Tuesday Tips – Duke MBA Essay Tips

The concise set of Duke MBA essays for the 2009-2010 application season requires focus. One of the essays is earmarked for your career goals, and another focuses on your interest in the Duke MBA. The other essay is more open-ended and allows for flexibility in the topic choice.

A clear application strategy is crucial to approaching these essays. With a flexible 2-pages per question, and a mandate to demonstrate how you will fit in with Duke’s mission to “identify, engage, and foster the development of future leaders of consequence,” you will want to make it simple for “the Admissions Committee would like to get to know our applicants in a more holistic manner.”

Applicant Essays : Answer all 3 essay questions.
1. Describe your vision for your career, your inspiration for pursuing this career path, and the role of The Duke MBA in achieving your goals. If you are interested in a specific concentration or joint degree program, please discuss in this essay.

This career goals essay is fairly straightforward in its approach. You will want to start by thinking about the choices that have led you to your current career path, and what you plan to do for your future career. Focus on the inflection points that have inspired you ”“ whether coursework in college, early exposure to running your own business, or watching a family member pursue their dreams ”“ and clearly outline why you have made the choices in your life thus far.

Career visions can be either long-term or a combination of long-term and short-term goals. Think big picture and focus on the overall story, not just the job you hope to land immediately after school. When you look back at your career later in life, what do you want to have accomplished? What will make you proud, engaged and satisfied?

It’s important to clearly outline the role of your Duke MBA in these career goals. What do you know now that will be enhanced through your MBA education? And what crucial aspects of the skill set required for your future career will be augmented by attending the Duke MBA? Essay three will allow you to focus on the specific reasons Duke is right fit for you, but it’s important to seamlessly demonstrate the need for an MBA in your career goals essay.

2. Discuss a person, event, or experience that has significantly shaped your life and explain why.

This open-ended question will allow you to consider your overall application strategy. Think about the points in your background and personality you would like to explain. If you have a typical career path for an MBA applicant and fairly straightforward career goals, this essay would be a good place to show another side of yourself. What activities do you engage in outside of work and why? What are some of the key parts of your life that may not fit cleanly into your career and professional goals?

While you should not forget that you are applying to an MBA program and leadership, teamwork and management potential are paramount, this essay may be an opportunity to follow the admissions committee’s advice to share “what makes you a dynamic, multi-dimensional person.”

3. Individuals choose a business school for many different reasons. Through your research, what attributes or characteristics of The Duke MBA program have most resonated with you and why? How do you plan to contribute to the strengthening and enhancement of those attributes and characteristics during your time at the Duke MBA program and beyond?

This essay is entirely focused on why the Duke MBA is the right place for you specifically. This may be another opportunity to demonstrate your multi-dimensional personality as you explain which classes, clubs and community activities most resonate with you.

The best essays will be both specific and personal. While everyone benefits from a diverse alumni network, what specifically do you want to give and receive from your classmates? If you describe clubs and classes you are attracted to offer solid examples that demonstrate why these topics are appealing to you.

When researching schools it is ideal to speak with current students, alumni, and other members of the community to see a wide range of perspectives on the program. When you speak to those affiliated with the Duke MBA program ask them to tell you what most surprised them about the program, or what they like the best and dislike the most. Asking probing questions with surprising angles can help you unearth what is truly special about the program, and what is most appealing to you.

While the focus of the essay is the Duke MBA, you are also being asked to talk about yourself. Your fit with the program is crucial, and therefore you must exhibit the qualities the Duke MBA is seeking as well.

Optional Essay (not required)
If you feel there are extenuating 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, significant weakness in your application).

As with most optional essays, the Duke MBA asks that you only use this space to explain extenuating circumstances. If you have a low GPA, a non-typical recommender or gaps in work history this is the correct place to address those issues.

When approaching any optional essay it’s important to focus on recent performance, whether academic or professional, and what such performance demonstrates about your ability. Your goal is to remove questions from your application and to address in a factual manner any information the admissions committee needs to know to fairly evaluate your application.

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