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October 23, 2008

Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Questions for 2008-09

In this post I will analyze the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth MBA Application Essay Questions for 2008–09. The Questions for 2008-09 have not changed from the previous year, but I have modified my analysis somewhat. To read a testimonial by my client accepted for Tuck for Fall 2008, see here.

I will begin this post with a discussion of the Tuck Reception I attended last year. Tuck will be coming to Tokyo on November 4th, 2008 but since I can't attend, I thought I might as well include the information from last year as it appears that not much at Tuck has changed. Actually the details for the coming event seem to be the same as those for last year's event.

I attended the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth's November 2, 2007 Tokyo Reception. It had some unusual features.

First, it was held on the very same evening as the MBA World Tour, which required me to visit the MBA World Tour quickly in order to make it to the Tuck event. That really was no problem because my main objective at the World Tour was to get some brochures. Of course, for some applicants this must have been a more difficult decision. That said, anyone really interested in going to Tuck should attend one of their receptions.

Second, the number of those allowed to attend was extremely limited (maybe to about 40 or so, sorry I did not count the number of chairs that had been set-up). Actually, they could have allowed more reservations, because about half the chairs were empty.

Third, the reception was just that initially. It was held at the New Otani, one of Tokyo's most famous hotels. They served a cold and hot buffet that was delicious. The presentation did not actually begin till about 7:30, 30 minutes after the official start time. This was nice because it gave everyone a chance to chat, eat, and drink (no alcohol).

The admissions officer's presentation was brief and delivered without the use of Power Point! Yes, Tuck is the only school that as far as I know does not use Power Point. This was fine for me, but maybe hard for those whose native language is not English (that said, if you can't follow the admissions officer's presentation, you really need to think whether your English skills are strong enough to apply). After about fifteen minutes, she invited four alums up to the stage and started asking them questions. The audience also asked questions. This lasted for about forty-five minutes, I guess. Following that, there was plenty of time to talk, eat, and drink.

I mention the above apparently mundane events, not because I want to bore you, but because the event itself says something about Tuck.

As both the alums and the admissions officer emphasized Tuck is about being part of a community. The Tuck Reception I attended reflected that. They intentionally hosted a small scale event that would give everyone in the room a chance to mingle and to easily have a chance to talk with the admissions officers and alums. If someone was not comfortable in that cocktail party(albeit without alcohol) environment, they have no business applying to Tuck. Each person counts and each person will need to participate. After the presentation, one admissions officer made the rounds circulating among the participants while the other, the presenter, took questions at the front of the room. This communicated at least to me, the same message of "friendly community" that had been made by the admissions officer: students, their families, faculty, and staff at Tuck are all part of one community.

Not using Power Point is also a very interesting tactic because it eliminates a formal barrier between the presenter and the audience. Additionally people who are part of the same community don't need to make presentations to each other, they talk to each other. The admissions officer was just doing that. Those looking for a more formal or impersonal approach can find that elsewhere, but not at Tuck.

Anyone applying to Tuck, should most certainly watch the video series "Applying to Tuck: The Inside Scoop" with Dawna Clarke, the Director of Admissions. I will make reference to Ms. Clarke's advice below.

If you are really interested in attending Tuck, I strongly suggest making a real effort to visit or at least to attend a reception. This will be a great way to meet with admissions officers in a very friendly environment. It is also an amazing way to network with the alum at the event and afterwards. At the Tokyo reception, we were actually provided with a list of alums who would be happy to communicate with potential applicants. In "Tips on Applying," Ms. Clarke emphasizes the importance of getting in touch with Tuck alum. She in fact, specifically says that mentioning that you met with alum is something you should do both in your essays and interviews. She also mentioned that she considers notes from alum as being in an applicant's favor.

Essay Questions for 2008–09
Let's take a look at the essay questions. I took the questions from the pdf.

Please respond fully but concisely to the following essay questions. Compose each of your answers offline in separate document files and upload them individually in the appropriate spaces below. Although there is no restriction on the length of your response, most applicants use, on average, 500 words for each essay. There are no right or wrong answers.
Please double-space your responses.
I don't suggest writing much more than 500 unless you really need to. That said, admissions will not be counting the words, so anything in the range of 450-600 is safe. Of course, if you need to write more, there is no absolute restriction, but I would tell a client to keep it to 750 maximum.

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 very standard version of the Why MBA essay question. See my Chicago Essay 1 analysis as it applies here. Keep in mind the real importance of the second part of the question. Tuck's program is small, according to Businessweek, there are 500 students in the full-time program. According to the Tuck Class of 2008 Profile, the target class is 240. For the Fall 2007 Class, Tuck admitted 19% of 2584 applicants who applied, the yield was 51% (admitted who attend), so making the case that you really belong is critical.

2. Tuck defines leadership as “inspiring others to strive and enabling them to accomplish great things.” We believe great things and great leadership can be accomplished in pursuit of business and societal goals. Describe a time when you exercised such leadership. Discuss the challenges you faced and the results you achieved. What characteristics helped you to be effective, and what areas do you feel you need to develop in order to be a better leader?
I suggest looking at my analysis of HBS 3:2, Stanford C, and Wharton 3 to craft your initial answer. Keep in mind that according to Dawna Clarke in "Tuck's holistic admissions process" video, leadership ability and/or demonstrated potential is one of three key common characteristics of Tuck students (see my analysis of question 4 for the other two). You should most certainly provide a full answer to this question, one demonstrating that you really understand your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Weak versions of this essay will focus so much on simply telling a leadership story and not enough on self-analysis of leadership ability.

3. Discuss the most difficult constructive criticism or feedback you have received. How did you address it? What have you learned from it?
It is possible to write this based on the topic used for a standard failure essay (see my analysis of Wharton 2.), but that is only one possibility. The basic structure for this essay is clear enough:
1. Briefly describe the situation where you received constructive criticism or feedback. Who did you receive it from and why? Why was it the most difficult? Explaining why is the most important part of this section of the essay.
2. Specifically state your response to the constructive criticism or feedback. This might take the form of a brief summary of your action steps or description of your change in attitude.
3. Explain what you learned. Often the best ways to help your reader understand this is to provide them with a different situation where you applied what you learned.

In addition to the standard reasons for asking this question- a test of ability to show how you learn from feedback, a test of your ability to honestly assess your own limitations, and a test of your ability to think critically about your past actions- this question makes particular sense for a program like Tuck where learning in a community is critical. The structure of the first year program including mandatory study groups of 5-6 students in the Fall and Winter terms, the Cohen Leadership Development Program, and the intensely community-focused nature of the environment certainly requires that all students be open to receiving and issuing positive, but critical feedback.

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?
Please see my analysis of Kellogg Essay 2 as it applies here. Keep in mind that in addition to leadership, the two other common characteristics of Tuck students that Ms. Clarke mentions are teamwork skills and communication/interpersonal skills. So if you have not effectively covered those two categories in another essay, you should address them in one way or another here. Keep in mind that this essay is not just a way for admissions to understand some important aspects of who you are, it is also a place for them to see whether you know enough about Tuck to provide effective examples of the way you would contribute. Kellogg and Tuck are both schools were the ability to make a contribution is taken seriously, so make sure you are very serious about the way you state that you can contribute.

5. (Optional) 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.
Like the optional question for Wharton, this is primarily a place for explaining something potentially negative. Under no circumstances include an essay clearly written for another school.

Finally, if you need to prepare for a Tuck interview, please see my earlier post on that. I might update it sometime, but I doubt that much will change.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com
. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant." If you are interested in my graduate admission consulting services, please click here.

-Adam Markus
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