In this episode the Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth discusses what the Adcom expects from applicants. [SHOW SUMMARY]
Would you like to attend an MBA program with a tight-knit community and a strong foundation in general management, but with enough breadth that you can still do a deep dive into a specific area of interest? Dartmouth Tuck may be the perfect program for you, and today’s guest is its Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.
An interview with Lawrence Mur’ray, the leader of Tuck’s admissions and financial aid teams. [SHOW NOTES]
Welcome to the 514th episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Are you ready to apply to your Dream MBA programs? Are you competitive at your target schools? Accepted’s MBA Admissions quiz can give you a quick reality check. Complete the quiz, and you’ll not only get an assessment, but tips on how to improve your qualifications. Plus it’s all free.
It gives me great pleasure to have for the first time on Admissions Straight Talk, Lawrence Mur’ray, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business. Lawrence has been in higher ed since he graduated high school. He earned his BA and MPA at the University of Arizona and began his career in admissions there. He then became Assistant Director of MBA Admissions at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, followed by a stint at UNC Kenan-Flagler where he rose to become the Director of the Undergraduate Business Program. He then served as Senior Assistant Dean of Graduate Business Programs at Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business for over six years and joined Dartmouth Tuck as Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid just this past August. 7;’/
Lawrence, welcome to Admissions Straight Talk. [2:00]
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m excited to be here.
And I’m delighted to speak with you. Now let’s start with a basic question, which is typically how I open these interviews. Can you provide an overview of Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA program? [2:06]
Yeah. Great. Thank you. Again, I’m excited to be here. Thank you for having me. The Tuck School of Business is at Dartmouth College here in Hanover, New Hampshire. We are an extremely rigorous, two-year, Ivy League MBA, nestled here in the Upper Valley, which provides an opportunity to reflect and focus while you’re here. It’s an opportunity for students to really connect with one another. Again, it’s a rigorous academic program. I think sometimes people think that coming to a small school means there’s limited opportunities, but there are boundless opportunities here with a culture of collaboration and community. You can do almost anything you want to do in terms of your career aspirations. We have a culture of co-investment, so we see the students as partners along all dimensions of their journey, whether it’s the admissions journey, whether it’s the student services journey, or the career journey, and so that co-investment serves as the cornerstone of the Tuck ethos.
And in terms of the opportunities, some of the opportunities that struck me in preparing for the call, one of them was the Global Insight Expeditions. Could you touch on that? [3:20]
Yeah. Our Global Insight Expeditions are a great opportunity for the students to focus on a particular area of the country with a particular faculty member. They’re typically two to three weeks, and it’s an opportunity for them to learn about a particular element of a faculty member’s research, which is anchored in a particular area. It’s also an opportunity for them to learn and understand the culture of doing business wherever they’re going. So for this winter, we sent students to Denmark, we sent students to Israel, and we sent students to Vietnam. So it’s an opportunity to build their network and also it’s an opportunity for them to engage in global teams.
And when they graduate from business school, they will be placed on the global map and working with global teams, it’s an opportunity for them to practice that on their GIXs. It’s a credit bearing class, so the students get credit for that, but it’s a wonderful opportunity. We had four GIXs in the winter, and I’m still getting used to being on a quarter system, so forgive me. We have four GIXs that went off in the winter, which for us is sort of December and January, and then we have four that are going out in the spring.
And again, you mentioned one point in the country, but is it really global? [4:39]
Absolutely. We do have a couple of domestic GIXs, but the majority of them are global. And actually one unique element during the pandemic when we weren’t able to travel, one of our faculty members actually developed a virtual GIX working, he’s from India, and so was working with some NGOs in India. And the students on both ends were using AR and VR to help execute a series of projects through that GIX, and we actually will continue to do a virtual GIX as we move forward.
Now you mentioned again, the breadth of opportunities at Tuck, and of course there are concerns sometimes that students or potential students voice about going to New Hampshire, and is that going to limit them? So where are Tuckies finding jobs both in terms of geography and industry or function? [5:16]
Yeah, so that’s a question that pops up a lot. I’d like to first point to our employment statistics, and I think that the perception of it being a disadvantage is aligned with the career opportunities. But if you look at our employment statistics, the numbers speak for themselves. About 98% of our students have a full-time offer at the time, usually it’s three months post-graduation. We are well represented in consulting and finance. And then after that, it’s a wide range: product management, marketing, operations, logistics, technology. About 11% of our students go into technology. That’s a growing area for us. Healthcare is a growing area for us. We have a growing area of intersection points, so we’ve got financial analytics, we’ve got healthcare analytics, we’ve got marketing analytics. So there are a lot of intersection roles that students are taking and industries that they’re going into.
Tuck is famous for the amazing degree of alumni loyalty as expressed in alumni financial support. I know this past year in 2022 you had a $52 million donation from an anonymous donor. That’s obviously a standout, but I know that the percentage of alumni participation is extremely high. I think the highest of any MBA program by far. [6:34]
It is. I don’t know the exact number. It’s north of 70%.
But I don’t know the exact number. One of the things, and again, I’ve been here for six months, but one of the things that is clear, there’s one attribute that all Tuck students share. And again, I’ve been in this business for quite some time now. I’ve worked at several different schools, and it’s rare to be in a situation where all of the students experience one exact same situation. And that is for Tuck, they all had to move here and they all had to pick up their lives from wherever they were and had to move to Hanover, New Hampshire. And that single shared experience helps form the foundation of that community and that collaboration, that forms that comradery with students when they’re in the program and then that alumni loyalty when they’re out of the program.
It is spectacular to see how these students come together knowing that they’re all in the same boat. They all have to figure out their living situation. They’ve all got to figure out how do I now navigate the next two years where I’m not working and I’ve got to refocus on school, I’ve got to refocus on an internship search, I’ve got to refocus on a job search. And they get to do that all together. And again, that’s a little different from other schools. And I’ve worked at business schools that are top ranked, that are in different geographies where there’s definitely a benefit to being in New York City. That’s my last experience. But New York also presents, as much as there are opportunities in New York, sometimes that can be a little bit of a distraction. So there are lots of things to do, and I have to be honest, I’m always surprised that how little students take advantage of the things that New York City, for my former job, but it’s still a distraction.
The other part of it is in New York, a lot of time is spent commuting to school, and so you spend a lot of time, you’re either running late and starting late, or you’re leaving early trying to catch the train. So on those tail ends, that doesn’t happen here. And students, really more than half of our students live on campus in their first year, so they’re together a lot of the time. And then in the second year they live off campus. But our location is small, our school is small. Community matters. Students will come in and they will know their classmates, they will know their faculty members. When we talk about careers, one of the things I continue to be amazed with is how many alums come back to Tuck all the time.
I mean, you are walking in the hallways. It’s spring break now, so nobody’s here, but any other time, I’m being introduced to alums in the hallways or the alums are here working with the student club or organization or the alums are here serving as alumni mentors with the career services team. It’s a lot of engagement and activity, and that also means something. You have to be very intentional to come to Hanover, and you can get here by plane, trains, automobile or drive, but it’s intentional to come here. And the fact that so many alums come back and play a part in the development of the class of students below them, I think that says a lot about the culture and the community and again, that ethos of co-investment.
That was a very fascinating comment you made that everybody at Tuck has moved. They take initiative, it requires initiative. [10:28]
What don’t people know about Tuck that you would like them to know? Or is there a common misconception that you’d like to dispel other than what you already talked about? [10:46]
Yeah, I think when you, again, I’ve been in this business for a while now, and I think that sometimes people think that regardless of the location, there are disadvantages to a small program. They think the bigger the program, the better. There are lots of benefits to some of our peers that are significantly bigger, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a better experience. One of the things that I like to tell students or that we like to tell students, consulting is a very popular industry and function for MBAs, no matter what school you’re going to. That really serves as consulting and finance really are the anchors of career services at most notable MBA programs. So when a company like Deloitte comes, and so Deloitte came for our consulting symposium in the fallthey brought a number of people with them.
Again, you have to be very intentional to come here, so you can’t come for a morning or an afternoon or just a single day. Most of the time, our employer partners come for multiple days. So wherein students in larger programs, maybe in bigger cities, they’re getting the career services partners, the alumni that are representing companies that hire students to come in for a couple of hours. When Deloitte came to visit us, they were here for three days, and so they hosted coffee chats, they were guest speakers in classes, they hosted dinners, they had some social events. So it was an opportunity for students to really engage with partners from Deloitte in a fully immersive experience that I don’t think is easily replicated at other schools.
Tuck posts its criteria, and the transparency is wonderful. It posts its criteria for admissions, and it boils down to four qualities: smart, accomplished, aware, and encouraging, which I guess kind of goes along with the co-investment theme that you’ve mentioned a couple of times. Where do you typically find each of those qualities in the application? [12:35]
Yeah, we take a lot of pride, and this is one of the reasons why I chose to come to Tuck: the spirit of transparency. There aren’t very many schools that are transparent in sort of telling the prospective students exactly what it is that we’re looking for. We’re not trying to hide anything.
So when we think about smart, smart is a broad category, it’s not just what I think people think that it is, which is the numbers. The numbers are there. We are definitely, in the smart category, are looking at some of those quantitative metrics like your standardized test score, your academic background. In the academic background we’re looking for your overall GPA, but also the types of courses that you took, your grade trends and how that aligns with what you’re doing now.
We’re also looking at your professional work experience and what you’re doing. Was there a bridge between what you did at university and how you’re deploying that in your job? What exactly are you doing in your job? The scope and depth of your work experience, sort of the quantitative rigor of your work. Not everybody has that, but we are looking for that sort of analytic and technology element of work as an element of smart.
We are also looking at certification. So we have a lot of students that are coming with CPAs, with CFAs and other additional professional certifications that help indicate their level of expertise in a particular area. So those are some of the dimensions that we are looking at and that we are finding when we’re looking for smart.
When we’re looking for accomplished. Again, academics play a part in that. And so again, your academic record, your ending GPA, whatever the GPA was in your major, we’re looking at that. We’re looking again at the scope and depth of your professional work experience and growth and how you’ve moved forward and progressed in your career. So those are elements of accomplished that we can find both sort of in your academic transcript as well as on your resume and in our conversation with you during an interview.
When we are looking at aware, aware is pretty broad and it’s broad by design. Again, I mentioned this culture of co-investment a few times. And so when you have the culture of co-investment, everyone is working together towards the common good, and that means that people have to respect one another, that means people have to learn how to be vulnerable, that means people have to learn how to look inward to understand what some of those vulnerabilities are and what their strengths are, and how do they balance those or establish a harmony as they’re sort of moving forward with the teams that they work in in business school, with the communities or the organizations that they’re going to work for in their internship or full-time. And then the communities that they serve as sort of outside of work. So aware is an element that we find in your essays. We find that in the interview. We find that also in well-written letters of recommendation, and we find that to some extent in the resume as well.
And then encouraging, and again, this aligns a little with our culture of co-investment thinking through mostly around the interview, how do you deal with ambiguity? How do you deal with leading teams and managing teams and managing projects? How do you manage or navigate giving and receiving feedback? You may not be someone, there are a lot of people who come to business school and they haven’t had an opportunity to be the formal leader, but they’ve had an opportunity to lead. And sometimes that’s in work and sometimes that’s outside of work. But that element of encouraging, we can lift from, again, the essays, we can lift that from the interviews. And again, we can lift that from well-written and very thoughtful letters of recommendation.
Can you go into a little bit of what you mean by a culture of co-investment? How does that manifest itself? [16:52]
Yeah, absolutely. So that manifests itself in we see the students as partners in everything that we do. So if you like for example, our Women in Business Conference, that is a big conference. We bring in probably 150, 160 prospective students to campus. It’s full of guest speakers, panels. It’s a 3-day event. The students put that on all by themselves with some guidance from the faculty and staff. But really the leaders of this are the students.
We have a new mental health and awareness initiative, although again, I’ve been in this business for a long time. That’s always been a thing. It’s only recently become a notable thing that people are talking about. But for those of us that have been around for a while, this has always been an issue that we’ve had to deal with. But our students played a big part in helping us come up with our approach for our mental health and awareness initiative. Part of that was serving on a university-wide committee to bring in a telehealth service, and then they helped design our peer mental health advisors, that entire initiative, the students helped co-design it. And so they literally went from start to finish and we just rolled it out. We just finished the elements of the design just before the winter break, and we will roll it out in earnest here after spring break.
And so there’ll be a number of different peer counselors that are deployed throughout the first year class and the second year class to help us really keep our ear to the pulse of what’s going on with the students, and to serve as a sounding board for students who might be struggling, and to serve as a first alert for when we might need to escalate things to a higher level to ensure that someone is getting the help and the resources that they need.
So by co-investment, kind of like the school is investing in the students and you’re hoping the students will be active participants, initiators, whatever in the campus community as well. [18:54]
And that initiative that they show by coming to Tuck will continue while they’re there? [19:05]
Absolutely. And that’s born out, again, in our annual giving rate as well as our level of engagement, not just the giving, but level of engagement just across the board with the business. So again, I think in any given week there’s probably 15 or 20 alums that are on campus doing something.
What accommodations has Tuck made in light of the recent layoffs that have caused many business schools to do different things. What’s Tuck done? [19:31]
So we announced back in January that we were deploying a GMAT GRE test waiver option for those who were negatively impacted by those economic and employment disruptions. Of course, this started notably in the tech sector, but very quickly went beyond the tech sector. So our initiative was for our round three applications, and it was industry agnostic. But it was an opportunity for folks to submit an application to be considered for a GMAT GRE test waiver. And we were looking at, number one is you had to be unemployed.
And then if you submitted the application, you were unemployed and you met a few other top line criteria, then we would look at your academic background. So we were looking for an undergraduate academic background that was steeped in technology, quant, analytics. Then we were looking at advanced coursework, graduate coursework or maybe certificate programs or something, again, that was steeped in technology, quant or analytics.
And then the third category that we were looking at was your professional work experience and whether that professional work experience was steeped in sort of quantitative work data or analytics.
So we had those three buckets. The more of those buckets you could check off, the more likely you were to be granted the waiver. The fewer of those buckets you check off, the less likely you were to be granted the waiver. And again, we did it for our round three. The deadline for that was actually March 1st. So that gave us plenty of time to do all the evaluation of the applications for the fee waivers. And then for those folks who weren’t granted, not a fee waiver, but a test waiver, it gave them the opportunity to study and sit for the exams.
Do you think the test waiver policy will be extended to next year? [21:32]
We’ll have to see. We’ll wait and see what it looks like at the end of this year. We’ve still got quite a ways to go. We’re getting ready to release round two on Thursday, and then we are still knee-deep in round three, so we’ll have to see what this looks like at the end.
What advice would you have at this point in time for somebody thinking of applying in the 2023- 2024 cycle? [21:54]
A lot of people think that the third round or the later rounds are bad rounds and that they put you at a competitive disadvantage. I’ve never really fully understood that, but I do understand that there are some of our peers that the bulk of their enrolled classes are coming from early deadlines, but that’s only a handful of schools. I think most of us do have to rely on the full breadth of the admission cycle. So that’s all rounds of the admission cycles. I think schools will be hard-pressed to turn away strong candidates that come in in later rounds. Again, there are some exceptions, there are some of our peers where with the bulk of their enrolled classes are built off of round one and round two. And some of those peers, they don’t even have really a third round, they only have two admission cycles. But I think schools will be hard-pressed to turn away any strong candidates that come in later in the admission cycle.
Obviously when we’re talking about seats in classes and the dollars that are left, that really is the same calculus that you have to think about whether you are applying round one versus round two, and round two versus round three. As more students come in and submit their enrollment deposits and commit, schools are looking at a finite number of seats available in a class. And so that’s just something that you have to take into consideration. I will say that people shouldn’t rush. So I know a lot of people right now because I think Microsoft or one of the tech companies just said that they were … No, Meta.
Meta slashed 10,000 more jobs. And so I would definitely caution folks about rushing into the application process. The reason why most schools have multiple deadlines is to provide students with the opportunity to present their application when it’s at the strongest that it can possibly be. For some folks, that may mean multiple attempts at a standardized test. For some, the self-reflection or the self discernment piece and finding which schools I’m going to apply to takes a little bit longer. So they may apply in round two, round three or round four. I know there are several schools now, so several of our peers have extended their third deadlines and added a fourth deadline.
I was just going to ask if you have any plans to do that. [24:31]
We don’t have any plans to do that. Students just need to be thoughtful about that. So whether you apply now or wait and apply early, I think that depends on how you assess your readiness and competitiveness in the application process.
What can those invited to interview at Tuck expect if they’re lucky enough to be invited? [24:50]
Yeah, I think you can expect a conversation, not low intensity, but low risk I should say. I think a lot of people get wound up and they think that we’re trying to trick you with, and this is for any school, that the schools are trying to trick you with trick questions in the interview, and that’s going to be a grilling. This is not. We want to have a very civil conversation just to learn a little bit more about who you are, what makes you tick, why you’re interested in the Tuck School, why you’re interested in pursuing an MBA, and how all of that fits into your short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals and objectives. And along the way, we’ll ask you some questions about how you handle stress and adversity, how you communicate, how you give and receive feedback, and just some of the other elements of you that make you you, that you might want to share with us.
Tuck last year had three essay questions. Why are you pursuing an MBA? And why Tuck? Tell us who you are. I’m summarizing here. And describe a meaningful experience in which you exemplified one or more of these attributes. Attributes being encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic. Do you anticipate any changes to those questions? [25:50]
That’s a good question, and we will start thinking about what the next application looks like here in late April or early May. So we’ll see. I think that the industry that we’re in is that a little bit of a crossroads when it comes to MBA applications, and we just talked about ChatGPT and its impact on a lot of different things. So we are going to be very thoughtful and deliberative in thinking through what the application for the next cycle looks like.
Also this’ll be, I guess, your first full application cycle at Tuck. [26:45]
Have you played at all with ChatGPT? [26:52]
I have. I’ve played a lot with it. The output is only as good as the input.
What question would you have liked me to ask that I haven’t asked? What would you like to answer? [27:13]
What would I like to answer? I think, again, sort of going back to the advantages of being in a small New Hampshire town, you get to know your classmates. One of the other elements that I’ve always thought very highly of Tuck about, and again, I’ve been in this business for a long time and I’ve known the folks here at Tuck for a long time. Back when I worked at Indiana University, I worked with a lot of folks from Tuck, and I’ve always been impressed with just the level of engagement across the board. And I think that part of that is when you come here, and again, we talked about everyone has to pick up and move but this is a place where you can’t hide. And that’s not a bad thing.
It’s getting to know your classmates and getting to know the faculty and getting to know the staff. And with that high engagement of alumni, the thing that has impressed me, one of the things that has impressed me the most is I went to South America and met up with about 15 alums and the age range was about 10 years, class years. And you would’ve never known that they were in different class years. They were just talking as if they all sat in their finance class together or their GIX to Denmark together, and that was amazing. Again, a 10-year gap. And then that was replicated. I went to London, had a chance to meet with some of the folks and again, a wide range of years, class years, but they all got along as though they were sitting in the class together just yesterday. So that level of camaraderie I think is something that adds to that element of fit and in how you can thrive in your time during an MBA.
Might also be something to show that you want to be a part of and that you’ve provided comradery and participation and co-investment in the past if you are applying successfully at Tuck. [29:18]
All right, Lawrence, I want to thank you so much for joining me today. I’ve really enjoyed learning about Tuck’s MBA program and admissions process and community. Is there a URL you’d like to share? [29:29]
Sure, tuck.dartmouth.edu will take you right to our main landing page.
- Tuck360 blog
- Dartmouth Tuck MBA Admissions
- MBA Admissions Quiz
- Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines [2022 – 2023], Class Profile
- What Does 2022 Mean for Applicants in 2023 [Episode 505]
- The Questions You SHOULD Be Asking – ANSWERED! [Episode 500]
- How to Get Accepted to MIT Sloan MBA [Episode 498]
- How to Get Accepted to Cornell Johnson MBA [Episode 488]
- Approaching Your MBA Application [Episode 487]