Dartmouth University (Tuck) Essay Analysis, 2010–2011

Tuck has tweaked its essay questions ever so slightly this season, no longer asking candidates to define leadership but still asking about a leadership experience in essay question two, and no longer asking for constructive feedback on a difficult experience but asking applicants to discuss a “hurdle” in essay question three. This small change—removing the need for a definition of leadership and for others’ perspectives on your performance—shifts the focus of the essays so it is entirely on you, the candidate.

Applicants should note that although no restriction is put on the length of the essays, on average, most Tuck applicants use 500 words for each response.

1. 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? (If you are applying for a joint or dual degree, please explain how the additional degree will contribute to those goals.)

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, via our online store. 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.

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

As you consider your options for this essay, you should keep in mind that your “most meaningful” leadership experience may not—and need not—be the one in which you produced the greatest end results. Note that Tuck is asking here for “meaning,” not impact. So, the experience you choose to discuss can be one in which you challenged yourself and put forth your greatest effort, leaving your comfort zone and diversifying your skills, even if the results were negligible. What you learned from this experience is what is crucial—particularly with regard to your “strengths and weaknesses”—and thus you will need to show that you have given a significant amount of thought to the experience and uncovered some personal and revealing takeaways.

3. What is the greatest challenge or hurdle you have overcome, either personally or professionally, and how did you manage to do so?

The choice of the words “challenge” and “hurdle,” rather than “mistake,” in this question means that in the experience you choose to present in this essay, you do not need to have been the cause of the problem that you faced. In other words, Tuck is not asking how you overcame an error of your own design, so you could theoretically discuss an instance when others left obstacles for you or when you were the victim of a happenstance occurrence (for example, you broke your leg during practice the day before you were going to start your final season as captain of your collegiate athletics team).

Ideally, regardless of your level of culpability (full culpability is fine, and honesty is mandatory), you will need to discuss a situation in which a specific result was not only desired but also seemed very likely. You need to raise your reader’s hopes and win him/her over, only to let him/her down emotionally when you present the unexpected obstacle that ultimately derailed your ambition. Finally, you must show that you made the best of a difficult situation, taking care to explain in detail how you were able to do so.

4. Tuck seeks candidates of various backgrounds who can bring new perspectives to our community. How will your unique personal history, values, and/or life experiences contribute to the culture at Tuck?

Tuck’s essay question four is quite broad; within “personal history, values, and/or life experiences,” you have a great deal of range. So, you can develop one or two significant themes, drawing from your life experiences, and then relate them back to the Tuck experience. This is an opportunity for you not only to highlight your most exceptional attributes but also to convey just how well you know the school by clearly illustrating connections between these unique aspects of your profile and specific elements of the Tuck experience. By thus showing a true understanding of your personal connection with the school and communicating how your strengths can be used to benefit the entire Tuck community, you will complete the essay portion of your application on a very compelling note.

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