Applicants to Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business are expected to provide three 300-word essays and have the option to submit a fourth, if anything more about their candidacy needs to be offered or explained. The school’s first prompt broadly covers applicants’ need for an MBA, and specifically a Tuck MBA, as well as why they are pursuing one now. Essay 2 deals with candidates’ individuality, and the third essay is about a time when applicants demonstrated or acted on their instincts to encourage or create inclusivity for others. Tuck clearly seeks individuals who will be ambitious, cooperative, and supportive members of its community. Our more detailed essay analysis for Tuck’s 2023–2024 essay questions follows.
Dartmouth College (Tuck) Essay Analysis, 2023–2024
Essay 1: Why are you pursuing an MBA and why now? How will the distinct Tuck MBA contribute to achieving your career goals and aspirations? (300 words)
By not specifically requesting short- and long-term goals in this essay prompt, Tuck leaves the decision of how to frame your career aspirations up to you. The natural assumption is that if you have reached a point in your professional journey where you believe an MBA is necessary to move forward, you must have a goal in mind that you are working toward—even if that goal is still fairly nebulous or malleable at this point. Note that the admissions committee is also interested in hearing why now is the best time for you to pursue the degree, so you must show that you have reached a kind of inflection point in your professional trajectory where the skills and experiences you will gain at and from business school are necessary for you to keep moving forward (or to pivot in a new direction), rather than stagnating or stalling in your current role.
To address the “how will Tuck help you?” element of this prompt, you will need to indicate which of the school’s resources and/or what aspect(s) of its program as a whole will be most helpful to you in your pursuits, and this requires more than a pandering summarization or a stark list of offerings. This means you must move beyond the Tuck website, viewbook, and related marketing materials and make direct contact with students, alumni, and other school representatives. In-person admissions events, campus visits, and online options allow candidates to familiarize themselves with Tuck’s environment and resources. Tuck’s YouTube channel is another resource for learning about what is happening at the school and what its community members are like. Understanding what and who the school’s program truly entails, as well as how it works, is key in identifying and then articulating your need for a Tuck MBA in particular. By thoroughly doing your research on the school and drawing a clear picture for your admissions reader of how the particular offerings you have identified relate directly to your needs and how you intend to apply them, chances are high that you will submit a truly effective essay.
In a recent blog post, the program’s director of admissions, evaluation, and yield, Patricia Harrison, states that this essay prompt aligns directly with one of the school’s core admissions criteria—“aware”—and advises Tuck hopefuls to really understand this criterion as it is defined and viewed by the school. We hope this is already obvious, but when a member of the admissions office encourages you to do, read, watch, or listen to something in preparation for writing your application essays, do it. You might be able to write a compelling, effective essay response without doing so, but why take the chance?
Because this prompt encompasses some 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.
And for a thorough exploration of 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: Tell us who you are. How have your values and experiences shaped your identity and character? How will your background contribute to the diverse Tuck culture and community? (300 words)
This essay question tasks applicants with sharing what they feel are the most important aspects of their character and personality, and the admissions committee expects candidates to understand and be able to articulate how they fit with (and be additive to) the school’s community. Given the rather tight word count, though, you do not need to be overly specific and detailed in conveying this information. In the aforementioned admissions blog post, Harrison states, “Finally, we are interested in hearing about the person who will show up at Tuck rather than the things you will do here” (emphasis hers). Keep this in mind as you brainstorm and write. Many students can and do participate in events, clubs, and other offerings at the school, so saying you will be a member of this or that group or hope to help organize this or that conference is not as revelatory of your personality and uniqueness as the admissions committee wants you to be here. Focus on conveying your core character and values, and the admissions readers can connect the dots themselves from there.
We suggest you start by grabbing some paper and making an old-fashioned list of your key attributes, values, and interests. Do not concern yourself with trying to identify the “right” ones but focus instead on the ones that would be most representative of who you are. A good brainstorming tactic is to imagine meeting someone for the first time at a party or other event and how you would go about getting acquainted. What kind of information would you want to know about this person, and what facts about yourself would you be most eager to share, as a way of conveying who you are and making a connection? Take some time to delve into your personality in this way. At the same time, keep in mind what the admissions committee will already know about you from the other portions of your application, to avoid wasting an opportunity to share something new, and pinpoint stories that provide context and color to your claims, versus just stating them outright. For example, rather than a declaration like “I tend to be a very altruistic person and enjoy giving back to my community by being a reading tutor,” you might say something more like “Tuesday nights have become my favorite night of the week, because that is when I tutor local elementary students in reading, and the way their eyes light up when they learn a new word or finish another book never fails to inspire and gratify me.” Giving your claims sufficient context and a bit of “life” in this way allows the admissions committee to more fully understand and appreciate them.
This essay prompt actually allows you a great deal of freedom to choose and share the information you believe is key for the admissions committee to know about you. In addition to focusing on the elements of your personality that you feel are most distinct and revelatory of who you are as an individual, pay special attention to which ones mesh best with the Dartmouth Tuck experience. (Be sure to read through the school’s admissions criteria in detail, if you have not already done so.) Avoid simply trying to fit in as much information as possible about yourself in hopes of stumbling on the “correct” answers and instead clearly present and illustrate your most fitting qualities. Authenticity and enthusiasm are the keys to your success with this essay.
Essay 3: Describe a time you meaningfully contributed to someone else’s sense of inclusion in your professional or personal community. (300 words)
Harrison notes in her blog post that this essay ties to the school’s “encouraging” factor, so keep that in mind as you prepare to write. The prompt aligns perfectly with Tuck’s long-held belief in teamwork and community spirit, and its introduction this season echoes decisions by several other top MBA programs to include questions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their applications. By illustrating via this essay that you have a natural interest in helping, working with, and/or caring about others and have a history of doing so, you will demonstrate for the admissions committee that you possess the qualities it seeks in its next class of students. In addition, stepping up to be there for someone in a way that is important to them also shows an instinct for leadership, which is valued by all MBA programs.
Via this essay, Tuck hopes to learn how you view, approach, and engage with people who think differently from you, operate according to different values, and react differently to the same stimuli. Once enrolled in the school’s MBA program, you will be surrounded every day by people who are unlike you in a multitude of ways, and the admissions committee wants to know that you are genuinely interested in people from outside your usual frame of reference and are driven to engage with and embrace them. By asking you to share a time when you “meaningfully contributed to someone else’s sense of inclusion,” Tuck is requesting actual evidence of this open-mindedness in action.
The prompt asks you to focus on a specific time when you acted in a way that encouraged inclusiveness, so you need to pinpoint and discuss a specific incident or situation, rather than describing your inclusive mind-set in a broader, more theoretical way. Essays that request examples invite the use of a narrative structure, and we believe such essays tend to be not only more revealing but also more interesting to read (always good when trying to make an impression on someone who reads literally thousands of essays each year!). To illustrate, you might start by launching directly into your story and immediately highlighting the actions you took to enhance inclusivity in a given situation: “When I realized that some of our new hires were reluctant to take part in our company’s weekly ‘wine wind down,’ I committed myself to finding out why and what could be done to ….”
Tuck will understandably want to know the outcome of the incident you describe, so you will need to relate the results of your actions, but the admissions committee is more interested in knowing what your motivations were, what decisions you made, and what steps you took to effect change. In other words, you must illustrate the values and thought process behind your efforts, in addition to clearly conveying your actions and their outcome.
With only 300 words with which to respond, you will need to clearly but succinctly convey the situation as you originally encountered it, your inspiration to become involved, the actions you took, and the outcome. The description of Tuck’s “encouraging” criterion includes the qualifier “even when it is not convenient or easy,” so stories in which the decision to engage might have been fraught in some way or the path to the desired outcome was not entirely direct or smooth could resonate slightly better with the admissions committee. If you are deciding between two or more instances you could discuss for this essay, consider going with one in which your intervention was perhaps not requested or immediately accepted—one in which you perhaps needed to diplomatically negotiate your participation in it.
Note that 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. Also consider that the prompt does not indicate that the recipient must be an individual, so it could potentially involve a pair or small group. 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 any case, absolutely avoid bragging about your role or suggesting that the party you aided could never have succeeded without you. The school is looking for evidence that you have not only a natural inclination to invest in and bolster others but also the capacity and skills to do so effectively.
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. (300 words)
You might 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. A past Tuck 360 blog post noted that receiving an unnecessarily long essay would cause the admissions committee to “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. (300 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. And to help you develop this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Guides! Download your free copy of the Dartmouth Tuck Interview Guide today.
To learn more about the essays for other top business schools, visit our MBA Essay Tips and Examples Resources Page.