Jun 23, 2020

A Closer Look at Tuck’s Admissions Criteria

By Amy Mitson
Director of Admissions Recruitment & Marketing

Part III: Encouraging


Amy Mitson


Recruitment season is here, which means we’re looking ahead to the Tuck Class of 2023. My Admissions colleagues and I are excited to get to know you, and give you the opportunity to get to know Tuck. For the coming months, we invite you to connect with Tuck representatives and ambassadors online at a variety of events, including Tuesdays with Tuck, information sessions, and an array of small group events tailored to specific geographies, industries, and affinity groups. We look forward to meeting many of you! 

We at Tuck care a lot about reducing stress and anxiety in the application. This includes being transparent about the four criteria we look for in strong Tuck applicants.

Tuck students are smart, curious, and engaged.
Tuck students are accomplished, impactful, and principled.
Tuck students are aware, ambitious, and purposeful.
Tuck students are encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic.

I’ve written elsewhere on the blog about smart, accomplished, and aware, so I’m writing here about what it means at Tuck to be encouraging. Being encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic is quintessential Tuck, where you actively celebrate and support others. We’ve evolved this criterion from “nice” to better describe how Tuck students conduct themselves.

At Tuck, being encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic means you invest both in your own success and also in the success of others. There are two components to investing in others. On one hand, this means making a habit of supporting others. You encourage, celebrate, and support others with kindness, compassion, and empathy. On the other hand, this also means demonstrating the courage to challenge others. Investing in others goes far beyond being pleasant and agreeable. When you value the relationships you’ve built, you’re willing to constructively disagree and push back in service of a stronger shared understanding. Rather than avoiding difficult conversations, you respectfully encourage them when necessary and appropriate. Being truly encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic requires real commitment, emotional intelligence, and a sustained willingness to make ongoing investments into meaningful trust-based relationships. 

We are often asked how we evaluate this criterion, given its seeming subjectivity, and how you can demonstrate it in your application. Much like our other criteria, the clear and concrete evidence lies in your patterns of behavior over time. As a point of comparison, consider our accomplished criterion. Your prior achievements do not transfer with you to business school, and you are not accomplished simply because of the lines on your resume; it is the behaviors that led you to achieve good outcomes that suggest you will be accomplished at Tuck and beyond. The same is true for encouraging; the outcomes of your investments in others matter less than the behaviors you practice in service of these good relationships. When we read your application, we’re looking for these patterns of behavior. 

You have three opportunities in your application to demonstrate the encouraging criterion. The first is the third application essay, which prompts you to tell us about a time when you invested in another’s success. The second is your interview, in which your student interviewer will be asking questions to surface all four criteria, including encouraging. Our encouragement here is to resist the urge to try to craft a perfect “encouraging” story and instead help your interviewer see that you are in the habit of both supporting and challenging others. Finally, we read your reference letters seeking evidence of all four criteria, including encouraging. Your references can provide powerful data points; they can confirm that others recognize the investments you’ve made in relationships. To this end, encourage your references to include stories not just outlining what you did, but also with whom you did it and how you partnered with them. 

Let me briefly dispel one myth about the encouraging criterion and extracurricular activities. We've heard some say that listing certain extracurricular activities, such as coaching, mentoring, volunteering, etc., automatically qualifies you as encouraging. Not necessarily! Applicants can demonstrate an investment in others in an environment that is purely for profit. Likewise, they can volunteer for a noble cause yet still demonstrate behaviors that do not reflect a true investment in others. Just as it’s possible to stumble into a great accomplishment with poor behaviors, it is possible to contribute poorly to a good cause. How you act matters far more than what you do. Involvement with philanthropic causes is commendable, but on its own does not satisfy the criterion. If you have meaningfully engaged in extracurricular activities in ways that do reflect our criteria, highlight your behaviors therein rather than assuming the line on the resume speaks for itself. And if you have not had the opportunity to be involved in philanthropic causes, don’t worry—there are many other opportunities in the application to demonstrate this criterion. 

My colleagues and I look forward to hearing from you, your references, and our student interviewers about how you invest in others, and we’re happy to answer any questions to help you navigate our application with confidence. We invite you to connect with the Tuck community via online events and keep up with Tuck on social media. We look forward to seeing you virtually and learning more about you in your application!