The Tuck admissions office isn’t shy about broadcasting what it’s looking for in an applicant. In addition to academic and professional achievements, the admissions officers are also interested in intangibles such as integrity and personality. Given Tuck’s small class size, remote location and collaborative culture, it’s particularly important for the admissions officers to assemble a class of Tuckies that is not only smart and accomplished but “plays well with others.” So, if you are seeking one of Tuck’s 285 spots, it’s important for you to do your research and spend quality time on your essays.
In this article, we analyze the 2017-2018 Dartmouth Tuck MBA essay questions and offer some tips that will help you ensure that your essays convey the characteristics and strengths that make you a better fit for the school than your competition. The advice and information contained in this article are based on the experience and expertise of a Tuck alum familiar with MBA admissions, as well as the Tuck360 Blog.
Tuck Essay Question #1: (Required) What are your short and long-term goals? Why is an MBA a critical next step toward achieving those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically? (500 words)
To answer this question well, you need to have a clear understanding of where you want to go professionally, then build a convincing case for how a Tuck MBA will get you there. It may seem early to have to decide your future, but if you think you will have time in your first year at Tuck to figure out what you want to do once you graduate, think again.
Although Tuck’s MBA program is two years long, summer internship recruiting starts right away and Fall A is a notoriously intense term. That is one of the reasons why admissions officers would prefer for you to have a clear understanding of your career goals and how you plan to achieve them even before you apply.
Early in this essay, after you have shared your short- and long-term goals, it is a good idea to help the admissions officers understand how your past personal and professional experiences have prepared you for success. While the admissions committee doesn’t expect you to “walk them through your resume,” you can summarize elements of your background and the skills you possess that will serve you well in your post-MBA role. The benefit of doing so is persuading your reader that your career goals are realistic.
Being specific about how Tuck’s program will contribute to your future success is what matters here. For example, an applicant who wants to be a Product Manager might make the point that the general management curriculum will prepare him or her to manage all aspects of a product line, from marketing to financial planning to directing the activities of a cross-functional team. In addition, if you’re interested in working for particular companies, do your homework to see if any of them recruit on-campus and/or if there are alums that work for those firms.
Don’t forget to weave in your personal goals as well. A Tuck education is about holistic growth, not just classroom learning and gaining new professional skills, so be sure to include specific clubs and activities that will get you involved and help you grow.
Lastly, in this essay, you want to convey confidence and decisiveness. Everyone knows that plans can change, but the admissions office wants to know that you have a plan and know how to implement it, even if you end up following a different path once school starts.
Tuck Essay Question #2: (Required) Tuck’s mission is to educate wise leaders to better the world of business. Wisdom encompasses the essential aptitudes of confident humility, about what one does and does not know; empathy, towards the diverse ideas and experiences of others; and judgment, about when and how to take risks for the better. With Tuck’s mission in mind, and with a focus on confident humility, tell us about a time you: received tough feedback, experienced failure, or disappointed yourself or others. How did you respond, and what did you learn about yourself as a result? (500 words)
At its core, this question is about fit. Does the way you approach your life fit with the qualities Tuck values, namely humility, empathy and good judgment? Tuck is known for its collaborative (as opposed to competitive) culture. The admissions officers are striving to assemble a class of students who will contribute to a dynamic classroom environment, a synergistic study group experience, and a close-knit social body. Creating a cohesive class is particularly important given the school’s small size and remote location. This isn’t to say that Tuck wants everyone to be alike – quite the opposite actually. Tuck is looking for people who, according to one admissions officer, “are self-aware, growth minded, and humble, people who recognize those less-than-perfect moments or traits in themselves and then figure out where to go from there.”
To help you decide which failure or setback story to tell, you might consider compiling a list of examples for each of the three experiences the question mentions: (1) times you received tough feedback; (2) times you experienced failure; and (3) times you disappointed yourself or others. Next to each example, write down what you learned from that experience. Then, figure out which story best jives with Tuck’s leadership values (humility, empathy and good judgment in risk-taking). In choosing an example, you should also ensure that your story is consistent with the way you’ve positioned yourself throughout your application and yet offers new insight into who you are as a candidate.
When addressing the second part of the question about how you responded and what you learned, walk the reader through your external reaction at the time, your internal thought process and the moment when the learning occurred; or, if it wasn’t an epiphany, discuss the process that led to the revelation.
In summary, the key to this essay is, to be honest, and specific and to show how you took personal responsibility and action to turn a setback into a learning experience.
Tuck Essay Question #3 – (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere and may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.
This essay is truly optional and should only be used if you really need to explain part of your application, such as why you chose a recommender other than your direct supervisor, a low undergrad GPA or grade, or anything else that needs additional explanation. For example, one applicant who utilized this essay had a background that was highly skewed towards qualitative/verbal achievements and she used the essay to explain what she was doing to prove she could handle the quantitative aspects of the program. For example, she was taking accounting and statistics courses in the evenings at a local college and currently had an “A” average.
If you decide that writing this essay is necessary for your application, be concise. According to the Tuck admissions office, “If you give us an extra five paragraphs to read and it’s not necessary, we will question your judgment or your ability to express yourself succinctly elsewhere.”
A Few Final Tips for Tuck Applicants
Tuck graduates become part of one of the most dedicated and responsive alumni networks in the world. It is an unspoken rule that when a current Tuckie or alum contacts you, you respond and help them out in any way you can. The admissions office does its part to fortify the alumni base by admitting applicants who have shown a history of being generous to others and being engaged contributors to the communities they have been part of thus far in life. So, be sure your application conveys how you will actively participate in the Tuck community.
Lastly, ethics are an important part of the Tuck culture, so it should come as no surprise that the admissions committee has a policy that your essays need to be your own: “Tuck expects that the work contained in the essays is completely accurate and exclusively your own. Use of professional essay-writing services violates Tuck’s admissions policies.” It’s wise to have another person read your essays and provide feedback but be sure the work remains your own.