'Applicants should articulate why they specifically want Tuck' A dramatic increase in number of Indian students at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth has prompted greater interest by the school in India, says Nancy Granada, Senior Associate Director of Marketing and Communications at Tuck. She also elaborates on Tuck's collaborative culture and the MBA admission strategy in an exclusive interview. There seems to be an increased focus on India from Tuck. Tuck has set up a full-time office in New Delhi and Admissions Officers from Tuck are visiting India a lot more than they used to. What are the reasons for this interest in India? One of the big changes is that we have seen an increase over the last several years in the interest from Indian students. Just three yrs ago, we had just 16 students from India, last year we had 25, this year we have nearly 30. And that doesn’t even count the Indian origin applicants who live here in America. So we really are seeing an increased interest from the Indian students in general. I think one of the other things that really interests Tuck in terms of the Indian candidates is that they really bring a wealth of experience and information to the classroom which is very beneficial for the classroom experience for all the students. They come from amazing companies. They come from companies like Cisco, McKinsey, so they really kind of bring a wealth of knowledge both professional and cultural to our community here at Tuck, which really helps us to lend itself to a better learning environment on the whole. How has the number of applicants from India increased over the past few years at Tuck? You know I don’t have the figures right in front of me, we are actually running reports as we speak. We just had out first deadline and as I recall on the deadline, the percentage of applicants from India was roughly around a quarter of our total applicants for the first round of applications. After USA we get the next most number of applicants from India. So after America, India is the next largest country sending applicants for Tuck. Right Nancy! My next question is a very general question - How is the MBA program at Tuck School of Business designed to deliver value to participants? Well, the thing that really sets Tuck apart is that we have a very one-on-one sort of an approach. We have small classes and a roughly one is to seven student to faculty ratio. So, that really kind of makes the learning experience much more meaningful for the student because they have a one-on-one access with the professors, with business leaders who visit the campus, which makes a big difference and we also focus on our global reach so we have many courses that focus on business leadership in a global environment which really makes a difference as well. One of the other things that is important to mention is that we really focus on effective teamwork. So, from the first class right through the entire program students are expected to collaborate and work with one another. Across the world Indian students are perceived to have stronger analytical and mathematical skills than interpersonal skills. Do you observe this phenomenon when you sit down and select Indian applicants? We do. In general they do tend to have undergraduate degrees in technology related fields. They also have a lot of professional experience in technology related fields. So we do see that here at Tuck. But the candidates are clearly very strong in terms of their interpersonal skills as well because we really do work at the entire package that a candidate presents so while they will have very strong analytical skills, they also do demonstrate those interpersonal skills. So what happens to an application once it lands on the admissions office desk at Tuck? Can you run us through the whole process? Sure! What happens is we have an Admissions Committee so we have several members of that committee who will read the application. All of the applications get at least two reads, so that we know that we are kind of getting the applications from different perspectives. The applications are then kind of broken out into those who are admitted, those who are not admitted, those who need to go to a committee and be discussed. One of the most important parts of the process actually is the personal interview. So all of our applicants are encouraged to come to the campus and to interview with the Admissions Officer and take a tour. They sit in the class and mingle with current students. It’s very important that the students get an exposure to our campus here at Tuck. Because we are very unique and they really do need to experience the campus first-hand. And the great thing about our process here is all of our applicants here are encouraged to interview. So it is not just by invitation only. So then once an applicant has been accepted, we go ahead and we notify them. And then the process from there goes from application to the enrolment. So when you go through this application process, which are the top 5 traits that you are looking for in the applicant? Well, we definitely want an applicant who is able to articulate why they want to come to Tuck and why they want an MBA. That’s very important. Because it is definitely an indicator of success here at Tuck. One of the other things that we look for is we want applicants who are able to demonstrate not only solid quantitative and analytical skills but those interpersonal skills are very important as well because of the structure of our program. We obviously also want students who demonstrate some academic excellence through their undergraduate studies and also through their GMAT. We also want them to be able to demonstrate their accomplishments. We want them to be able to show us that they have made accomplishments both in their professional and personal life and that they have demonstrated leadership. That’s very important in terms of success here at Tuck because we are so collaborative and the students work so closely together so leadership definitely is an important aspect of the applicant. And last, we do look for students who do have professional experience. On average most of our applicants have about 5 yrs of professional experience. So how much stress does Tuck put on the work experience part and are there any cases of candidates who got in without any work experience? We consider each applicant on their own merit. So while an applicant might have a really strong GMAT and have only 2 yrs of experience, we will definitely weigh all of the different aspects of the applicant. So if we find that there are strong applicants all around, but they have only 1 or 2 yrs of experience then they are absolutely considered for admission. To digress a little from this conversation, can you elaborate a little more on what part of the Tuck program makes it uniquely collaborative and go a little into specifics? Well, one thing that we do is that right from the first day of classes is we assign students to study groups and each study group is somewhere around five students and what we really do is look at the diverse background of the students. So we make sure that in that study group there aren’t five investment bankers. There is an investment banker, there is somebody from technology, somebody from non-profit. So we put them together and they work together collaboratively throughout the entire term. So they really are expected to work with one another in completing projects, in sort of organizing the study group and finding ways to use and expand upon one another’s strength so that they learn from one another and we do that throughout the entire program. Coming back to the admissions, out of the GMAT score, the essays, the recommendation letters and the interview, how would you prioritize all these elements of the admission process from the most important to the least important? We really don’t place more importance on one aspect of the application over another. It is really a holistic process, so we look at every single part of that application which includes the interview and really try to get a thorough and complete picture of that applicant so that we can make our decision based on the whole picture rather than just on a GMAT or a great essay. It is really important that our student can bring a lot of different strength to the table so that again students are able to learn from one another. How much importance does Tuck place on the GMAT score? Tuck is one of the few Ivy-league business schools who don’t have a minimum GMAT requirement. Having said that our average GMAT score for last year’s incoming class was 710. However for the admitted students, the GMAT ranged from 560 to 790. So while it is important, again we are looking at the applicants holistically. So what kind of recommendation letters does Tuck value most and who is the best person to write a recommendation letter? We recommend that applicants get their recommendation letters from an immediate supervisor if that’s possible. We realize that a lot of times students or applicants don’t want their immediate supervisors to know that they are applying to business schools so we recommend that that they go to a former employer or a former supervisor to provide that recommendation. It is really important that the person providing a recommendation knows the applicant very well and can really demonstrate the applicant’s strength in the recommendation. So while it could be a supervisor it could be a peer, in some cases we have recommendations from client. The one thing that we do tell applicants is they want to in general stay away from professors from their undergraduate program. It really does help to have professional recommendation. A lot of Indian applicants have a family business background. Supervisors of such applicants might be someone from their own family or even their colleagues might be someone from their own family. How do you advise these applicants to write recommendation letters that will work? In those cases it might be a good idea to ask for a recommendation from a client or perhaps from a business partner or maybe somebody from another company that the applicants company works closely with. So that they obviously would have a good understanding of that applicant if they have that close working business relationship. So that’s definitely one of those scenarios where a client or somebody like that would definitely work. Can you tell us a little about the biggest mistakes that applicants make while writing the essays for Tuck? One of the mistakes that we see most commonly is that the applicant doesn’t really demonstrate a strong desire to want to come to Tuck specifically. That’s one of the things that we really look for. We want an applicant to understand Tuck. We want an applicant to know what is different and what is special about Tuck and why that is an alignment with their individual goals. That’s one of the things that we often see with applicants that they kind of don’t really articulate that. Another strong thing to keep in mind is that an applicant should be really be able to articulate why they want an MBA. Why it’s important for their goal, the short term and the long term. Often we get essays where people are sort of very vague. And it is better to sort of be a little more specific. Can you share a rather humorous moment you had or any other member of the admission committee had while interviewing a candidate? Well, I don’t know if it was humorous but the applicant kind of laughed about it. One of our applicants who was interviewed just recently and although our interviews aren’t very long apparently her foot fell asleep, it got numb and when she stood up after her interview she kind of fell to the floor. So our poor interviewer was like ‘Oh my god what did I do’, and the applicant just got up and laughed said that her foot had got numb and she felt down. We saw her later in New York City which is where she was from. She came to a Tuck conference and she was on crutches. It turned out that she had twisted her ankle a little bit. But she was laughing about it. So it turned out all okay I guess! So Nancy, What is the best time to apply to Tuck? Is it the first round or the second round? The best time to apply is when they have the best possible application to present to us. So if that’s during the first round, that’s great. If it’s the last round, it is really important for the applicant to be comfortable and confident, that it’s the best application that they have. Now having said that, if they do wait until the later round, obviously there is less space. So it is better to apply earlier in terms of the space available. How much importance does Tuck place on the brand name of the company where the applicant has worked? Is it important to work in a big name company and if a candidate has worked in a smaller company how does he compensate for not having worked in an international or a more global environment? A lot of our students do come from large branded companies. However we do have a good percentage of students who do come from very small companies to companies that aren’t necessarily global. So again we really work at that experience. The experience is what is really important. It’s not necessarily that they came from McKinsey or one of those large companies. It’s really important that they are coming to Tuck with valuable experience to bring to the classroom. How are re-applicants viewed by Tuck and as for the re-applicants who get in, what is it that they do right? Well, first we look at re-applicants as if they are a new applicant, so they really have a very good chance of sort of getting through that process. What a re-applicant can do to better their chances of getting in on their second try is very often, it could be something such as getting retaking the GMAT and improving their score. It could be that they need another year of work experience. In some cases we have an applicant who may not have the quantitative experience that they need to be successful here. So very often they go and take a course or they’ll take the GMAT and again bring the quantitative score up to demonstrate that they can be successful here at Tuck. So what happens very often is that if the applicant has been encouraged to reapply, we will provide a little bit of coaching to make them aware of what it is that they need to do to improve and strengthen their application. So we definitely help guide them through that. How do you go about the coaching? Typically, one of our Admission Counselors will work directly with an applicant. So the applicant is encouraged to contact our counselor and that counselor will go over with them what parts of their application needs their attention and how to go about it.