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Fuqua Class of 2023 Essay Analysis

June 23, 2020

Fuqua has released its 2020-21 prompts with a few minor changes from the previous cycle.

2020/21 essay questions

Short answer question: What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first choice career plan and your alternate plan. (500 characters)

Essay 1: 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.

Essay 2: 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, what are the three most meaningful ways you expect to engage and contribute to our community outside of the classroom?

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

2020/21 essay question analysis

Short answer question

With only 500 characters, you’ll need to be concise in answering the question. When explaining your short and long-term goals, also tie your answer to the impact you want to have, rather than the roles you are targeting. Doing so makes your employability appear greater to the Admissions Committee (a big plus, especially with continued global economic uncertainty), differentiates you from other applicants, and makes it easier to later on explain how you will leverage Fuqua towards achieving these goals. What you mention should represent your first choice; the best “Plan B”s are variations to your preferred plan (i.e. consulting if you cannot join a startup), rather than something fundamentally different from the goals you articulate earlier in the answer.

Essay 1

In the past, successful clients keep each bullet brief (i.e. 1-2 lines at most), focusing on characteristics that aren’t reflected elsewhere in the application. For example, this isn’t the place to discuss your great analytical or leadership skills. That should already be highlighted in your resume. Instead, focus on your softer, adventurous, more light-hearted side. What are some of the funnier (yet workplace appropriate) stories and experiences from your past? How did you develop your key relationships? The more differentiated stories you can write (hint: almost everyone loves their family, especially mom, so don’t use too many of your bullets on topics like that), the better you will separate yourself from other applicants. Your goal should be to give the reader a clear understanding of how you will fit into Fuqua.  The funnier your bullets, the better. Even sprinkle in a few self-deprecating ones!

Stuck? Crowdsource examples from friends and family. New ideas will cross your plate when you least expect it!

Essay 2

A slight change from last year, Duke is now explicitly asking for three contributions rather than keeping the number of contributions you wish to discuss up to you. However as with prior years, it will be important for you to understand Fuqua’s resources outside of the classroom – from informal events to class traditions. You’ll want to connect with students and alumni to get the inside scoop on the campus experience (we can help) and opportunities to improve it.

The best examples will be specific, relevant, and realistic. For instance, promising a senior government official or executive will only work if you can explain to the Admissions Committee how you will convince them to come (i.e. you know them) and that what they have to say will improve the quality of the MBA experience for you and your peers. Your contribution could be anything from organizing a conference, starting a club, building relationships with a new community, etc. The more you can explain that contribution in detail, the more you will separate yourself from other applicants in a good way. Further, make sure you demonstrate some variety in your three contributions; don't pitch 3 conferences or three speakers, etc. Instead, make sure the three together convey a deeper breadth of your passions and personality. And don't be afraid to make contributions fun; creating dance and comedy groups can be just as powerful as a high-profile speaker!

Optional essay

As with other schools, keep this direct and concise. Avoid coming across as defensive. Instead, focus on what you learned from the experiences you are sharing this in this essay, and how it better positions you to achieve your longer-run goals.


2020/21 deadlines

Early decision: Application deadline: Sep. 23, 2020; Decision date: Oct. 27, 2020

Round 1: Application deadline: Oct. 20, 2020; Decision date: Dec. 18, 2020

Round 2: Application deadline: Jan. 7, 2021; Decision date: Mar. 20, 2021

Round 3: Application deadline: Mar. 25, 2021; Decision date: Apr. 30, 2021


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