What Columbia And Dartmouth Seek In Candidates
You couldn’t find two more different programs – on the surface at least. Columbia is big city, thick-skinned, fast paced, loud, and competitive – a bastion for rugged individualism. And Dartmouth is small town communal – a throwback set in a Thomas Kinkade painting, where students gather to sing Christmas carols against a backdrop of snowy slopes.
Well, those are the caricatures. No doubt, each school has its wrinkles. Tuck is known for a close-knit student community with an alumni network whose supportiveness is second to none. Columbia is more culturally diverse, where everything you could possibly need is just a cab ride away. Despite these differences, there are also similarities, such as rigorous academics and focus on leadership, that unite these schools.
So it was interesting to see two recently-posted articles on what these schools seek in candidates. In “6 Characteristics Columbia Business Looks For in Applicants,” Stacy Blackman, a long-time MBA consultant, outlined the cultural wrinkles that determine fit at the school. In the same vein, Tuck itself tacked a seven point theses onto the internet that explained who they’re seeking.
At Tuck, being passionate is key. It’s something that’s hard to fake in their view. And adcoms are looking for it in some very important areas. “[Passion] is reflected in their goals, their plans to have an impact in the MBA community they choose, and in how they present themselves throughout the application process,” Tuck writes.
In contrast, integrity is a bedrock of the Columbia culture. And Blackman encourages applicants to weave this into their narrative, particularly in the letter of recommendation. “Consider having your recommenders write about how you’ve shown integrity in difficult situations to demonstrate that you’re guided by a strong moral code. It can be a good way to show that you do the right thing when it matters — and that those around you take notice.”
Both sides also covet soft skills, though they tackle the issue at opposite ends (and for different reasons). At Dartmouth, self-awareness is paramount, since the Tuck journey emphasizes self-discovery. As a result, the school notes, candidates should have already taken stock of the strengths, weaknesses, goals, and unique talents that they are bringing into the Tuck community. “They have taken the time to be introspective, enabling them to know definitively what they’re looking for in an MBA-program, and why,” Tuck explains. “They know the community they’re looking for, and why a particular culture works best with their circumstances and personality.”
In contrast, Columbia zeroes in on “social intelligence,” to better gauge how their students will perform long-term. “Since the workplace is more decentralized than ever today, it’s essential for business leaders to factor the goals and thoughts of others into decision-making.”
However, there is one area where the schools converge: Leadership. Both schools are looking for students who (in the words of Tuck) can find a balance on knowing “when to lead and when and how to contribute outside of a leadership role.” At the same time, Columbia also looks for a larger purpose –“community leadership” – in candidates. “This goes beyond simply showing that you’ve done volunteer work outside your studies and career,” Blackman explains. “It’s about whether you have the kind of values system that drives you to be involved in your community… Columbia wants to know that they’re developing good global citizens as well as strong business people.”
In the end, it isn’t just “fit” that will enable candidates to land their spots in these schools. Getting accepted also requires execution according to Tuck.
“The successful applicant presents themselves in a consistent and clear way throughout all pieces of the application. They pull each individual component into one holistic understanding of themselves and their goals and present a complete narrative that helps the admissions committee have a meaningful understanding of who they are, what goals and aspirations are leading them down the MBA path, and the types of unique contributions they will make to the school they choose.”
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