When Tuck debuted its refreshed admissions criteria back in 2018, its new “niceness” factor made headlines. It’s since evolved “nice” into “encouraging” (which complements “smart, accomplished, and aware” as the fourth criteria). But the spirit is the same – the quintessential Tuck value to “actively support and celebrate others” requires both self and situational awareness, a leadership style defined by integrity and empathy.
It’s important to know from the outset that the Tuck Admissions Committee uses its four sets of admissions criteria as a framework to evaluate every piece of your application. They will be looking for evidence of you demonstrating these behaviors in your past actions, so you’ll want to think of examples that highlight them well in your Tuck MBA essays, your recommendation forms, and during your interview.
And it really feels like the Tuck admissions team wants you to win – they model their own criteria across Tuck’s online platforms, in a way that’s both straightforward and friendly, delivering substantive insights on what they’re seeking with an impressive level of how-to specificity. I’ve consolidated my advice on how to tackle the Tuck application within its core criteria, along with tangible tips for creating a standout narrative.
How to Convey Your Fit for Tuck Against Its Key Criteria:
1. Demonstrating aware, ambitious, and purposeful
With the awareness criterion, Tuck wants to see evidence that you know exactly who you are (your values, strengths, and weaknesses), where you’re going, and why – AND that you know exactly how Tuck will help you get there. Though demonstrating your love and enthusiasm for Tuck is great, even more important will be demonstrating that you truly know and understand how Tuck will help you on your journey and that you know how you will contribute to the school. In the Tuck MBA essays and at interview, they will want to see evidence that you have taken the time to get to know Tuck and to reflect on your personal connection with the school. Given the tight-knit community, visiting campus before applying would be extremely beneficial (if COVID-related travel restrictions permit, of course).
Regarding being ambitious, the admissions team state that they hope you have your “head in the clouds and your feet on the ground,” which means they want a good balance between ambition and long-term impact and practical, logical steps on how to get there.
With Tuck’s mission being “to develop wise, decisive leaders who better the world through business” (they even require each student to take at least one minicourse that explores the complex ethical and social challenges of business) – demonstrating an understanding of the relationship between society, ethics and business, and a desire to have a part in making a difference, will resonate with Tuck.
2. Demonstrating accomplished, impactful, and principled
The Tuck admissions team will be looking for evidence of this in your career progression, professional achievements, and track record, but also in the impact you have had and your accomplishments outside work. Promotions, awards, increased responsibilities, etc., will all help them see this. As ever though, it is not only the outcomes Tuck are interested in, but the way you achieved them and the behaviors you exhibited in the process (how, not just what). Examples that highlight this – particularly in your references, will be critical, so be sure to choose recommenders who worked closely enough with you to give enough depth and detail on how you worked and how you interacted with others, in order to achieve these outcomes.
3. Demonstrating encouraging, collaborative, empathetic
Tuck’s relatively small class size lends itself extremely well to the encouraging criterion and makes for an incredibly close-knit community where you will literally get to know everyone. Encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic is outlined as ‘quintessential Tuck’ and relates strongly to the ‘niceness’ factor so often cited when talking about Tuck. As mentioned, Tuck has evolved from the previous ‘nice’ criterion to these more descriptive and action-based words –encouraging, collaborative and empathetic.
It’s important to recognize that these traits don’t necessarily tie in with a traditional notion of ‘nice’ – as quite often to successfully collaborate and encourage, you need to push people out of their comfort zones, for example, or encourage challenging conversations rather than avoid them, in order to reach a certain goal. Tuck has a heavy emphasis on building trust-based relationships and will be looking for evidence of this. Tuck’s third essay addresses this directly, asking about a time when you invested in someone’s success. You could opt to give the perfect ‘encouraging’ story all neatly wrapped up, but even better would be to take the opportunity to highlight your leadership and teamwork by demonstrating how you both encouraged and challenged, for example, and that it wasn’t easy – for you or the others involved.
A caution here: Listing involvement in charitable activities does not necessarily demonstrate this encouraging/nice criterion – the team will be more interested in how you do things as opposed to simply what you do. So, the actions you took in a ‘for-profit’ related activity could demonstrate your encouraging behavior just as well, for example.
4. Demonstrating smart, curious, and engaged
All business schools want candidates who have excelled academically and professionally, with a competitive GMAT and GPA. They all want to know that you will be able to excel in their demanding MBA program. However, Tuck will seek a significant level of depth and will want you to demonstrate intellectual curiosity and a thirst for continual learning and improvement. They very much seek candidates who have a growth mindset and who recognize that despite a sparkling record of accomplishments, there is always room for improvement and growth.
Though Tuck does like to see consistently strong performance in your academics, they encourage you to not disqualify yourself from applying based purely on your grades, especially if you feel you can demonstrate their criteria in other, compelling ways. Aside from grades, you can still demonstrate you are smart and intellectually curious through your past actions and behaviors in your essays and recommendation letters, and at interview. Seek ways to convey creative thinking, problem-solving, a willingness to learn and improve.
For advice on how to tackle Dartmouth Tuck’s essays, view my related article.
Amy Hugo is an Expert Coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and has coached candidates to admissions success at a wide array of top programs, from Dartmouth Tuck, Wharton, Columbia and Kellogg to London Business School, where she served as Senior Manager. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.