Clear Admit Essay Analysis


Dartmouth / Tuck Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

With the release of the 2017-2018 Dartmouth / Tuck MBA essays, we wanted to offer some guidance for applicants targeting the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth for their business school studies.

Tuck has maintained the length of the essay section of its application, once again asking for two essays of approximately 500 words each.  New applicants are also given the space to address any weaknesses in their application while re-applicants need to explain their recent growth.  In regards to content, Tuck has revived its focus on the MBA being a “critical next step” to one’s goals and expanded upon the theme of wisdom.

Dartmouth / Tuck Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Let’s take a closer look at each of this season’s Dartmouth / Tuck essay questions:

Essay 1

What are your short and long-term goals? Why is an MBA a critical next step toward achieving those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically? (500 words)

This is a fairly straightforward career goals essay, asking applicants to explain their post-MBA career objectives, how an MBA would support these plans and why Tuck specifically meets those needs.

First, applicants should explain the specifics of their post-MBA plans.  Establishing your long-term vision first would lend meaning to your short-term plans, as it can help the reader to know your destination before the path.  So, explain your broader 5-10 year plan, even going beyond the “what” and the “where” to the “why”—in other words, the impact you hope to make on an organization, sector, consumer base, or region. Then, applicants should outline their short-term plans very specifically, including both the position the candidate hopes to hold immediately after an MBA, along with 1-2 companies one plans to target. This short-term goal should lead naturally to the long term.

In regards to how an MBA would help you achieve your goals, it would make sense to briefly comment on your work experience to date to establish the skills you already possess; this sets up the gap in your skill set that an MBA would fill.  This phase of your discussion should describe the skills and knowledge you hope to gain from an MBA with an eye to your future plans. Forging specific connections between the skills you hope to gain (whether in class or outside of it) and your future plans will show the adcom that you have a sound understanding of how an MBA will prepare you for success.

In addition to discussing the ways the Tuck MBA would prepare you to accomplish your professional goals, it will also be important to comment on the ways that you would contribute to the learning experience of your fellow students. Navigating this issue will require a fair amount of research, as it will be important to identify features of the MBA program that are a good fit with one’s goals, background and/or interests. Discussing some focused ways that your skills and experiences would positively affect this close-knit community (in a modest manner, of course) is key to your response here, since the Tuck adcom also looks for applicants who will change the program for the better. Taking the time to learn about the school’s special programs and extracurricular activities–whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Tuck–will naturally pay dividends here.

Essay 2

Tuck’s mission is to educate wise leaders to better the world of business. Wisdom encompasses the essential aptitudes of confident humility, about what one does and does not know; empathy, towards the diverse ideas and experiences of others; and judgment, about when and how to take risks for the better.

With Tuck’s mission in mind, and with a focus on confident humility, tell us about a time you:

  • received tough feedback,
  • experienced failure, or
  • disappointed yourself or others.

How did you respond, and what did you learn about yourself as a result? (500 words)

This prompt presents applicants with a range of experiences they might discuss and we recommend that applicants begin by reflecting on their honest answer to each of the three options. While you may naturally gravitate toward one of them, generating at least two potential topics for each and then evaluating strategically will help you hone in on your best option in light of the following. Be sure to consider your broader application content (what will be tackled in the first essay, your recommendations, résumé, and data forms) and choose a story that is a good fit in terms of your overall candidate positioning.

Once you’ve got your list of examples, we recommend that you cross-reference each with the aptitudes that Tuck outlines. With the expansion on the mission of wise leaders this year, the adcom has signaled that fit with the program’s values is very important to them, so this should take priority in your topic selection. That is, handling feedback with humility or learning how to better assess risk in light of a failure will be better choices than touting an experience that isn’t a fit with Tuck’s definition of wisdom. Select the experience that feels truest to you while also allowing you to demonstrate that you’re the kind of student Tuck wants to admit.

In responding to the second part of the prompt, the anecdote will need to be balanced with a more reflective discussion of one’s own thought process and, in the end, personal development.  We encourage all applicants to maintain a positive tone, selecting some areas for improvement on which they have already made some demonstrable progress.  The point of this essay is to show Tuck wisdom–that you demonstrate confident humility, empathy and judgment as well as provide insight into your own leadership abilities and motivation to improve these skills.

Optional Essay

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. (500 word limit encouraged)
The admissions committee provides some clear guidance about “allowable” topics for this response, indicating that it will be best used to address liabilities in one’s application. It’s possible that there are other elements of one’s background that would be appropriate and not covered elsewhere in one’s application, for example an anticipated promotion or an element of one’s identity not covered in the program’s data forms, though the wording of this prompt suggests that it should be used sparingly, with applicants making an effort to fully represent their candidacies within the required elements of the application.

Reapplicant Essay

How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally. (500 word limit encouraged, to be completed by all reapplicants)
This response asks repeat applicants to comment on outward steps they have taken to enhance their applications–for example, retaking the GMAT, asking for more responsibility at work, or stepping up their involvement in a community organization)–while also providing some more introspective commentary on how they’ve grown since they first applied to Tuck. Reapplicants will, therefore, want to offer a balance of commentary in this essay, remarking on how they’ve proactively taken measures to become a stronger applicant, as well as on how their skills, career goals, and if applicable, appreciation of the Tuck MBA, have evolved in recent months.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Tuck MBA essay topics. As you work on your Tuck MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Dartmouth offerings:

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Application Tips, Essay Topic Analysis, Essays

Schools: Dartmouth / Tuck

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Berkeley / Haas MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Now that the Haas MBA essay topics have been announced for the 2017-2018 season, we wanted to offer our thoughts on how to approach each of these prompts for business school applicants targeting the UC Berkeley MBA Class of 2020.

The Haas admissions website notes that the adcom seeks “candidates from a broad range of industries, backgrounds, and cultures. Our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles – Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. We encourage you to reflect on your experiences, values, and passions so that you may craft thoughtful and authentic responses that demonstrate your fit with our program – culturally, academically, and professionally.”

Berkeley / Haas MBA Essay Question Analysis 2017-2018

Let’s take a closer look at each prompt.

Essay 1

Tell us a six-word story that reflects a memorable experience in your life-to-date. Elaborate on why it is meaningful to you. (250 words maximum)

Tip: A successful six-word story will pique the reader’s interest in the forthcoming explanation. Together, the story and explanation will share a specific and personal experience that helps the reader get to know you better, giving insight into your character, values, or how you would uniquely contribute to the Berkeley-Haas community. View sample six-word stories and video tips from the admissions committee.

Dispensing with their longstanding request for a representative song, Haas instead asks applicants for essentially a “snapshot” of a memorable experience.  Given the structure of the response—six words followed by a short explanation—we suggest taking the following approach.

  1. Choose the story.  This ideally needs to be something interesting that will be memorable to the admissions team.  In an ideal world, the story will fit with your overall positioning as an MBA applicant seeking to attend Haas, too. You may start by making a list of your top 10 most memorable experiences, then reflecting on what each reflects about your character or values. Consider what you want the adcom to know about you the most.
  2. Draft the 250 words to explain why this was an important experience. This will also need to provide context for the six words you come up with. This is the place to establish the who, what, when and where for the six-word statement.  Then, you should dig into why the experience mattered to you.
  3. Craft the six-word story, which could be considered a “headline.”  The words have to offer enough of a sketch to really pique the interest of the reader, but some ambiguity can be a good thing (after all, you want to push the adcom to read the 250 words). It would be worth reviewing the adcom’s personal samples, as some convey an overall lesson or attitude drawn from the memorable experience, while others draw on more concrete imagery. You may even wish to send just the six words to a friend or colleague and ask them for their reaction—do the six words capture the mood of your experience? Is the person intrigued or confused?  This may help you gauge how to tweak the headline.

Essay 2

Respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words maximum)

  • Describe a significant obstacle you have encountered and how it has impacted you.
  • Describe how you have cultivated a diverse and inclusive culture.
  • Describe a leadership experience and how you made a positive and lasting impact.

Tip: Responses can draw from professional or personal experiences. Through your response, the admissions committee hopes to gain insight into your achievements, involvement, and leadership footprint.
This prompt presents applicants with a range of experiences they might discuss: a challenge that yielded a significant paradigm shift, a team building situation based on diversity, or action that led to long-term positive results. We recommend that applicants begin by reflecting on their honest answer to each of the three options. While you may naturally gravitate toward one of them, generating at least two potential topics for each and then evaluating strategically will help you hone in on your best option in light of our next piece of advice.

Once you’ve got your list of examples, we recommend that you cross-reference each with (you guessed it) the four Haas principles. The adcom has signaled that fit with the program’s values is very important to them, so this should take priority in your topic selection. That is, facing an obstacle that required Questioning the Status Quo or entailed Confidence without Attitude will be a better choice than touting an experience that isn’t a fit with any of the four Haas values. Select the experience that feels truest to you while also allowing you to demonstrate that you’re the kind of student Haas wants to admit.

After you’ve identified your topic, you’re in for another challenge: distilling all of the relevant context for your story and an account of your actions in just 250 words. Effective responses will provide the essential who, what, when, and where of the situation in just 1-2 sentences, establishing all of the relevant players and what was at stake for you (and other important stakeholders). You’ll then want to comment on your actions and the outcome with comparable brevity before moving into the why or how of your chosen prompt. Applicants should aim to spend at least one-third of the essay commenting on what the experience meant to them and/or how they have grown as a result. And, space permitting, it would be a nice touch to end with a remark about how this experience has positioned them to make an impact on the Haas community and/or their chosen post-MBA industry or sector.

Essay 3

  1. Briefly describe your immediate post-MBA career goals. (50 words maximum)
  2. How have prior experiences motivated and prepared you to pursue these goals? (250 words maximum)

Tip: You are encouraged to reflect on both what you want to do professionally after business school and why this path interests you.
This is a fairly standard career goals essay, requesting one’s post-MBA plans and how they are a culmination of one’s experiences and interests.  Given the order of the prompts, applicants should open this essay by describing their plans upon graduating from Haas.  Due to the short length, the response should be concise in covering the particular role and responsibilities you are interested in.

Regarding prior experiences, rather than offering a chronological account of each of one’s previous jobs here, it’s likely a better strategy to capture one’s “path to business school” by commenting more broadly on industry and functional experiences, and zeroing in on projects or interactions that sparked one’s interest in one’s post-MBA plans. Candidates should use their best judgment (with an eye to the word limit) here.

Either way, the discussion of one’s path up to this point should lead logically to your future plans. If space permits, applicants should give the adcom a sense of what they want to do and what they hope to accomplish with their careers in the long term. The adcom will be interested in hearing applicants explain the reason they’ve chosen this path, with a particular emphasis on the impact they hope to make on an organization, sector, or region.

Because Haas ends its essay section with the career goals essay, this response will be the culmination of one’s message to the adcom. Applicants may therefore wish to close their response by tying together the themes and Haas principles that they’ve introduced in their other responses, and end on a note of enthusiasm about the program.

Optional Essay

Use this essay to share information that is not presented elsewhere in the application, for example:

  • Explanation of employment gaps or academic aberrations
  • Quantitative abilities
  • For re-applicants, improvements to your candidacy

New applicants should exercise discretion when responding to this prompt, as providing an optional essay creates extra work for the admissions reader. This will be a good place to address extenuating circumstances that have influenced one’s academic or professional history, to address weaknesses in one’s application, or to explain an unusual choice of recommender. The wording of this question is open enough that applicants may also choose to discuss an element of their background that is not reflected in their other materials (including data forms and résumé), though they will need to demonstrate sound judgment in doing so – i.e. the nature of the content should be such that it makes a material difference to one’s application – and should summarize the information as concisely as possible.

Meanwhile, re-applicants should seize this opportunity to cover developments in their candidacy that have not been covered in the previous essays. This response should be fairly action-oriented, with a focus on describing the steps that one has taken to become a stronger applicant to Haas since being denied, as well as the results of these efforts in terms of new knowledge and strengthened skills. This also poses an opportunity to demonstrate an enhanced familiarity with and commitment to Haas’s MBA program.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Haas MBA essay topics. As you work on your Haas MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Haas School of Business offerings:

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Essay Tips & Advice, Essay Topic Analysis, Essays

Schools: Berkeley / Haas

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