Essays Sac Ruck

My father—from whom I have inherited all my introvert DNA—is visiting me and my two daughters. He lives in Philadelphia; we live in western Massachusetts. His eyes are not good. He is 71 with various health problems he’d rather not discuss. But every few months he makes the drive—a good five hours and change—to spend time with me and his granddaughters. He always brings me a bag of soft pretzels, my favorite.


It should be noted that my father rarely spends time with anyone these days. His best friend died suddenly last year, and he’s never had the stomach for parties or crowds. He is a complete and utter introvert with a brilliant, sardonic mathematician’s mind. He prefers his people wedged in the pages of the thousands of books he reads, or onstage—in the characters he sometimes plays in local theatres. Real-life people and their various follies and dramas exhaust him.

A week with his daughter and granddaughters is a lot of togetherness. At 44, nearly 14, and 11, we three are a lively household, full of frank, spur-of-the-moment discussions about menstrual cups, neo-feminism, and various gender issues. We’re a lot to handle, even for extroverted family and friends. His willingness to immerse himself in our raucous life every few months moves me deeply.

And then, of course, there is the issue of the camera. I often trail my introvert dad when he visits, snapping photos. I can’t help myself; he has a great face. He’s no Robert Redford or Paul Newman—my father is pure character actor, his face a craggy terrain of stunning contradictions. Friendly, yet aloof. Patrician, yet hardscrabble. Dignified, yet always ready with a joke.

He might tell you he is a curmudgeon. I wouldn’t disagree. He is not an easy man. He never has been. He dislikes talking too much about his childhood. He doesn’t have to. In nearly all of his childhood photos, he looks anxious, lost, and angry.

During this visit, the photographs I’ve taken of him aren’t working for me. I want to see more of who he is. As I sift through the images I’ve taken during this visit—Dad at the coffee shop, Dad at the sushi place, Dad petting a local goat—Hattie idly asks me if we can bake cupcakes this weekend.

Flour, I think.

I find him in the kitchen, pouring a glass of wine.

“Hey, Dad,” I say. “Would you let me take pictures of the girls throwing baking flour at you?

He gives me The Look, his epically bushy eyebrows knitting together behind his wire-rimmed glasses, a slight scowl touching his thin lips.

“I’m assuming no eyeglasses?” is—miraculously—all he says.

“I think no glasses,” I reply.

“What exactly does one wear to such an event?”

“Something dark,” I say.

Later that evening, he dons a black sweatshirt given to him by his late friend, then sits cautiously on the love seat I have prepped with a white quilt. The girls join him.

“Why flour?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I answer. “It’s just something I wanted to try.”

I can see the look in his eyes as we begin: he’s wary. Guarded. I am right in his face with the camera. It’s an introvert’s nightmare, almost as fun as going to the dentist or having to make small talk on an airplane. Meanwhile, the girls are giddy, poised with a bowl of baking flour.

“Ready?” I ask everyone.

“But what do you want me to do exactly?” he says with a trace of irritation, a touch of his usual defensiveness.

“Just look at the camera,” I say. “No matter what. And then, when you don’t want to… Don’t. Okay?”

“Okay,” he says.

I cue the girls. “Go.”

The flour begins to fly. The first handful hits the side of his head and whitens his hair. Sophie, the elder, refuses to have flour tossed at her, but Hattie welcomes the opportunity to turn alabaster with her grandfather.

Sophie rains flour upon their heads. Very soon, Dad and Hattie are living statues. Hattie laughs, and my father exhales and smiles.

This, I realize, is what I have been waiting to see, waiting to capture. My father, no longer holding his breath.

Now all three of them are laughing, rubbing flour into each other’s hair, tossing handfuls like fairy dust. I snap and watch him simply be. He follows the lead of Hattie the extrovert—mugging, then trying to keep a straight face, which leads to more hilarity.

He is playing. For a half hour, we are all playing, in a way we have not played together before. It is absurd and beautiful.

Then my father is finished with the project. He stands and brushes himself off. An introvert knows his limits, after all. He heads upstairs to shower, leaving white footprints on the worn wooden stairs.

I reach for a broom to sweep away his powdery trail, then pause. I stare at the shape of his footprints on the wood for a few moments. I think: Remember this particular mess. 

Later, before bed, I show him a few of my favorite shots.

He chuckles, clearly delighted by the results.

“You’re something else,” he says.


Hello there dear Tuck candidates!

Admissionado back once again with fresh, off-the-shelves essay analyses for Tuck's 2017 application! We wanted to jump in and give you a head-start on those essays questions. Jog that imagination, and give you a few tips and tricks to get started on your Tuck essays to get you started on the best foot this year. Soooooo, without further ado:

Dartmouth Tuck School of Business MBA 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)


Sorry to say, but this is a bog standard MBA application essay: Give us your goals, explain why you need an MBA (and why you need it now) and finally, of all the programs out there, why Tuck specifically? Even the word count is standard. No real need to overthink this one, folks. Perhaps the best way to examine each piece is simply to dive into a template for how you may want to approach your first draft. That’ll give you some clay to mold, and the rest is easy.

Part 1 – Short-Term/Long-Term Goals

Before we get specific here, let’s take a giant step back first.

Is there a status quo out there you’re itching to disrupt? Is something broken somewhere that you’d like to fix? Has the stage been set somewhere for something incredible to happen, and it’s just waiting for a visionary leader to make it happen? If you have an answer to one or more of these questions, great! But not all “important” businessmen and businesswomen graduate with MBAs and then “change the world by themselves.” Goals can be much humbler, much simpler. The common ingredient between the Steve Jobses of the world as well as the VP of a family business somewhere in Luxembourg that no one has ever heard about is SUCCESS.

Business schools like success. Love, actually. Better to pitch INEVITABLE success on a small idea than QUESTIONABLE success on a game-changer. Keep that in mind as you’re setting up the problem or opportunity – get the reader’s buy-in on a cool opportunity, or problem that needs solving, and then deliver the knockout blow when you then make a convincing case that YOU’RE THE PERSON to step into the role of SOLVING that issue.

Once you have those pieces dialed in, now you can start to structure it. Generally, we like the following mini-structure of this opening section:

Step 1 – Establish the Problem/Opportunity

Open by throwing us into the problem that needs fixing, or the opportunity that needs exploiting. Like, throw us into the weeds, deep. Such that we’re in it, can taste it, feel it. Make it so that we develop the same ITCH you have to FIX it, or CAPITALIZE on it, whatever the case.

Then, explain very loosely, and at a very high level, what your overall goal is. Don’t give us your full-length long-term goals just yet. This is just the one-liner version to give us a nice frame for where things are headed.

Step 2 – Short-Term Battle Plan

Now, walk us through your short-term goals. This should read like a military battle plan. Precise, efficient, utterly logical; one step leads sensibly to the next. Again, the goal itself is less important than convincing the reader you have (1) thought it through, and (2) have developed an utterly logical plan of attack, that therefore (3) seems achievable. (Bonus points for contingency plans should things not go according to plan.)

Step 3 – Long-Term Impact/The Result of Your Success

Let this naturally segue into where it’s headed several years from now, the Long-Term vision. Less important is the job you want ten years from now. More important is what you hope to achieve by achieving. In other words, what happens to OTHERS if you succeed at your long-term goals? Is an industry impacted? Are people? What’s the EFFECT of it? Sell us on why THAT ASPECT is meaningful to you.

Part 2 – Why MBA Now?

Walk through a few key ingredients “SOMEONE (anyone)” would need in order to achieve all the things you’ve laid out. What’s necessary? Killer leadership skills? Institutional knowledge of the Oil & Gas industry? Nitty gritty IT skills? Cultural IQ pertaining to Southeast Asia? Experience handling teams greater numbering more than 50? Pick a handful, and simply establish what they are and why they’re important. Then, explain how you ALREADY HAVE… between, say, 60-80% of those things. But at some point… you hit a brick wall. Otherwise, you’d have skipped the whole MBA distraction, no? Something in your skill set/experience/knowledge base/etc. Is MISSING. Reveal what those things are HERE.

This segues perfectly into your argument for why it’s so crucial for you to pursue “an” MBA… now. You’ve done your job when after reading this section, your reader can say nothing other than, “makes perfect sense.” Don’t give us your resume here. Don’t sell us on how great your experiences are. This section is actually MUCH HARDER than you think, because of that temptation. Focus on the stuff you’re missing. That’ll help you throw SOME light on the good stuff you already have in the bag, while keeping you on track to satisfy the real challenge of this section which is “Does this kid GET what an MBA is, and therefore, is he/she the kind of person who will truly add value and absorb while here?”

Part 3 – Why Tuck?

Our favorite conceit here is to imagine receiving admit letters from all top 10 MBA programs. Yes, including Harvard and Wharton and Stanford. Why might you shrug your shoulders at those three, and consider Tuck instead? Why might you, in fact, turn DOWN those other invites, and go here? What is it about Tuck – specifically – that you believe will propel you toward your goals “better” than another program?

Imagine 10 parallel storylines, each one that results from going to Harvard, then Stanford, then Wharton, down the line. Imagine deltas between each one of them, resulting from whatever the differences may be between those programs. Why is the Tuck outcome more appealing to you? Why are your chances of success better when going through Tuck? What’s the secret sauce HERE that gives it an edge, given who you are, given what your goals are, given your strengths/weaknesses, etc.?

If your argument contains reasoning that can be applied to another program, it’s not a great argument. Likewise, if your argument can be applied to any old MBA candidate, but not necessarily to you specifically, not a great argument. The correct reasoning here applies a specific aspect of Tuck that maps specifically to you, specifically. In kind of a specific way. (P.S. Be specific.)

Dartmouth Tuck School of Business MBA 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)

Let’s go through each possibility one by one.

#1 – A time you… received tough feedback

The desirable MBA applicant here is the one who can’t WAIT to tell this story, because each time they tell it, it makes them EXTREMELY HAPPY to think about the time they GOT BETTER as a result of receiving that difficult feedback. As opposed to the story that takes effort to “admit” to, because it “feels uncomfortable to admit/acknowledge,” “feels like a chink in the armor,” etc. People who thirst to get BETTER – whether through successes OR failures – are… applicant GOLD. These are the guys who are focused on OUTCOME, not path.

The key here – before you set pen to paper – is to play this episode in your mind, and try to identify the exact moment when you IMPROVED as a result of the feedback, or the resulting actions. Let that thought STEW for a bit. Get excited about it. Imagine where you would have been without that feedback. Try to wrap your head around the reality that that version of you would have been LESS GOOD than what it is today. Let that depress you! Return to the feedback and THANK THE MAKER you received it because, man oh man, you’re so much improved on account of it. Get clear on it. Now… NOW… start writing.

These prompts benefit most from contrasting before and after pictures. Take your time explaining what your outlook/personality/mindset was like BEFORE you received the tough feedback. Don’t be afraid to sell us on why that was “the correct” outlook at that time. Then, explain whatever it was that led to the feedback. And let the hammer drop. Take a moment here to walk us through what it felt like to receive that feedback. It’s not the right story if the feedback didn’t HURT somehow. It needed to have ruffled you somehow, otherwise it wasn’t “tough feedback.” It needed to have OFFENDED you, felt so incredibly WRONG, bruised your ego, shocked you into realizing a weakness you never knew you had, something. Let that moment be real, it’s okay to expose your brief loss of balance. The realer this part is, the more convincing your upcoming “improvement.”

#2 – A time you… experienced failure.

Similar – in approach – to the first option, when talking about failure, it’s important to OWN it. Take us back to the time when your plan (the one that failed) actually felt correct. Allow yourself to admit to this, fully. It only really works when you come to grips with the fact that “admitting” this will help you come out stronger in the final analysis. Bring us to the point when you continued to be absolutely certain your version of things would work out exactly as you envisioned. Then, take us through things as they started going sideways. Bring us INTO what it felt like to lose control, to watch things slip, to not know how to solve/rescue it. All the way up to the point where the thing ended NOT AT ALL the way you intended it to.

Now comes the part where you admit what you THOUGHT you knew, but (crucially) what you didn’t. When did you learn the reasons behind your failure? One way to suss out these elements is to map out two versions of your episode:

The version that actually happened, the one that failed.
The version where you could have saved by doing XYZ differently.

First of all, what was that XYZ? But more interestingly, when did you discover those things, and what did THAT feel like? What was your experience of “I used to think that Action A would lead to Result X, but now I see that actually Actually B would have been a better path to Result X.” Were you humbled? Frustrated? Excited? Take us through it.

#3 – A time you… disappointed yourself or others.

Same general theme. You thought one way about something, it turned out you were wrong or misguided in some way, and then there were undesirable consequences. This is a particularly interesting one though, because it’s a slight twist on “falling short of expectations” compared to the classic business version of “not hitting some pre-established target.” Imagine you’re responsible for hitting a revenue target, and you miss it by 10%. Sure, your boss or your team may be “disappointed” … “in you” or “by you” and you may be “disappointed in yourself” but they’re not really interested in the 10% delta, or the consequence of that. They’re interested in the choices that led you to pursue a course of action that would later prove “incorrect,” your confidence level during that period, and then what it felt like to learn that that confidence was, in fact, MISGUIDED. That’s ONE version of this. But there’s an even more interesting version…

Same general theme. You thought one way about something, it turned out you were wrong or misguided in some way, and then there were undesirable consequences. This is a particularly interesting one though, because it’s a slight twist on “falling short of expectations” compared to the classic business version of “not hitting some pre-established target.” Imagine you’re responsible for hitting a revenue target, and you miss it by 10%. Sure, your boss or your team may be “disappointed” … “in you” or “by you” and you may be “disappointed in yourself” but they’re not really interested in the 10% delta, or the consequence of that. They’re interested in the choices that led you to pursue a course of action that would later prove “incorrect,” your confidence level during that period, and then what it felt like to learn that that confidence was, in fact, MISGUIDED. That’s ONE version of this. But there’s an even more interesting version…

What about the version where you not only HIT the revenue target (again, it can be anything, we’re just keeping this analogy alive to make a point), but actually you BEAT it by 20%! So, you’re doing cartwheels because you think you’ve succeeded. And yet, somehow, you’ve disappointed others, for reasons that only THEN become made known to you. That can be even MORE hard-hitting. The idea that you chose a course of action, or pursued something in a certain WAY, that trumped even the outcome itself. What does THAT reckoning feel like? The common element for this third version is the exposing of some kind of meaningful disconnect in expectations, and of course, you falling short of them. Whether those expectations were your own, or held by others, doesn’t matter. Try to find a time when someone expected something of you, and you biffed it. Were you aware of it? Semi-aware of it? Unaware? What was the moment you realized that those expectations were misaligned, which led to someone’s disappointment? What did that feel like, and how did you deal with it? The answers to all these questions can provide powerful insight into who you are as a person, and what you’ll be as a leader.

Dartmouth Tuck School of Business MBA 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.


Read our team’s complete take on the idea of optional essay, including a brief (recent) history of b-schools’ relationship with it, and how our recommendations have evolved over the years, right here.

And that's that. Helpful, eh? If you have any questions on it or Tuck or anything, just reply here or shoot us a PM. And if you want more Essay Analysis Goodness, check out more schools here. We're updating 'em daily as new prompts are released, so keep checking back.

Jon Frank
Founder, Admissionado

Admissionado | Packages | Success Stories | Team

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