This blog post comes after quite a hiatus – a couple of months at the very least. The intervening time saw me travel around Asia, meeting with prospective applicants from the Middle East to Beijing and everywhere in between. The innumerable conversations I’ve had, the opportunity to look applicants in the eye and share with them my enthusiasm for Tuck, while giving input on the application process itself – that’s what makes the effort so worth it.
The outreach from applicants hit a feverish pitch in the run up to the application deadline, seeking clarity on everything from the intent of the essay questions to specific aspects of the Tuck MBA experience. And the questions continued unabated even after the deadline – about when the interviews are going to be scheduled, what is the timeline, how should interview preparation go, and so on and so forth.
Across every one of these interactions, whether in person at a Tuck reception or a Coffee Chat or at a business school fair or over Skype or email or phone calls or through some other medium, I have had the privilege of getting to know so many candidates so well. I call it a privilege since it seems like I have unknowingly started carrying the burden of so many applicants and their aspirations on my shoulders. It’s almost as if I have become their spokesperson within the Admissions Committee. The weight only increases with every additional email exchanged, every interview that’s done, and every interaction that ensues.
I can’t speak to how Admissions Committees of other business schools do this, but at Tuck, it’s a very emotionally charged discussion. I’ve probably said this before, but the arguments in the committee are not so much about why someone shouldn’t be admitted at Tuck, but rather why someone should be. That’s a very different way of thinking about an applicant. The applicant stops being a file any more, and it’s as if the person is present right in the room, in front of the committee members, making an argument in her/his favor.
That level of pro-candidate approach in a committee is something I’ve never ever experienced. All said and done, when decisions are made about the candidates, the weight on the shoulders only increases further. It all comes to a head the day after results are announced. In my case, I was staring at an extra-long line of emails, come Saturday, December 17th, 2016 from candidates who I’ve met along the way, from candidates who thought they did a great job in the application, from candidates who thought they had a really good interview, from candidates who thought they had a competitive GMAT score, from candidates who thought they had a compelling profile, and so on.
Each of the emails had disappointment writ large in the writing, each of them a little hurt, and each of them a little incredulous about what just happened, and every one of them unable to come to terms with the fact that they haven’t made their way in. Each of them wondering what might have gone wrong, and each of them seeking insight into why the decision was the way it was.
I am not someone who will shy away from the responsibility of answering these emails, and I will eventually respond to all of them. And this is what increases that responsibility even more – the fact that the candidates actually felt that I was approachable enough that they reached out to me sharing their thoughts.
Being a member of the Tuck Admissions Committee is an emotional roller coaster ride. The high of meeting so many exceptional candidates along the way, combined with the challenge of taking some very tough decisions and then, the responsibility of connecting with everyone who is looking for answers, while also simultaneously moving things forward for the many many applicants that are also jostling for a space in the class in the future rounds.
For all those who have written to me, and the many more who have stopped short, I’d like to take this opportunity to address them here:
The Tuck Admissions Committee has the unenviable job of choosing from a large pool of exceptional candidates to fill a class of finite size. I know it is very difficult to digest the news as a candidate who has put in so much effort into the application. Every person on the Tuck Admissions Committee is supremely empathetic, especially since we get to know every candidate so well, and it’s so difficult to make these tough decisions.
Still, that doesn’t make things any easier for those at the receiving end of these decisions. The whole point of this blog is to give you a glimpse into the dynamics within the Admissions Committee and let you know these are not decisions that are taken lightly and in an off-handed manner. Every file gets due consideration and every candidate gets the opportunity to present her/himself.
All said and done, I sincerely hope you take back with you, the positives from this experience. Maybe you are planning to reapply to Tuck next year. Maybe there are schools you have heard back from with a positive news. Maybe there are schools you are applying to as you go along. Whatever your case, I wish you all the very best in your future endeavors.
The following is for candidates who are planning to reapply to Tuck next year: The Admissions Committee at Tuck recognizes the effort that has gone into your application, and would not want the whole application process to be a black box situation where you have no idea what you could do to improve your application when you apply again next year. As a goodwill gesture, we provide feedback to candidates, sometimes out of our own volition, and sometimes because candidates request it since they plan to reapply.
As such, you could request a feedback call, but please know it will be forthcoming only in the summer since the Committee is currently in the midst of the admissions cycle, and we don’t have the bandwidth to schedule feedback calls at this point in time.
Finally, thank you for your effort in the application, and for all the interactions along the way. Getting to know people from different regions has certainly enriched me, and I hope you found our conversations insightful as well!