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What’s the Acceptance Rate at Tuck?

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TL;DR- The acceptance rate at Tuck over the last 5 years has hit a high-water mark of 34.8% in matriculation year 2020 (class of 2022) and a low water mark of 22.7% in matriculation year 2018 (class of 2020). Given 2020 was a pandemic year, we’re likely not going to see figures that high again anytime soon. Still, business schools are going through changes and I’d expect the acceptance rates for Tuck for 2021, 2022, and 2023 to be somewhere in the mid 20’s (%).

Tuck is unique in that it’s one of the most approachable business schools. You have a stronger say in your acceptance. That means that doing a pre-visit, applying first round, and doing a visit for your interview are things that move the needle.

Below we’ll walk through the acceptance rates, GPAs, and GMATs.

My credibility: I graduated from Tuck with my MBA in 2020. Given the circumstances I went through in undergrad, I’m still surprised to this day I ever got in. Now, I see that it’s about a lot more than GPA. As a low GPAer, I obsessed over the admissions criteria and my odds. I know how maddening the process can be. Don’t fret- it’s worth it.

With that said, I’ve never sat on an MBA admissions committee, wasn’t an MBA interviewing associate, and could quite possibly be full of it from top to bottom. Survivorship bias (‘I did it, so can you!’) is a thing. This piece is to educate, at least a little.

First year cabin night with the Outward Bound crew

A few words to start

First off, I’m assuming if you’re reading this you’re interested in landing a spot at Tuck or another top business school. For that, I have a few things you should do:

  • Take the five-minute profile evaluation from Aringo and see where you stack up. The tool assigns you a score, and lays out scores for all the top schools. Take the assessment once with an optimistic blue-sky scenario, and then once again with a realistic/average scenario. Now you know a little more about where you stand in the field. It’s damn competitive out there!
  • Take the GMAT seriously- as in, give yourself months to study and certain milestones to hit. It’s like training for an Ironman or a marathon- accept that the process is going to take a while. Getting a top MBA is something that will benefit you for decades- make sure you do the admissions process right.
  • Talk to some students at Tuck, if you haven’t already. If it’s not a fit, you won’t be happy there, and you’ll have a tougher time becoming the best possible version of yourself. The fit of the school is going to matter.

What’s the acceptance rate at Tuck?

The acceptance rate at Tuck is low. Most everyone that’s applying already has a solid GPA and GMAT score, and is smart. Assume that. Here are the stats for the last four years:

Data source: Dartmouth Tuck Table source: Poets and Quants

You should assume that 2019 and 2020 are anomalies, given the slowdown in MBA applications and the pandemic. Fewer applicants applied knowing that much of the experience was going to be online despite the same price. I understand this- a huge chunk of the value is the experience. 2019 marked a low year due to a strong economy- most business school acceptance rates move inversely to the economy/S&P 500.
For 2021-2023, I’d expect to see some regression to the mean, which would be 28.75% for the last four years.

What is the acceptance rate by GMAT and GPA at Tuck?

As Daniel Kahneman says in Thinking: Fast and Slow, small datasets are insufficient to make good decisions with. Unfortunately with Tuck and the below data taken from The GMAT Club, the datasets always seem to be small. Take them with healthy skepticism. We can find an x=y(ish) relationship with respect to undergraduate GPA and acceptance to Tuck.

This data was taken from GMAT Club, so it’s limited. The line was also smoothed out

The same relationship obviously exists for the GMAT too, with a bit of a stronger slope. The GMAT was a biggie for me given my low (2.8) undergrad GPA in engineering. I think demographic factors come into play here as well- most other engineers in my class either had lower GPAs and higher GMATs and/or were from competitive applicant pools like India.

Plotted together, we can see a slight preference for higher GMATs. Schools do this because it boosts their rankings. I dislike this, but it’s a reality. Top companies (read: the best-paying ones) in America fetishize elite education- so universities have a lot of bargaining power when it comes to tuition, who they accept, and how many staff they hire. It’s more or less a corrupt union. Why should such an awesome education be available to so few? Anyway, back to the data.

Other factors for acceptance

As Sandy puts it over at Poets and Quants, MBA admissions isn’t about standing out- it’s about fitting in. Much like HR at a company, MBA admissions are risk-averse and looking to play it safe. This means they’re looking for a certain age range (usually 26 to 30 with flexibility), a certain level of work experience (usually 3 to 7 years with less flexibility), and certain careers/undergrad institutions. If they’ve had scores of success with accepting applicants a lot like you, then you’re in good shape.

If you can help it, always apply first round- unless you’re pretty damn confident in your candidacy. The risk here is that Tuck is more likely to find someone else kind of like you before you apply. So if you’re a white New-Englander from a NESCAC school with an economics degree working in finance with a 720 GMAT, you want to get your hat in the ring before more people with a similar profile apply. The admissions team is aiming to ’round the class out’ with different demographics, academic backgrounds, and careers.

If too many people like you apply first, they’ll accept those people, fill that demographic “bucket”, and move on. If you’re too late to the show there aren’t going to be any seats left in the orchestra section. Do yourself a solid and be the first.

Conclusion + my experience

I 100% messed around the first two years of my undergrad. Some people have their shit together at 18 and 19- I definitely did not. I was running around campus from one party to the next in a beer-stained polo shirt chasing after girls that were out of my league. I didn’t show up for class 60% of the time. My GPA got me put on academic probation. Luckily, some pivotal events halfway through my undergrad led me to make some big changes. I finished the final two years of UG without anything less than a B. Still, my undergraduate GPA would’ve probably made me DOA at any top-15 school without some added firepower.

I had a few things to offset my low GPA, including a 730 GMAT and an MS in Aerospace Engineering from UCLA with a 3.43 GPA. I took my time and did the admissions process right- first going up to Hanover in April of the year I was going to apply to come and say hello, then coming again for my optional in-person interview for my 1st round application. I took the GMAT three times. I wanted Tuck to know that I was for real.

When you venture up into the woods of New Hampshire to go see a school, they take notice. When you venture to go visit a school in NYC, Chicago, or SF- they don’t value it as much, because those places are easier to get to. They get visitors all the time. I’m thankful everyday (still) that Tuck, for being as good a school as it is, is the way that it is.

Most days I was at Tuck were a dream. I’d get up and get some coffee and breakfast, learn from some world-class professors, go snowboarding in the afternoon, take a nap, and then go play late-night hockey with my classmates. I used to be (and still am) a bit sharp around the edges, but the thousands of kind interactions I had with my intelligent Tuck classmates sandpapered those edges down into something more relaxed, hard-working, and agreeable. The most important question you need to be asking yourself isn’t the 5-year ROI of the MBA or where you’ll land your post-MBA role. The real question is how the experience is going to change you. How will you be different? How will it change the way you see things? Who will be in your life? That’s what you’ll take with you forever.

Now I’m making some of that post-MBA big tech money and spending my days working, reading, blogging, and snowboarding big lines in the Colorado backcountry. I’ve got the medical bills to prove that last one.

Pretending to work on a consulting engagement in my first year while just enjoying the spring weather

Don’t count yourself out, ever. If a recovering alcoholic like me with a low GPA can make it, I’m sure you can too. If you’re here and you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already got the right stuff. You just have to find a school that fits, dedicate yourself to the GMAT and your apps, try again and again, and you’ll find somewhere that is right for you.

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