Admissions Advice That Might Surprise You

Admissions advice that might surprise you from former Tuck admissions officer, Karen Mars

As you start to work on your business school applications, here is some admissions advice that might surprise you.

  • Don’t start activities just for your applications.

Admissions Officers are pretty savvy, and if you suddenly start volunteering at the animal shelter, building houses for habitat for humanity and tutoring local elementary school girls in STEM classes they might question your sincerity. Also, you are probably already more involved than you think – schools look for genuine engagement, not pro forma gestures.

  • Don’t read other people’s essays.

I know that there are books and seminars that focus on other people’s essays. While it can be tempting to assume that there is some sort of magic formula that you can replicate, please do not read anyone else’s essay! Your candidacy needs to leverage your individual strengths and story. Also, they might have gotten in despite their essays, not because of them.

  • Don’t ask people you don’t know to write recommendations just because they are connected.

The big title is meaningless if your recommender doesn’t know you well enough to really rave about you, and to talk in detail about your personality and experience. Not only are these recommendations a wasted opportunity to enhance your candidacy, the wrong choice can actually hurt you, since the schools will question your judgment. 

  • Don’t inflate ANYTHING.

Have you been tempted to round your GPA from a 3.46 to a 3.5? Or to fudge your dates of employment or salary? Please don’t. Even a small exaggeration or misrepresentation can really undermine your credibility and make the school wonder what else you are inflating.

As a former Tuck admissions officer and the President and Founder of North Star Admissions Consulting, I understand that there is lots of confusing admissions advice floating around. If in doubt, use common sense and err on the side of transparency and authenticity.


  Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, Haas, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Wellesley, and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than 10.3 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.


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