Dartmouth College (Tuck) Essay Analysis, 2012–2013

The trend toward fewer application essays this season continues with the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, which has dropped one full essay from last year and is now down to three required, and very straightforward, essay questions: one about career goals and Tuck, one about leadership and one about failure. As always, take the time to brainstorm thoroughly before beginning to write, and be sure that you keep your reader learning throughout your essays. These essays provide three opportunities to reveal yourself, so make sure that you are offering three distinct statements about your skills—and indeed about yourself.

Please respond fully but concisely to the following essay questions. Compose each of your answers offline in separate document files and upload them individually in the appropriate spaces. We encourage applicants to limit the length of their responses to 500 words for each essay. There are no right or wrong answers. Please double-space your responses.

Dartmouth Tuck School of Business1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA program for you, and what will you uniquely contribute to the community? (If you are applying for a joint or dual degree, please explain how the additional degree will contribute to those goals.)

Tuck’s first essay prompt is like many other classic “Why an MBA? Why our school?” questions, only it also asks what you will contribute in return, so be sure to address this issue as well. If you are in the (ill-advised) habit of copying and pasting the same essays for multiple schools, you could easily overlook this element of Tuck’s Essay 1 question. When discussing your planned contribution to the school’s community, you must reveal that you truly know and understand the nature of the Tuck community for your statements to carry any real weight—do not make the mistake of discussing your abilities in a vacuum. For example, explaining that you are an extreme sports enthusiast and would bring that passion to Tuck would clearly not be as effective or compelling as tying that love of extreme sports to an active role in planning and running events for the Tuck Winter Carnival. This important distinction should not be lost.

As for the rest of Tuck’s essay prompt here, because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge. Please feel free to download your copy today.

For a thorough exploration of Tuck’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

2. Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?

This essay question is pretty straightforward, and Tuck’s admissions committee can thanked for that—no tricks! Every good meaningful leadership experience is hard fought. If such experiences were easy, they would not be as significant, right? So, in this case, you would be best off simply identifying a time when you have shined and then telling that story, following the narrative as it happened, revealing the bumps and bruises you incurred along the way and then reflecting on them.

Many applicants make the mistake of telling a story of a time they did something really well and then reflecting on a weakness that they never actually revealed or mentioned in their narrative. As a result, the reader suddenly thinks, “Wait, where did that come from? I thought everything went well!” In short, be sure to clearly present the details of the experience you have chosen to discuss, as well as the positive and negative facets of your character or abilities that were revealed as a result. Not only does Tuck’s question demand all three of these elements, but also, you cannot effectively reflect on a strength or weakness in your essay until you have presented it to your reader to begin with. Otherwise, you will confuse both your reader and the issue.

3. Describe a circumstance in your life in which you faced adversity, failure, or setback. What actions did you take as a result and what did you learn from this experience?

So many business schools this year are asking about times when candidates have failed, faced a setback, done something suboptimally or been frustrated by circumstances (Tuck, Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan, Michigan Ross, UC-Berkeley Haas, Cornell, etc.). Why? We believe the schools want to know that you are a real person, with both flaws and strengths, and have the ability not only to be introspective and assess yourself, but also to learn and improve.

In this essay, you should demonstrate that you were making clear forward progress toward a goal and then show that this progress was forcefully derailed. The reader needs to feel the emotional impact of your setback for him/herself. This does not mean that your goal is to bring your reader to tears, but you should strive to ensure that he/she truly grasps the power of the experience and the level of disappointment you felt. To accomplish this, you need to ensure that the contrast between “before” and “after” is sharp. Once you have taken the reader through this rapid rise and fall, you will need to show that you did not just reflect on the experience but actually “took action” in some way as a result. Thus, showing change and growth through actual concrete steps is important. You might even offer a brief second anecdote that validates those actions.

4. (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that 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.

However tempted you might be, this is not the place to paste in a strong essay from another school or to offer a few anecdotes that you were unable to use in any of your other essays. Instead, this is your opportunity—if needed—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc. In our mbaMission Optional Statement Guide, available through our online store, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay (including multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.

5. (To be completed by all reapplicants) How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally.

Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement or taken on a personal challenge of sorts, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Tuck wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a Tuck MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.

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