Dartmouth College (Tuck) Essay Analysis, 2017–2018

Dartmouth College (Tuck)

*Please note: You are viewing an essay analysis from the 2017-2018 admissions cycle. Click here to view our collection of essay analyses for the current admissions season. 

The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College has remained largely constant with its first essay question this year, making just a slight change in wording that does not appear to affect the content requested—the candidate’s career goals, why an MBA is needed to achieve them, and his or her reasons for targeting Tuck. The school’s second required essay prompt has changed notably, however. Applicants are now asked to share the story of a difficult time and to explain how they responded and how the incident altered their understanding of themselves. An optional essay is also available to allow those who truly need to to address any weaknesses in their candidacy. Although none of the essays should exceed 500 words (approximately three times the length of this introductory paragraph), we feel that together, they give candidates sufficient opportunity to provide the admissions committee with a multifaceted impression of themselves for evaluation. Read on for more in-depth analysis of each of Tuck’s prompts for this season…

Essay 1: 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)

If this essay prompt seems rather simplistic and straightforward, that is because it is. Tuck is requesting very fundamental—yet incredibly important—information and really just wants you to provide it so the school can understand your motivation for pursuing a Tuck MBA and where you expect to go in your career afterward. Be as specific as possible in your description of where you see yourself after graduation and several years down the line, from the industry and role to any additional details about which you currently feel confident (perhaps specific companies or responsibilities that appeal to you in particular). Explain what has brought you to this point in your professional life, not only your career progression to date but also what has inspired you to earn an advanced degree as a vital tool in moving forward. And absolutely do not gloss over the third part of the school’s question, which requests that you note which of the program’s resources you believe will be most helpful to you in your pursuits. This last portion needs to be more than a passing mention, so do your research on the school and draw a clear picture for your admissions reader as to how and why the particular offerings you have identified relate directly to your needs and how you intend to apply them.

This essay includes many of the most elemental components of a traditional personal statement essay. We therefore encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, in which we provide much more in-depth guidance on how to consider and respond to these sorts of questions, along with numerous illustrative examples. Please feel free to download your complimentary copy today.

And for a thorough exploration of Dartmouth Tuck’s academic program, unique resources, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, standout professors, and other key features, consider downloading a copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Tuck School of Business, which is also available for free.

Essay 2: 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)

To start, let us point out that the school does not specify from which realm of your life—professional, personal, or community related—the story you choose to share here must come. This means you can plumb the entirety of your experiences for the one you believe best fulfills what the school wants to see—“personal accountability and action,” as it states in a Tuck 360 blog post about this season’s essays—and about which you feel most strongly. Likewise, whether you choose the feedback, failure, or disappointment option is not what is important here (no one of these is “right” while any other is “wrong”). The admissions committee wants to know that the incident you are showcasing was truly significant for you and had a meaningful impact, so let that be your guide.

Tuck also wants evidence that you are capable of reflecting, learning, and growing. If you are not able to do this, the school might assume that you simply do not have the necessary qualities to be a strong, contributing member of its next incoming class, let alone a standout manager later in your life. Strive to describe a kind of “before and after” situation in which the input you received, the setback you encountered, or the chagrin you experienced served as an inflection point that triggered a dramatic change in you. One way to approach this is by crafting a narrative that involves momentum in one direction that is suddenly derailed when you hit the stumbling block in question and are ultimately changed.

Given that you have just 500 words with which to set the scene and discuss the three components the school requests—a description of your selected experience, your response to it, and what you ultimately discovered about yourself—we suggest that you forego any kind of general introduction and launch directly into your story, immediately placing your reader in the middle of the action. Similarly, avoid mentioning several different experiences (perhaps for fear of offering the “wrong” one) and focus just on one that you describe in detail. Let the narrative unfold naturally, making sure that the basics of the feedback, failure, or disappointment are clearly presented. Then, explicitly address the feelings and thoughts you had as a result and any subsequent actions you took.

The other crucial element of this essay is demonstrating that you learned from the experience—do not gloss over this part or offer a trite or clichéd statement as a kind of afterthought. And specifically, you must share that you learned something about yourself. So, claiming that you gained a new skill, for example, would not constitute an appropriate response. You will need to delve more deeply into how your understanding of yourself differed after the situation and clearly explain what the experience brought out in you that you had not known about yourself before. Your unique thoughts on this point can differentiate you from other applicants, and showing that you recognize how the incident changed you demonstrates your self-awareness and capacity for growth. The school does not want to know only that you have faced and overcome a challenge but also how it has contributed to the person you are today.  

Optional Essay: 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.

You may be tempted to take advantage of this optional essay as an opportunity to share an additional compelling story or to highlight a part of your profile that you fear might be overlooked or undervalued, but we strongly encourage you to resist this temptation. Submit an optional essay here only if your candidacy truly needs it. Consider what the school says about this essay from the aforementioned Tuck 360 blog post: “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.” You really cannot get much clearer than that! So again, only if your profile has a noticeable gap of some kind or an issue that would might raise a red flag or elicit questions on the part of an admissions officer—such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT/GRE score, a gap in your work experience, an arrest, etc.—should you take this opportunity to provide additional information. Download a free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on deciding whether to take advantage of the optional essay as well as on how to do so effectively (with 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.

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