Oct 03, 2017

The Life of Your Tuck Application

With Tuck’s first application deadline (fast!) approaching, it's the perfect time to shed some light on our evaluation process. Below you’ll find an abbreviated excerpt from a recent Clear Admit interview with Tuck’s executive director of admissions and financial aid, Luke Anthony Peña. Note: This excerpt has been revised to reflect the recent updates to the Tuck admissions criteria and essay questions.

CLEAR ADMIT: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.). 

LUKE: We wait until after each application deadline to begin review. Tuck has 10 application readers in total not including myself, and all of our evaluations are conducted by staff. Two have very deep regional experience, one in Latin America and the other in Southeast Asia. We strive to assign applicants from those regions to those readers. Applications not assigned to regional readers are randomly assigned to our other eight readers. I believe this randomization is important to bias reduction.

Each reader then reads and evaluates the application in its entirety, including notes from your interview if you have interviewed. Applications are reviewed entirely online. Each reader is searching for examples of our four admissions criteria; they are looking for evidence that you are smart, nice, accomplished, and aware.

When the first review is complete, there are several possible outcomes:

If you have already completed your own applicant-initiated interview, the first reader will recommend a decision. If that reader is recommending admission, then your file will be routed to a second reader. If the first reader is not recommending admission, then your file is routed to a final reader.

If you have not interviewed and you are not recommended for admission, your file will go to a final reader. If you have not interviewed and you are considered for possible admission, then you will be routed to interview. All admitted candidates will have interviewed, either at their prerogative or ours.

After interview notes are added to an application file, the file is then routed to a second reader. The second reader then evaluates the application in its entirety, recommends a decision, and the application is routed to a final reader.

The final reader is me, so I expect to see all candidates. Now, I do not review every file with the same level of depth as the first and second readers do. They are great at what they do, and I trust them to have reviewed the files thoroughly. But unlike those first and second readers, I am seeing the admissions pool in its entirety.

This points to a fundamental reality of the admissions process. It is necessarily subjective, and it is comparative. We must enroll a class so we must compare candidates and decide who will thrive in and contribute to our distinctively immersive culture.

Our readers recommend far more candidates than we can enroll. We do not assign numbers or quotas to our readers. They call each and every application as they see it. It falls to me to build a class of 285 candidates best suited to thrive at Tuck.

As final reader, I will review the earlier readers’ recommendations and decide to admit, deny, wait pool, or send to committee discussion. All of our readers are on the committee. The committee reviews each remaining application, one by one, and collectively decides whether to admit, deny, or wait pool each applicant. The number we discuss by committee is very high and takes several days.

We have no quotas for country, gender, ethnicity; we have no quota per round, we have no numerical preconceptions about what defines a perfect class. The class can and will look different each year based on the quantity and quality of those who choose to apply. And as part of our review process we strive to balance reader autonomy and reader calibration. Each reader can decide the order in which they read the applications themselves, the order of the individual components of the application, and how long they spend reading each application.

At the same time, all of our readers use the same form and look for the same criteria. The fate of your review should not depend on the fate of a randomized draw. And we review our readers’ output regularly, because we also know that you can never place too much emphasis and effort on ensuring that there is fairness and equity in the process.