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Posted by Chioma Isiadinso
The essay questions for the 2015-2016 MBA program at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business are now available, and they are not following the trend of schools requiring only a single essay for all applicants.
Instead, the Tuck MBA application requires two essays of approximately 500 words, as well as an optional essay for students to explain any weak spots in their application and an essay to be completed by reapplicants.
Tuck does have some interesting information available for applicants this year. As a part of their Instructions for Applicants for the 2015-16 MBA program, the school states:
The essay questions provide you with an opportunity to help the admissions committee gain greater insight about you as a potential member of the Tuck community. ……Please be clear, succinct, forthright, and thoughtful in your responses.
Additionally, we ask that you share what you truly feel, as opposed to writing what you think the admissions committee would like to read. There are no right or wrong answers.
With this instruction, Dartmouth Tuck makes explicit something that many schools leave unspoken.
Tuck is looking for genuine responses. With such a small school – around 250 students are typically admitted per year – the admissions committee is looking for applicants who will truly be a good fit for the Tuck community.
The Tuck MBA essay questions are designed to help the admissions committee make that judgment. So, let’s take a look at what they ask.
Each of the essays for the Tuck MBA application should be uploaded in separate double-spaced documents of 500 words or less.
The first prompt reads:
What are your short- and long-term goals? Why do you need an MBA to accomplish those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically?
For the most part, this is a very typical b-school admissions question.
Almost all schools will ask you about your goals at some point, and they will also ask you why you are applying to their school in particular.
With these questions, admissions committees are generally looking for a sense of commitment and agency.
They want to know that you have made conscious choices in your career path to help lead toward business school, and that you have given some though as to what makes their school the right fit for you.
Doing your research is key to answering this question well. You should be able to illustrate why your goals follow on from the career path you have forged so far, and how Tuck specifically will help you achieve them.
However, there is also a fourth element of this essay question, one that is less common on MBA applications.
For this essay, Tuck asks you to address not just what your goals are, but why you need an MBA to accomplish your goals.
This question acknowledges the changing face of the global market today. Not all goals require an MBA.
It also seeks to weed out students who are applying for an MBA just because it seems like the next step, without having given serious thought as to what a Tuck MBA program will entail.
The prompt for Tuck’s second required essay reads:
Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment of Tuck?
There are two very important messages to take away from this essay prompt:
When it comes to a collaborative learning process, Tuck is more than just talk.
With a small student body located far from the nearest major city, it’s vital that students in Tuck’s MBA program are able to support one another, challenge one another, and learn from one another.
However, that doesn’t mean that leadership is irrelevant. It just means that people take the lead at different times, in different ways.
Note that this essay does not ask about your most meaningful accomplishment, or your most prestigious leadership experience. It asks about the most meaningful leadership experience.
You should be able to explain not only what you did and how you lead, but why it was meaningful to you.
Before responding to this essay, spend some time developing your personal brand, and understanding the values that your answer reflects.
Remember, the application instructions make it clear that Tuck is looking for genuine answers that help them gain insight into how well you will fit in to the community.
As with most MBA programs, the Tuck application includes space for an optional essay to provide more information to the application committee. The prompt for this essay reads:
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.
The final sentence of this prompt is important to keep in mind.
When there are red flags or less-than-stellar elements of your MBA application, the optional essay can be an excellent tool to mitigate those weaknesses.
The best use of the essay is to demonstrate personal reflection, to show that you have identified your weaknesses and taken concrete steps to correct them.
However, if you don’t have a specific and necessary reason for writing your optional essay, it is more likely to be a weight on your application than a boost. Think carefully before completing this essay.
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