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Dartmouth / Tuck Essay Topic Analysis 2011-2012

Tuck’s essay topics for the coming admissions season maintain the same themes from previous years, suggesting an enduring focus on teamwork, leadership and the applicants’ unique characteristics.   Questions 1, 2 and 4 each return unchanged from last year’s version, whereas essay three has undergone a minor revision, with the focus shifting from a personal or professional hurdle toward a broader framing that captures the candidate’s response to failure or adversity.

As has been the case for the past several years, the admissions committee does not specify a word or page limit for its essays.  They have hinted, though, that most candidates find 500 words to be sufficient for each of their responses, and this year state a bit more strongly than previously that applicants should “work hard” to keep their responses close to this length.  The admissions committee also states that all essays should be double-spaced.

Let’s take a closer look at each of Tuck’s questions:

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?
This question calls for a careful balance between the individual and external. To fully address the first part of the prompt, applicants will need to clearly outline the leadership experience, explaining how they approached the leadership task, as well as the ways how their efforts affected others and the organization’s bottom line.  The meaning inherent in this experience can take any number of forms – perhaps you produced dramatic results on a project or simply learned a practical lesson about teamwork – but whatever its source, this should be built into the essay along with a picture of the overall process.

In responding to the second part of the prompt, these descriptions will need to be balanced with a more reflective discussions of one’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, selecting some areas for improvement on which they have already made some demonstrable progress.  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: Describe a circumstance in your life in which you faced adversity, failure, or setback. What actions did you take as a result and what did you learn from this experience?
Whether a failure that resulted from one’s own actions or adversity caused by external sources, this question asks applicants to discuss they way they handle less-than-favorable circumstances. Because the wording of this question leaves it open to both professional and more personal examples (perhaps drawn from the academic realm or outside activities), applicants have a fairly broad range of appropriate options from which they might choose and a number of qualities they might opt to highlight, including resilience, flexibility, conflict resolution, and creative problem solving.

Candidates will likely do well to give each of the elements of this prompt equal treatment as they compose their responses.  Effective essays will provide a clear picture of the circumstance at the outset of the response, and then walk the reader through the applicant’s actions as he or she navigated the challenge in question.  Of course, you’ll also want to comment on the (hopefully positive/successful) resolution of the situation before moving into a reflective conclusion abut the lessons learned from the experience and the ways they might apply to future challenges or setbacks.

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 get a picture of the applicants’ knowledge, interests, and perspective on the world, along with an understanding of how these attributes would make an impact on the Tuck culture and community. While anyone can argue that he or she could bring a unique perspective to the classroom, candidates will be well served from some deeper reflection on this topic, with the ultimate goal of offering insight into the factors that differentiate them from others in the applicant pool. Discussing some focused ways that your skills and experiences 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. Indicating which of these involvements are of most interest will go a long way in applicants’ proving to the adcom that they are poised to make a positive impact on the school community.


To watch a video explanation of these essay topics see below:

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