Tuck student working on her laptop
Jun 28, 2021

Tuck Admissions Insights: 2021-2022 Application Essays

Patricia Harrison

By Patricia Harrison
Co-Executive Director, Admissions and Financial Aid

There are many sources of advice and essay guidance from various influencers and websites. My colleagues and I, though, want you to hear insights directly from those of us who are reading and evaluating your essays. So I’m writing here to offer you transparency into our essays which, when done well, are both challenging and rewarding to write.

Before diving into each essay, some relevant context: as with every component of your application, each of the three essays map directly to our criteria: smart, accomplished, aware, and encouraging. Each essay prompt opens with a framing sentence that articulates the connection to the relevant criterion, followed by the essay question itself. You enter each essay into a text box field in the application, which means the 300-word count is a firm limit.

Essay Question #1: "Tuck students can articulate how the distinctive Tuck MBA will advance their aspirations. Why are you pursuing an MBA and why Tuck?"

This essay maps to our “aware” criterion, so before you start reflecting and writing, review what being aware, ambitious, and purposeful means at Tuck. Once you’ve done so, recognize that there are two important considerations here. First, your aspirations matter. You’ve shared elsewhere in the application your short- and long-term goals, which we hope are both audacious in scope and grounded in reality. Second, the distinctions you see in the Tuck MBA matter. Take the necessary time and effort to identify what about an MBA, and especially the Tuck MBA, aligns with your goals.

The question itself has two parts. We hope you’ll devote roughly half the essay to why an MBA is right for you, and the other half to why Tuck is right for you. To the former question: explain why, given the various paths for growth and development, you’ve chosen to pursue the MBA degree. If you come from a professional or personal background where pursuing an MBA is common, or an MBA is a common step towards your goals , keep in mind that your background or goals don’t answer the question for you. Instead, demonstrate that you’ve given real thought to the value of an MBA for you beyond simply walking a well-worn path. Conversely, if an MBA is less common for your background or your goals, take this opportunity to “connect the dots.” We believe that an MBA can add value for a diverse population across a variety of professional pursuits. We read with optimism that you have thought carefully and can express how it adds value to yours.

To the latter question: explain why, given the number of strong MBA programs, you are applying to Tuck. The key distinction here is the difference between loving Tuck and knowing Tuck. You need a clear-headed awareness about how Tuck uniquely advances you towards your goals, and that requires knowledge of the alignment between what Tuck offers and what you want. Instead of focusing on how much you want a Tuck MBA, tell us instead about how well Tuck aligns with your goals. The strongest essays are ones where the reader cannot simply replace the word "Tuck" with any other school name without the essay losing its meaning. Sometimes we see candidates include a list of names of all the Tuckies they have connected with. We are excited that you are seeking out members of our community to learn about the Tuck experience, but rather than focusing on who you have spoken with, the stronger essay will instead reflect directly on what you have learned from those conversations and how it relates to your goals.

One other quick note: since you’ve stated your short- and long-term goals elsewhere, you don’t need to restate them here. We read each application in its entirety, so you can assume the person reading your application has already seen your goals before reading your essay. Some of you may choose to use this essay to elaborate on goals, while others might make your case for an MBA and Tuck without explicitly referencing your goals. Either way, consider this essay a supplement to your goals rather than a recitation.

In summary: a strong response will go beyond generic responses, applicable for any MBA program or any Tuck applicant, and will instead provide a clear, highly personalized articulation of the match between you and Tuck.

Essay Question #2: “Tuck students recognize how their individuality adds to the fabric of Tuck. Tell us who you are.”

Like the first essay, this second essay also maps to our “aware” criterion. There’s another important cue here: the interplay between individuality and community. Some of you have asked us whether your response should show that you “fit in” with Tuck or should instead highlight that you are different and distinct. They’re not mutually exclusive. We want you to confidently bring your whole unique personal self, including your strengths and growth areas, to Tuck. We also hope you appreciate how this extraordinary community is a tapestry of the collective individuals therein and adding to it means choosing to consistently engage.

This prompt is an invitation to articulate your individuality, and we’re excited to read your response. In alignment with Tuck’s core values of being personal, connected, and transformative, we strive to get to know our candidates well, and this is another deliberate step to learn more about you. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this question is that there’s no one right answer, or even a right category of answers. We’re expecting responses that are as diverse and wide-ranging as our students. Maybe you define who you are most strongly through your professional experiences and aspirations. Or perhaps your sense of self is rooted in personal values that may or may not have anything to do with your professional work. Maybe a community of importance, a culture, or specific relationships shape who you are. The heart of this question is about your identity, and the strongest responses will reveal the clarity and depth of your reflection.

This essay prompt focuses on the person who will show up here rather than the things you will do here. Given the framing statement preceding the question, we expect some of you may choose to explicitly name aspects of Tuck where you will add. That’s okay, but the true heart of this essay is your individuality rather than a list of classes and clubs of interest. In fact, a strong essay does not necessarily have to mention Tuck at all; you may be able to convey who you are in ways that implicitly but powerfully illuminate what you bring.

In summary: we hope your response is honest, revealing, and deeply personal—one you and only you could have written!

Essay Question #3: “Tuck students are encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic, even when it is not convenient or easy. Describe a meaningful experience in which you exemplified one or more of these attributes.”

This essay maps directly to our “encouraging” criterion, so we suggest that you review what it means at Tuck to be encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic. 

You have likely noticed that this is a new essay prompt. We broadened the question to give you greater flexibility in how you demonstrate evidence of this criterion. Some of you may choose to highlight how you invested in someone else and helped them succeed. Others might choose to focus on empathy and your engagement with the diverse experiences or perspectives of someone else. While some others might share an example of when you had to challenge others thoughtfully. Whatever approach you choose, we are excited to learn about how you engage with and support others.

Note that we’re asking you to tell one specific, discrete story rather than offer general reflections or a collection of stories. The 300-word count is brief, so you’ll have to use good judgment about the level of situational detail to provide. Give just enough context to set the stakes while leaving yourself enough space to focus on what you did and what outcome you achieved. Tell a story that focuses on your engagement with one other person, or perhaps a very small group, conveying the richness and depth of interpersonal interactions. Here too, we expect a breadth of responses as diverse as the fabric of Tuck. Maybe you have an example that meaningfully ties all three attributes together. Or perhaps you are excited to share about an experience that deeply touches on just one of these attributes. Your story will not be made more or less powerful by focusing on one attribute or all three. What matters most is the depth of experience and its meaning to you.

While you may choose to focus on collaboration, we hope that your response will go beyond simply a tactical description of teamwork. We are interested in the interpersonal relationships you built, highlighting your emotional intelligence. Likewise, we hope to see that your interactions and empathy are not routine, common, or entirely expected. The emphasis on “even when not convenient or easy” is intentional. Your example should be more than doing something that would be expected of anyone in your situation.

In summary: a strong response will focus on a meaningful engagement with another person or small group, go beyond what’s expected, routine, or common, and highlight one or more attributes of our encouraging criterion.

As always, my Admissions colleagues and I are happy to be accessible, responsive, and helpful if you have any questions about your essays or any other part of your Tuck application. Happy writing—we look forward to getting to know more about you through your essays!

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