When Tuck’s MBA essay questions came out last year, at the beginning of the admissions cycle, we thought they were kinda awesome. They were novel. They were focused on Tuck’s culture.
And then we started trying to support BSers in writing their apps for Tuck.
And that’s what inspired this:
Wish we didn't have to say this but…. The @TuckSchool essays this year kinda suck. ☹️They are REALLY hard for applicants to execute on well. Tuck has always been a school that gave applicants a chance to share themselves. That doesn't feel like it's happening much this year.
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) January 3, 2019
By the end of the admissions season, we were hoping and praying that Tuck would be making changes to their app. And they did! They actually implemented quite a few applicant-friendly switcheroos, including moving their Round 1 deadline out, and putting it on a Monday which seems like it would benefit all the scramblers (though it may cause stress for those who run into problems and want to talk to someone in admissions over the weekend while trying to put their apps together).
Anyway, Tuck this year has nearly the same questions as last year, though they did modify them somewhat in terms of just making them slightly more clear and simplifying the way they’re presented to you and what they’re asking for. For example, they have an actual prompt for Essay 1 on “why Tuck” instead of an extremely difficult combination of short-answer questions that essentially asked for the same thing.
And they did make one specific change…. They reduced the word count to 300 words each.
That’s three essays. Three hundred words each. Nine hundred words total.
Can you say “Ugh”??
(Don’t worry, we won’t be changing our name to MathematicsSnark anytime soon – that’s about the extent of our skillz in this area.)
We’ve now published our SnarkStrategies Guide for Tuck for the year to help you get started, and we do still like the questions themselves — but darn it, 300 words is short!! We’re not sure how you folks are gonna do with this, based on what makes for a standout essay. Yes it’s possible to do what they’re asking for within these paltry 900 words, but it won’t be easy. Nope, not at all.
Oh wait! Yes we do know how you’ll do it! We’ve included an entire methodology to walk you step by step in a structured process of ideation, evaluation, and development of topics within this year’s Tuck guide. Because you’re gonna be pulling your hair out.
Here’s some additional commentary about the essays themselves that we are not including in the essay guide. We’re posting them here today so that everyone can get a sense of the types of things we tend to talk about. Hopefully this type of preview content will help you both figuring out your Tuck content, and also getting some ideas for whether you want to pick up this or any of our other essay guides or not. (Also, wanted to mention a weird issue on our site – when you hover the Strategy Guides menu, then hover the School Specific MBA Application Guides, apparently on the Chrome browser especially, it doesn’t let you scroll to the bottom of the list of guides that are supposed to be displayed in that submenu. We’ve got it kludged now to hopefully let you see the full list. If you are having trouble navigating that way, you can just click on the topmost Strategy Guides menu and it’ll take you to a one-stop-shopping page that lists all available titles in our bookstore. Sorry for any troubles! We’re looking for another way to display this stuff to you all.)
Pro Tip: When you come up with an idea for your essay — any essay, not just one for Tuck — you’ll want to step back and evaluate what value it’s bringing in the overall context of the application. Sometimes we get a story in, say, Tuck Essay 2 that asks you to share how you are, and it delivers a message of teamwork. And we say “Hmm.” Does that really hit on the exact question that the adcom is asking? Or even if it is, is this the best place to be using that story?
As a reminder, Tuck Essay 2 is:
Tuck students recognize how their individuality adds to the fabric of Tuck. Tell us who you are.
Here’s what we wrote to a Brave Supplicant last year in an Essay Decimator critique when we perceived that issue surfacing in their Tuck materials:
The entire story in this essay is only reinforcing the same exact message that the reader will get when they pick up the resume. It does nothing to go beyond what you’re already conveying to them on that single page. Sure, you could (potentially) be demonstrating key skills or actual strengths if (BIG IF) the accomplishment stories were well executed. But this question is an invitation to go beyond the professional realm, so that’s not even the first objective to be met with what you choose to present. Leaving gobs of money on the table with this. The Tuck adcom cares about culture and wants to meet its candidates as people. That’s the whole point of this question.The content here could potentially work in some form or fashion (with proper execution) in some MBA essay somewhere. But why is it HERE? What purpose is each story intended to serve in support of THIS essay?
These Tuck essays are so direct that they might fool you. What we’ve suggested before and will say it again: ANSWER THE QUESTION.
Here’s the prompt for Tuck Essay 2: WHO ARE YOU?
What is the answer?
It’s a simple assignment. Don’t overthink it. Who are you?
Write down a handful of words – nouns or adjectives.
As an example: “Guy who works in consulting” is not who are you. Or, maybe it is, but not the entirety of that – and as a strategic exercise, limiting all content to ONLY that is really not serving you here. Especially not for Tuck.
What will likely need to happen for 99% of you is, you’ll write gobs and gobs of stuff, and you’ll end up throwing it away. There may not be another way to do it. When the essays are so short, they force you to focus, and almost definitely, your first ideas will be crap.
That’s why it’s so awesome that you’re here now, thinking about essays, thinking about getting started. (You are thinking about getting started, right?) You’ll need to dig, and dig, and dig some more before the good stuff starts to come out.
The Tuck essays for the Class of 2022 are streamlined in terms of the question, but they also streamlined them in terms of how much you can say in response — yet there’s a lot you’ll need to include. Which means there will be longer first drafts, and maybe starting over with a new set of first drafts that are still long, and then finally you’ll start to find the actual answer that will work for you percolating up from the depths. And then you’ll be able to focus and trim and find the real essence of what you want to say.
It’s gonna be a process, BSer.
We love Tuck. Total fave around here. We’re not so crazy about these too-short essays. It’s gonna be a tall order to do well. Cutting your teeth on some other school probably makes sense, given the constraints of these Tuck requirements. Once you get the hang of presenting your stories in a different school’s app, then these will not be as daunting.
Want more insights and a fuller discussion of what needs to go into these answers for Tuck?