The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth recently published its application deadlines and admissions essay topics for the Class of 2014. You may notice that Tuck’s questions have changed very little since last year, suggesting that the school’s current batch of essay topics works well for the admissions committee. By “works well,” we mean that the essays help admissions officers get to know applicants better, and helps them separate out the great candidates from the merely good ones.
Also, note that Tuck does not have hard word limits for its essays, but the school does provide some rough guidance: “Although there is no formal restriction on the length of your response, most applicants use, on average, 500 words for each essay and you should work hard to try to keep your answers around that length.”
Here are Tuck’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:
Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Deadlines
Early Action round: October 12, 2011
November round: November 9, 2011
January round: January 4, 2012
April round: April 2, 2012
These deadlines are virtually identical to last year’s deadlines. 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 $4,000 deposit by January 20, 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.
Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays
- 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.)
This is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most schools ask, and it carries over unchanged from last year. 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 be sure that you can present a compelling argument for why Tuck in particular is the right place for you to earn your MBA. If your answer has everything to do with you and nothing to do with Tuck, then you probably have more work to do in researching the school.
- Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?
This question also remains the same since last year. As the essay prompt states, you should keep your response focused on one single situation, what action you took, and what the results were (“Situation-Action-Result,” or “SAR” as we call it at Veritas Prep). Note the second part of the question, about what you learned about yourself. What exactly happened is very important, but so is evidence of self-reflection. Ideally you can show that you learned something about yourself, such as a shortcoming or lack of experience, that you were able to act on and improve. That’s the richest type of response one can give here.
- 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?
This question is new this year, although it’s not radically different from the question in replaces (that question asked, “What is the greatest challenge or hurdle you have overcome?”). While this question’s wording is new, in many respects it addresses the same core attribute that Tuck wants to see in its applicants: The ability to objectively take a challenge and setback and turn it into something positive, coming out better in the end. It’s interesting that Tuck had previously gotten away from the “failure” theme with this question, but now returns to it. Regardless, you shouldn’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 completing a marathon.” While that’s impressive, 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.
- 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?
This is your chance to specifically highlight any strengths or themes that may need more emphasis in your application. Everything in your background is fair game here: your work experience, your personal life, and your hobbies all make you unique. Don’t only think of “diversity” in terms of race or national origin!
- 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.
As we always advise our clients when it comes to optional essays, only use this essay 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!