Go to a better blog!

You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

August 03, 2011

Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Questions for Academic Year 2012-13

In this post I analyze the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth MBA Application Essay Questions for Academic Year 2012–13 (Class of 2014).  

I had two clients admitted to Tuck for the Class of 2013. You can find a testimonial by one of them here. To read a testimonial by one my two clients accepted for Tuck for Fall 2010, see here. To read a testimonial by my client accepted for Tuck for Fall 2009, see here. To read a testimonial by my client accepted for Tuck for Fall 2008, see here.

Anyone really interested in going to Tuck should attend one of their receptions if possible. Visiting is even better, but attending the reception is a good first step. Click here for information about Tuck events. Japanese applicants should also visit the Japanese site.

While did not attend a Tuck presentation in 2010, I attended the 2009 Tokyo Reception. It appeared that about 50-60 applicants were in attendance as well as a number alumni and current students. The evening began with a PowerPoint presentation by Kristine Laca and was followed a reception with food and drinks (I did not stay. I usually try to avoid that aspect of the events because I think it is time for the applicants to talk with alumni and admissions and I don't want to waste anyone's time). At the Tuck Reception I attended, both the alumni and the admissions officer emphasized Tuck is about being part of a community. They intentionally hosted an 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 environment, they have no business applying to Tuck. Each person counts and each person will need to participate. 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.
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 afterwords. At the Tokyo reception, we were actually provided with a list of alumni who would be happy to communicate with potential applicants. In "Tips on Applying," Ms. Clarke emphasizes the importance of getting in touch with Tuck alumni. She, in fact, specifically says that mentioning that you met with alumni is something you should do both in your essays and interviews. She also mentioned that she considers notes from alumni as being in an applicant's favor.

Essay Questions for 2012–13
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 and remains unchanged from last year. See my Stanford GSB analysis as it applies here. Keep in mind the real importance of the second part of the question. Tuck's program is small with a target class 240.  According to BusinessWeek, for the Fall 2010 entering class, Tuck admitted 20% of the applicants who applied, so making the case that you really belong is critical. The yield was 54% (admitted who attend). These numbers are worth bearing in mind. On the one hand, Tuck is relatively difficult to enter, but on the other, it is often not the first choice of those it admits. You can be certain that  those reading your application know this. Under such conditions, clearly showing why Tuck is ideal for you is critical.

2.  Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?
This question has been greatly simplified from last year's leadership question. This year's question is actually much easier to 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 too much on simply telling a leadership story and not enough on self-analysis of leadership ability. 

most meaningful
Since the leadership experience you write about should be he the one that you consider most meaningful, you clearly explain that.  Applicants frequently assume the significance of a story without interpreting it sufficiently.  Make sure you have clearly explained why the particular leadership experience you write about is meaningful to you.  This is not just a function of explaining your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, but of actually explaining why this particular experience is so significant.

I have developed the following grid to help you outline leadership stories. The categories this grid employs may go beyond any particular schools essay requirements. Filling it out completely will help you write about your leadership in a way that will help convince admissions of your leadership potential. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

How to use the grid:

1. Decide on a specific story.

2. Identify the most significant things you did in the situation, these are you action steps.
3. For each action step identify:

  • What skills or qualities you demonstrated to complete this step.
  • The strengths you demonstrated to complete this step.
  • The kind of leadership you demonstrated.
  • What you still need to learn about leadership.
4. Think about the results and identify how they relate to your action steps. So, at minimum, you should be able to state the impact on others and/or yourself.

5. After completing the chart you will see that some aspects of your action steps may be repeated. If there is a total duplication and nothing new is shown, either you need to redefine the action step or you may decide not to focus on it very much.

6. Once you think you have two to four fully worked-out action steps for  a story, start writing your essay.

7. Next start re-writing. Eliminate duplicate points made between action steps. Make choices about what parts of each action to step to highlight. Given that there are usually word limits, you will have to make some decisions about what to include. Simply providing a description of your actions, is not enough. Consider what it signifies about you. Consider what your actions reveals about your leadership potential.
Thinking and writing about leadership is an important part of preparing for interviews because you can be certain that you will have to talk about leadership. So, you might find that the parts of the outline you jettison now will become valuable when you will want to have alternative stories for your Tuck interview.

What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?
This is a test of your ability to honestly assess your own limitations, not just as a leader, but more generally.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. It is important that you demonstrate the self-critical capacity expected at Tuck.

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?
This question is new for this year, but is actually a total restatement of a question that Wharton previously asked about failures and setbacks. HBS asks for three setbacks, so if you are writing on HBS, it should be particularly easy to answer Tuck's question.

It is critical that you learned something meaningful.  Therefore the key constraint of this question is that whatever the adversity, failure, or setback is, you have learned something important from it. While not stated, you may very well find that one way of showing what you learned is to discuss how you applied your lesson to a new situation.  

What is the difference between adversity, failure and a setback? I think the easiest thing to do is look at standard definitions of all three words (taken from Dictionary.com):

ADVERSITY: 1. adverse fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress: A friend will show his or her true colors in times of adversity. 2. an adverse or unfortunate event or circumstance: You will meet many adversities in life.
FAILURE: 1. an act or instance of failing  or proving unsuccessful; lack of success: His effort ended in failure. The campaign was a failure. 2. nonperformance of something due, required, or expected: a failure to do what one has promised; a failure to appear. 3. a subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency: the failure of crops. 4. deterioration or decay, especially of vigor, strength, etc.: The failure of her health made retirement necessary. 5. a condition of being bankrupt by reason of insolvency.
a check to progress; a reverse or defeat

If you think these words bleed into one another, that is true to some extent, but the nice thing about this question is that it covers a huge variety of situations. Adverse situations are certainly not necessarily failures or setbacks, but simply really bad situations. A setback, unlike a failure, is not necessarily something that ultimately does not work.

Adversity: Taking care of dying relative, being in a battle field, being poor, having a physical disability, being in a disaster, having a boss who hates you, being the victim of bullying, being the victim of prejudice (because of your gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc)
Failure: Drawing the wrong conclusions about a situation, taking the wrong course of action, an inability to see significant problems with a project, bad personal behavior that generates a negative result, lack of empathy that leads to the ending of a professional or personal relationship

Setback: an obstacle to progress on a project, organizational resistance to your plans, changes in a situation that makes what seemed to be a manageable project a potential disaster, a loss of efficiency that must be overcome if success is to be obtained

The basic components of an answer:
1. Clearly state what the adversity, failure or setback was.  Your reader should understand easily which one you have selected.
2. Clearly state your role when you explain the situation. It should be clear how much responsibility you have for the situation.
3. Explain what actions you took. Think about what your actions reflect about your own skills and personality. Provide a sufficient number of distinct action steps to highlight the diverse ways you handled the situation.
4. Explain what you learned. If what you learned is something you applied to a subsequent situation, please explain that.

Everyone should have many examples of adversity, setbacks, and failures, but the key thing is to have one that you learned from. 

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? 
This question has not changed. 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. 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. 
One way I like to think about contribution questions is to use a matrix such as the following:

I use the above matrix for all types of contribution questions, modifying the categories to fit the question. When it comes to contribution questions, I think it is important to tell specific stories that highlight specific ways you will add value to your future classmates.
The number of contributions that can be covered in about 500 words will obviously vary greatly. Consider that some contributions might be fully analyzed and justified in a matter of 20-50 words, while others will require 150-200. I suggest finding something between two and about four contributions to discuss. Just make sure each contribution is meaningful and described effectively enough. Keep in mind that you want admissions to be excited by you, so if you make this a mere summary of why you are good fit, you will be boring them.

Finally, given the small size of the Tuck as well as its relatively remote location, the importance of each member to this community is perhaps greater than at a bigger school located in a more urban area. Therefore, it is particularly important that you are very specific about how you will 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.
This is primarily a place for explaining something potentially negative. Under no circumstances include an essay written for another school.  It is fine to write about something positive here, but just make sure that it is something they really need to know.  It really is certainly fine to write nothing here.

Finally, if you need to prepare for a Tuck interview, please see here

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form, which is publicly available on google docs here, and then send your completed form to adammarkus@gmail.com.  You can also send me your resume if it is convenient for you.  Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. See here for why. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング 大学院 合格対策 エッセイ MBA留学
Real Time Web Analytics