Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Tuck has bucked the trend among top business schools and left its essay count and total word count unchanged compared to what they were last year. The Tuck admissions team has made some subtle tweaks to its essay prompts, though, and we’ll dig into those below.
Here are the Tuck School’s essays and deadlines for the coming year, followed by our comments:Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Deadlines
Early Action round: October 9, 2013
November round: November 6, 2013
January round: January 3, 2014
April round: April 2, 2014
Tuck’s MBA application deadlines have barely changed since last year. Note that Tuck is one of the few top business schools to offer an Early Action admissions option. “Early Action” means that the decision is non-binding, although if you are admitted you will need to send in a $4,500 deposit by January 17, or else you will give up your seat. If Tuck is your top choice, or at least a very strong 2nd or 3rd choice, Early Action is a great way to signal your enthusiasm for the school. Also, if you want to know the fate of your Tuck application before most other schools’ Round 2 deadlines come, then aim for Early Action, which allows you to receive your decision by December 18. Applying in any other round means that you won’t receive your decision until February, 2014, at the earliest.Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays
Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck? (500 words)
This question carries over from last year with some subtle modifications. Tuck has been tinkering with this question for a while now, but i t hasn’t scrapped it altogether, which suggests that the admissions committee mostly likes what it’s getting from applicants. This year, Tuck dropped “what will you uniquely contribute to the community?” and replaced it with a more simply “why are you the best fit for Tuck?” We actually prefer the new wording, since last year’s essay prompt put a bit too much emphasis on the “unique” aspect, and made some applicants worry that they didn’t have anything rare or unusual enough to hold the admissions committee’s attention. This new phrasing puts more explicit on one of our favorite subjects — fit with a school! — and we expect it will work better for all parties involved.
Beyond that important change, this question is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most business schools ask. Tuck takes the concept of “fit” very seriously when evaluating candidates — maybe more so than any other top school, given its small class size and remote location — so you need to take it seriously, too.
Tell us about your most meaningful collaborative leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience? (500 words)
This question also is a semi-carryover from last year. In last year’s application Tuck asked for “your most meaningful leadership experience,” but now the admissions committee wants to know about a collaborative leadership experience. That’s a reminder that Tuck is not looking for lone wolves, but rather for emerging business leaders who get things done by working with others. This is another strong hint at what Tuck looks for when assessing fit in its applicants. You only have 500 words in which you need to describe what the situation was, what action you took, and what the results were (“Situation-Action-Result,” or “SAR” as we call it).
Don’t overlook the second part of the question, about what you learned about yourself. What exactly happened is very important, evidence of how you grew and how you got to know yourself better is even more critical. A great essay tells about how you learned valuable about yourself, such as a shortcoming or lack of experience, and how you were able to act and improve upon it. That’s the type of response that has the potential to stick with the application reader.
Describe a circumstance in your life in which you faced adversity, failure, or setback. What actions did you take as a result and what did you learn from this experience? (500 words)
This is the one required question that carries over unchanged from last year. This essay prompt very clearly illustrates a trait that Tuck looks for in all of its applicants: The ability to objectively take a challenge and setback and turn it into something positive, coming out better in the end. No matter what you might think or may have read, don’t be afraid to write about a failure or shortcoming. In fact, writing a response about overcoming a failure or weakness will usually more powerful than answering with “My biggest challenge was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.” While that’s a good story to tell your friends, it’s far less revealing than a story about a time when you had to make a more fundamental change to who you are as a person and as a leader. The latter is what the Tuck admissions office wants to see.(Optional) 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. (500 words)
As we always tell business school applicants when it comes to optional essays, only answer this essay prompt if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay. Less is more!
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