Dartmouth College (Tuck) Essay Analysis, 2018–2019

Dartmouth College (Tuck)

*Please note: You are viewing an essay analysis from the 2018-2019 admissions cycle. Click here to view our collection of essay analyses for the current admissions season.

As the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College enters its second full admissions season with Luke Anthony Peña at the helm as executive director of admissions and financial aid, we are not surprised to see a major overhaul in the program’s essay questions. What was the school’s first essay last year—which covered candidates’ career goals, why an MBA is needed to achieve them, and their reasons for targeting Tuck—has been deconstructed and reformulated into a series of short-answer questions. Tuck’s new Essay 1 instead addresses applicants’ individuality and anticipated contributions to the school. The admissions committee keeps the focus on contribution in its second essay prompt, asking candidates to discuss a time when they helped facilitate another’s success. Clearly, Tuck is interested in identifying individuals who will be connected, cooperative, and supportive members of its community, both as students and as alumni, staying true to its reputation as having one of the closest knit and most engaged networks among the top MBA programs. Read on for our detailed analysis of Tuck’s prompts for this year. . .


  • Share your short-term goals. (50 words)
  • Share your long-term goals. (50 words)
  • How did you arrive at these goals? (75 words)
  • How will Tuck help you achieve these goals? (75 words)

Together, these short-answer questions largely comprise what would be covered in a traditional personal essay, just dissected and abbreviated. Tuck is requesting very fundamental—yet incredibly important—information and really just wants you to provide it in a straightforward manner 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, yet still succinct, 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). For the third question, explain what has inspired you to pursue these positions and how they fit with your personality, background, values, and/or skills (as applicable). And finally, note which of Dartmouth Tuck’s resources and/or what aspect of its program as a whole will be most helpful to you in your pursuits. For this last question, you need to provide more than a passing mention or a pandering summarization, 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, as room allows, how you intend to apply them.

Because, as we noted, these prompts cover many of the most elemental components of a traditional personal statement essay, we encourage you to download a free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide. This document provides in-depth guidance on how to consider and respond to these sorts of questions, along with numerous illustrative examples. Please feel free to claim your complimentary copy today.

Essay 1: Tuck students are aware of how their individuality adds to the fabric of Tuck. Tell us who you are and what you will contribute. (500 words)

To know how to contribute to Dartmouth Tuck, you must first understand the community and environment you will be contributing to, so—if you have not already done so—you must research the school in depth before attempting to craft this essay. This means moving beyond the Tuck website, viewbook, and related marketing materials and making direct contact with students, alumni, and even school representatives. Attend an admissions event in your area, if available, and schedule a campus visit and sit in on a class. This kind of firsthand observation of what and who the Tuck program truly entails, paired with a profound knowledge of how it works, is key in identifying what is unique about you viewed against this backdrop—and will help highlight what you can bring to the mix and how.  

Pay special attention to the aspects of and areas at Tuck that speak to you personally in some way, and consider social events/clubs and professional development opportunities along with course work and academic offerings. Business school is meant to be a comprehensive environment and experience that enriches students in ways not just related directly to business, and perhaps your best potential for contribution lies in one of these areas. If you have years of experience teaching, for example, you could perhaps help facilitate discussions among the students in your study group or on team projects. If you have a depth of knowledge or years of experience in a particular area, whether through your job or in a personal capacity (such as being a dedicated wine aficionado), you could serve as a kind of subject matter expert for those around you in the program or even a valuable component in someone’s recruiting network. If you are particularly funny, creative, or athletic, you may be the ideal fit to lead an extracurricular group or play a significant role in a nonacademic project or event.

The broad scope of this essay prompt allows you a great amount of freedom to choose and share the information you believe is most important for the admissions committee to know about you. You have as much as 500 words for this submission, which is rather substantial these days, so take care not to ramble or become repetitious. And truly focus on those elements of your personality that are most relevant to the context here: the Dartmouth Tuck experience. Avoid simply trying to fit in as much information as possible about yourself in hoping of stumbling on the “right” answers and instead clearly present and illustrate your most fitting qualities and show a direct connection between them and specific aspects of the MBA program. Authenticity and enthusiasm are the keys to your success with this essay.

For a thorough exploration of Dartmouth Tuck’s academic program, unique resources, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, standout professors, and other key features, download your free copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Tuck School of Business.

Essay 2: Tuck students are nice, and invest generously in one another’s success.  Share an example of how you helped someone else succeed. (500 words)

This essay prompt is clearly a nod to the admissions committee’s new stated focus on selecting applicants who are “smart, nice, accomplished, and aware” (we strongly encourage you to click through and read the school’s admissions criteria in detail, if you have not already done so). It also aligns perfectly with the program’s long-held belief in teamwork and community spirit. By illustrating with this essay that you have a natural interest in helping others reach their goals and have successfully done so, you will demonstrate for the admissions committee that you possess the qualities it is seeking in its next class of students. In addition, stepping up proactively to assist someone in an endeavor that is important to him/her shows an instinct for leadership, which is valued by all MBA programs.

So, in reality, this is a fairly straightforward essay prompt, and we recommend responding in an equally straightforward manner. Beyond simply sharing a story of having supported, assisted, and/or encouraged another on their path to success, you will need to share the motivation(s) and thought processes that led you to want to do so in the first place. With 500 words for this essay, you should have ample space to clearly convey the situation as you originally found it, your inspiration to contribute, the actions you then took, the outcome, and, ideally, what you learned from the experience (though this last element should be somewhat brief). Take care not to brag about your role or suggest that the party you aided could never have succeeded without you. The school is unquestionably looking for evidence that you not only have a natural inclination to invest in and bolster others but you also have the capacity and skills to do so effectively and are mature enough to grow from the experience yourself.

Note that Dartmouth Tuck 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 and about which you feel most strongly. (As the admissions committee itself says on the Tuck site, “There are no right or wrong answers.”) Also consider that although the prompt says “someone else,” this could potentially apply to a pair or small group, if presented effectively. Perhaps, for example, you helped a duo of small business owners with a marketing issue or supported a small musical group or athletic team in some capacity. In a June 11, 2018, Tuck news article, Peña commented, “Tuck is a distinctly collaborative community so being able to challenge others tactfully and thoughtfully is important” (emphasis ours). With this in mind, if you are deciding between two or more instances you could discuss for this essay, considering going with one in which your help was not requested or perhaps even immediately accepted—one in which you needed to diplomatically negotiate your offer of input and assistance.

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 are all clearly presented. What the school wants to know is that the incident you are showcasing was truly significant for you and had a meaningful impact, so let that be your guide.

Optional Essay: Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere (e.g., atypical choice of evaluators, factors affecting academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes). 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 in a 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. (500 words)

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. To help you on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers. Download your free copy of the Dartmouth Tuck Interview Primer today.

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