Amid extensive international and domestic recruitment travel, Luke Anthony Peña—who leads admissions at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business—found some rare downtime to devote an August post on the Tuck360: MBA Blog to the school’s new essay prompts. The new essays are part of an overhaul of Tuck’s admissions criteria designed to streamline and simplify the process.
The topic of the new essays has come up a lot as part of recent admissions events for prospective applicants across Asia and North America, Peña said. “There’s lots of advice and guidance for our revised essays popping up all over the web, so I want you to hear insights directly from me on behalf of the team that will evaluate and assess them,” he wrote.
Before tackling the two essay questions individually, he reminded applicants that each essay maps directly to Tuck’s simplified, streamlined admissions criteria. A framing sentence at the beginning of each question makes these connections clear. There is a firm 500-word limit for each response.
ESSAY QUESTION #1
Tuck students are aware of how their individuality adds to the fabric of Tuck. Tell us who you are and what you will contribute.
As advertised, the first sentence signals that this essay maps to Tuck’s “aware” criterion. Peña encourages applicants to review “what being aware means at Tuck” before setting out to answer it. The set-up sentence also underscores the ways in which individuality and community are interwoven. “We want you to confidently bring your whole personal self, including your strengths and growth areas, to Tuck,” he wrote. “We also hope you appreciate how this extraordinary community is a tapestry of the collective individuals therein, and adding to it means choosing to consistently engage rather than stand apart.”
The question itself is a twofer, inviting applicants to tell the admissions committee who they are as individuals—and how that will add to the Tuck community. “You’ll note that the first essay prompt doesn’t ask for a story or an example, and telling one isn’t necessary for a strong, reflective response,” Peña wrote.
“Perhaps my favorite aspect of this question is that there’s no one right answer, or even a right category or domain of answers,” he answered. “We’re expecting responses that are as diverse and wide-ranging as our students.
ESSAY QUESTION #2
Tuck students are nice and invest generously in the success of others. Tell us about time when you helped someone else succeed.
Again with the second essay question, the first sentence makes clear which criterion Tuck hopes to assess using applicants’ responses, namely “nice.” “This criterion has generated considerable interest, so I’ve had numerous opportunities to define what being nice at Tuck means,” Peña wrote, linking to several such instances.
Investing in the success of others does not mean sacrificing your own, stressed Peña. “The wise leader—and thus the great Tuck candidate—considers investment in others mutually beneficial and creates outcomes where both you and others win,” he wrote.
Peña offered this additional tip, which he said was based on questions he’s heard from applicants on the road: “Anyone can be nice when it is convenient, so on the margin, tell us about a time when the stakes were meaningful, the circumstances were challenging, and success was far from guaranteed.” Finally, he encouraged applicants to consider scope, ownership, and balance as they chose which story to tell here.