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The Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon has one of the top online MBA programs in the US. Here's why - and how to get in.

The Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon has one of the top online MBA programs in the US. Here's why - and how to get in.

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"My peers are all outstanding and a massively diverse group," said Andrew Adrian-Karlin, an alum of the Tepper School of Business' online MBA program.

  • Getting an MBA online can be a great way to get a master's degree while also maintaining a full-time job or raising a family.
  • Business Insider spoke to two former students and two directors of admissions at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon, one of the highest-rated online MBA programs according to official school rankings, to understand what makes their program unique and what the school looks for in MBA candidates.
  • Because Tepper offers plenty of opportunities to get hands-on experience and network, the school looks for students who are "curious, motivated, and inclusive" as well as innovative.
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If you're looking for a top-tier online MBA program that'll boost your resume, help you pick up new skills, or allow you to change careers without having to quit your day job or sacrifice family time, you might want to consider The Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon.

While there are plenty of great remote options out there (just check out U.S. News & World Report's annual listing of the Best Online MBA Programs, Poets & Quants' popular guide to the Top Online MBA Programs, and The Princeton Review's "Top 25" ranking, among other reputable sites like Grad School Hub and the Financial Times), Tepper seems to stand out among the pack. U.S. News & World Report ranked it number three in terms of top online MBA schools in 2019 (out of 285 online MBA programs), while Poets & Quants ranked it number one in 2018 and number four in 2019 - looking at things like academic and career support, admissions standards, and student surveys.

To understand what makes Tepper so special and how you can put yourself in the running to get accepted into this prestigious program, Business Insider spoke with two alumni and two admissions directors of the school.

A look inside Tepper's online MBA program, complete with built-in networking experiences and curriculum that mimics the school's top-notch, full-time MBA program

Andrew Adrian-Karlin earned his MBA online from the Tepper School of Business in 2019. The newly minted business school grad noted that he had originally struggled with choosing between applying to a highly ranked full-time program and having the traditional MBA experience, or participating in a part-time online program while simultaneously being able to take advantage of a work opportunity.

"I must have called half the people in my professional network for advice," Adrian-Karlin remembered. "What pushed me over the edge was believing in the promise of what Access Weekends would be." Access Weekends are a unique opportunity that the Tepper School offers to its remote students, which are designed to create an intensely focused, in-person experience that's generally lacking in online programs. "For those few days, you and your cohort are focused on being together, learning, and bonding," said Adrian-Karlin. "It's something that builds bonds in a way I don't think traditional part-time formats excel at."

Adrian-Karlin lists this cohort of classmates as "a massive part of the benefit" of attending Tepper's online program. "My peers are all outstanding and a massively diverse group," said Adrian-Karlin. "I had peers who were across geographies, industries, and career levels."

Andrew Adrian Karlin

Courtesy of Andrew Adrian-Karlin

Andrew Adrian-Karlin.

He pointed out that his Tepper peers were high achievers who "weren't just 'from' somewhere; they 'are' somewhere."

"I had classmates enmeshed in the day-to-day problems of running a South Dakota oil field, building a new product at Google, or teaching a class at the Naval Academy," he recalled. "These experiences and problems get brought into the classroom, into Access Weekend discussions, and into group chats. You also take those relationships, that collective knowledge, and unique perspective on problems with you."

As an example, Adrian-Karlin shared that he recently switched industries - from financial services into healthcare - and was able to effectively tap his Tepper network for help in his job search. "I probably had easily a dozen calls with immediate classmates or their contacts to bring me up to speed," he said. "It helped me successfully interview and land my new position."

The Tepper grad also highlighted a point that's a common benefit to many online MBA programs: the flexibility that the courses allowed. "I personally attended class while on business trips in Washington, DC, London, Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Bristol, and New York," he said. "In a traditional part-time MBA program, I would have had to turn down those opportunities or lost out on class experiences. That list doesn't count being able to attend class with a sleeping newborn on your shoulder, being able to stay with your parent while they recover from surgery, or just taking a vacation somewhere with a beach."

In addition to the Access Weekends, Adrian-Karlin pointed to other details that made his experience at the Tepper School "cool and special," including getting a tour of Google from a current Googler and having a classmate graduate via robot. "I'm talking full-on crossing the stage via telepresence," he said.

Sreekar Gadde

Courtesy of Sreekar Gadde

Sreekar Gadde.

Sreekar Gadde, who also graduated in 2019 from Tepper's online MBA program, said that even though he was living in Pittsburgh where the university is based, he chose to join Tepper's online program not just because of the location.

He emphasized that Tepper gave him "access to world-class faculty in multiple different areas including business, engineering, science, and the fine arts, and access to classmates who were middle- to senior-level managers that could bring our training in focus with real world examples."

He added that another reason he chose Tepper's online MBA program was "the integration of synchronous and asynchronous training" - in other words, weekly lectures were pre-recorded so that students could listen to them on their own schedule and matched with weekly live sessions to address questions and create a sense of community.

"I got ... the ability to tailor my classroom experience to my needs and abilities, all the while having access to all of the resources on campus as well," said Gadde. "Through this experience, I not only was able to open doors into industries that I had no access to before like venture capital, but also [into] a cohort of amazing fellow students that I can turn to whenever I am confronted with issues that are outside my area of expertise."

Cindy McCauley

Courtesy of Cindy McCauley

Cindy McCauley.

Cindy McCauley, executive director of the online masters programs at Tepper, also emphasized several aspects of the Tepper School's part-time online hybrid that help differentiate it.

First, McCauley highlighted that because the online program shares the same curriculum as the full-time MBA, "[O]ur online students receive the same quality education and resources as students on campus."

The executive director also noted the point that had been Adrian-Karlin's deciding factor in selecting the online program: the school's special networking opportunities for their remote MBA students, which open the door to connections that can otherwise be very difficult for online students to make.

She concluded that the online MBA at Tepper offers students "the best of both worlds": "Our online program offers students the ability to obtain a top-ranked MBA no matter where they're based, coupled with in-person experiences that create the tight-knit community and alumni network that are critical to an MBA experience."

What the Tepper School of Business' admissions looks for in online MBA candidates

Kelly Wilson, executive director of masters admissions at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business, explained that because technology has had a fundamental impact on the business world, the Tepper MBA program is uniquely positioned to address this new landscape - and this affects the types of candidates that admissions seeks. This includes the school's online MBA program, which has the same curriculum, faculty, career services, and leadership training as Tepper's full-time MBA program. Admissions shared with Business Insider that the school considers applications to the MBA program the same across the board, whether you're applying to the full-time MBA or the online MBA.

"We particularly value candidates who have a forward-thinking approach to their career, who have a strong desire to make an impact in both their organization and the greater world, and look to Tepper as the partner to get them there," said Wilson.

Kelly Wilson

Courtesy of Kelly Wilson

Kelly Wilson.

She added that the ideal Tepper MBA student is "curious, motivated, and inclusive," noting that two areas of the Tepper application that are important are quantitative aptitude and willingness to receive feedback. "These align directly with our approach to teach our students in-depth analytical tools that will serve them throughout their career, and the leadership development work that our students undertake while enrolled in the MBA program," said Wilson.

Wilson also explained that Tepper MBAs will gain a unique set of analytical skills that will help them to make better business decisions based on data. "They will learn tools and techniques to perform sophisticated analysis and use this for the basis for decision-making." She concluded that ultimately, Tepper MBAs can expect to learn about their own leadership skills and improve their ability to lead within an organization.


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