Posted on July 15, 2015

Duke Fuqua Essay MBA Questions Analysis – 2015-16


Early action: Application deadline: September 15, 2015 at 11:59pm EST, decision date: October 26, 2015

Round 1: Application deadline: October 14, 2015 at 11:59 pm EST, decision date: December 17, 2015

Round 2: Application deadline: January 5, 2016 at 11:59 pm EST, decision date: March 15, 2016

Round 3: Final application deadline: March 22, 2016 at 11:59 pm EST, decision date: May 6 2016

From Duke Website

Be Consequential

“Be a leader who demonstrates competence, character, and purpose—a thinker and a doer who can maneuver the complexities of interdependent issues. Aspire to possess the technical acumen, personal attributes, and moral compass to both "get along" and "get it right." Because the world needs MBAs who navigate toward a collective good for ALL stakeholders—others,  the organization, the community, and the world. If this sounds like the kind of leader you want to be, then The Duke MBA—Daytime is the program for you.”

Your goal is to use these essays to demonstrate the kind of leaders the Duke Admission committee is looking for.

Duke has retained all the essay questions from last year. Let’s take a look at the essay questions.

Required Short Answer Questions:

Instructions: Answer all 3 of the following questions. For each short answer question, respond in 500 characters only (the equivalent of about 100 words).

1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
2. What are your long-term goals?
3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?

 Last year’s applicants answered this question in 250 characters, so you are fortunate to get 500 characters to discuss your career goals.

 The career goals question has been broken down into 3 parts, so you will also answer these straightforward questions separately in a clear, concise, and succinct.

1. Discuss what you plan to do immediately after your MBA. Be as specific as you are in outlining your role, position, industry, and the company you aim to join after your MBA.

2. Then explain your long term vision for your career. Also, explain how you see yourself progressing from achieving your short term objectives to your long term vision.

3. Lastly, Duke admits that ‘life is full of uncertainties, and you may come across situations that prevent you from realizing your post-MBA goals. In such a scenario, you must be prepared for your plan B. Please make sure that your alternative career path is in alignment with your experience and the skills, knowledge gained from your MBA education. It should not be an altogether different path that doesn’t allow you to leverage your skills and experience to the fullest

Essay #1 (Required): 25 Random things about yourself

Instructions: Answer the following question — present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may be only a few words, while others may be longer. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.

The “Team Fuqua” spirit and community is one of the things that sets The Duke MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. When a new person joins the Admissions team, we ask that person to share with everyone in the office a list of “25 Random Things About Yourself.” As an Admissions team, we already know the new hire’s professional and academic background, so learning these “25 Random Things” helps us get to know someone’s personality, background, special talents, and more.

In this spirit, the Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you–beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. You can share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of “25 Random Things” about YOU.

This question about ‘a list of 25 random things’ about applicants is Duke’s favorite for many years. Actually, it is my favorite as well. As stated in the essay prompt, the purpose of this question to get to know you–beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. So they suggest that ” you can share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are”.

I have seen candidates finding this question daunting initially, but when they begin brainstorming ideas about unique and interesting things about themselves, they actually love the process. I advise them to do these brainstorming sessions with their family and friends and ask them what they find interesting and funny about you.  Also, you will need to do a lot of self-refection to dig into interesting things about your personality, your likes and dislikes, and your unique personal experiences that have made you who you are. Please note the word ‘random ‘and include little fun things that you have done or do in your day- today's life, your hobbies/ habits that have become an inseparable part of your personality. The unique component of this essay question is the “fun” part of it.  So you don’t want to get too serious about yourself. You want to write something that draws your reader in Also, please resist the temptation of drifting away to your accomplishments, career goals, or leadership experiences because this is NOT what the Ad Com seeks to know about you through this question.

Essay #2 (Required)(Choose 1 of 2)

Instructions: Choose only 1 of the following 2 essay questions to answer. Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length and should reflect your knowledge of the Fuqua program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.

Both of these essay questions are entirely focused on why the Duke MBA program is the right ‘fit’ for you.

Option 1: Why Duke: When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.

This essay prompt is very clear and personal, so the effective response to this question will be specific, detailed, and personal. Though you are writing this essay for the Ad Com of Duke, they want you to compose your response as though you are addressing your family or friends or colleagues. So please keep in mind your audience, which means you need to bring into context who you are addressing- your family member, your close friend, or your colleague.

To prepare a strong response to this question, you will need to do thorough research on the school’s resources and offerings and then explain how these offerings fit into your career goals. When describing clubs and classes you are attracted to, also offer specific examples from your past experiences to show your consistent personal or professional passions.  In addition, you also need to discuss your role within the Duke community and demonstrate in what ways, you will be adding value to the Duke community. Be as specific as you can in your response.

Option 2: Team Fuqua Principles: The Team Fuqua community is as unique as the individuals who comprise it. Underlying our individuality are a number of shared ideas and principles that we live out in our own ways. Our students have identified and defined 6 “Team Fuqua Principles” that we feel are the guiding philosophies that make our community special. At the end of your 2 years at Fuqua, if you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 Principles listed below, which one would it be and why? Your response should reflect your knowledge of Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as

a Fuqua student.

1. Authentic Engagement: We care and we take action. We each make a difference to Team Fuqua by being ourselves and engaging in and supporting activities about which we are passionate.
2. Supportive Ambition: We support each other to achieve great things because your success is my success. The success of each individual member of Team Fuqua makes the whole of Team Fuqua better.
3. Collective Diversity: We embrace all of our classmates because our individuality is better and stronger together.
4. Impactful Stewardship: We are leaders who focus on solutions to improve our communities both now and in the future. We aren’t satisfied with just maintaining the status quo.
5. Loyal Community: We are a family that looks out for each other. Team Fuqua supports you when you need it the most.
6. Uncompromising Integrity: We internalize and live the honor code in the classroom and beyond. We conduct ourselves with integrity within Fuqua, within Duke, and within all communities of which we are a part.

As with option 1, this question also requires you to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of Duke’s resources and culture. In addition, you also need to do a lot of souls- searching to understand which of these six principles best resonate with your personality and values. Then think of ways, you see yourself contributing to the Fuqua community following that particular principle ( e.g ‘local community’ or ‘uncompromising integrity’ etc. ) by participating in various activities. Whichever principle you exemplify, you need to focus on how it will impact your future career and how it will enhance the Duke community.  Please remember you have to visualize your self-receiving an award for exemplifying one of these 6 principles, so you need to elaborate on which specific on-campus resources you will take advantage of to receive this award.

Optional Essay

If you feel there are circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware, please explain them in an optional essay (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance).

Do NOT upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area of the application. The Optional Essay is intended to provide the Admissions Committee with insight into your circumstances only.
Limit your response to two pages.

As instructed in the essay prompt, write this essay only if you have to explain extenuating circumstances. (e.g., “unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance”).  If you have a low GPA or less than ideal GMAT, or if you are not able to get a recommendation from your current supervisor, or if you have an employment gap, you may address these concerns in your optional essay.Your weakness may also bring out a positive aspect of your personality. This essay should convey that you are aware that these are areas of concern in your application, but, whenever possible, you have made a sincere effort to improve upon these areas.


For my Blog on the optional essay, click here.

For sample optional essay, click here.

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