Posted on June 27, 2019

Duke Fuqua Essay Tips and Deadlines- 2019-20


Duke Fuqua MBA program that seeks ‘leaders of consequence’, has made several changes to our application process this year “with the goal of increasing accessibility to all applicants, streamlining the process, and providing the greatest number of applicants the opportunity to meet with Duke MBA students and staff in person.

The two longer response essays (the iconic 25 random things and contribution essay) remain unchanged. But the short answer questions have been revised. Instead of three, the candidates will be answering two short answer questions. Allison Jamison, Assistant Dean of Admissions, explains the reasons for this change in the blog:

“The questions have been changed to give applicants more opportunity to share their reasons for pursuing an MBA in general. We are also asking applicants to focus more attention on short term career goals, rather than long term goals, given the uncertainty and dependencies of life that are inherent in planning for the long term.

Application Deadlines:

Round Application Due Decision Released
Early Action September 19, 2019 October 28, 2019
Round 1 October 14, 2019 December 18, 2019
Round 2 January 06, 2020 March 18, 2020
Round 3 March 11, 2020 April 20, 2020

Essay Questions:

Duke’s 2 long essays (2 pages each) and two short career goals essays allow applicants to cover a lot of ground about their personal and professional traits and accomplishments. The first required essay is Duke’s favorite for many years- ‘25 Random Things about Yourself’ prompt. The second essay prompt asks applicants about their ‘fit’ with ‘Team Fuqua’

Instructions for All Written Submissions:

  • Responses should use 1.5-line spacing and a font size no smaller than 10-point.
  • Do not repeat the question in the document you upload with your application.
  • Respond fully and concisely.
  • Length requirements vary by the question and are detailed below.
  • Responses must be completed before submitting your application.

All submissions are scanned using plagiarism detection software. Plagiarism is considered a cheating violation within the Honor Code and will not be tolerated in the admissions process.

Let’s take a closer look at the essays:

Required Short Answer Questions:

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

1. Why is pursuing an MBA the right next step for you? (500 characters, or about 100 words).

Provide a brief account of your career history so far, detailing how you have pursued your interest, acquired new skills, and progressed along your career path these years. Then explain where you stand now and what you want to do, touching upon your short-term and long-term goals. Then go on to describe why you believe that an MBA is the next logical step in your career path NOW? Explain what are those skills that you still lack, which you hope to acquire by an MBA? Discuss how an MBA will fill the gaps in your career and bring you closer to the fulfillment of your goals?

2. What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first-choice career plan and your alternate plan. (500 characters, or about 100 words)

In the first question, you have just touched upon your career goals to justify your reasons for pursuing an MBA. For this question, you will elaborate on your post MBA career goals as well as your alternate plans if your first-choice plans don’t materialize. Please identify the position that you hope to hold immediately after MBA, specifying role, position, industry, and 1-2 organizations/companies which you would like to work for. Articulate your goal and explain why this goal is interesting and important to you. Please note that your post-MBA goal shows a logical progression from your current skill set, and skills and knowledge acquired through an MBA degree. Also, make sure that your goals are ambitious as well as realistic.

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

Long-form essays:

First Required Essay: 25 Random Things About Yourself

Instructions: 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.

For context: Fuqua believes different types of people, points of view, and experiences bring out the best in everyone. And above all, we place a premium on succeeding while making a positive impact on businesses, organizations, and the world. These ways of thinking set the Duke MBA experience apart, and this concept 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. It is my favorite, as well. For years, I have enjoyed working with applicants on this question as it offers me a glimpse into the ‘fun’ side of their personality. As stated in the essay prompt, the purpose of this question is to get to know you–beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. This means that the admission committee wants you to share with them your ‘important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts or anything’ that helps them understand who you are as a person”. Thus, the purpose of this essay is to show the admission committee your multidimensional personality.

Over the years, I have noticed that the candidates initially find this question a little daunting and are tempted to discuss their professional accomplishments, but when they dig deeper and begin brainstorming ideas about unique and interesting things about themselves, and the unique personal experiences that have made them who they are, they start enjoying this process of self- discovery. I advise them to do these brainstorming sessions with their family and friends and ask them what they find interesting and funny about them.

Please note that the word ‘random’ allows you to include little fun things that you have done or do in your day-to-day 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 need to get too serious about yourself. You want to share something about you 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 Admission Committee seeks to know about you through this question. For ideas, you may refer to the following examples on Duke Website:

Examples of "25 Random Things"

Bottom Line: Be Yourself

Second Required Essay: The Fuqua community and you

Instructions: Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length.

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 are vital to providing you with a range of experiential learning and individual development experiences.

Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, how do you see yourself engaging in and contributing to our community, outside of the classroom?

This essay is primarily about your contribution to the school. Duke emphasizes greatly on how their students will make their community richer. Hence for this question, it is important for you to do your homework and research the school thoroughly. You need to think beyond your contribution to the classroom and discuss how your involvement in clubs, organizations, and student communities will add value to the program. In addition to understanding the school’s resources (curriculum, faculty, clubs, organizations, and student activities) you should reach out to alumni and current students to get additional insights about the school’s culture.

Please note that it is important to support your claims about your potential contribution to specific clubs and organizations by specific examples from your past experiences, personal or professional, in the given area. In order to demonstrate your ‘fit’ with the program, you must showcase what you have done in the past and how you are going to be a strong contributor to Duke as a student and as an alumnus.

Since the short-term goals essay doesn’t give you an option to explain how Duke will help you realize your goals, you can use this essay to discuss how various resources and offerings of Duke are aligned with your career goals. Be as specific as you can in connecting your career aspirations to specific courses, and clubs and organizations at Duke. However, your primary focus should be your community involvement and how you plan to enrich it.

Optional Essay: Tell us more

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

Please do NOT upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area of the application and limit your response to one page.

As instructed in the essay prompt, submit the optional 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.

If you do not have any of those areas to explain, it’s best to skip this question and focus only on the required three essays.

Free Resources:

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples

Essay Analysis of Other Tops Programs- 2019-20

25 Video/Chat Interviews of Successful MER Students

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.

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