What does it take to get into Tuck?
I think there are common threads that I hope all admitted applicants have. Do they have the ability to be successful in the quantitative work? Do they have the intellectual horsepower? Do they have evidence of leadership or leadership potential? Do they have evidence of team skills? Is there evidence of strong interpersonal and communication skills? Those are common threads for every single person who is admitted.
Beyond that, I think that people can shine for a lot of different reasons in the applicant pool. Someone may bring unique work experience from the petrochemical industry that makes a person stand out. I can think of a couple of applicants whose recommenders went above and beyond in making a compelling case with vivid examples and anecdotes for why they are the strongest people in their companies in the past 20 years. Somebody else maybe has the perspective of a unique demographic group like coming from a part of Europe that is not well represented.
What does it take to get admitted? It truly does vary. Part of the beauty of putting a class together is that this is a general management program where you want people to talk about things from different perspectives and different life experiences. It’s a good question but not an easy one to answer. I could answer it in a 100 ways because people can stand out for 100 different reasons. But we definitely put a high premium on interpersonal skills, communication, leadership, teamwork and the ability to do well in the program. Those are not much different than the qualities sought by the top ten schools.
Still, for an applicant to get an edge at Tuck there has to be some obvious things, like making sure you come in for an interview?
Yes, take advantage of the open interview policy. We have one of the most involved and active alumni groups. Take advantage of alumni who are so willing to talk to perspective students. We make available alumni contacts for applicants and I am pleased to say that while it’s not a requirement to get an alumni recommendation, I am impressed when I get a recommendation from an alum.
Wouldn’t you also suggest applying early action?
Yes. The selectivity is going to be a little more generous for applicants who apply early action or early decision. Ours is not binding. Early action does give people an edge. But we reserve spots for people in every single round and selectivity will vary according to whether applications are up or down.
For many of the selective undergraduate schools, the acceptance rates in early action rounds can be double the regular overall average. What would it be at Tuck?
It can be about five percentage points higher at Tuck. But it does vary a little bit from year to year. One year it was lower than the average. Another it was seven percentage points higher. We had a year when we were over enrolled and we were extremely generous in early action.
The people who apply in early action are people who are organized. They have their stuff together. They took their GMATs. They’ve visited several campuses. There are times when we make offers of admission, and we’re not sure we will yield this person but you’re not going to win unless you try. There is a little bit of a misnomer that you have to sign undying love to us.
What percentage of Tuck MBA candidates apply in the early action round?
It does vary considerably. Uniformly, the heaviest application cycle is January. The second heaviest is early action. Then, it’s November and finally April. We usually make offers to people on the waitlist. We would get nearly 1000 out of the 2500 applications, about 40% in January. In early action, we would get about 30% of the applicant pool. Probably 20% to 25% in November and just a couple of hundred, more than 5% but less than 10% in April. Early action numbers have ranged between 413 in one year and 650 in another.
I don’t recommend applying in the April round. We always make some offers, but typically it’s the most competitive round because most of the seats in the class are already taken. I would say there is a slight advantage in early action, and a slight disadvantage in April and over than that it’s pretty even.
People ask me this question all the time and I’m not sure of the answer. All admission officers say you can take the GMAT as often as you want and a school will only take the highest score. But do you know how often a candidate takes a GMAT and does that factor in your decision?
There are some lucky or smart people who take it once, but most people take it two to three times. We see all the scores and take the highest one. We don’t average them. That’s the fair thing to do. We did have an applicant recently from Korea who took it 17 times. He could have put a down payment on a house. That’s a lot of money. It’s a little overkill. That’s a real anomaly.
Taking the GMAT 17 times would be the ultimate torture for most people. That tells you this person badly wants an MBA from an elite school.
I know. I’m so glad I am at a point in my life where I never have to take a test again. If someone has taken the GMAT three times and studied really hard, I advise people to be just done with it and to focus on other things. If you didn’t study for it, then I would say take another shot. If they feel they put their best foot forward, I say that’s it.