Most Transparent MBA Admissons: Tuck, HBS, Ross & Fuqua

Tuck School of Business

Tuck School of Business


Tuck also has significantly increased its outreach, something that has made it more difficult for staff to conduct those on-campus interviews. Last year, Tuck held 236 off-campus admissions events, up from only 59 in 2006-2007. “We are seeing a big uptick in trying to make ourselves more accessible to prospective students,” she adds. “As we have increased the number of off-campus events, I would guess that this past year 75% of our interview are now done by students and 25% by staff.”

Unlike many other schools, Tuck also provides all waitlisted applicants and many denied candidates one-on-one feedback. “If you’re placed on our waitlist, we’ll tell you want you can do to increase your chances of coming off the waitlist,” explains Clarke. “And we have a ‘soft deny’ where you can be denied admission, but we’ll still give you feedback because you are in the zone of admissibility. A candidate, for example, could have a stellar application, but we could be concerned about their quantitative preparedness.”

Tuck has long been known as a customer-friendly place for applicants, but the policy to be as transparent and open as possible was racketed up a few years ago when Clarke went through the undergraduate admissions process with her son, Josh, who graduated from Middleburg College last year. “I got to experience first hand the amount of time an applicant invests in visiting schools, writing essays, studying for standardized tests, determining which schools are the best fit,” she recalls. “The most memorable aspect of the process was knowing what it feels like to check a school’s admissions site and see how it feels to receive a letter of denial.”


If anything, the experience reaffirmed in her the value of treating applicants with care and sensitivity. “In order to have the connections we have with students, we have to have a great deal of empathy and respect for the people going through this process. I try to make myself available and it’s helpful to reveal to them how I know what they are going through. As an undergraduate, I tell them I was waitlisted at Dartmouth and it didn’t work out,” says Clarke, who did her undergraduate work at Allegheny College and her master’s in education at UNC-Chapel Hill. “At Chapel Hill, I was waitlisted and it did work out. Going through the process with Josh, I was struck by how stressful it was. People are going for this and it is a huge goal in their mind. They are putting everything into it. We want them to walk away feeling good about the school, regardless of what the outcome is. About 15% of our applicant pool is composed of re-applicants and in many cases we get a very successful application the following year. So it works for them and it works for us, too.”

Clarke is quick to give a shout out to her admissions team, which currently numbers eight full-time staffers in Hanover, three full-time regional experts in India, Latin America, and the West Coast, and four seasonal admissions associates who are professional application readers and interviewers. “Our process is as good as the people who are involved in it,” she says. “They work at Tuck for a reason. It draws a certain student and a certain employee. They go above and beyond. They really enjoy connecting with students.”

Only last week, for example, the staff sat down to review this season’s forthcoming application requirements and decided not to trim back any further on the school’s two required and one optional essay or its two recommendation letters. “At a time when there is such intense competition for top students, it is tempting to make the application a little easier,” she says. “My staff was so vocal bout how valuable the essays are that we went out on a limb in terms of retaining a bit more work on the part of the applicant. But I think applicants appreciate it because they know we get to know them better.”

While Clarke is generous in praising her team, consultants say it is her leadership that has made a big difference. “Dawna Clarke is incredibly warm and it isn’t just for show,” believes Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission. “She is very sincere in wanting to get to know applicants and wanting them to visit the campus to get to know the school. The proof is in the pudding. Tuck is one of the few schools left that allows anyone to interview. How much more engaging could you be than that?”

Schools That Get To Know Their Applicants The MOST


Rank & SchoolIndexDirector
   1. Dartmouth (Tuck School of Business)100.0Dawna Clarke
   2. Duke (Fuqua School of Business)76..2Liz Riley Hargrove
   3. Northwestern (Kellogg School of Management)66.7Kate Smith
   4. INSEAD42.9Pejay Belland
   5. Stanford Graduate School of Business23.8Derrick Bolton
   5. Chicago (Booth School of Business)23.8Kurt Ahlm
   5. MIT (Sloan School of Management)23.8Dawna Levenson
   5. UC-Berkeley (Haas School of Business)23.8Stephanie Fujii
   9. Michigan (Ross School of Business)14.3Soojin Kwon
   9. North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler Business School)14.3Sherry Wallace
   9. IMD14.3Paola Eicher

Source: P&Q survey of MBA admissions consultants