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Dartmouth / Tuck Essay Topic Analysis 2010-2011

Tuck’s essay topics for the coming admissions season maintain the same themes from previous years, suggesting an enduring focus on teamwork, leadership and applicants’ unique characteristics.   While essays 1 and 4 remain the same, essay 2 on leadership has undergone slight revision, and last year’s essay 3 on constructive criticism has been replaced with one on overcoming a challenging experience.

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.  They also state that all essays should be double-spaced.

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? (If you are applying for a joint or dual degree, please explain how the additional degree will contribute to those goals.)
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 also makes it essential that applicants define their career goals as specifically as possible in order 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: Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?
In responding to this question, applicants will need to maintain a balance between the individual and external.  In order to respond to the first part of the prompt, applicants will need to clearly outline the experience, explaining how they led by inspiring others as well as how their efforts affected others and the organization’s bottom line.  In responding to the second part of the prompt, these descriptions will need to be balanced with more reflective observations about the applicant’s own thought process and, in the end, personal development.  While it’s necessary that you discuss your weaknesses as well as your strengths, we encourage all applicants to maintain a positive tone.  One way applicants may do this is by explaining how they have worked to improve their weakness areas since the experience.  The heart of this essay is to show Tuck that you have the ability to lead others, as well as insight into your own leadership abilities and the motivation to improve these skills.

Essay 3: What is the greatest challenge or hurdle you have overcome, either personally or professionally, and how did you manage to do so?

Whether the story is from your professional or academic life, the major themes of growth and learning remain the same. After describing the initial challenge in detail, applicants should comment on both their thoughts and actions in response. It’s very important to present both one’s internal and external reactions in creating a full picture for the adcom.

This essay is a good place to highlight instances of resourcefulness and persistence, and provide a comprehensive picture of personal and professional development over the course of the narrative.  Applicants should keep in mind that the adcom will be using their account of their past thoughts and experiences as a barometer to measure their current attitudes and future approaches.  For that reason, it’s important that you avoid using too recent of an example, as this might make it difficult for you to prove that you have learned from the challenge and have put your learnings to use.

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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