Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Like most other top-ranked business schools, Fuqua has made some pretty substantial changes to its essays this year, including the introduction of a “25 things” list that we think is pretty interesting. And now, here is a look at Fuqua’s admissions essays for this season:
Duke (Fuqua) Admissions Essays
Required Short Answer Questions (Just 250 Characters Each)
- What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
- What are your long-term goals?
- Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?
Business schools are really into counting characters (rather than words) these days, huh? The three above short answers should add up to only about 150 words, if it’s easier for you to think about them that way. Re-read that blog post by the Fuqua admissions team… For these short answers, they really are just looking for the facts. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put any thought into these responses, but rather that they’re looking for less hand-waving and “big picture”-speak and for more headlines to help them quickly get a read on why you’re even applying to Fuqua in the first place. Think of this as your chance to make the admissions team’s job a little easier… Rather than having to sort through your application essays to figure out why you’re applying, you’re spelling it out in three bold “can’t miss” headlines. One more thought: Many applicants consider the third question to be a curve ball, but this sort of adaptability is important to show. No one knows how exactly their career will unfold, and with this question Fuqua wants to see if you “get” that idea and have at least thought through some alternatives.
- The “Team Fuqua” spirit and community is one of the things that sets The Duke MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that 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.
Please 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 2 pages.
This is one of the most unique “essay” prompts we have seen come along in years! We suspect that many applicants may not like this new prompt since it’s so far “out there” and different from what else is out there. While this shouldn’t be a completely frivolous list, it also should not simply rehash what else is in your application. Seemingly random facts such as “I once roadtripped with a friend and visited two dozen baseball stadiums” are interesting and reveal something about you, whether you realize it or not. We have seem some advice out there that tells applicants that all 25 items must be “unique” and “ownable,” but it would be a mistake to apply that rule to all 25 items. If the favorite part of your week is spending a couple of hours on Sunday morning reading the paper, then it would be crazy for that not to make it into this list, whether or not other applicants might possibly say the same thing. For us, a good rule of thumb is that approximately half of this list should reinforce your application themes (which you should have nailed down long before drafting this list), and the other half can be more “fun”… Don’t run the risk of putting the admissions committee to sleep with your list. Finally, take a look at the examples that Fuqua admissions officers have posted about themselves!
- When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.
Your response to this essay question should be no more than 2 pages in length. Please respond fully and concisely using 1.5 line spacing.
While the “25 things” question will generate more buzz, we actually think this is the response the Duke admissions team may pay more attention to. The purpose of this question is really to assess your fit with the school. Last year the school simply asked, “Why Duke?” in an essay, and this year the admissions committee will try a new approach, but it’s still about fit: This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have really researched the program, understand its culture, and really want to spend the rest of your life as a member of the Fuqua community. Some pragmatic components to your response are totally fine — it has strong ties to the health care industry, or has a specific research center that interests you, for instance. That’s a completely real, honest response. But the school wants you to go beyond rattling off lists of professor and course names from its website and convince them that you will be eager to attend Fuqua if you’re admitted.
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Earlier this week Harvard Business School’s Dee Leopold authored a blog post titled “Some General Thoughts Which You May or May Not Like.” While nothing in this post is particularly controversial or crushing (or even new), whenever an admissions officer speaks, applicants usually pay attention. Most of Leopold’s advice boils down to “Do your homework on HBS, don’t try to full us, and assume that we want you to do what the application instructions say.”
Leopold wrote (taken from the HBS blog; bolding is ours):
- Try to resist the urge to make “standing out” your primary goal in the admissions process. If you have made traditional choices all along (college, extra-curriculars, major field of study, jobs), own it. You’ll look silly if you try to portray yourself as a rogue daredevil. There are plenty of people at HBS who come from traditional backgrounds.
- Do your homework about the case method. It’s our signature pedagogy and it is nothing like traditional academia. Watch Inside the Case Method on our website and ask yourself if you find this method of learning intriguing and exciting. If it’s not for you, choose another school now vs. later.
- When choosing recommenders, determine whether or not they can answer the question we pose: what piece of constructive advice have you given to the candidate? If they can’t answer, they probably don’t know you well enough to write a helpful recommendation.
- Realize that we’re serious when we say that our challenge is “selection” vs. “evaluation.” Our promise to our faculty and to every student is to deliver the most diverse class – on multiple dimensions – as we possibly can. I’ve never heard an HBS student say: “I wish there were more students just like me in my section.” Selection can look mysterious to the outside world because not all of the elements of diversity can be captured in metrics. Some, like leadership style, are subtle and communicated more obliquely.
- Stay curious. It’s so easy to stay “heads down” during the application process and become so introspective that you lose sight of the larger world. Keep reading. Keep listening. We’re looking for people who can dig into a case about a company they have never heard of, in an industry they don’t think they care about – and be 100% engaged.
Some applicants have complained that the above is just more abstract advice, and that this doesn’t bring them any closer to knowing what Harvard Business School wants. If you find that to be the case, then ignore the post… it wasn’t meant to confuse you! But rest assured that no business school benefits from intentionally obfuscating the process. They want to make it as easy and stress-free as the process can be, knowing that this is an inherently tough process and will inevitably cause some sleepless nights for all involved.
To stay on top on all of the latest news from Harvard and other top-ranked business schools, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!
Recently the Stanford GSB admissions team wrote a blog post that gives business school applicants one more reason to calm down about the new Integrated Reasoning section on the GMAT. Simply put, the Stanford admissions team will not take applicant’s Integrated Reasoning scores into account when making their decisions for the 2012-2013 application cycle.
“Wait, why wouldn’t they use it if the people behind the GMAT went through all the trouble to create it?” you may be asking. Don’t take this as a sign that Stanford or any other MBA program does not believe in the new Integrated Reasoning section. Instead, think about how much history MBA admissions officers have with the “old” GMAT… The Stanford admissions team alone looks at thousands and thousand of them every year. Now, a new number shows up on the report, and they need to get comfortable with that number before they can make life-changing decisions based on it.
The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2015. While Ross hasn’t made changes quite as big as those at some other schools this year, the school’s total essay word count has slimmed down a bit, continuing the trend we have seen among most top-ranked business schools. We’ll dig into the Michigan’s essays and deadlines below, followed by our comments, in italics:
Michigan (Ross) Application Essays
- Introduce yourself to your future Ross classmates in 100 words or less.
This question carries over unchanged from last year, and so our advice remains pretty much the same. Think of this essay as your “elevator pitch” to the Ross admissions team. You have just four to six sentences to highlight what the admissions committee absolutely must know about you. This is not an exercise is seeing how much information you can cram into 100 words. Instead, your challenge is to distill down your candidacy to no more than a couple of key points that 1) demonstrate your fit with Ross and 2) help you stand out vs. the competition. Note that, although the new wording this year changes the audience from the Ross admissions committee to your future classmates, your goal remains the same here. This essay will be a super-summary of the rest of your application, so don’t be bothered if some of the content here overlaps a bit with what’s in your other essays.
- Describe your career goals. How will an MBA from Ross help you to achieve those goals? (300 words)
This question is sort of a repeat from last year, but Ross made two big changes: First, it dropped half of the question (“What is your vision for how you can make a unique contribution to the Ross community?”). This is interesting since that dropped question was introduced last year, but apparently it wasn’t doing its job for the Ross admissions committee. And, the word count has dropped from 500 to 300 words. For the part that’s left, you need to keep your response realistic and to demonstrate that you understand what a Ross MBA will and won’t do for you as a young professional. Note that many similar questions start with “Describe your career progress to date,” but this essay is only forward-looking. Still, any discussion of your career goals will likely include at least some background on what you’ve learned and accomplished, although you will need to do it succinctly. You shouldn’t dwell on your past, but you should plan on succinctly discussing what you’ve done until now as a way to “set the stage” for your career plans.
- Describe a time in your career when you were frustrated or disappointed. What advice would you give to a colleague who was dealing with a similar situation? (500 words)
This is another case of a question that carries over from last year, but with a notable change. In this case, Ross changed the second sentence from “What did you learn from that experience?” to what you see here. While it’s actually not a substantial change, we actually like this version a little better. While this isn’t explicitly a “failure” essay, an example of a time when you failed is fair game here. Other possibilities are a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker or a time when you had a hard time winning others over to your way of thinking. These would all make for good demonstrations of how you have dealt with adversity. And remember that the second half of this question is the most critical: How would you impart this knowledge to others? This sort of maturity and emotional intelligence is what admissions officers look for. yes, you may be young, but you’re already far enough along in your career that you can help others… Show the Ross admissions team how you would do that using these life experiences.
- What are you most passionate about and why? How will this passion positively impact Ross? (300 words)
This question is an evolution of an optional one that Ross offered last year. The entire second part is new, which suggests to us that, while the school was getting interesting answers from applicants, the admissions team wanted to see these passions tied back to Ross a little more explicitly. This question requires an honest response about something that truly moves you. You can be passionate about anything, but what really makes great responses stand out is when the “Why” part is memorable, believable, and contains specifics about how you have acted on that passion. Are you passionate about bicycling? Great. Now explain why, using specific examples. Now, convince the admissions team that your passion is something that you’ll share with your classmates… That doesn’t mean you will start a cycling club, but maybe the endurance you have built up in your cycling training will make you a valuable study team member when the clock strikes midnight. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative here!
- Optional question: Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (500 words)
As always, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. More generally, if you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it’s okay to skip this essay!
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