While each candidate has their own unique story and path, there are traits that successful applicants generally have in common. In my experience, the following seven have resonated strongest and most often.
1) They’re prepared.
They can clearly and articulately communicate why they want an MBA, how it will help them reach their goals, and why this is the right time to pursue it. Furthermore, they know the school they’re applying to. All elite b-schools have top-notch faculty, rigorous curriculum, and access to jobs with the world’s leading companies and organizations. Successful applicants know what sets the programs they are applying to apart. They are also able to talk about what excites them, how they hope to make an impact while they are at school (and beyond), and they have great questions that delve deeper into the essence of each school.
2) They know themselves.
They have a high level of self-awareness and can talk confidently about their strengths and weaknesses, their short-and long-term goals, and the unique talents and experiences they will bring to the classroom and the 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. They know the community they’re looking for, and why a particular culture works best with their circumstances and personality.
3) They demonstrate leadership qualities, and are also team members.
There’s a time for everything, and a successful applicant recognizes this. They know when to lead and when and how to contribute outside of a leadership role. While the MBA will cultivate leadership abilities and opportunities to practice what you learn, collaboration is equally important. This balance is especially valued at Tuck.
4) They focus on the aspects of their application they can control.
There are some aspects of the application process that are completely out of your hands. For example, there’s no controlling the application strength of other candidates applying during that particular application cycle. And once you’ve hit submit, the patience required as you’re waiting for a decision is immense. Instead of dwelling on outside factors, be extra diligent in the areas that you can control such as choosing appropriate recommenders, participating in extracurricular endeavors, taking on leadership roles when possible, etc. When you’re confident you’ve submitted your strongest possible application, you’ll feel much more comfortable with the factors you can’t control.
5) They’re passionate.
This 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. Regardless of how untraditional a successful applicant perceives their background or post-MBA plans to be, having the ability to clearly articulate these and why they’re important is far more impressive than telling us what you think we want to hear. It’s hard to fake passion and we can tell when something doesn’t quite fire you up!
6) They’re genuine and enthusiastic.
If you’ve already checked off the rest of this list, this trait probably comes natural to you. Successful applicants present their true self throughout the journey. They realize that everyone they speak to is a part of the admissions process and treat them kindly and with respect. They demonstrate a deep understanding of themselves and which unique traits and strengths are at the core of who they are. The opportunity to get an MBA from a top business school is special, and they treat it as such.
7) They connect the dots.
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 gain a meaningful understanding of who they are, what goals and aspirations are leading them to an MBA, and the types of unique contributions they will make to the school they choose. They complete the equation: individual attributes + your goals and aspirations + your individual contribution to the experience (and beyond) = where will Tuck take you?