Getting Into the MBA Program: mbaMission’s 2014-2015 Dartmouth Tuck Essay Analysis
June 16, 2014
Following what seems to be an emerging trend this season, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College has decreased the number of required applications essays for their MBA program this year from (an already fairly minimal) three to just two 500-word submissions, one of which is a classic career statement, while the other asks candidates to share and reflect on a significant leadership experience. Having just 1,000 words with which to convey meaningful elements of their profile means that applicants will need to be especially judicious in choosing their messages and particularly efficient in their writing to get the most impact from these two rather circumscribed essays. As always, we recommend a thorough brainstorming session before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) so that your messages are clear, complete and fully on topic.
Please respond fully but concisely to the following essay questions. There are no right or wrong answers. We encourage applicants to limit the length of their responses to 500 words for each essay. Please double-space your responses.
1. 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?
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. Please feel free to download your copy today.
For a thorough exploration of Dartmouth 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. 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?
In an interesting divergence from last year’s version of this essay prompt, Tuck has removed the adjective “collaborative” from where it appeared just before “leadership,” thereby allowing this season’s candidates to select from a broader range of experiences to find the best one for this essay. For you, your most “meaningful leadership experience” may be one in which you shared power with someone else (or various people) and achieved an objective, in which case you should feel free to discuss that situation. On the other hand, your standout leadership experience may have been a more conventional one, in which you stood alone at the head of a group or team and achieved something of note—that would also be a fitting story for this prompt. What is key is choosing the experience that was the most significant for you and has had the longest-lasting impact. Also, keep in mind that leadership is not a matter of title—you can be the associate to someone else’s vice president or vice versa and still be a leader if you are helping to drive something forward. In other words, think about your actions, not about the org chart.
To effectively reveal your “strengths and weaknesses,” you will need to demonstrate that you encountered challenges along the way and show how you overcame them. You cannot tell the story of your experience and then just tack on a mention of some unrelated—and thus “unproven”—lesson at the end. This is a common mistake, so be extra careful to avoid it. You must also reflect on the experience, because the question asks you to, but make sure the reflection you share is derived directly from the experience you describe in your essay. If you write 350–400 words of narrative and 100–150 words of related reflection, you should be on the right track.
3. (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.
Applicants may be especially tempted to take advantage of the optional essay for Tuck this application season, given that the school is offering fewer essay opportunities, but we strongly encourage you to resist any such temptation and submit an optional essay only if your candidacy truly needs it. This is most certainly not the place to paste in a strong essay from another school or to offer an anecdote that you were unable to use in the other essays. Again, only if your profile has a noticeable gap of some kind or would provoke any lingering questions on the part of an admissions officer—such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc.—should you take this opportunity to provide additional information. In our mbaMission Optional Statement Guide, available through our online store, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay (including multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.
4. (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.
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.