Duke MBA Application Essays for 2010-2011

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has released its admissions essays for the 2010-2011 season.

Regarding word counts, note that Fuqua doesn’t provide specific word limits, but rather asks that applicant limit each essay to no more than two pages, with a font size no less than 10-point and 1.5 line spacing. They ask applicants to “respond fully and concisely” to each essay.

Here are Fuqua’s essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Duke (Fuqua) Application Essays

  1. Describe your vision for your career and your inspiration for pursuing this career path.

    Overall, your approach to this question will be very similar to your approach to other “Why an MBA?” / career goals questions. While you should save the “Why Duke?” material for Question #3, be as specific as possible about how you see your career progressing over the next ten to twenty years. Do you want to dive right into industry and get your hands dirty? Learn as part of a larger operation and “grow up” as a leader, eventually taking the reins of a division within a large company? This is where you need to show that you’ve at least thought these things through, even if you know that you may change your mind one day. And by “specific” we don’t mean that you must spell out that you will spend exactly four years as a management consultant, then three years as a business development manager, etc. Rather, you must show that you can “tie it all together” and envision a realistic career path for yourself after graduating from Fuqua.

    Also, even though the essay asks for your “career vision,” don’t miss the “inspiration” part of the question — this is Fuqua’s way of trying to understand the you’ve made up until now. In other words, this is the part of the essay where you need to describe your career choices and progress up until now. Your biggest potential mistake here is to give the impression of an applicant who’s applying to Fuqua simply because he’s bored or has stagnated in his current job. You always want to look like an applicant who is moving toward something great, not moving away from something bad.

  2. How will your background, values, and non-work activities enhance the experience of other Duke MBA students and add value to Fuqua’s diverse culture?

    This question is new this year, although Tuck last year Tuck had an essay question that was very similar. This essay gives you a good chance to specifically highlight any strengths or themes that you want to emphasize more in your application. Everything in your background applies: your work experience, your personal life, and your hobbies all make you unique. Some applicants see this and think, “Oh, it’s a ‘diversity’ question. I’m afraid I don’t bring much ‘diversity’ to the table,” but that’s simply not true. All applicants have some things in their backgrounds that make them interesting… Discuss them here! And, do it in a way that demonstrates that you “get” the values that Fuqua prizes — including teamwork, innovation, and a global perspective.

  3. Why Duke? (If you are interested in a specific concentration, joint degree, clubs or activities, please discuss how you would contribute to these in this essay.)

    Wow, that’s a short one! As mentioned above, in some respects Duke took last years’ Question #1 and chopped it into two questions: this year’s Question #1 and Question #3. Duke, like some other top schools that tend to sit just outside the top ten in the MBA rankings, gets a lot of applications from candidates who also have applied to Harvard, Wharton, etc., and the school is quite savvy at recognizing when an applicant is truly excited about Duke. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have really researched the program, understand its core values (mentioned above), and really want to spend the rest of your life as a member of the Fuqua community.

    Some applicants will surely rattle of names of classes, professors, and on-campus clubs, to show that they’ve done their homework. Instead of “showing off” like this, you should dig deeper, and force yourself to answer the question… Why Duke? Some pragmatic components to your response are totally fine — it has strong ties to the health care industry, which is what first drew you to the program, for instance. That’s a completely real, honest response. Then, starting there, move into how you can see yourself thriving in the Duke community. Show that you’ve done your homework, but also make sure that it all ties back to you as an applicant. This makes your answer more believable — and more effective.

Applying to Fuqua this year? Be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter for more advice on the business school application process!


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