Aug 13, 2019

A Closer Look at Tuck’s Admissions Criteria



Luke Anthony Peña

By Luke Anthony Peña
Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid

Happy August, friends! The Class of 2021 has arrived and Tuck Launch, our two-week orientation program, is underway. The full attention of the Admissions team is now on meeting you and the future Class of 2022! My colleagues and I are covering the corners of the earth to meet you; at the time this posts, I am moving through South Asia doing all I can to help international applicants learn what makes Tuck distinct and approach the application with confidence.

We paused our criteria series in this space to highlight application changes and essay insights. We’re now resuming our series about how you can demonstrate each of our four criteria. We’ve previously covered accomplished and aware, and we’re turning our attention this month to a third criteria: nice.

While all four of our admissions criteria are equally importantnice is the criterion about which I get asked most often. Being nice is quintessential Tuck, where you actively encourage, celebrate, and support others. We selected this thought-provoking word with the help of our students, our alumni, and our school’s leadership because it captures how many describe Tuck’s community. We also hope it appeals to your curiosity about what it means to be nice at Tuck.

At Tuck, being nice means you are invested not only in your own success but also in the success of others. There are two components to investing in others. On one hand, this means being in the 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 engage in them. Being truly nice requires real commitment, emotional intelligence, and a sustained willingness to make ongoing investments into meaningful relationships.

I am often asked how we evaluate niceness, 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 nice; the outcomes of your investments in others are less significant 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 nice criterion. The first is the third application essay, which prompts you to tell us about a time when you invested in another’s success. I’ve previously written on this blog about what elevates a strong response to this prompt. The second is your interview, in which your student interviewer will be asking questions to surface all four criteria, including nice. My encouragement here is to resist the urge to try to craft a perfect “nice” 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 nice. 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 nice and extracurricular activities. I’ve heard some say that listing certain extracurricular activities, such as coaching, mentoring, volunteering, etc., automatically qualifies you as nice. 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. Come see us on the road, join our online eventsschedule your interview in Hanover, and keep up with me and Tuck on social media. See you on the recruiting trail, and back here on the blog in September!