Duke Fuqua Application Essay Tips, 2023-2024
Duke Fuqua presents its applicants with one of the most creative, and maybe challenging, essay prompts out there—asking candidates to come up with a list of more than two dozen “random” bits of information about themselves. Then, applicants need to craft a more traditional essay in which they explain their fit with the Fuqua culture and how they envision themselves contributing to it. The only specifically “professional” question the school poses involves a succinct declaration of one’s post-graduation career goal. The Fuqua admissions committee is clearly interested in learning about your values, interests, personality, strengths, and other distinctive characteristics to balance the more quantitative information provided in the other parts of your application.
Required Short-Answer Question
Answer the following question in 100 words. What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first-choice career plan and your alternate plan.
This is a pretty straightforward and common MBA application question, though Fuqua throws in the little twist of asking for an “alternate plan” should things not work out exactly as you envision them at this point. Many candidates are focused pretty intently on a specific path, so by asking for a backup option, the admissions committee gets a chance to see what kind of thought you have given to the possibility of having to alter your original plan. You only have 100 words here, so you can’t get too detailed or overexplanatory, but you will want to show that your alternate goal makes just as much sense for you as your primary one, based on your skills, experience, and anticipated Fuqua experience. If your top choice is a very targeted position that is beyond the companies that typically recruit at Fuqua, your backup plan may be a more standard option for which Fuqua graduates are frequently recruited. Be sure to include the industry, function, and geography (if outside the United States), as well as two or three companies you would target.
Essay 1: 25 Random Things About Yourself
The ‘Team Fuqua’ spirit and community is one of the things that sets the MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. Please share with us “25 Random Things” about you. The Admissions Committee wants to get to know YOU – beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. Share with us important life experiences, your hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are.
Your list will be limited to 2 pages (750 words maximum). Please present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may be brief, while others may be longer.
Through this essay, Fuqua wants to get to know who you are as an individual, not just as an “MBA applicant,” so the admissions committee can determine how well you might fit with the Team Fuqua culture and what kind of leader you could develop into. Your list needs, above all, to be very distinct and personal to you, so don’t go into this thinking that there are certain items the admissions committee is expecting you to include. There really are no “right” or “wrong” answers.
That said, we do have some ideas for ways you could catch the eyes (and hearts) of the admissions committee. For one, don’t be afraid to make them laugh. The school neither wants nor expects you to be serious all the time, and humor is a good way to show your lighter side. And remember that these are real, live human beings reading your application. If you can touch their funny bone, they will be more likely to remember you. Another idea is to include some key lessons you’ve learned. A personal experience you share will have an even bigger impact if you can attribute a meaningful takeaway you had from it.
Consider demonstrating a personal connection of some kind with Fuqua, Duke University, or the Durham area. This could be related to something from your past or to something you’re looking forward to as a Fuqua student. For instance, if you play bass in a garage band (or did so at some point in the past), perhaps you look forward to getting together with musically inclined classmates for Fuqua’s Got Talent or Fuqua Idol. Also, show that you are a team player. Although the focus of this “essay” is obviously you, look for opportunities to demonstrate that you support and work well with others.
As for what not to do, to start, don’t give just one- or two-word answers. The admissions committee needs a little context to fully appreciate your responses, and details are what make your items distinct and memorable. Similarly, avoid giving superficial or cookie-cutter responses that don’t provide the admissions committee with any insight into who you are, such as who your favorite character is on a popular television show (or player on a sports team), how many movies or books you’ve read (unless the number is truly astounding), what your name means, and so on. You also don’t want to include any basic facts that the admissions team can already find in another part of your application, especially your resume. This is your chance to complement that information with more personal insight. And of course, you need to keep your responses appropriate for an MBA application. You want to show some character and stand out, but you never want to be offensive or cross any lines.
Use your random things list to present yourself as someone the admissions committee can see contributing positively to the Fuqua community, both during the MBA program and beyond. Are you excited to contribute to classroom discussions? Are you an individual people would want to engage with at Fuqua Fridays? Can they picture you working on a group project during your first year? What leadership role might they envision you in? If your classmates were to honor you with an award for demonstrating Team Fuqua principles, which would it be? Strive to make these types of questions easy for them to answer.
Essay 2: The Fuqua Community and You
Fuqua prides itself on cultivating a culture of engagement. Our students enjoy a wide range of student-led organizations that provide opportunities for leadership development and personal fulfillment, as well as an outlet for contributing to society. Our student-led government, clubs, centers, and events are an integral part of the student culture and to the development of leaders. Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, what are 3 ways you expect to make an impact at Fuqua?
Your response will be limited to 1 page (500 words maximum).
If you hadn’t already picked up on this, culture is a big deal for Fuqua, so the admissions committee understandably wants to know that the applicants it admits are compatible with it. This essay is your chance to ensure that the school considers you a good match with its community and style. Being authentic is key.
Of course, to be able to write a convincing essay for this prompt, you have to truly understand what the Fuqua culture and community are like, so your very first step really needs to be researching the school in depth. This means more than just reading the main pages of the website and any promotional materials the admissions office provides. For example, dig into press releases, blogs, and YouTube videos, but above all, connect with Fuqua students, alumni, and other representatives directly and pick their brains about what it means to be authentically engaged at Fuqua. Additionally, reach out to students currently involved in the clubs, centers, or events that align with your goals and interests. These conversations will inform what you decide to write about and will yield much more insight than you can find online. Students are very accessible, so not having these conversations will reflect poorly on you as an applicant.
Let the admissions committee know what you are genuinely interested in doing at Fuqua, ideally as it relates to your background and post-MBA goals. Explain why you are passionate about contributing to a certain activity, club, event, or other opportunity or resource, and be specific regarding what your contribution might look like. Perhaps you have been involved with the women’s employee resource group at your company, developing a mentoring program for new hires. Relating this experience to proposed engagement with the Association of Women in Business will help demonstrate that your plans are sincere and well founded. It goes without saying that you should discuss your anticipated engagement in a professional club that aligns with your career interests.
Obviously, you need to also be Fuqua specific. Consider using the same terminology and language the school uses when talking about its program. For example, the name of the health care club at Fuqua might be very different from the name of its counterpart club at other schools you’re targeting, and using the wrong name in your essay would be detrimental. Such errors demonstrate a lack of research and genuine interest in Fuqua specifically, which is the last thing you want the admissions committee to think when reading your application!
If you feel there are circumstances of which the admissions committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance). Note that you should NOT upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area. The Optional Information section is intended to provide the admissions committee with insight into your circumstances only.
Your response will be limited to 1 page (500 words maximum).
The optional essay is one that should always be used judiciously. If you feel your application conveys a complete, accurate picture of who you are as a strong Fuqua candidate, then you’re likely best off not submitting this optional essay. There’s little to be gained from adding to the admissions committee’s workload by asking them to read another essay that doesn’t add anything crucial to your profile. But if you have an issue of some sort in your candidacy that could benefit from additional explanation (see the school’s examples), then this is your chance to expound on and clarify it so that it is less likely to be a problem.
Candidates who applied to the Daytime MBA program between July 2022 and May 2022 are considered re-applicants.
It is not uncommon for it to take more than one try to achieve a goal. Please share with us the self-reflection process that you underwent after last year’s application and how you have grown as a result. How did it shape your commitment to Fuqua and inspire your decision to reapply?
Your response will be limited to 1 page (500 words maximum).
Ideally, in the time between your previous application and now, you have made progress in certain areas of your life and career and have seized on opportunities to learn and/or accomplish meaningful things. Fuqua wants to know not only what new skills and experiences you bring to the table this year but also that you are the kind of person who is not easily deterred by setbacks (in this case, not being accepted) and who continues to strive toward their goals even when their originally intended path does not come to fruition. In addition, the admissions committee wants to be able to gauge your capacity for self-assessment and to understand what specifically about the school’s program inspires your ongoing interest. Very simply, outline for the admissions committee what you have done, gained, and learned since you last applied, clearly communicating that your efforts were fueled by your desire to be part of and contribute in a meaningful way to the Fuqua community.
In Stratus Admissions’ Guide to Getting into Fuqua School of Business, you will find information on a variety of the MBA program’s offerings such as the Team Fuqua, The Blue Devils, Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum, and the Duke Start-Up Challenge. This free guide also includes class profile statistics and our expert advice on answering the business school’s application essay questions. Download our brand-new guide to learn more about Duke Fuqua!