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Journey to my MBA

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tuck Interview/visit experience

The visit and interview were great. Compared to my visit 2 years ago, I can honestly say that I felt that I was able to get a very good feel for the school this time around. I arrived on Sunday to rest up and try to get past any jet lag.

My wife did a bang up job of finding the Trumbell House Bed and Breakfast. It really helped to keep me relaxed by being in a homely place. Each morning, I was served my choice of up to 7 different home cooked meals.

The next day, I went to the school and accomplished 3 things.
1) Walked the halls of Tuck from corner to corner and took pictures. (I posted about 60% of them)
2) Observed student interaction, especially in the Pepsico cafeteria.
3) Finalized my prep for the interview.

Later that night, I met with three 2nd years(not pictured) who helped me greatly in knowing more about the school and preparing for the next day. We hung out Murphy's which is the popular bar visited by all Tuckies.

Observing the students like I did really helped me to see if the community at Tuck is really what they say it is. You'll have to visit for youself to see what I mean. In preparing for my interview, I made sure to go over some good stories that illustrated who I am. This turned out to be a huge help in my interview. I also made sure to review all the names and programs that I cared most deeply about that aligned with "my story for wanting an MBA".

On the day of the interview, I came in about 30 minutes early. I was handed a green folder. On top of it was a a customized agenda with my name pre-printed on it. My name badge had my name on it already and all I had to do was stick it on my suit.
The agenda had my interview time, who I was interviewing with, the time of the class I would be attending, the time of my lunch and school tour. It also provided information on where to go should any of the events end early in preparation for the next agenda item. Inside the green folder were my meal ticket, a school map, parking pass form to be filled out and handed to the receptionist, list of admissions staff and their contact info, flyers about various program in the school and a glossy school brochure. It really put me at ease to know that things were set up. ABSOLUTELY no other school does this that I know of.

My interview was at 3pm, which was ideal because I had time to walk around, visit class and soak everything in before heading off to the interview. They schedule interviews every 45 minutes and plan on having 30 minute interviews. Mine went 40 minutes.

There were 18 of us in the school tour.(Two of the guys had brought their wives) More than one staff member at Tuck were amazement at how big the group was. In fact, Greta (sp?) the admissions receptionist went out of her way when we got to the Whittemore dorm part of the tour to have one room opened up so that we could walk in. I asked one of the staff if the groups usually got this big and she said that the size was unusually large.

After the tour, we went into the admissions reception area. That room turned into a sauna real fast with 20 of us in there. I say 20 because, Dawna Clarke, the admissions director came in and welcomed us. She had someone close the door to reduce outside noise. I appreciated the gesture, but gulped as I remembered how hot that room got the last time I was there. Dawna introduced herself and then had everyone in the room introduce themselves by telling everyone their name, college, geographic location, and current career. That took a while. By this time, the room was hot and thick to the point that I could feel the air coming in and out of my lungs.

She then asked if there were any questions about the application process etc. 80% of the questions were related to international issues of the application. What makes these Q&A times difficult is that most of us were interviewing and we had prepared. At least I did. So I didn't have any program questions. If any, I had personal ones. I got the impressions that this was the case for all the others as very few questions were asked by US based applicants. After she left, I asked someone to open the door and I stepped outside to cool down because by this time, I was sweating bullets and so was everyone else. How polite we all were.

And so I waited an hour for the interview. It was a good time to run through my facts, stories, and personal bullet points.

By the way, nearly everyone (80-85%) wore dark navy blue suits. Even the women. Two of the three girls had graduated from Harvard. They both wore the same exact outfit except for a slightly different color dress shirt. They really looked sharp. All the guys looked sharp as well.

The interview was what I expected it would be. "Walk me through your Resume" was the first question. But the interviewer did a great job in making sure to brief me on his background before we got started. Doing so helped me to understand my target audience a bit better. Other questions that came up as we went along were:
1) Why an MBA?
2) Why Tuck?
3) How would you describe your leadership style? And provide a non-Resume example.
4) Why are you reapplying? What have you been doing since you last applied?
5) What are your short term and long term goals?

Throughout our dialogue, there were 4-5 other answers to questions that weren't officially asked, but one could have used what I had said to answer other questions. They were:
1) How do you get along with others?
2) Since you're older, how are you able to be teachable by younger students?
3) Why Full-Time vs part-time?

At the end, I was asked if I had any questions about the program, the interview, the interviewer or the admissions process. I didn't have any. I simply thanked him for being so kind to me through the interview.

Every person that came out of interviews all said that same thing with regard to how their interviews went. We were all interviewed in very similar fashion. One woman replied that she was asked the same questions as the essay questions. We all agreed that the interviews were very relaxed and low key. One gent commented how it was his best ever interview experience because it was more dialogue and relational rather than a grilling.

Later in the day, I went back to the B&B and e-mailed, Dawna Clark, the interviewer, and the two female hosts who took my group to lunch. I received replies from all of them that same night thanking me for the Thank You and reminding me that they would like to be of any help in any question I may have in the future.

Lessons learned and Interview suggestions for the future
To be truly prepared for Tuck or any other school, one MUST know all the answers to the following areas:
1) Curriculum outline for 1st and 2nd years
2) Initiatives, Institutes of the school.
3) How Instituts influence the education
4) Key professors or popular professors and classes. Talk to students to find this out. (Be careful that they align with your overall why mba goals that you talk about)
5) Some classes or program(s) that highly interest you. (Be careful that they align with your overall why mba goals that you talk about)
6) Any overall unique qualities about the school (i.e. class size, School vision)
{You can boil down the School vision in 3-5 key words. Here's a hint, for students, the vision is "community leaders". For staff, it's "Thought leaders". If you look at the Tuck web site... you'll see that everything boils down to this. if you can't do this with every school you're applying to... you didn't do enough homework.}

I'll leave you with one thought provoking thing about my experiences with Tuck. It's in reference to their notion of an "info session". They technically don't have one. I didn't get one when I visited Tuck. Nor did they offer it.

Even when Tuck is in your area, they don't provide "info sessions" in the way other schools do. In fact, I would dare call them "anti-info session". Here's why. During their info sessions, they don't do a song and dance of all the in depth features, programs, and curriculum as other schools do. Rather, Tuck reps give a 10-15 oral speal and then go into Q&A with very quick break-out so that you can talk with people one on one. It's absolutely mind boggling. When I took my wife to a Tuck info session, she whispered to me that she thought it was a waste of time. At the time, I thought she was right. Now, I have a completely different conclusion.

Ask yourself this,"What kind of students do you think Tuck wants?". Do you think it's people that are smart? People that are amazing future leaders? People with great GMAT and GPA's? All this is partly true. What kind of message are you sending when you have an "anti-info session" where presentation is negligable; face time with numerous alumni, current students and admissions staff is as long as you want to go; plenty of food and drinks with seemingly no time limit when one needs to leave the meeting room? Add to this, what kind of message are you sending when you mandate interviews to be done on campus where people like me have to fly and drive an entire day, pay lumps of money, just to be there for an interview?

If you can answer this question, you'll have found the most significant thing you can do to greatly enhance your interviews, your essays and your visits. I'm rather confident that I have the right answer. It's up to you to see if you can too. This is the biggest piece of help/suggestion that I can provide anyone applying to Tuck. If you don't get my meaning, then you'll have to visit tuck or meet with Alumni to discuss it. The answer isn't necessarily profound, just clearly audible as a clanging of a bell on a quiet night.


Anonymous Chris Kerns said...


Great info. Just a few more weeks until the wife and I fly out. I'm really looking forward to it but am pretty anxious, too.

I hope the rest of your trip goes well.


5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wonderful insight Dave.Thanks for all the valuable info. You are doing a great job.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Romit said...

Thanks a lot Dave on bringing out what Tuck expects out of an applicant.

7:31 AM  

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