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Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essays: Tips & Strategy

Tuck School of Business at the campus of Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH

Tuck MBA essays ask you to explain your career goals, MBA aspirations, your interest in Tuck, and your identity and your experience with inclusion.

The three Dartmouth Tuck essays each have a hard cut-off at 300 words;  this offers scant real estate to convey your story. It’s important to know that the Tuck Admissions Committee uses a set of four criteria to assess an applicant’s fit with the Tuck community, and they will judge each piece of your application with these in mind.

Essay 1 ties the classic “Why an MBA and why Tuck?” question directly to your career aspirations. Essay 2 and Essay 3 explore how your background contributes to the diverse Tuck culture and community and probes your commitment to and experience with inclusion.

Read on for the Fortuna team’s best advice on how to use this year’s Tuck application essays to build a laser-focused narrative that inspires the admissions committee to want to learn more.

Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Tips

Tuck Essay 1

Why are you pursuing an MBA and why now? How will the distinct Tuck MBA contribute to achieving your career goals and aspirations? (300 words)

We suggest structuring the essay into the three components of the question:

  • Anchor the essay with your career goals and aspirations;
  • Answer why an MBA fits into the career goals and why now, and then
  • Answer Why the Tuck MBA specifically will help you achieve these goals and aspirations.
  1. Your career goals and aspirations

The essence of an MBA is career transformation – the learning, experience, credentials, access to job opportunities, and the professional network (students and alumni) weave together to help realize your career goals. Briefly and clearly introduce this essay by describing what these career goals and aspirations are. You should capture both your immediate goals post-MBA and your mid to long term goals too. Make sure that your answers here reinforce but do not exactly repeat information you supply about your short- and long-term career goals in short-answer questions on the application.

  1. Why an MBA & why now

Describe the reason (or reasons, but not more than three) for “Why an MBA.” Tie your professional, educational, and even personal experiences together with your career goals as you shape your answer. The reasons should make sense to Tuck Admissions, to yourself and to future employers.

Also include in your answer to “Why now?”. With tight word limits in mind, be direct: “I am pursuing an MBA now because…”).

The MBA is a tremendous commitment and sacrifice that brings even greater potential rewards, Tuck wants to be sure you are ready for this commitment and that you have a compelling motivation to make it now. Also, you will be asked these questions in admissions interviews and in job interviews as you complete your degree. Being able to craft a compelling answer in your application will benefit you throughout your MBA journey.

  1. Why Tuck

The “Why Tuck?” part of your answer is what will make or break this essay, because Tuck is truly a unique MBA experience. Tuck’s admissions team seeks applicants that both understand its uniqueness and can also explain why and how your background, career goals and aspirations fit within their ecosystem..

We strongly encourage that you speak to multiple current students and alumni and ask them why they chose Tuck and why they think you should. From their answers, identify that resonate with yourself and then include them in your own response.

Below are some insights that will help you craft your answer to this question:

  • Tuck’s mission, vision and strategy. Tuck takes its mission very seriously and it is therefore part of how the admissions team evaluates applicants: “Tuck develops wise, decisive leaders who better the world through business.” Your answer should connect with the Tuck mission. This shows that you understand Tuck, a signal that can help with your admissions evaluation.
  • General management focus and strong core. The first year of the program is very intense. It is a mix of case and traditional teaching methods structured around its core curriculum.
  • Tight-knit community. Tuck is a small, rural school that only offers an MBA degree. You get to know all your classmates, faculty, administration, and alumni.
  • Passionate alumni network. Each year more than 65 percent of alumni donate to the school (the highest share of any MBA program in the world, according to Tuck). These alumni support you as students by answering networking calls and visiting campus to teach and recruit. They will help you in your summer internship to get the full-time offer and will support your post-Tuck career. Supporting students and fellow Tuck alumni is both the expectation and the norm.
  • Access to top recruiters. The MBBs, Wall Street, top tech firms in the Bay and East Coast, leadership development firms recruit and hire Tuck students.
  • Unique programs and offerings. Before applying, research and understand the First Year Project (FYP) and the Bakala TuckGO international requirement, and get to know the research centers (Energy, PE, Health Care, etc.). See which resonate with you and reference them in your essay.
  • Clubs, student activities and special events. Incorporating references to student activities and Tuck-specific experiences (i.e., Tripod Hockey, conferences, etc.). can also help show that you understand and appreciate the unique Tuck experience.

Finally, 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.

Tuck Essay 2

Tell us who you are. How have your values and experiences shaped your identity and character? How will your background contribute to the diverse Tuck culture and community?  (300 words)

Tuck — as with so many top schools — values diversity and uniqueness. In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that ended Affirmative Action in admissions, this question has been revised slightly from last year’s to allow you to highlight facets of your identity and experiences that have shaped you as a person

Every student adds something different and valuable, and Tuck, like many schools, is trying to admit candidates who will contribute broad perspectives to the class. Here, it’s important to try and get your true character across. 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. Given the tight word limit, trying to cover too much ground may lead to a superficial essay that fails to offer much insight into who you are as a person.

Three important points to consider when answering this question are the following:

  1. Be authentic. Show who you are; do not share what you think they may want to hear that is not true to yourself.
  2. Be memorable, different and interesting; you do this by showing and sharing details and stories of your life so that when the admissions team evaluates you, there are anecdotes and stories that stick in reviewers’ minds and help admissions remember and choose you.
  3. Tuck asks who you are in relation to your values, experiences and character. Keeping the greater purpose of your application in mind, it’s useful to show how these facets relate to your career goal, and what your experience will bring to discussions in business classes.

To answer this question in a structured way, consider answering each section in sequence and then refine your response into a coherent and compelling essay. Here are the components with some context:

  • Tell us who you are. Don’t let this broad, wide-open lead you into the weeds of self-description. Just be direct. Starting with a strong simple statement such as, “I am an entrepreneur who thrives in solving problems” or “I am a leader who is passionate about solving environmental problems,” gives your essay focus and clarity.
  • How have your values and experiences shaped your identity and character? Describe relevant and important values and experiences that define you and direct your path through life.
  • How will your background contribute to the diverse Tuck culture and community? Be specific; mapping your traits to ways you will contribute to Tuck’s culture and ecosystem, both within and beyond the classroom. This is a place where underrepresented minorities can share how their background and experience will benefit their peers.

Tuck Essay 3

Describe a time you meaningfully contributed to someone else’s sense of inclusion in your professional or personal community.  (hard cut-off at 300 words)

This is a “tell me about a time” question — one where you are asked to tell a story that helps admissions to better understand you, your priorities and experiences as a good fit in the Tuck community. This essay is a proxy for how you might behave within the Tuck community. It will help admissions reviewers imagine you as part of the MBA class. The question also reflects Tuck’s commitment to inclusiveness; they are looking for evidence that you share that value and have put it into action.

It’s important to choose the right story to tell. We suggest considering multiple stories before selecting one to develop and submit. To choose the best story, consider the language of this question to understand what the admissions committee is trying to learn and evaluate:

  • Inclusion: This is the key to the essay. They are looking for a story where you helped others feel and be included, as evidence of how you relate to others.
  • Meaningfully: The story you choose should have impact and substance, rather than a minor event that makes a small impact.
  • Community: Here, they are looking for scale. The experience should be one where you cultivated inclusion in a community — a group or a team, not just one or two people or an interaction with an individual.

After choosing the right story to share, it is critical to deliver it in a clear and structured manner. A structure you might consider when delivering the story is using the STAR method — a useful approach to answering “Tell me about a time” questions during admissions and recruiting interviews. In the STAR method you outline:

  • Situation: Provide context on the situation you were in and describe the community.
  • Task: Explain what needed to be done. What was the problem that you faced where inclusion was required?
  • Action: What did you do? What action did you take that led to the inclusion of the individual?
  • Result: What happened? What was the outcome or impact? this is the punchline of the story.

Optional Essay

Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere (e.g., atypical choice of references, factors affecting academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes). (300 words)

This essay prompt is optional; you should complete it only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by your responses to all other components of the application.

Patricia Harrison, Director of Admissions, Evaluation and Yield, offers this advice: “Rest assured, this is not a test. We will not think less of you if you do not submit an extra essay here. Most of you will likely not need to use this section at all, and for those of you who do—own your past.”

We concur; if there are elements in your story that might raise concerns, address them honestly here and explain why you’ve overcome those issues so that they should no longer be concerning.

In that vein, note that reapplicants are asked to respond to an additional essay prompt:
How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally. (300 words)

Final Considerations for your Tuck Essays

A few concluding pieces of advice and considerations for your Tuck essays:

  • Self-awareness is important. Understanding yourself, your priorities and what motivates you is the most important trait you can bring to your MBA application and your career journey.
  • Speak to students and alumni before you write the essays. These conversations will save you time and significantly help your essays. Listen to their responses, learn about the Tuck MBA and then use what you learn in your responses.
  • Be structured when answering the questions. Admissions readers have many applications to read, so help them out by doing all you can to answer the entire question clearly and in a structured way.
  • Speak in your distinctive voice. Make sure that admissions can hear you and your voice in your responses. Have someone who knows you and your background review and confirm that they hear you.
  • Show that you have done your research. Readers can tell if this is a ‘copy and paste’ job, where you took essays from another MBA program and reworked them. Regardless of how great of applicant you are, Tuck admissions will penalize you if you have not taken the time to consider the uniqueness of the Tuck MBA and then reflect that in your essays.
  • Be interesting (in a good and relevant way). In your responses, you are marketing yourself to admissions, with the goal of getting them to seriously consider you for the Tuck MBA program. Do what you can to promote your true, authentic self, so that you are considered.
  • Essays complement each other. Make sure the answers work together to collectively present the best picture of yourself.

Fortuna coaches can supply clients with effective Tuck essay examples to those interested in applying.

For more expert essay advice for the other schools on your target list, view  
Fortuna’s Essay Tips.

Fortuna Expert Coach Jonathan Masland is a former executive director of Career Services at the Tuck of Business and an alumna of the dual degree Wharton MBA and Lauder Institute program  For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.

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