuring quality of candidates. So, in the interest of time, let me mention just one more, which is “fit”. This is also very important. “Fit” means a lot of things but in broad strokes, it contains a clear sense of why you want an MBA degree as a whole. If you go further, you can ask what is it about this program, curriculum, culture and career opportunities … that I value. If the answers for the questions resonate with you, you will be able to articulate your fit to Tepper in the essays and interviews.

Q. Are there any additional qualities you are expecting for international students and, especially Japanese prospective students?

Generally speaking, qualities and how we measure them are the same between US and international students including Japanese students. One thing I can think of is that being an effective communicator is extremely important for all candidates, but can be difficult for candidates who come from countries where English is not a primary language in both written and oral situations. One of the reasons why we go abroad including Japan in February is that we really want to assess candidates’ communication skills through face-to face interviews. As for our incoming students from Japan, we hope that our incoming Japanese students will continue to be engaged and involved in the admissions process because we have such a strong network there.

Q. Do you have any preference between candidates from small companies and large companies?

Not really. You can say that each has its positive attributes. Job descriptions of smaller companies are less defined in their organization and they have a lot of exposure and understanding concerning various areas. On the other hand, job descriptions of candidates from larger companies are a bit more carefully designed, but they easily explore a lot of network and opportunities inside and outside the organization because of their company’s size.
By itself, there is no distinction between candidates from small companies and large companies. The difference comes from how their experience factors into their career goals and how they position it in their applications. Even if you have the same title in two different companies, the title does not say a lot. You need to explain what you have done, what you have learned and what challenges you have faced.
It is up to applicants how they communicate their experiences to us.

Q. Why students with technical background have increased a little, compared to students with non-technical background?

Historically speaking, there is typically almost a 50-50 split between students from a technical and a non-technical background. Recently, however, the number of students with a technical background is a bit more than that of non-technical background ones. This fact has a lot to do with tracks. Some of the tracks such as Bio-tech and Product development have a special appeal to people from technical industries. They want to stay in the industries but they want to be a strategist instead of a technician. This recent trend is not a conscious decision from our admissions team and is kind of a rare situation. Our ideal split would be very close to 50-50.
I might be oversimplifying but you can generally say that our program is very appealing to people from technical backgrounds because it is how they have been trained in different applications. But, it is also valuable to someone from non-technical background because it really rounds out their skill sets.

B. Application process in general

Q. Any changes in the admission process recently?

I cannot think of any broad changes in the admission process. One thing we are trying to do is to make it easier for people to get information and to contact current students. This trend would not have an effect on the admission process. Rather, this is becoming engaged in a community. We are also trying to travel more and earlier and to introduce the contact information, backgrounds, and career interests of current students. By utilizing an online database, we make it easier for candidates to access journals and to have a better sense of what our culture and programs are, which will hopefully translate into our candidates articulating an even stronger fit in their applications.

Q. Any changes in the trend of prospective students who are applying for our program?

Students are learning more about the program, before they submit their application. So, at the time of the application, they can be a lot of more specific about their path, as well as specific about the program in terms of articulating their fit. That is pretty important.
Finance and Consulting are the areas in which many students are interested. On the other hand, a significant growth area we’ve seen recently is in Entrepreneurship . It is a nice fit, because Tepper is a very flexible and innovative environment. In fact, this year’s Entrepreneurship Track has a full group of students participating.

Q. Is there any difference in application process depending on a country or region?

We are very consistent in evaluating all applications holistically. We want all of our students to be very strong communicators, but it is particularly important for countries where English is not first language.

Q. Being sponsored and non-sponsored make any difference in application?

We certainly have both students in our program. So it does not make or break an application. Obviously, the person who is sponsored is highly admired by the company. The company wants the student to continue to grow above all. In that sense, it is strong point in their application, and we would consider it a strong recommendation from the company But someone who is non-sponsored can demonstrate the same strengths in terms of letters of recommendation and in terms of what he has contributed to the company.

C. Application materials (essay, resume, etc.)

Q. What would you generally focus on in reviewing application materials?

The process is very holistic. There is no one aspect or area that is more important than the others.
This is a bit of a generalization, but one way to look at it is that there are three important stakeholders that our team needs to keep happy.
One group is our faculty. We want to make sure that students who are coming in will be successful in the class. To that end is the academic component: what did you study, where did you study, and what was the trend. There are many reasons, such as being away from home for the first time or needing some time to find the right major where applicants would have a positive trend in their grades as they progressed in their studies. Because, as I mentioned earlier, we see applicants from very different backgrounds and majors, the GMAT is one common denominator
Another group is our students. For them, we are looking for someone who is active, involved, and a good teammate, and contributes to the program. So we are looking at academic, work experience, and recommendations from their colleagues and seniors in terms of letters of recommendation, as well as their essays and interviews to get a sense of how they will contribute to their classmates’ learning and success
The third group would be the Career Center. Is this person going to be able to do what he wants? Is she going to be successful in her job search? Does the candidate have poise and strong communication skills to interview effectively with recruiters?
So within all those three areas there all multiple aspects of the application that tell us something a little bit different. Someone is strong at communication. Someone is a strong leader. Someone works well under stress. Someone is a strong teammate. The process is holistic and subjective. For instance, if you are below average in GPA, it does not mean that we do not consider you to be admitted. That simply means that we are looking for strength in other areas in your application.

Q. What would you particularly focus on in reviewing essays, resumes and recommendation letters?

1. Essays (Person providing good example, Focus)

I start with the essays because I used to teach its composition.
We are looking at many areas when we consider essays, such as: does the candidate answer the question fully? Does the candidate follow directions in terms of page limits? Are the essays well-written, and largely free of errors? Do we come away from an essay knowing a candidate better than we had before reading?
I like to think that good writing is a process of brainstorming, drafting, revising, and polishing. The level of reflection we’re looking for in the essays is usually not achieved in a few hours. Rather, it’s a process of several revisions, of sharing with others and gaining their feedback, that leads to a polished, effective piece.

2. Resume

It is interesting because you see applicants from very different professions. W hat we are looking for is a sense of professional maturity. What I mean is --- Has that person contributed to the organization? Whether is it length of time or just career progression? Has the candidate progressively gained more and more responsibilities? What kind of progression is there? If the person had a lot of different positions, is there context, or reasons?

3. Recommendation (CEO < Direct Supervisor, selection of recommender is very important)

Recommendation is a big one, as well. I think, a lot of times, applicants think the higher the title, the better the letter. Sometimes you see CEO or Vice President writing on someone’s behalf. That is very good, if the person knows him well. But it is not very good, if it is just someone who knows you casually, because what we really look for are examples. A good letter provides a lot of context to the committee. It will explain what the person has done up to this point in her job. It will explain what her strengths are. It will explain what areas the person really needs to improve on. It will explain her potential for success I think the ideal letter would come from her direct supervisor or former supervisors.
Sometimes people ask their professors to provide letters of recommendation. That can be great if they are on master’s level or they have worked very closely with their professors. But someone who taught you one or two classes several years ago is sometimes unable to get to the detail that the committee would like. The selection of your recommenders is very important. It is also important for you to take them to lunch or coffee, sit down, and talk about why you are going to the business school and what you hope to achieve in your career. Then the person has really good context to answer the questions and provide a strong letter on your behalf

Q. What would you particularly focus on in reviewing academic performances and GMAT/TOEFL scores?

Academic is very holistic. Where you studied and what you studied are important. And then, what kinds of trends you had is also important. There are a lot of reasons why someone may not start out very well and may take some time to find the right major. But, because a transcript does not tell us so much, we really encourage students to write an optional essay. For instance, some students sometimes have to work as they go through college. Sometimes students work part-time and sometimes students work full-time. You can write these. The Transcript does not tell us a lot, but an optional essay provides context to us. Any kind of context may help us look at transcript. Giving us the proper context is very important.
Another example for using optional essays might be that someone who does not want to tell his company that he is pursuing MBA. So he may not get a letter of recommendation from his current supervisor. We understand such situations, but would look for this explanation in the optional essay
The TOEFL is one of many measures we look at to assess communication skills. . There are many areas in the application where we can get a sense of candidates’ communication skills, including the interview, essays, and letters of recommendation.
The GMAT is really designed only to predict a candidate’s potential for academic success in the first year of MBA study. As I mentioned, it is one constant in every application. As we see candidates from all over the world and from very different academic and professional backgrounds, it is one common attribute.

Q. Any thresholds on TOEFL and GMAT scores?

There is no threshold. As for TOEFL, we would like to see the score of at least 250, which is the base-line score. Our experiences tell us that most successful candidates tend to have at least 250. But this does not mean we won’t consider applicants with a score below 250.
GMAT has no minimum. Applicants will often ask what our average GMAT score is. I think it might be better to ask what has been the range of successful candidates in years past. I believe this past year, our range was from the 570s through the 780s.
We are not targeting any scores of TOEFL or GMAT to, for example, achieve high school rankings. The reason why our average scores have been increasing is not that we target higher averages, but that stronger quality students have been applying. The average scores are not as a result of our conscious strategy, but are the outcomes of the increase of applicants’ quality, and hopefully to an extent our efforts in recruiting and overall increase in reputation of the school
My wife used to work for the Career Center here. Through her experiences, and my own experiences while working on the Masters Program Staff, I can tell you that the best students or best alumni are not necessarily those who had the highest scores of TOEFL or GMAT. It is important to know that those tests are designed to predict one thing but not to predict how you will be successful in your career. We are very mindful of that.

D. Interview

Q. Who would you send an interview invitation?

Our process is little different. During our Fall travels, from September to the middle of December, applicants can request an interview without applying - we just need to a copy of resume, that’s all. At that time, if you want to visit our campus, we will conduct an interview. At that time in a fall, we will also do a lot of traveling, we will do an interview. After that point, we don’t have the ability to interview everyone who applies, and so, at that point, it’s more of an invitation only, based on an initial review of your submitted application.
So, I would say the process is very continuous. There are a group of applicants probably invited relatively quickly, after a given application deadline, there are a group of students, probably halfway through, and there are another group of students invited near the decision deadline. We don’t have the resources to interview everyone, but everyone who is admitted is interviewed. The best way to answer that question is that there is not a fixed number of interviews we will offer in any round – it is very much determined by the overall quality of the applicant pool.

Q. What qualities of a candidate would you focus on in the interview?

We really want to see the fit. We want to get a sense of the person. We want to have a better understanding of the person’s career path. Why the MBA? Why specifically Tepper? Certainly we are measuring interpersonal skills and we are measuring communication skills. One thing I always like in my interview is to try to treat it very much like as a dialogue, sometimes a candidate thinks that interview as one way flow of questions and answers. I very much like it as an exchange. I like that a candidate comes with very good questions to ask. I like that a lot. I really like questions that are not ones you can get an answer when you go to the website, maybe ones that are a little bit more involved or detailed that show me that candidates are really interested in, maybe focusing on some particular areas.
Other things I may look for, probably fair to say that it’s more of a behavioral interview, we are going to look and ask for the examples, times in your past, times for you had difficulties, times for you shown your effective leadership. Examples are always nice. Our goal is not to trick you though a lot of times people, you can see a lot of forums, ask, “What questions are they?”
I will show you! We have general areas but I don’t have lists, and my questions will usually change based on what your answers are. We want it to be a discussion. When you are raising interesting points, I will ask you little bit more about it. I have broad areas that I want to cover. My life will be boring if I ask the same questions!. People sometimes will tell us what they think we want to hear. , but I really want you to be yourself, be as relaxed as you can, and be interested in the process.

E. Wait-list / Re-application

Q. Would you have any specific advice or comments for re-applicants? Do they have any advantage or disadvantage?

It’s really difficult in the course of the year for us to give feedback. A lot of applicants will ask that. We really want to be consistent. If we took the time for one candidate, we would need to take the same time for every candidate, and we just aren’t able to do that. However, Laurie Stewart, our Director of Admissions, over the summer, will conduct feedback interviews for interested candidates. I highly encourage anyone who wants to re-apply the following year to have this interview. It’s a phone appointment, usually 10 to 15 minutes long. Laurie is willing to go through all the areas in the application, and provide very specific suggestions for what you might do to improve your candidacy.
That’s really good information which you incorporate into your reapplication. You can really understand exactly what areas you might want to be stronger or improve or provide more information on it.
Generally a re-applicant is viewed as very positive obviously, someone who is very interested and committed to this program. A re-applicant who has had the interview, really wants show another level of performance hopefully then can demonstrate that to the committee. I generally see a lot of success from candidates who were waitlisted, maybe one year, got the feedback, maybe learned more about program, and presented him or herself more effectively in the next application cycle. I really encourage that

Q. What would you advice for wait-listed students to strengthen their qualification?

General pieces of advice are;
First, it is good to stay in touch. There is a general wait-list email address. Anytime if you have a change in your application status such as new assignments at work, new promotion or having done some good volunteer work, they are good indications to send to the admission committee.
Second, candidates sometimes visit campus or contact current students and alumni after they have submitted their application. In such cases, you can show how you have gained a better understanding of the school by additional essays or information.
The third would be an additional recommendation. There are a couple of ways to look at this. Typically, the first two letters should be professional in nature. They should be from people who supervised or are supervising you. Then additional recommendations may be from outside of work. They are effective if they show you from a different light. You may have an experience of being a teacher, tutor or volunteer. Then, you may find someone who will write an additional recommendation which highlights you from a different angle.

6. Additional questions

Q. What is the best aspect of your job?

There is a lot to like about my job. I work with a great team, I travel to many interesting places, I explore developments in technology, I get to do a lot of work in process improvement, and I am able to learn about different cultures, approaches, and ways of thinking through the applicants I meet. What I like best about the job, though, are the relationships I can help build. I've been here long enough that I know quite a few current students and alumni, and I very much enjoy introducing them to prospective students who may share similar backgrounds/goals/interests. On a personal level, that allows me to maintain my existing relationships with students and alumni, and build new relationships with our incoming students.

Q. I heard that you are very popular among Japanese alumni. Tell us about your friendship experiences with Japanese alumni.

That's very flattering and I am happy to hear that! My history here at Tepper was that from 1998-2003, I worked on the Program-side as Associate Director of the MBA Program. In this role, I worked very closely with the students once they arrived here at Tepper, and throughout their studies. As a result, I got to know these students very well. To that end, when I travel to Japan, I am certainly representing the Tepper School, but I am also visiting with good friends. I am very appreciative of how strong our alumni community is, particularly in Japan. Nearly every candidate I speak with has had very positive communications with one or more of our alumni.
On a personal level, whenever I visit Japan, our alumni are extremely generous of their time in showing me around Tokyo, and introducing me to new foods. I was particularly touched to see that one of our recent alumni was wearing his Pittsburgh Steelers jacket when we met (which he had purchased when he was a student here at Tepper!). I am very happy for their success, grateful for their support of the school, and appreciative of their friendship.