Considering An MBA At Tuck? Don’t Be A Jerk

New criteria ties to the mission of wise leadership and reflects four attributes Tuck students consistently demonstrate. Tuck photo

Emotional intelligence — EQ — is all the rage among admissions folks these days. It should be no surprise that Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, known for its collaborative approach to management education, is climbing aboard the EQ train, too. Tuck announced Monday (June 11) that the school has overhauled its admissions evaluation criteria to put greater emphasis on four factors: being smart, accomplished, aware — and nice.

That’s right — at Tuck, the oldest graduate school of management in the United States, jerks need not apply.

“What we’re looking for is emotional intelligence, empathy, and respect for others,” says Luke Anthony Peña, Tuck executive director of admissions and financial aid, in a news release. “Tuck is a distinctly collaborative community, so being able to challenge others tactfully and thoughtfully is important.”


Tuck’s Luke Anthony Peña: School is a “distinctly collaborative community.”

Peña, who will mark his one-year anniversary at Tuck on July 18, says each attribute in the new criteria ties not only to the school’s mission of wise leadership, but also to dimensions of the Tuck application, which it has been Peña’s goal to make the most enjoyable and least stressful among top business schools. “Smart” is a nod to academic achievement and strong test scores. “Accomplishments” will be revealed in resumes, and “awareness” and “niceness” will emerge in essays. Interviews and reference letters will be designed to surface each of the four criteria.

“The pathways students take to Tuck are numerous,” says Peña, former director of MBA admissions at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “They bring a wide range of experiences and perspectives to our community and incredible professional diversity. Yet we’ve found that no matter their path to Tuck, there are four attributes that our students consistently demonstrate. We’re now intentionally highlighting those four qualities for prospective students and inviting them to imagine themselves here.”

Based purely on the data, Tuck, ranked No. 7 by Poets&Quants and No. 10 by U.S. News & World Report, is not the most choosy of the elite schools, with a steady acceptance rate of 23% over the last two years. That’s the highest rate of any top-10 school. But the Hanover, New Hampshire school has the second-smallest enrollment among top-10 schools, with last year’s cohort numbering only 582, just above the 543 at UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business. Those small classes are key to Tuck’s reputation for collaboration — and soon, Peña and others hope, niceness.

In addition to the new evaluation criteria, Tuck has recently announced admissions process improvements that include clearer application round names, faster decision times, and uniform enrollment deposits. New essay and reference letter questions will be revealed later in June, and the application for the Tuck Class of 2021 will open in early July.


Here’s how Tuck describes each of the four new evaluation criteria in its admissions process:

“Tuck students are smart: Does this mean you need good grades and strong test scores? Yes! Your grades and scores reflect previous academic performance, verbal and written communication skills, and ability with numbers. Your intellectual aptitude matters. That said, smart Tuck candidates aren’t know-it-all types. On the contrary, being smart means practicing confident humility about what you do and do not know. Yes, you’re already an expert on some topics. You’re also curious, excited by challenges, and motivated to learn from others’ experiences and expertise. You push past the comfort of the familiar, and continually seek to grow by engaging and exploring the world around you. You’ll need to bring your full personal self — your smartest self — to advance and enrich rigorous discourse with classmates, faculty, and visiting executives.

“Tuck students are nice: This is quintessential Tuck, where you cultivate a habit of kindness. You actively encourage, celebrate, and support others. But being nice does not mean you’re a pushover who always agrees and defers. Nice Tuck candidates exhibit emotional intelligence. You layer compassion onto courage, and challenge others tactfully and thoughtfully. You display both strength and vulnerability. You ask for help, and you help others. You’re positive and principled. You act with respect and integrity, even when it’s not convenient or easy. You show empathy for the diverse experiences of others, while also sharing your own. You recognize that your success and others’ success are interdependent, and generously invest in both. Being nice at Tuck means building trust through deep, genuine connections which endure for life.

“Tuck students are accomplished: Is this about your professional performance? It is. It’s also about community engagement and personal achievements. You should be excellent at your job, and impactful outside it. You should work hard. And you should have the results, the progression, and the endorsements to prove it. But great performance goes beyond measurable outcomes; it also reflects your underlying behavior. Accomplished Tuck candidates don’t just go through the motions, don’t seek to win at any cost, and don’t wilt in tough moments. Instead, you practice good judgment in how to act, both in success and setback, and carefully consider which risks to take. Your commitment to this kind of accomplishment — results earned the right way — suggests you’ll transform Tuck as a student leader, and the companies and communities you’ll lead as an alum.

“Finally, Tuck students are aware: Reflection is mandatory at Tuck. You need to understand your values, assess your experiences, and articulate how they’ve shaped your identity and character. You also need to demonstrate the capacity to receive and learn from direct feedback. But knowing who you are, and how you got here, is just the beginning. Aware Tuck candidates envision what’s ahead. You connect your past experiences and present motivations with your future path, and chart a course forward. You identify coherent goals, audacious in scope yet grounded in reality, and illuminate how the distinctive Tuck MBA will advance your aspirations to better the world of business. And you convey how your individuality will add to the fabric of Tuck. Your sense of awareness ensures that you belong here, and that you’re prepared to contribute and thrive.”


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