Matthew Lacy writes about his experience as an MBA student at Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business

More than five hours from Philadelphia and almost seven hours from New York City is Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carnegie Mellon University.

Most people think of Pittsburgh as an old steel town and know little about its revitalisation. President Obama called Pittsburgh a model for the future and selected it for the 2009 G20 meeting.

He returned to Pittsburgh this month to address Carnegie Mellon students. With more than 10,000 students, the university plays an important role in the city.

Before arriving at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, I also knew little about the city.

As a prospective MBA student, I spent most of my time researching programmes and not the host cities. Tepper had a reputation for being academically rigorous and also having a quantitatively focused curriculum. After a year, I can say with absolute certainty that Tepper lives up to its strong reputation.

Recruiters frequently ask me why I chose Tepper. I graduated from a small liberal arts college in Maine. I enjoyed my undergraduate experience and when the time came for business school, I wanted a similar experience.

I also wanted a global network and a strong brand supporting me for the rest of my professional career.

Tepper is smaller than many comparable business schools. After two weeks, I knew just about everyone in my first-year MBA class and many of my professors. Class sizes are small and professors are very friendly. Tepper benefits from being associated with Carnegie Mellon and being part of the larger university network.

I came to Tepper from investment banking to study finance and accounting. Despite spending six years working in finance before business school, I had never taken a finance or accounting course. I believe that a strong background in these two areas is important before taking my career to the next level.

Tepper has a strong reputation in finance, which is underscored by its Master of Science in Computational Finance (MSCF) programme.

Finance classes are a combination of technical mechanics, such as portfolio replication and capital structure, and theoretical concepts, such as the efficient market hypothesis.

Accounting classes primarily address the construction and interpretation of financial statements for decision making, while reinforcing it with case studies.

My second year will afford the opportunity to take more advanced courses in the areas of options, credit derivatives and investment analysis.

Like many MBA students I came to business school with the goal of landing an investment banking summer internship or full-time job offer.

Several of the bulge-bracket firms recruit at Tepper for sales and trading or asset management, but only a few recruit students for investment banking. This makes landing an investment banking offer all the more difficult.

Those determined to pursue investment banking must begin networking almost immediately upon arrival and can expect to take a number of trips to New York or San Francisco to meet recruiters and alumni.

Tepper has historically been known for consulting and strategic operations, despite the quantitatively focused curriculum.

Tepper’s Career Opportunities Center (COC) has been working hard to improve the school’s profile with bulge-bracket firms and to place more students in investment banking.

This year, Barclays Capital, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Citi were among the firms making investment banking summer internship offers to Tepper students.

As more students experience success in these roles, I expect the number of firms recruiting at Tepper for investment banking to increase.

Choosing the right MBA programme is a decision that can significantly affect personal and professional success.

While school rankings and job placement statistics are factors which must be considered, there are other things a prospective MBA student should think about.

In my short time at Tepper I have taken some interesting and challenging courses.

I have also grown to appreciate and enjoy Pittsburgh and its charms. It is truly a fascinating and vibrant place to live, work and study.

Perhaps the most significant part of my Tepper experience so far is that I have met some talented people and have made some friends that I will keep long after business school.

While Pittsburgh is a great city and Carnegie Mellon is a world class university, what makes Tepper such a special place is the students. Pursuing my MBA at Tepper has been an experience that has exceeded my expectations in every way.

It is hard to believe that my first year of business school is already over. Whoever said that business school goes by quickly certainly knew what they were talking about!

I look forward to returning to campus after my summer internship at Deutsche Bank.

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