Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Analysis, Your 2015 Application

By - May 28, 09:48 AM Comments [0]

Are you ready to dig into your essays? Application essays are specifically and cleverly designed to get into your head. We like to turn the tables on the admissions committees and get inside their heads. Why are they asking these questions? What are they looking for? Read on as our experts break down application essay questions to help YOU plan the attack.

Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay One

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 word limit encouraged)

At its most basic level, this first Dartmouth Tuck MBA essay question requires the same approach as any other career goals essay you’ll write.

Now, let’s zoom into the last half of this sucker. The argument about fit. These cats have cleverly split it up into two questions. Nice. Think of it as marriage vows. The officiant rarely says “Well, these two kids seem perfect for each other, can we all agree? Let’s please do the conga?” Nah man, first one member says some words, and then the other member says some words. Vow exchange. Both expressing their love for the other. Their take on how they “fit” together. In some ways, it’s as though every wedding is very much like the Tuck application. Minus the token drunk uncle.

So let’s break it down piece by piece:

Why is Tuck the best fit for you?

This happens through YOUR lens. And it’s a selfish one. It must be. What is it that YOU want. Think wishlist. Think wistful, far-off look in eye, dreamy vision of a perfect future. That game we play every so often where we imagine “meeting the perfect companion, traveling to exotic locations, eating delicious street foods, making tons of money and flying first class everywhere, etc.” Do that here. Map it out, not in a coldly realistic way, in the dreamy way. Map out your FANTASY first.

Now create an auxiliary fantasy, teasing out the stuff you need to do in order to pull some of that off. Probably at some point you’ll need to make a wage. Well, what does that pathway look like? Sure, you can easily fill in “MBA” as a node in this timeline, but let’s get even more granular. Is there such thing as a particular school/experience that makes THIS fantasy of yours… the MOST likely? Think about it this way, imagine that node had two choices: MBA or not-MBA. Seems like in your case you would pick MBA right? And probably you could make a pretty solid argument.

Okay, let’s take it one step further. What if the node said “Top Ten MBA versus NON Top Ten MBA”? Pretty easy right? Answer: Top Ten MBA.

Now, what if it said “Tuck versus ANOTHER TOP TEN MBA PROGRAM?” Aha. Now that’s an interesting question. Some may honest-to-God choose “Another Program.” Maybe Harvard is the ticket to THEIR fantasy future. Maybe for someone else Stanford is the ticket. Your answer here must be that Tuck, compared to ANY other Top Ten MBA program… fits your plans the BEST. Now comes the hard part—why? Put this mental frame around your argument, and it should help you generate a good one.

Why are you the best fit for Tuck?

Remember how you drew out your fantasy timeline, and figured out how Tuck fits into making YOUR dreams a reality? Well, Tuck has a fantasy timeline of its own. Here’s how the simple version looks:

Invite promising MBA candidates to program → Those candidates go out into real world and start succeeding as defined by (1) doing great things and (2) making money → These alums gladly donate money back to our school when asked → Also, when Tuckies show up in high positions and in high-profile opportunities (books, TV interviews, TED talks, etc.), the value of the school improves, allowing Tuck to be more selective, ensure an even HIGHER probability of those things, more success, more fame, etc. and so the cycle continues.

That’s their cycle (and that’s the general cycle of any Top b-school). But now let’s ZOOM IN just like we did for “your vows.” Let’s go back to that very first node of “Invite promising MBA candidates to program.” Let’s start out impossibly simple. If their choice was “Lackluster student with mediocre GMAT, mediocre work experience, and uninspired essays versus Student with mid-700 GMAT, four years of strong work experience with evidence of fast-track promotions, proof of leadership, and essays that crackle…” guess which they’re gonna pick? Duh.

Let’s get more granular. Let’s say their choice was “Guy who scores a 770 GMAT versus Guy who scores 710.” Now what, 770? No-brainer? Not so fast. The calculus for Tuck in this scenario is more complicated. Why? Because the difference between 770 and 710 may not be as strongly predictive for future success (for all those reasons listed in the above timeline) as you might suspect. If it WERE statistically predictive, they’d simplify the whole process and have an internal cut-off. Right? Do you think they could fill seats with applicants who break 750 on their GMAT? More than easily. But there’s more to the picture. To understand “the picture” is the key to this whole thing. “I need to be convinced that this candidate is going to succeed, make money, and ultimately make Tuck look better… or some combination of those things. Two out of three is good enough!”

So, it’s possible that the 710 guy, when OTHER factors are taken into consideration (LORs, strength of essays, etc.) will OUTSHINE the 770 guy.

Now, let’s get to the real crux of it. Tuck’s question is gonna be this… “Should we take THIS applicant (you) versus THAT applicant (one of your competitors).” We’ll give you a hint. The answer is you. Here’s how (stay with us):

It’s because you are more likely to succeed, make money, and ultimately make Tuck look better… BECAUSE you fit their particular program so well. See it? It’s different from SIMPLY focusing on the “why do you fit their program” piece. We need that CONTEXT. Without the context, it’s all just fluff. “I like small classes.” “I like remote environments.” “I like a campus that feels intimate.” Blech. This is the song of the un-researched, dispassionate, inauthentic.

Your argument must consider that your “fit” with tuck is going to matter somehow. And you need to articulate that. “Because of X thing that is unique to Tuck, I am going to thrive… more, better, etc.” “Because Tuck fosters Y thing as seen here and here and here, it will allow me to do Z, which I couldn’t at all (or as good) elsewhere. This is going to spell BETTER success for me (and therefore Tuck).” See it now?

Identify a few things about Tuck that are going to BRING FORWARD things about you that will ultimately translate to Success. Make sure these are Tuck-specific. Back it up. Show that you’ve done your homework. Don’t just scan their website, dig in. Talk to alums. Read books and research papers and follow the careers of their faculty—don’t just learn their names from their course catalog. Worthless. Anyone can do it. Few take the time to take that extra step, though. Find a connection. Feel the connection. Then convince us that the connection is gonna make you STRONGER (and more successful, somehow).


Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Two

Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience? (500 word limit encouraged)

The most important questions to ask yourself about your leadership experience… were there other people in it? Too often, applicants choose leadership experiences where they’re completely in control and everything plays out perfectly.

You can’t really be a leader unless you’re leading other people. Other people (and how you deal with them) are what makes this story interesting. Other people create conflict and challenges - they test you, force you to problem solve, give you opportunities to inspire. These are the elements that will make your leadership story a compelling narrative.

Once you have your experience, here’s a simple rough outline for how you can structure it:

  • First, set up (very quickly) the situation. The objective. The challenges, the timeline, what needed to be done, all that stuff. But be quick.
  • Now introduce the idea that this could have been led by ONE. What would that have looked like? Now introduce the idea that it could have ALSO been led by… MANY. Why was this a possibility? Was it your idea to begin with? Was it forced by the situation itself? What were the risks involved in including others into the fold?
  • What happened during the “action part” of achieving the objective? Who did what? How did it all work. What was your role. What did others do. How did it come together. Did it ever NOT work? What were example of it working perfectly?
  • Now, quickly give us the results. Also, quickly explain THAT and HOW it was better than it would have been had it ONLY been a one-man show. Now, explain all the LEARNING stuff. What did you realize from this? About your strengths and weaknesses? About relinquishing control? About leadership? About productivity, incentives, teams, etc.?


Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Three

(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 word limit encouraged)

Glad Tuck spelled it out: “complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented.”
In other words, don’t waste your time (or ours!) unless you have something good to say.

Got something you NEED to say? You sure?
Great. Here’s how to approach the Optional Essay.


Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Reapplicant

(To be completed by all re-applicants) How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally.

Welcome back, reapplicants! Glad to see you’re giving Tuck another shot; it’s worth it.
As for how to do it… the approach to a reapplication is always the same. Start here.


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