Tuesday Tips: Duke MBA Essays and Tips for 2020-2021

Duke MBA essaysDuke 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.

Assistant Dean of Admissions Allison Jamison has written a blog post about the updates to the Duke MBA essays for this upcoming cycle. COVID-19 has changed many things about the MBA experience and admissions. Jamison says that their goal is to reduce stress at this time.

Therefore, Duke has streamlined the Duke MBA essays and application this year. As a result, Duke reduced the short answer questions to just one. Also, Fuqua has retained the iconic “25 Things” essay and has shortened the “Why Fuqua” essay.

Stacy Blackman Consulting can help you prepare an individualized strategy for your Duke MBA essays. Contact us to learn more.

Duke MBA Essays and Tips for 2020-2021

Required short-answer essay 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.

This is a concise essay asking for your vision for your career. Think big picture and focus on the overall story trajectory. How will your career goals flow from the combination of your MBA and your past experiences? The career goals essay is about your ability to assess your skills and plan for the future. However, it’s not a commitment to a specific path.

To that point, Duke is interested in your first and alternate choices in careers. In response, think about goals that fit with your background and personality. Also, show what you could explore if your first plan doesn’t work out. Flexibility is useful in a changing world, and valuable for this Duke MBA essay.

For example, say your primary goal is to work in marketing 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 alternative career path because it allows you to develop a marketing career while remaining flexible about the 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 this Duke MBA essay, boil your plans down to a clear statement. You should support any ideas for an MBA and career goals with the information provided in your resume, recommendations, and other essays. In particular, Duke Fuqua should be the ideal 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 background, work experiences, values, and hobbies. If you have a particularly compelling story, this is the place to tell that tale. Make sure that personal topics are also relevant to your Duke Fuqua application.

To help you answer this question, the Duke admissions committee has posted their own 25 Random Things examples. The examples run the range of very personal (engagement stories) to inspiring (starting a company from nothing). Consider the range of responses as you compose your list.

Coming up with 25 random things to list in this essay may seem daunting at first. Start your creative process by brainstorming with friends and family. First, ask them about what is unique and memorable about you. Then, ask them to share the first story they think of when asked about you. Consider keeping a notebook with you to record ideas as they come to you.

Once you have 25 random things, how do you structure your list? There are a few possible ways: chronologically, thematically, or even alphabetically. Also, you could organize the list so that it builds from shorter to longer items. Another idea is to alternate paragraphs of explanations with sets of one sentence items.

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 critical factor in these Duke MBA essays. Also, remember that the point of this essay is to show Fuqua your personality. This makes the essay a crucial part of your overall Duke Fuqua application.


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

This year, the school has trimmed this essay from two pages to 300 words. Therefore, you will need to be very specific about why Team Fuqua is the right place for you. The best Duke MBA essays will be personal, while informed. Everyone benefits from a diverse alumni network. So, what will you specifically give and receive from your classmates?

When you consider which three areas to focus on in this short essay, draw on past experience. Are there clubs around your interests? What classes are intriguing and build on your knowledge? Finally, 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 would be ideal to showcase the personal qualities that Duke Fuqua values. For example, Fuqua is especially interested in your role within the community. Community involvement has significant weight in your Duke Fuqua application.

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 skills will you learn at Duke for your future?

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

Fuqua School of Business – Keller Center East – Hall of Flags


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.

This space is meant only to explain special circumstances. Therefore, do not use this essay to add new information to your Duke Fuqua application. The reasons to write this essay include: low GPA, gaps in work history, and lack of recommendations from current supervisors. If you do not have anything unique to explain, skip the question.

Focusing on explanations and future performance is the best strategy. Your goal is to show that any past issues have been addressed. You are now on a successful trajectory and can handle Duke Fuqua’s academics. In a factual and positive manner, write that you know there could be questions about your background. Then, describe how you have improved. Overall your goal is to show you are ready to contribute to Duke Fuqua.

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