For this installment in our ongoing series, MBA Admissions Brief, we turn to the admissions office of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Luke Anthony Peña has been the Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid there for a few years now, but still vividly remembers the highs and lows of applying to business school 10 years ago. He cares deeply about reducing stress and anxiety for business school applicants, and regularly provides updates for applicants on the Tuck360 blog as part of his teams’ commitment to transparency and accessibility. Read on for his insights into the Tuck admissions process and how you can best prepare to apply.
What would you say to someone who’s applying next fall and just getting started in the MBA application process now?
First and foremost, congratulations! You’ve taken the important first steps towards a life-changing experience that can accelerate your career and transform you as a leader. Second, take a deep breath, envision your path ahead, and build a thoughtful application plan. The application process can feel daunting and overwhelming—I vividly remember what it’s like to apply—and your physical, mental, and emotional self-care will be essential for success. Finally, assemble your support squad. While my colleagues and I want to significantly reduce your stress and anxiety, I acknowledge applying still requires real effort, and you’ll feel more empowered for success when you can rely on a team of advisors, accountability partners, and cheerleaders.
What’s the one thing MBA candidates should know about selecting a recommender?
Know that a good reference letter takes time to write! The reference letters are immensely valuable, as they complement your application and essays with the insights of others. With this in mind, select references who have the knowledge, desire, and time to advocate on your behalf. The last of these is essential; even if your reference knows your work well and strongly supports your application, we see this only when your reference invests the necessary time and effort to highlight your qualifications. Plan ahead, give your references advance notice, and check in with them along the way.
What’s your program’s most exciting change, development or event coming up in the year ahead?
Tuck has enhanced its first-year core curriculum. We’ve expanded our orientation program to ensure students have a richer and more vibrant launch, refined our leadership framework, restructured our winter term to better balance academics and professional recruiting, introduced new data analytics courses, and increased optionality for elective coursework. Our $250-Million Capital Campaign for Tomorrow’s Wise Leaders, part of a $3 billion Dartmouth-wide initiative, is strengthening our financial support for Tuck’s people, programs, and places, which includes investing in scholarship awards for future Tuck students and hiring new faculty scholars and educators. We’ve recently welcomed a number of new faculty colleagues to our community, including Joseph Gerakos—already selected by our students for a Teaching Excellence Award—and Lindsey Leininger, Jennifer Dannals, Lauren Grewal, Brian Melzer, Jim Smith, Ramon Lecuona, and Davin Chor, just to name a few.
Of the big trends in business education right now (tech, globalization, analytics), what are you doing or innovating in one (or all) of these spaces?
Analytics: Tuck has introduced new data analytics courses into its first-year core curriculum, and an expanded portfolio of elective analytics courses now range from Health Care Analytics and Society to Customer Analytics to Data Mining classes. As Stephen Pidgeon, our Executive Director of Career Services, has explained, “Any industry where analytics are becoming a differentiator, that’s where MBA skills are closely matching.”
Globalization: A number of our faculty are experts in the area of international trade economics and globalization. This includes our Dean Matt Slaughter, who teaches a Leadership in the Global Economy course, challenging students to explore how leaders bring the vast gains of globalization and digital innovation to individuals, communities, and countries. Dean Slaughter has also overseen the adoption of Tuck’s Global Opportunities (TuckGO) as a curricular requirement. Every one of our students now has at least one globally immersive experience during their two years at Tuck. One example is a Global Insight Expedition (GIX) that Professor Emily Blanchard led in Vietnam this past spring to study the consequences of market reforms and global engagement.
Tech: Our First-Year Project capstone course and our industry treks have long allowed students to gain experiential learning in tech. We’re also strengthening relationships across Dartmouth College, including with the Computer Science department, and Tuck students can now enroll in courses like Data Structure and Analysis and Fundamentals of Web Programming. Our students pioneered the co-curricular Data Series workshops at Tuck this spring, which enlisted industry experts to deepen students’ proficiency in programming languages, statistical software, and data visualization tools.
What would you like to highlight about your post-MBA career placement success?
Future Tuck students often ask me how they can succeed in recruiting while studying in an immersive environment outside the big city. In fact, our placement rates are consistently among the very top of MBA programs—96% of our T’18s had an offer within three months of graduation—due to the collective partnership among students, our Career Services team, and the legendary Tuck alumni network. Our Career Services team has expanded their staffing support in the last year—including adding an adviser on the West Coast—and are projecting strong outcomes for our T’19 class, especially for our international graduates. Consulting remains our largest post-Tuck industry, with tech and finance a close second and third. We’re also observing growth in health care as well as in the diversity of job functions within industries.