My Journey to Tepper

Tepper School of Business | Life at Tepper Student Experience Blog

When I was growing up, I never thought I would go into business. Both my parents worked in the finance industry, and I would constantly overhear phrases like “fiscal quarters” and “Sarbanes-Oxley”. I’d ask them what these obscure phrases meant, and they’d smile and try their best to explain how these terms fit into the complex framework of the US market. I understood none of it. From my point of view, business, along with its confusing terms and meaningless acronyms, was simply a future filled with mundane meetings and boring office work. I wanted none of it.

I was more fascinated with mathematics. I was enthralled the elegance of formulas, the satisfaction of solving problems, and the endless supply of new material to learn. Every week, I spent hours scavenging the internet, searching for new problems to solve, and new concepts to master. The branch of mathematics that interested me the most was combinatorics. The uncertainty associated with probabilities added an element of risk that I found exciting. I would often solve probability problems on paper and then replicate the problem in real life, testing whether my answer matched my experimental results.

For most of my high school experience, I focused solely on STEM. I designed experiments for science fairs, practiced problems for math competitions, and started taking online courses on how to code. I applied into my school’s Science Research Program, a rigorous program that taught concepts such as quantitative analysis and the Fourier transform. My parents were confident that I’d enter college majoring in a STEM field, and I thought so as well.

However, despite my love for the STEM fields, I decided to take AP Macroeconomics during my junior fall. I wanted to understand what my parents actually did for their jobs, and I thought that taking an economics class would be the perfect way to learn. I soon realized the similarities between economics and mathematics, how both fields were built upon a set of underlying concepts. But what made economics more appealing was its consistent application to real-world scenarios. Unlike math, which often extended into a world of pure theory, economics was grounded in the daily choices that people and businesses made. My graphs of chaos theory and fractal geometry were slowly replaced by images of the AD/AS model and the Phillips curve. The time I spent preparing for math competitions became used for reading the Wall Street Journal. I learned that fiscal quarters denoted the three-month intervals that businesses report their finances, while the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was passed to protect investors from the scandals that bankrupted Enron and WorldCom. When the time came to apply to colleges, I knew my intended major had to be related to economics.

During the college search, I was drawn to CMU by its strong business program and extensive STEM fields, satisfying both my love of economics and my interest in STEM. Now, I’m studying business administration as a freshman in the Tepper School of Business, although I still want to explore courses in computer science or statistics. I’m extremely happy to be taking courses that I’m interested in, and I’m excited to find out what new interests I’ll develop during my time here.

Jonny Wu | Undergraduate Business 2023
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