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The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College’s essay questions are remarkably straightforward this application season—no curve balls here. You must submit a professional essay explaining your need for an MBA, or more specifically, a Tuck MBA. Then, you must write a leadership experience essay that highlights an instance when you shone. Thereafter, you can craft an optional essay to mitigate any weaknesses in your candidacy, should any exist. With a workable limit of 500 words for each essay, Tuck seems to have created a rather applicant-friendly set of questions. Our analysis of the individual prompts follows…
Tuck Essay 1: What are your short- and long-term goals? Why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically?
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 Dartmouth 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.
Tuck Essay 2: Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck?
“Meaningful” is the key word in this essay question. Tuck is not necessarily asking you to share your greatest triumph, but rather your most meaningful experience. For some applicants, the two may be one and the same, but this will not necessarily be the case for all candidates. Therefore, you should think carefully about your boldest achievements as a leader and for each one, consider not just the experience itself, but also the values you represented therein. Tuck is not asking simply for a narrative that shows you have experienced some sort of achievement; the admissions committee needs to know that the incident you have chosen to showcase held some personal value for you.
We suggest that you forego any kind of general introduction and launch into your story right away, immediately placing your reader in the middle of the action. From there, let the narrative unfold naturally, making sure that your actions are very clearly explained and that your anecdote involves an obvious conflict that you either resolved on your own or played a definitive role in resolving. You must then explicitly address why this experience was meaningful to you in a way that is neither trite nor clichéd—and that does not come across like a throwaway statement. In short, writing, “This leadership experience was meaningful to me because I challenged myself and was ultimately successful!” would not work. You must demonstrate self-awareness, and the “meaningful” aspect of the experience must be the clear and logical conclusion of your narrative, yet it must also be a thoughtful exploration of that logical conclusion.
A thoughtful example might be something like this: “Speaking out against our existing bonus plan was clearly risky, because any change in compensation structure risks upsetting the apple cart. I was surprised to find that it galvanized my team, but I also knew that our new structure had to be transparent and fair to work. By giving my team ownership of the design of the new bonus criteria and acting as an approval mechanism, I was able to not only get the best results—our sales clearly took off—but also push myself into a place where I was far more hands-off than ever before. I know that my management style is now different, because I have a new tool to deploy when appropriate.” In this fictitious reflection, the writer explores his motivation and learnings, rather than simply reiterating his essay’s thesis.
Of course, you absolutely must not forget or fail to respond to the second half of the school’s essay prompt: the part about how this experience will enable you to contribute to/at Tuck. To most effectively do so, you must first profoundly understand what Tuck is all about. Again, a basic statement that merely glosses over the subject —“I will bring these leadership experiences to the Tuck classroom, where I will be deferential and active”—simply will not work. Instead, you need to reveal that you truly appreciate and grasp the nuances of the school’s environment by referencing specific Tuck resources. For example, you might write something like this: “What I find compelling about Tuck is that teamwork is not just a buzzword. Whether engaging with my learning team or working on my First Year Project, I know that harnessing team contributions will be critical. There will be moments to speak, to listen, and to facilitate others’ contributions, and this final piece is something I now know I can do well.” In this example, the writer clearly shows that he has done his research on Tuck and recognizes how his experience relates to the program; he is not merely nodding his head to the school that he aspires to attend.
Optional Tuck Essay: 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.
Applicants may be especially tempted to take advantage of the optional essay, given that the school otherwise offers so few essay opportunities, but we strongly encourage you to resist any such temptation and submit an optional essay only if your candidacy truly needs it. This is most certainly not the place to paste in a strong essay you wrote for another school or share an anecdote you were unable to incorporate into either of the primary essays. Again, only if your profile has a noticeable gap of some kind or would provoke any lingering questions on the part of an admissions officer—such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc.—should you take this opportunity to provide additional information. 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.
Reapplicant Essay: (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 some sort of personal challenge, 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.
The Next Step—Mastering Your Dartmouth Tuck Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the Dartmouth Tuck Interview Primer today.