Jul 12, 2023

A Closer Look at Tuck’s Admissions Criteria: Aware

By Tim Neil
Assistant Director of Admissions, Recruitment

Tim Neil

To help you prepare to apply to Tuck, I’m here to highlight another of our admissions criteria: aware. I want you to take a step back before thinking about the application. Merriam-Webster defines aware as “having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge.” I really like this. It’s clean and easy to understand. Anyone can understand this, but far too few applicants take the time to sit down and ask foundational questions about themselves before beginning their application. Applicants often research the schools they want to apply to and tailor themselves to the admission criteria. Let’s flip that.

Being aware of oneself is far easier said than done. Awareness is realizing who you are and, as human beings, we are ever evolving which makes that challenging. This takes a lot of self-reflection. When it comes to applying to any school, job, or internship, the reader wants to know who you see yourself as, not who you think we want you to be.

Demonstrating awareness at Tuck entails three things: knowing who you are, knowing where you’re going, and knowing how Tuck helps you chart your path forward. These three aspects are rooted in our desire to see you contribute and thrive at Tuck and beyond. We believe you can contribute best when you are aware of how your individuality adds to Tuck, and you can effectively thrive when you have a clear vision for how Tuck allows you to accomplish your goals.

In the application, we want to know broadly why an MBA program is right for you, why now, and why Tuck. Before getting into the third question, stop and ask why an MBA program and why now? Answering these foundational questions will allow you the freedom to tell your story and demonstrate your self-awareness. For those that struggle with getting started, I recommend connecting with Tuck Ambassadors and asking them these questions. Their personal stories, while they might not resonate with you personally, will demonstrate the three components of awareness.

Now that you’ve taken some time to answer the foundational questions, here are a few places where we give you the opportunity to highlight your awareness in your Tuck application:

  • Essays
  • Interview
  • Letters of Reference
  • Short- and long-term goals

The essay prompts give you a platform to tell us your personal story. Our essays will give you an opportunity to introduce yourself beyond your resume and your scores. After reading thousands of essays over the years, I can tell you that the best essays set aside airs and pretense; they include personal insights that reveal what drives and motivates you. So set aside the script and the predetermined narrative, answer the question authentically, and introduce us to you.

You have other opportunities to show us that you are aware of who you are and what you contribute. Your interview is a conversation that surfaces the thoughts, beliefs, and values that influence and inform your decisions. And the letters of reference comment on your level of necessary self-awareness to receive constructive feedback. The Tuck MBA is an environment rich in feedback, and we look to see that you can receive feedback with self-awareness, maturity, and a growth mindset.

Our short prompts that ask about your goals invite you to tell us where you’re going. We care about the clarity of your goals, so we ask you to share them directly. And yes, we want you to be concise! Recruiters expect a tight pitch, so we do too. The prompts in the application give you the opportunity to state your goals on paper, and you can expect your interviewer to ask you to articulate them out loud. The Admissions team and I hope you will have your “head in the clouds and your feet on the ground,” meaning that you will be ambitious about your long-term impact and pragmatic about the steps you will take to get there.

Finally, we want to see that you’re aware of how Tuck helps you get where you’re going. We’re happy if you love Tuck—we certainly do!—but that isn’t quite what we’re seeking here. Instead, we want to see that you know Tuck. You can better contribute and thrive when you’ve thoughtfully considered how your interests and Tuck’s distinct community, culture, and curriculum are mutually beneficial. We ask you about this in the essays, and you can expect your interviewer to ask as well. What matters is not how enthusiastic you are, or how thorough and detailed your research is—what matters is how you demonstrate reflection, personalization, and curiosity about what Tuck has to offer you and what you have to offer Tuck.

Let my Admissions colleagues and I know if you have any questions about our aware criterion, or about any other aspect of Tuck. We’re here to help!

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