Posted on May 19, 2012

Tuck Essay Questions Analysis: 2011-2012

Essay 1: Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA program for you? (If you are applying for a joint or dual degree, please explain how the additional degree will contribute to those goals.)

This is a typical ‘goals’ question that requires you to make a realistic connection between your past (experience and skills), present (your need for an MBA), and future (your future plans leading to your goals). In other words, you need to demonstrate how your professional accomplishments have enabled you to set your goals and how an MBA is the logical next step towards the realization of those goals/ objectives. Remember, earning an MBA is just one piece of your career puzzle, and you want to prove to the admissions committee that you understand where it fits in the grand scheme of things. Be specific about why you feel now is the time for you to learn the required skills with an MBA to move ahead on your career path. Also, please make sure that there is a convincing connection between your short-term and long-term goals.

Example: "In my work experiences, I never had the opportunity to look into acquisitions, which is one of the most interesting aspects of my current job. (Why MBA?) After gaining insight into the area and getting first-hand experience from start to finish, becoming the Finance leader within Corporate Strategy and Development is where I see myself in the next few years (Long-term and short-term goals). To reach these goals, I believe, I must supplement my current education and work experience with a top-notch graduate business education".

After answering the first part of the question (Why MBA?) it is important to answer the second part of the question i.e. 'Why Tuck'? Please research thoroughly Tucks resources (academic programs, classes, professors, statistics, social life, and clubs, etc.) in order for you to explain well which ones would match your needs and help you achieve your goals.

Essay 2:  Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?

When brainstorming ideas/ experiences for this essay, keep in mind the keywords "meaningful leadership experience'. This means your story may not have yielded amazing quantifiable results, but it should have challenged you enough to put in your best efforts. You should choose a story that was an enormous learning experience for a you-a story that made you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Do not hesitate in sharing your weakness that came out of that experience. The key here is that you have learned useful lessons from that experience which you applied later in your life and career.

Your story should have a four-part structure- the challenge, the action, the outcome, and the significance. Remember, that Tuck expects you to emphasize more on the last part, that is, why that experience is meaningful to you.

Example: "This experience is meaningful to me because it revealed to me my strength in communicating my vision to the team and keeping them focused on our objective. Indeed, a shared vision is essential to motivate a volunteer team to take a risk and perform beyond expectations......... I, however, recognize that I need to develop a confident and assertive leadership style."

Essay 3: Describe a circumstance in your life in which you faced adversity, failure, or setback. What actions did you take as a result and what did you learn from this experience?

Tuck wants to know about a time when you experienced adversity, failure, or a setback.  Through adversity/ setback question Business Schools (Harvard, Michigan, Ross, UC Berkeley, Haas, and now Tuck), want to know how their prospective candidates would deal with the challenges of life and grow from them.

When choosing your setbacks/ failure story, please keep in mind that you should discuss challenges that were not necessarily of your doing. For example, getting laid off from your company because of the crumbling economy is your setback, not your fault. You may also choose an experience when the success seemed to be guaranteed, but suddenly things started getting worse, and you had to face failure despite sincerest efforts on your part. Still, the experience taught you important lessons that you later used in your professional/ personal life. The most important part of your story should be to explain how the experience impacted you, what you learned from it, and how you applied that lesson later to improve yourself.

Example: "This experience was a huge blow to my self-confidence, but it taught me two great lessons: being assertive when required and allocating responsibilities to all. Later, when I faced a similar situation, I did not hesitate to escalate it, and this time the overall result was much positive. Thus, this setback taught me valuable team-working skills that I am now practicing successfully."

Like the leadership story, your setback story should also have a four-part structure- the challenge, the action, the outcome, and the significance, the significance being the most important component.

Essay 4:  Tuck seeks candidates of various backgrounds who can bring new perspectives to our community. How will your unique personal history, values, and/or life experiences contribute to the culture at Tuck?

The purpose of this essay should be to accomplish the following three things:

  1. Showcase your uniqueness
  2. Discuss the factors that have contributed to your unique personality i.e. family, personal values/ beliefs, your work experience, and your hobbies
  3. Demonstrate how your unique personality will enhance Tuck.

In order to achieve this, you should select 2-3 significant themes from your experiences/background that showcase your greatest community and personal strengths and then tie those stories back to Tuck to show how you will contribute to  Tuck in a variety of areas for example, in the classroom, study teams, clubs, research centers, courses, conferences, competitions,  and the community.

Thus, this essay provides you an opportunity to highlight your most impressive attributes as well as your knowledge of the school's resources. Your story should convince the Ad com about the connections between your profile and the specific resources of Tuck's program.

Example: "All these experiences have shaped what I am today, and I believe my personal values of tolerance, determination, and tenacity, combined with my professional attributes such as leadership and team working skills will reinforce the values of Tuck community. Furthermore, I will let the adventurous and inquisitive child inside me explore areas surrounding the upper valley through Tuck Outdoor Club. At Tuck, I am not seeking a mere MBA, but a lifetime bonding with fellow students and professors that will extend beyond the classroom."

Essay 5: Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application. (Optional)

Harvard's optional essay question prompt is, “Answer a question you wish we’d asked", and Booth’s question is, “Considering what you've already included in the application, what else we should know about you? In a maximum of four slides, tell us about yourself.” Instead of giving you a free leeway of telling what else you want to say about yourself, Tuck’s essay question provides you specific guidelines on how you can address certain weak areas in your profile (e.g. unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.)

Whatever your problem area is, make sure your reason is genuine to convince them that this weakness (low grades, job gaps, etc.) occurred due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. Also, keep in mind that your story should not only explain that particular weakness in your profile but also showcase your other strong personality traits that came through during that period. In other words, your response should be positive and should not sound like you are making excuses for a weakness in your profile.

Example: “Continuing this strenuous tutoring job for the entire four years of my undergraduate studies resulted in pulling down my grades to 70%. However, the tutoring experience benefited me in two ways. It not only  reinforced my  passion  for teaching ( I still find  10 hours/ week to teach my home maid’s children) but also provided me the satisfaction of being a dutiful son."

The second part of the essay prompt says, “Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.” This implies that you may also use this question as an opportunity to cover those important themes that you did not get a chance to do in other essays. For example, if you have significant extracurricular accomplishments (sports, music, writing, painting, etc.) or a community welfare activity that you initiated or led, you should share those stories.

Secondly, if you feel you have covered all aspects of your personality in other essays but would like to elaborate /re-emphasize the most significant of them in detail, here is your opportunity to do that. For example, if you have an amazing example of your ability to take initiative or to think outside the box or exceptional work ethic, but could not describe it in detail in other essays because you had a lot of other ground to cover in a limited space, it is a good idea to provide details of that particular story here.

Lastly, make sure that your response to this question should tie back to your overall story, so it does not look like a patchwork. For example, if you are telling a story of your passion/ interest in sports and there is absolutely no clue about this passion of yours in your other essays, it may not be a convincing and persuasive read for the Ad Com.

Most importantly, please make sure that all five essays should read like 4-5 different chapters of your unique story rather than solitary pieces.

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.