Posted on June 22, 2020

Duke Fuqua MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines: 2020-21

Duke Fuqua

Duke Fuqua MBA program that seeks 'leaders of consequence', has released essay questions and deadlines for the 2020-21 application season. The application for the class beginning in 2021 will be available in July.

Keeping in mind the ongoing tumultuous times, the school has made certain changes in its application requirements to make the process simple. Allison Jamison, Assistant Dean of Admissions, explains the reasons for the changes in the blog: "During this time, we learned the importance of keeping things simple and removing some of the stress that comes with applying to business school. With those lessons in mind, we looked at our Daytime MBA application and admissions process to see where we can streamline it for applicants, while still capturing all of the information our team needs to find the best students for Fuqua."

The 4 key changes in the 2020-21 application are:

  1. The school requires only one LOR now
  2. Reapplicants can replicate last year's submission
  3. Applicants can submit Executive assessment scores
  4. Applicants will write 1 short essay instead of 2

For more details about the changes, click here.

Application Deadlines:

Round Application Deadline Interview Decision Sent Final Decision Release Deposit Deadline
Early Action Sep. 23, 2020 Oct. 8, 2020 Oct. 27, 2020 Dec. 15, 2020
Round 1 Oct. 20, 2020 Nov. 10, 2020 Dec. 18, 2020 Feb. 25, 2021
Round 2 Jan. 7, 2021 Feb. 2, 2021 Mar. 20, 2021 Apr. 23, 2021
Round 3 Mar. 25, 2021 Apr. 8, 2021 Apr. 30, 2021 May 14, 2021


Essay Questions:

The Duke Fuqua MBA program made a few changes in the essay questions this year. The first longer response question, the iconic 25 random things remains unchanged. But, the required length of the second longer response essay has been reduced from two pages to only 300 words. Additionally, the short answer questions have also been further revised this year. Instead of two short questions, the candidates will be answering only one short answer question this year. The three 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', while the third one asks them about their post-MBA goal and their alternate plan.

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.

Here is MER’s analysis of the essay questions:

Required Short Answer Question:

Instructions: Answer the following question in 500 characters only (the equivalent of about 100 words).

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)

For this question, you will elaborate on your post-MBA career goals as well as your alternate plans if your first-choice plans do not 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 does not 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.

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 two 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 exciting 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 are doing in your day-to-day life, your hobbies/ habits that have become an integral 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 300 words.

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 more productive. Hence for this question, you must 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) through the website, you should reach out to alumni and current students to gain additional insights about the school's culture and resources.

Please note that it is vital 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 will be a strong contributor to Duke as a student and as an alumnus.

Allison Jamison's advice: "Our second essay will still ask you about how you plan to engage with the Fuqua community, but we would like you to limit it to the three most meaningful ways you expect to engage as a student. While there are so many opportunities available, one of the first skills you must develop as a student is how to prioritize what's most important to you. There will also be a 300-word limit on this essay. Again, we hope this change helps you to focus on things that spark your interest, while also providing the Admissions Committee with helpful insights into the unique contributions you will bring to the class."

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 describe 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 is best to skip this question and focus only on the required three essays.

You may be interested in our analysis of previous years essay questions:

Duke Fuqua Essay Tips & Deadlines -2019-20
Duke Fuqua Essay Tips & Deadlines- 2018-19
Duke Fuqua Essay Tips & Deadlines- 2017-18
Duke Fuqua Essay Tips & Deadlines – 2015-16

Free Resources:

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples
Essay Analysis of Other Top Programs-2020-21
MER Students Share their success Stories
Case Studies

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs, including Duke. (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.