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Dartmouth / Tuck Essay Topic Analysis 2014-2015

Tuck has reduced its number of required essays this year, moving from last season’s three required responses to two for this admissions cycle. The adcom has dropped last year’s required essay about facing a failure or a setback, keeping the core topic of leadership along with an inquiry about the applicant’s goals and fit with the Tuck MBA. The adcom has also offered an encouraged word limit for each essay this season (as opposed to last year’s suggested total length for the full set), providing applicants with clearer guidance in determining the length of each response.

Essay 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? (500 word limit encouraged)
This career goals essay, with a focus on a mutually ideal fit between applicant and school, is appearing for a second consecutive year. Tuck’s “why MBA” question stands apart from those of other schools in this respect; 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 core features 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.

Essay 2: Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience? (500 word limit encouraged)
This prompt is nearly identical to Tuck’s second question from last season, with one important change: whereas last year’s formulation called for a “collaborative” leadership experience, this season’s prompt is open to a wider range of options. This may be a boon to applicants with limited experiences to choose among, though those who do have more collaborative and team-oriented examples at their disposal would likely do well to keep this prior emphasis on collaboration in mind when selecting their responses. Applicants will need to clearly outline a leadership experience, 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.

In responding to the second part of the prompt, these descriptions will need to be balanced with a more reflective discussion of the applicant’s 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.

Optional Essay: Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application. (500 word limit encouraged)
The admissions committee provides some clear guidance about “allowable” topics for this response, indicating that it will be best used to address liabilities in one’s application. It’s possible that there are other elements of one’s background that would be appropriate and not covered elsewhere in one’s application, for example an anticipated promotion or an element of one’s identity not covered in the program’s data forms, though the wording of this prompt suggests that it should be used sparingly, with applicants making an effort to fully represent their candidacies within the required elements of the application.

Reapplicant Essay: (To be completed by all reapplicants) How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally. (500 word limit encouraged)
This response asks repeat applicants to comment on outward steps they have taken to enhance their applications–for example, retaking the GMAT, asking for more responsibility at work, or stepping up their involvement in a community organization)–while also providing some more introspective commentary on how they’ve grown since they first applied to Tuck. Reapplicants will therefore want to offer a balance of commentary in this essay, remaking on how they’ve proactively taken measures to become a stronger applicant, as well as on how their skills, career goals, and if applicable, appreciation of the Tuck MBA, have evolved in recent months.

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