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The 2014-2015 Dartmouth / Tuck Essay Topic Analysis is now available.
Unlike many other leading MBA programs, the Tuck admissions office has maintained its requirement of three essays for 2013-2014, with the total recommended word count of approximately 1,500 words still in place. Tuck’s essay topics highlight themes of leadership, self-reflection and contributions to a larger community. Question 3 is unchanged, while a “collaborative” aspect has been added to Question 2. The career goals prompt that has appeared several years running also includes new language targeting applicants’ fit with Tuck.
The admissions committee does not specify a word or page limit for its essays but has encouraged applicants to limit their essays to 500 words each, as stated in the blog post announcing the revised essay questions. The admissions committee also specifies that all essays should be double-spaced.
1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck?
Tuck has changed the “unique contribution” component of last year’s first essay prompt into more simply asking for reasons applicants may be “the best fit” for the school. The one way in which Tuck’s “why MBA” question still 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 features of the MBA program that are 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.
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 how their backgrounds and skills will allow them to contribute to the Tuck community, 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 positively affect this close-knit community (in a modest manner, of course) is key to 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 specially equipped to do so, will make a positive and lasting impression on the adcom. Taking the time to learn about the school’s 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. Moreover, indicating the ways in which you would excel in each of these involvements will go a long way in proving to the adcom that you are poised to make a positive impact on the school community.
2. Tell us about your most meaningful collaborative leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?
This question calls for a more careful balance between teamwork and leadership than last year, when “collaborative” leadership was not specified in the prompt. To fully address the first part of the prompt, applicants will need to clearly outline a leadership experience involving a team, explaining how they approached the leadership task, as well as 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. Given the adcom’s increased focused on collaboration, an experience in which the applicant shared the leadership role with another individual could also be a good choice in order to showcase one’s ability to work well with his or her peers.
In responding to the second part of the prompt, these descriptions will need to be balanced with a more reflective discussion of one’s own thought process and, in the end, personal development. While it’s necessary that applicants’ openly discuss their weaknesses as well as their 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 point of this essay is to show Tuck that you have the ability to lead and work with others, as well as provide insight into your own leadership abilities and motivation to improve these skills.
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?
Unchanged from the previous season, this question asks applicants to discuss the way they handle less-than-favorable circumstances, be it a failure that resulted from one’s own actions or adversity caused by external sources. 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, the applicant will also want to comment on the (hopefully positive/successful) resolution of the situation before moving into a reflective conclusion about the lessons learned from the experience and the ways he or she applied them to future challenges or setbacks.
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