Dartmouth Tuck just opened its application for the Class of 2024, and in doing so replaced one of its essay questions.
While many top schools have slimmed their MBA essays down to one or two questions, Dartmouth Tuck maintains three required essays (plus an optional prompt). That said, each Tuck essay has a hard cut-off at 300 words, which is scant real estate to convey your story.
This year, Tuck introduces a revised question for essay #3. It’s important to know from the outset that the Tuck Admissions Committee uses its four sets of admissions criteria as a framework to evaluate every piece of your application, and each of the three required essays maps to one of Tuck’s criterion.
Read on for the Fortuna team’s best advice on how to bring laser focus to the process of building a narrative for Dartmouth Tuck that inspires the admissions committee to want to learn more.
Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Tips
Required Essay 1: Tuck students can articulate how the distinctive Tuck MBA will advance their aspirations. Why are you pursuing an MBA and why Tuck? (300 words)
This is a version of a career goals and ‘why Tuck’ essay. There are two short answer goals questions elsewhere in the application (one for short-term and one for long-term goals – 50 words each), so ensure that what you write here supplements – not repeats – what you’ve stated elsewhere. Still, a brief mention of your post-MBA plans can help introduce the why MBA/Why Tuck piece.
As for the level of detail, it’s always tough to balance the need to be practical, concrete, and achievable with an overall career vision that is inspiring, impactful, and imaginative. Tuck wants students who are focused and realistic, but they also like applicants with ambition and vision. Aiming for a particular industry or function is a legitimate goal; the key will be to make sure the dots connect coherently with your previous experience and current motivations.
We suggest breaking the essay into two sections – why an MBA (what skills, experience, knowledge, and network gaps do you need to address in order to achieve your goals?), and why Tuck specifically. An effective set-up may mention career goals very briefly (almost as an introduction, or simply a reference to your previously outlined goals). As mentioned, getting straight to the point is vital; 300 words is scant real estate. I would aim for no more than 50 words referencing your goals/vision, then the rest on why an MBA and why Tuck specifically.
Regarding the ‘why Tuck’ section, you’ll need to detail things that are relevant to you and your goals, and show that you’ve really done your research and can demonstrate why a unique combination of factors available to you on the Tuck program makes it the perfect school for you – mentioning things like relevant electives, professors, clubs, treks, etc. Dig deep and really get to know the school before writing this essay.
Required Essay 2. Tuck students recognize how their individuality adds to the fabric of Tuck. Tell us who you are. (300 words)
Tuck – as with so many top schools – values diversity and uniqueness. Every student adds something different and valuable. It’s important to try and get your true character across here. The school is genuinely interested in who you are and what makes you unique. It will be better to focus on a couple of aspects and illustrate these in some depth, versus trying to cover too much ground, which, given the wordcount, may lead to a superficial essay that fails to offer much insight into who you are as a person.
Identify a couple of your strengths, values, characteristics – whatever you believe defines who you are – and how you have demonstrated those in the past with examples, or how you came to be that way (who/what influenced you?), plus a recognition of a growth area and how you have been working on it. Verse yourself in Tuck’s stated values – if you can relate to any of these then great, but better to be true to yourself than attempt to contrive an answer around these. The very fact that you are applying to Tuck should in theory mean you have done your research and will be a good fit on many levels.
Take some time to brainstorm this one and map a few ideas with examples attached to each first. This is where it can be really helpful to work with a coach to discern which to focus on. Again, with wordcount so tight, you will need to keep things concise and punchy.
Required Essay 3 (NEW): Tuck students are encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic, even when it is not convenient or easy. Describe a meaningful experience in which you exemplified one or more of these attributes.
This essay question is similar to last year’s prompt, but in evoking the “encouraging” trait of its core criteria, Tuck offers greater clarity on the kind of response it is seeking along with more latitude for framing your answer. (Last year’s prompt asked for a time you helped someone else succeed).
And, because all three traits are relational ones, the question continues to be an invitation to identify a meaningful experience in which you helped someone else. Your considered introspection is the starting point. In responding, identify a singular example for your response, bearing in mind the limited 300 words. Briefly outline the situation or context, and then go on to detail the actions you took and why, including your interactions with others, and then the result or impact for you and the other(s) involved, and finally any learnings from the experience. Anything that can highlight your leadership and impact, at the same time as strongly emphasizing your team ethic and putting others first, would be ideal.
You’ll also want to step back and ensure that the qualities, stories, and examples you’re weaving across your three essays are distinct, and taken together, position you to stand out. Avoid any repetition or duplication – this is where perspective-taking can ensure every element adds up to a greater whole.
The optional essay invites you to “provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere…” This is worth leaving until the end to assess if there is anything important and relevant to include that isn’t covered elsewhere (such as addressing a gap in your resume, for example).
Finally, in characteristic Tuck form the school is committed to setting you up for success. Be sure to read the substantive advice outlined by Tuck Co-Executive Director of Admissions & Financial Aid, Patricia Harrison, in her June 28 Admissions Insights blog.
For more expert essay advice for the other schools on your target list, view Fortuna’s Essay Tips.
Fortuna Admissions Expert Coach Amy Hugo has coached candidates to admissions success at a wide array of top programs, from Dartmouth Tuck, Wharton, Columbia and Kellogg to London Business School, where she served as Senior Manager. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.