Tuesday Tips: Duke MBA Essays and Tips for 2019-2020

Duke MBA essays

SBC’s updated tips for the 2020-2021 Duke MBA essays are here!

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business is a community oriented program seeking a diverse class of accomplished students. Today, we’re sharing our tips for the Duke MBA essays to help you create a positive impression on the admissions committee.

Admissions director Shari Hubert has written some excellent blog posts about what they look for in the Duke Fuqua application process. As Hubert wrote in December 2017, “This place is truly special. It wasn’t long after joining Fuqua in October that I came to that realization, and every day I continue to encounter things that affirm it. … I’ve been struck by how real and authentic everyone is, and getting to know my colleagues and our students has been one of the most enjoyable parts of my job so far.”

For the Duke MBA essays, communicate who you are and why you should join Team Fuqua. Starting your research and personal networking now will help you prepare the most effective essays for your Duke Fuqua application.

Stacy Blackman Consulting can help you prepare a compelling, individualized strategy to approach your Duke Fuqua application this year, contact us to learn more.

Duke MBA Essays and Tips for 2019-2020

Required short-answer essay 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?
2. What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first choice career plan and your alternate plan.

This career goals essay asks for your plan for an MBA and your future career goals in this two-part question. Because both parts should fit together, think big picture and focus on the overall story trajectory. What would be the most logical (and interesting) progression from your current skill set to a Duke MBA? How will your next step flow from the combination of your MBA and your past experiences? The career goals essay is about your ability to assess your background and plan your future. It’s not a promise you are required to fulfill.

As you consider your alternative path, think about plans that fit with your background and goals. Also, show what you could explore if your first plan doesn’t work out. Flexibility is useful in a changing world, and useful for these short-answer Duke MBA essays.

For example, you could be focused on becoming a marketing executive in the consumer packaged goods industry. Therefore, you might be interested in a company like General Mills. If you don’t find the right job in that industry after Duke, maybe you would consider marketing for a retailer, such as Target. This could be an alternate career path because it allows you to develop a marketing career as well, just in a different industry.

Or, you may have two separate interests and want to consider both of them. Your Plan A is to join a strategy consulting firm after graduation. However, if you don’t receive a job at your top choice firm you would think about co-founding a start up as another possible path. Think about your range of interests and go from there.

Because you have limited space in these Duke MBA essays, boil your plans down to a clear statement. Any plans for an MBA and career goals you discuss should be supported by the information provided in your resume, recommendations, and other essays. In particular, Duke Fuqua should be a clear training ground for your future career.

Duke MBA essays


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 Duke MBA essay is entirely open-ended. As a result, you can cover your personal background, work experiences, values and hobbies. If you have a particularly interesting story, this is the place to tell that story. Make sure that any topics that are personal are also relevant to your Duke Fuqua application.

Director Hubert’s Random Things

Duke MBA essays

Director Hubert has posted her own 25 random things, including items from her famous aunt to her love of vegetables. This list shows her personality and also ranges from the serious to the frivolous. Consider that range as you compose your own list.

Coming up with 25 random things to list in this essay may seem daunting at first. To jump-start your creative process you may want to brainstorm with friends and family about what is most interesting and memorable about you. Or keep a notebook with you to record ideas as you go about your activities.

Once you have 25 random things, how do you structure your list? There’s a few possible ways: chronologically, chunking the list into themes, or even alphabetically. You could organize the list so that it builds from shorter to longer items. Another idea is to intersperse some of the 25 random things that require a paragraph explanation between sets of things that are easy to understand in one sentence.

Structuring the list to make it easy to read and follow will be appreciated. But, resist the urge to package the list too perfectly. Content is always the most important factor in these Duke MBA essays. Also, remember that the main point of this essay is to show Fuqua your personality, and interests. This makes the essay a crucial part of your overall Duke Fuqua application.

Second required essay: The Fuqua community and you

Instructions: Your response should be no more than two 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?

In your application, be very specific about why Team Fuqua is the right place for you. The best Duke MBA essays will be personal, while demonstrating you have done your homework on Fuqua. Everyone benefits from a diverse alumni network, but what specifically do you want to give and receive from your classmates?

Describe clubs and classes you want to join at Fuqua. Also, offer specific examples from your past experiences to show your consistent passions.

Your fit with the program is crucial to this Duke Fuqua application. In addition, it will be ideal to show the personal qualities that Duke Fuqua prizes. The Duke MBA program is especially interested in your role within the community. Community involvement has significant weight in your Duke Fuqua application. If you research thoroughly, you should be able to show you will be a strong contributor to Team Fuqua.

This essay can also be a place to talk about how the Duke MBA fits into your career goals. What do you know now that will be enhanced through your Fuqua MBA education? And what crucial aspects of the skill set required for your future career will be augmented by attending Duke?

However, the main focus should be your community involvement. Think about how you plan to improve the experience of others at Duke.

Tell us more

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.

Please do not upload additional essays or additional recommendations in this area of the application, and limit your response to one page.

The Admissions committee at Fuqua asks that you use this space only to explain extenuating circumstances. So, don’t use this essay just to add new information to your Duke Fuqua application. If you have a low GPA, lack a recommendation from your current supervisor or have gaps in work history this is the place to address it. If you do not have any of those areas to explain, skip the question and focus on the other essays.

When approaching any concerns about your background in the optional essay it’s important to show that your recent performance, whether academic or professional, has demonstrated recovery from the issues of the past.

Your goal is to remove questions from your application. To do that, address any information the admissions committee needs to know to evaluate your application. In a factual and positive manner, write that you know there could be questions about your background, but you have thoroughly improved in any areas necessary. That will be the best way to show you are now ready to contribute to the program at Duke Fuqua.

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