If MBA education were like ice cream, Tuck would be one of a handful of premium brands. This is a super rich and delicious concoction of an MBA education, a picture-perfect business school solely dedicated to providing students with the ultimate MBA experience. There are no business undergraduates sharing the halls, nor part-time MBAs in evening classes, nor executive MBAs who come in on Friday nights. The school’s executive education offerings are limited. All of this allows Tuck to focus virtually all of its resources and energy on one thing: a full-time MBA program. In a day and age when most business schools are juggling all kinds of programs that siphon off the best faculty from the full-time MBAs, Tuck stays true to its mission of guaranteeing every student a truly transformative and intimate MBA experience. This is a rare and beautiful thing if you want the premium version of the degree.
The school does this in a spectacular New England setting, isolated in Hanover, N.H., away from the distractions of a busy city. At Tuck, most students have the option of living in lavishly appointed dorms right on the school’s own first class business school campus. The school’s world-class teachers are known for their excellence and are in a class with Harvard Business School and the University of Virginia’s Darden School. Attending a Tuck class is to witness a master teacher in action, soliciting different opinions in rapid-fire style, moving every student along a challenging but entertaining journey to a final destination where the big idea or thought waits to be unfolded. Harvard, Tuck and Darden have at least two other attributes in common: 1) MBA students at these three schools are taught largely and almost exclusively by the case method, and 2) The first-year curriculum is a lockstep program where cohorts of the same students move through the courses together. Harvard’s cohorts are 50% larger than those at Tuck and Darden so there is less pressure to fight for air time during the vigorous discussions in class where participation accounts for half of students’ grades. The bonds students form in their sections often endure a life time.
Tuck, like Darden, has a highly collaborative and caring culture where MBA candidates genuinely support and encourage each other. Backstabbing at Tuck is unheard of. In fact, some corporate recruiters say the students here are too nice. And unlike many of the big MBA factories, Tuck offers small cohorts and class sizes. By the time a student graduates from Tuck, he or she knows every single classmate who’s wearing a cap and gown at commencement.
The integrated core curriculum at the Tuck School provides coverage of key functional areas and disciplines: statistics and decision science, corporate finance and capital markets, managerial and global economics, marketing, organizational behavior and personal leadership, strategy, communications, and operations. Students who have extensive previous background in a particular discipline may exempt out of a course and take an elective in its place, though opting out of a core course is often discouraged because it takes students away from their assigned cohorts.
With the core curriculum as a foundation and more than 80 electives to choose from, students can customize their education to meet individual needs and interests. Elective offerings allow students to focus on specific areas of study within the context of the cross-functional knowledge required in top management positions. In addition to the core and elective courses, students are required to satisfy an ethics and social responsibility course requirement during their two years.
Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business was among the winners in our 2016 ranking, gaining two places to finish comfortably in seventh place. That was the school’s best showing on the P&Q list since the inaugural 2010 ranking when Tuck was sixth. There’s one core reason for the improvement: The school has figured out the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking where it has underperformed for a number of years.
Putting aside the 11-place jump by Rice University’s business school in Businessweek‘s 2016 ranking, the biggest improvement for any Top 25 school was made by Tuck. Tuck raced up the list by nine positions to finish fifth this year, its strongest showing in the Businessweek ranking since the original list made its debut in 1988. Back then, Tuck finished third. This week’s ranking, putting Tuck ahead of Wharton, MIT Sloan and Kellogg, is even better than this year’s earlier U.S. News‘ eighth place ranking for the Hanover, N.H., school.
The reason behind Tuck’s long-delayed resurgence? Again, it was Businessweek‘s employer survey. Tuck soared 14 places to eighth from 21st on the magazine’s employer survey, more than offsetting an 11-place drop on the student poll to 28 from 17 (the scores on the student surveys, however, are so closely clustered that their actual weighting in the methodology tends to be significantly lower than the 15% Businessweek claims to assign that data). That pushed Tuck well above its more typical 10th place position (its average BW rank after subtracting out its highest third place rank in 1988 and its lowest 16th place finish in 2000.
It’s no secret that Tuck has one of the best, if not the best, MBA alumni network. No other business school in the world can claim that more than 70% of its alums contribute to its annual fundraising campaign other than Tuck. So if you survey super loyal alums who recruit at the school, as Businessweek does, the odds are pretty good they are going to go out of their way to put Tuck first on the list of the best schools. Someone at the school finally wised up to make the case to returning alum recruiters to fill out those darn Businessweeek surveys!
The school also did slightly better in U.S. News, edging up one spot to eighth from ninth. Tuck also had strong showings in Forbes’ return-on-investment ranking, largely due to the very handsome compensation packages graduating MBAs routinely get. Tuck was fifth on the Forbes list, and sixth on The Economist ranking, slightly down from its third place finish in 2015. The school’s weakest ranking is the Financial Times which places Tuck 13th best in the U.S.
What makes Tuck unique, however, has nothing to do with what rankings tend to measure. It’s culture. As one Class of 2012 told BusinessWeek on its satisfaction survey, “Tuck is unique because it truly has a culture and community that nurtures and helps develop the entire student. I know that I can walk into the office of any of the deans without an appointment and he or she will know my name and will take the time to meet with me as soon as possible. The professors go the extra mile to get to know their students. I regularly have informal conversations with professors from the first year in the hallways at Tuck, I have traveled to India with my favorite professor from the core, and I’ve had dinner parties at the homes of professors where the conversation goes until 1am. The students here put each other first, and the size of our program allows our students to truly appreciate the true diversity of our class.”
B-School Smack Down Reports:
Top Feeder Colleges & Companies to Tuck:
MBA Program Consideration Set:
Note: MBA Program Consideration Set: If you believe you’re a close match to this school–based on your GMAT and GPA scores, your age and work experience, you should look at these other competitive full-time MBA programs as well. We list them by stretch, match and safety. These options are presented on the basis of brand image and ranking status as a general guideline.