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Dartmouth / Tuck Essay Topic Analysis 2009-2010

Tuck’s essay topics for the coming admissions season will remain unchanged from those of the previous few years.  This suggests an enduring focus on teamwork, leadership and applicants’ unique characteristics on the part of the admissions committee.  Also like last year, the admissions committee does not specify a word or page limit for its essays.  They have hinted, though, that most candidates find 500 words sufficient for each of their responses, so straying far from that number might not be advisable.

Let’s take a look at each of the school’s essays:

Essay 1: 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?
This is a rather straightforward career goals essay. The one way that it differs from those of most other schools is that rather than simply inquiring about the basis of an applicant’s interest in the program, Tuck wants to hear the reasons it might be the best of the candidate’s options. Navigating this issue will require a fair amount of research, as it will be important to identify some features that are truly unique to Tuck and very relevant to one’s goals, background and/or interests. This prompt question also makes it essential that applicants define their career goals as specifically as possible in order for candidates to clearly demonstrate the logical connection between their own interests and goals and the main objectives of Tuck’s program.

As is the case with most schools, demonstrating an understanding of the unique merits of Tuck’s program is crucial to an effective response to this question.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Tuck – will pay dividends here.

Essay 2: Tuck defines leadership as “inspiring others to strive and enabling them to accomplish great things.” We believe great things and great leadership can be accomplished in pursuit of business and societal goals. Describe a time when you exercised such leadership. Discuss the challenges you faced and the results you achieved. What characteristics helped you to be effective, and what areas do you feel you need to develop in order to be a better leader?
This is a tall order for an (approximately) 500 word essay. One great goal to keep in mind is to maintain a balance between the individual and the external. In other words, an applicant might set the scene by offering detailed information about the setting in which he or she led by inspiring others: the financial importance of the project, or perhaps the challenging makeup of a team of coworkers. Of course, ultimately applicants would offer concrete information about how their efforts affected others, and eventually the organization’s bottom line. These descriptions could then be balanced with more reflective observations about the applicant’s own thought process and, in the end, personal development. It will be important for applicants to keep in mind when describing the personal learning and sense of accomplishment accompanying this experience that the heart of this story will be a focus on the interpersonal relationship developed. This essay is a time for applicants to demonstrate their ability to not just succeed on an individual level, but also to motivate and lead others.

Essay 3: Discuss the most difficult constructive criticism or feedback you have received. How did you address it? What have you learned from it?
Though this question will elicit a different sort of story from other schools’ prompts about a failure or setback, the major themes of growth and learning are similar. In addition to recounting the steps you took to address the issue that had been raised (and briefly explaining why it was an issue to begin with), commenting on the way you reacted to this difficult feedback could be a great way to demonstrate maturity and a sincere interest in improvement. That is, the element of communication implicit in “constructive criticism or feedback” provides applicants with an excellent opportunity to show themselves interacting with others, perhaps even under trying circumstances. Applicants should also make sure they are addressing every component of this question. Not only should candidates provide a description of the hard feedback and their responses, but they will need to explicitly state the ways they have grown as a result of both the criticism and their response to it.

Essay 4: 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?
In asking this question, Tuck is trying to understand the potential value of applicants’ knowledge and interests, and also the way they think about the world. Rather than making the common claim that they can bring a unique perspective to the classroom, candidates are encouraged to offer insightful details about what differentiates them from others in the applicant pool. Discussing the way your individual perspectives would affect this close-knit community (in a modest manner, of course) can really bolster your response here, since the adcom is sincerely looking for applicants who will change the program for the better. For that reason, applicants who outline the specific contributions they could make to the Tuck culture, the ways in which they intend to make them, and the reasons they are uniquely equipped to do so, will make a positive and lasting impression on the adcom. Again, this essay will require that applicants have done their “homework,” so to speak, and have researched the various clubs, courses and campus-wide involvements dedicated to promoting the diversity and varying interests present at Tuck. Specifically indicating which of these involvements interest the applicant will go a long way in proving to the adcom one’s ability to make a positive impact on the school community.

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