Duke Fuqua 2015 MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines

Want to learn more about Duke Fuqua? Click here!Leadership, teamwork, ethics, and a global approach to business are essential elements of the Duke Fuqua MBA, which is why you’ll need to make sure you express your passion for these ideals in your application essays. Impress the Fuqua adcom by positioning yourself as an innovative leader and team player, as someone who can see the big picture, work collaboratively, and shape global business.

My tips are in blue below. 

Three short answer questions and 2 essays are required from all applicants.

• Responses should use 1.5 line spacing and a font size no smaller than 10-point.
• Respond fully and concisely.
• Responses must be completed before submitting your application.
• Prepare your responses carefully. The Admissions Committee considers your answers important in the selection process.
• All essays are scanned using plagiarism detection software. Plagiarism is considered a cheating violation within the Honor Code and will not be tolerated in the admissions process.

Application Tip: Check out Fuqua’s section criteria.

Short Answers

Answer all 3 of the following questions. For each short answer question, respond in 250 characters only (the equivalent of about 50 words).

1. What are your short term goals, post-MBA?

State what you see yourself doing in terms of function and industry. If location or geography are important to your goal, include them.  If you know the type of companies you would like to work for, you can include that information too, but don’t say you want to work for Company X, unless Company X is sponsoring you. That’s probably too narrow.

2. What are your long term goals?

Your long term goals should flow logically from your short-term goals. They can be fuzzier and both in terms of direction and timing. But you should have them. They can, but don’t have to, include larger aspirations and present a broader perspective on where you are headed. But please don’t go so general and say something like “I aspire to be a good person” or “I strive to leave a lasting impact on my community.” Nice sentiments, but way to general.

3. 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?

What’s your Plan B? If you can’t get a job at a leading strategy consulting firm, what do you want to do? If Plan A is investment banking, what’s Plan B?


1. Answer the following question — 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.

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. 

Have some fun with this list. It certainly allows a more creative approach than permitted by most essay prompts. Note that the questions asks you to go “beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript.”  So you can list your Pez collection or perhaps your brief membership in a rock band or the fact that you took violin from age 6-18 or your membership in a gospel choir or your volunteer work in a hospital, your needlepoint, your favorite recipe or photo. Gosh the list is endless. Just let it reflect you. Think of this list as an introduction to potential friends.   For more insight into this question and the  motivation behind, please read Megan Overbay’s, the former Director of Admissions’, advice. I believe you will find it helpful. And very friendly.

2. Choose only 1 of the following 2 essay questions to answer. Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length.

Choose to the prompt that will let you reveal something important to you and impressive about you. Write the essay that you will be able to draft most enthusiastically and easily.

1. 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

Why Duke? But you’re not talking to the admissions committee, whom you just may be a tad less than candid with. You are talking to your family, friends, and colleagues, people you know and like (at least the friends).  The Fuqua admissions staff really wants to get to know you. Authenticity is the goal. The admissions readers want to be able to imagine you as a part of Team Fuqua — their family — as a friend or colleague. Will you be real stiff and formal? Of course not. You will be friendly in a professional way. Don’t take this as an invitation to be inappropriate, coarse, or rude. Just friendly.

What appeals to you at Duke? What about its program, culture, and professional opportunities propels you to apply and would compel you to accept an offer of admission? Maybe address a letter to a close friend and tell her why you want to go to Duke.  That letter may morph into this essay.

2. The Team Fuqua community is as unique as the individuals who comprise it. Underlying our individuality are a number of shared ideas and principles that we live out in our own ways. Our students have identified and defined 6 “Team Fuqua Principles” that we feel are the guiding philosophies that make our community special. At the end of your 2 years at Fuqua, if you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 Principles listed below, which one would it be and why? Your response should reflect the research you have done, your knowledge of Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.

1. Authentic Engagement: We care and we take action. We each make a difference to Team Fuqua by being ourselves and engaging in and supporting activities about which we are passionate.
2. Supportive Ambition: We support each other to achieve great things, because your success is my success. The success of each individual member of Team Fuqua makes the whole of Team Fuqua better.
3. Collective Diversity:  We embrace all of our classmates because our individuality is better and stronger together.
4. Impactful Stewardship: We are leaders who focus on solutions to improve our communities both now and in the future. We aren’t satisfied with just maintaining the status quo.
5. Loyal Community: We are a family who looks out for each other. Team Fuqua supports you when you need it the most.
6. Uncompromising Integrity: We internalize and live the honor code in the classroom and beyond. We conduct ourselves with integrity within Fuqua, within Duke, and within all communities of which we are a part.

Do your homework about Fuqua (and yourself) before responding to this question. What activities and groups appeal to you? How do you see yourself participating? Making a difference? Then look at the list of six principles above. Which do you most identify with? Imagine how you would exemplify that principle in your activities. The story of that role and how would see yourself earning an award is your essay.  While you can reference similar activities in the past, keep the focus of this essay on what you would do at Fuqua and why you would earn recognition for exemplifying one of these six principles.

Optional Essay Question:

If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware, please explain them in an optional essay (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, or any significant weakness in your application).

• Do NOT upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area of the application.
• The Optional Essay is intended to provide the Admissions Committee with insight into your extenuating circumstances only.
• Limit your response to two pages.

Why isn’t your current supervisor writing your rec? Why is there a six-month gap on your resume? Why did your grades dip during the first semester of your senior year? What are your responsibilities while working for a family business after having left a prestigious investment bank, and why did you make the change? Answering any of those questions (but not all) could be the topic of your optional essay.

If you would like professional guidance with your Duke Fuqua MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Duke application. 

Duke Fuqua 2015 MBA Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline Decision Notification
Early Action Sept. 17, 2014 Oct. 29, 2014
Round 1 Oct. 20, 2014 Dec. 19, 2014
Round 2 Jan. 5, 2015 Mar. 13, 2015
Round 3 Mar. 19, 2015 May 6, 2015

Have our MBA admissions experts critique your Duke Fuqua application!


Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.


Related Resources:

• What I Wish I Knew Before Entering the Duke MBA
• Culture, Location, and Support: A Duke MBA Speaks
• 2015 MBA Application Essay Tips


The Economist’s Top 20 North American MBA Programs

How much do MBA rankings matter? Click here for the short answer. Below you’ll find The Economist’s top 20 American business schools, with a rank on the left (ranking the top 20 in the U.S. and Canada) and a rank on the right (the school’s place in the top 100 global rankings). As you’ll see, the American programs listed are all located at the top or very close to the top of the top global programs. The Economist article highlights the legacy of American programs – their size, their history, their all-star faculties (all of Wharton’s 245 professors have PhDs), and their financial magnitude.

As always when looking at rankings, you need to understand the methodology behind them. The Economist’s methodology is a weighted average going back to 2011 of some fairly quirky factors including “Diversity of recruiters,” “Number of languages taught,” and “Number of overseas countries with an official alumni branch.” If those and other factors considered by the Economist are not important to you, then this ranking probably isn’t that useful to you.

There are 16 schools on the global rankings that have an average GMAT score over 700; 14 of them are American (with Stanford GSB taking the cake with an average of 729).For opening up doors career-wise, the top 5 schools in the global rankings were all Americans – Chicago Booth, Dartmouth Tuck, UVA Darden, and Columbia. Interestingly, even with the top marks for job opportunities, graduates from American programs tend to earn less than those from European and Australian programs – the Economist article claims that this is likely due to the limited pre-MBA work experience of those accepted at American programs. (Even Stanford’s grads, who in America boast the highest average salary of around $130,000, earn less than grads from less prestigious programs like IMD in Switzerland and University of Queensland in Australia.)

In terms of cost, the American schools certainly rank at the top of the chart. A Harvard MBA will run students $112,000. A degree from Wharton costs $130,000.

How much do rankings really matter? Click here to view our 2-min answer.

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs


Where Does Wall St. Hire: U.S. B-Schools Sending Grads into Financial Services

According to GMAC’s just released Prospective Students Survey Report, 37% of prospective MBA students hope to go into finance after they earn their degree, making it the most popular post-MBA destination. If you fall into this crowded category, then you’ll be interested in knowing which b-schools prepare the most grads for jobs in financial services.

As you’ll see below, we’ve created two charts (based on data from U.S. News’ top 25, which happens to have 26 schools because of a tie for 25th place) that display the U.S. schools with the highest percentage of grads going into financial services and those with the highest number of grads reporting financial services jobs. We did not include non-U.S. programs because U.S. News doesn’t rank them, and we wanted the data to be consistent. There are definitely financial powerhouses outside the U.S.

Want to learn more? Get your free copy of MBA in Sight: Focus on Finance

For more information about the top MBA programs, check out our B-School Zone pages.

The top names on this list, in terms of absolute numbers, are the standard bearers in finance, known as Wall St. breeding grounds. I was a little surprised at how low MIT Sloan came out on both totem poles. It has very prominent faculty in finance, including Nobel Prize winner Robert C. Merton. Perhaps those smaller schools known for entrepreneurship, like Stanford, MIT Sloan, and Haas, are sending more of their graduates into non-traditional fields. Consequently they will not do as well in this kind of a ranking even though they have the curricular, co-curricular, and placement ability to support financial services goals.

Can you put less weight on attending schools at the top of the list even though you may want to go into financial services when you graduate? You can if you’ve already worked in financial services and are looking to get a broader understanding of business, management and leadership through the MBA. Those of you with that background already have valuable skills and a relevant network. Those of you looking to get into financial services for the first time, however, will probably want to look more closely at the programs higher up this list.

Realize that these lists don’t reflect the class profile of the programs or the typical credentials of admitted applicants. You need to know that information too to assess your competitiveness when choosing where to apply. Washington Olin (2nd in percentages) has an average GMAT of 696. UNC Kenan-Flagler (ranked #4 in percentages) has an average GMAT of 683. Both schools send 32% and 28% of their grads respectively into financial services. For those of you without GMAT bragging rights or other qualifications to get into Chicago (average GMAT 723), Columbia (716), and Wharton (average GMAT 725) — the leaders on this list in absolute numbers and overall USN ranking – Olin and Kenan-Flagler may be a good alternative and at least start you down your desired career path.

Much as I did with the similar data we compiled on consulting I must issue a warning: This list or ranking is valuable, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. “Financial services” is a very broad category covering everything from private equity and venture capital, to investment banking, money management, corporate financial analyst positions, and even good old bean counting (AKA accounting). Clearly your specific area of interest is critical, and you have to dig deeper into the employment reports at your target schools to confirm strong placement in your particular area of interest. Also understand how the curriculum and co-curricular activities, events, and clubs will help you do what you want to do after your MBA.

You want to attend a b-school that will help you realize your career goals. Identifying schools with exceptional track records for students with similar goals – especially for those of you seeking to change industries and enter financial services – is an excellent place to start when choosing which MBA programs to apply to, and ultimately, deciding where to attend. This list helps you focus your research. It is the starting gate, not the finish line.

Discover the Secret to Acceptance at Columbia Business School! Click here to register for the free webinar!

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Culture, Location, and Support: A Duke MBA Speaks

Check out the rest of our Business School Student Interview series!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now, introducing Enrique Toubes:

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What was your most recent pre-MBA job?

Enrique: I was born in the South of Spain, in small city by the coast called San Fernando. I studied Computer Science in Madrid, after studying High School in Maryland.

Right before starting my MBA I was working at a software company in Austria as a Project Manager.

As you can see, I like to move around the world!

Accepted: Why did you choose to pursue your MBA at Duke? How are you the right “fit” for that program?

Enrique: I chose Fuqua for several reasons: its culture, its location, and its support to international students.

Fuqua’s emphasis on team work is a perfect fit for such an outgoing person as myself. I enjoy working in teams and wanted to be in a collaborative environment.

While applying to business schools, I reached out to several Duke students to learn about their experiences and get a better idea of what kind of people go to Fuqua. I felt a great connection with each and every one of the students I met. I knew that I wanted to be around such people.

Fuqua is located in a small city in North Carolina: Durham. Durham is really affordable, compared to other cities with top MBA programs. I live really close to campus at a brand-new, spacious apartment. There are no traffic jams in Durham! People are extremely nice and, being a small city, I can interact much more with my classmates and other Duke students. Durham is also well known for its food; there are great restaurants in the area from all sorts of cuisines.

Finally, Fuqua is very international. Around 40% of the class are internationals. There are all sorts of activities to help our community get to know and understand other cultures. Each Friday we celebrate what we call Fuqua Friday: first and second years, families, and faculty get together to eat and drink. Each Fuqua Friday is organized by a different club. For instance, one of the Fuqua Fridays was organized by LASA [Latin American Student Association] and they brought Mariachis to play in the school. Another fact that shows how supportive is Fuqua towards internationals is its financial aid program.

Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?

Enrique: Is difficult to say, as I am enjoying most of them! Fuqua has a set of core classes and allows us to choose electives in January of our first year. I’m finding extremely useful all the classes that relate to finance and accounting, as I come from a technical background. The concepts that we are learning are key for every MBA.

Accepted: Is there anything you wish you’d known going into b-school that you can share with incoming first year students and applicants?

Enrique: I did a lot of research and talked with many people before coming to business school, so I had a clear picture of where I was getting into. I would encourage to incoming students not to stress about recruiting and networking, and always be yourself. Companies want smart people, but also some that are fun to work with.

Accepted: What do you plan on doing once you receive your MBA? Do you plan on staying in the States or returning to Spain — or heading off to some new, exotic destination?

Enrique: One of the best things about an MBA is that it allows you to face an ever more global economy. With Duke’s MBA, I could go work almost anywhere I wanted. I have always chosen where to work or study based on the culture and the people I met in each place. When considering what to do after the MBA, I will follow a similar approach: analyze each option and understand how my family and I fit in. That option might be here in the States, Spain, or elsewhere.

Accepted: As someone who successfully applied to a top business school, you must have some good advice for our readers! Can you share your top three tips on b-school admissions?

Enrique: About essays, try to be unique and show personality. Read your stories and ask yourself “how are these essays different from the rest of the applicants?” Regarding the interviews, be yourself and smile, don’t be a robot who memorized all the stories. And finally, about the GMAT, remember that is just one more part of your application. Don’t bring yourself down in case you don’t get a 750 and keep being positive!

Accepted: Can you recommend a nice coffee shop on or near campus that’s good for studying or hanging out with friends?

Enrique: Personally, I believe the best place is Fuqua’s Fox Center! You’ll get the chance to meet many different people, hang out with your section and teammates, enjoy a Starbucks coffee, study, do cases with other students, play ping pong, and many other things. The Fox Center is the heart of Fuqua.

If you really feel like leaving campus, there are several places to hang around with other students or family next to Fuqua. I rather have a beer than a coffee, so I would recommend Six Plates, a quiet place where you can enjoy an Estrella Galicia, an awesome Spanish beer!

Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? How have you benefited from the blogging experience?

Enrique: I started reachingthethirties.wordpress.com  when began applying to business school. I wanted to practice writing English, as well as to share everything I was learning about business schools and the recruiting process. I also have a lot of friends and family scattered around the world, so it also was a great way of keeping all of them updated about my progress. Once I got accepted to Fuqua, my mission was to tell the world about this awesome place and the great MBA program that we have. Fuqua is a very young school and is not well known in some parts of the world, such as in Spain. It is my goal to spread the word about Fuqua.

A lot of people have reached out to me through my blog, asking questions about the recruiting process or Fuqua. It is great to be able to help them, and even more when you hear back from them telling you that they reached their goals.

You can read more about Enrique’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, Reaching the Thirties. Thank you Enrique for sharing your story with us!  

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Fuqua see:

•  Duke Fuqua 2014 MBA Essay Questions & Tips
•  Duke Fuqua MBA Interview with Niladri Sannigrahi
•  Sheryle Dirks on the Masters in Management Science Program

MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips

What I Wish I Knew Before Entering the Duke MBA

Guest post by Seven Ma, MBA Student at Duke Fuqua in its Health Sector Management Program.

Check out our Duke Fuqua B-School Zone!


The MBA flies by fast. I’m currently a first year student and about one-third into my MBA. While only spanning 7 months, so much has happened. I’ve finished all of my core MBA courses, learned a lot about health care, started and finished recruiting for the summer internship, and got to know many of my classmates and faculty. However, just last year I was an anxious prospective MBA student and was unsure of what to expect. Here are some things that I wish I knew last year prior to the MBA.

Understanding the short term benefits of the MBA

The MBA has both short term and long term benefits. The one I’ve mainly focused on thus far has been long term ones – building strong relationships with classmates, focusing on leadership development, and getting hands on experience in biotech startups. However, I would’ve benefited from understanding the exact functions companies recruit MBAs for – earlier. For corporate positions, these would be marketing, operations, finance, and strategy. I would suggest new MBA recruits or applicants to understand what these roles are and which ones to explore further. By clarifying this early on, it will make informational interviews with alumni, company visits, and recruiting events much more effective.

Start early on long term development

As mentioned earlier, the MBA has significant long term benefits. One would also not want to focus solely on short term goals and ignore long term career development. The tip I got early on was to picture the role you want to have much later (for example, the CEO of a public company) – then determine the best opportunities to pursue that can get you there. There are so many events to get involved with during the MBA so choosing the right ones requires this clarity. More specifically, this will help with class choices, club leadership decisions and so on. My tip would be to start working toward long term goals even before starting the MBA. Leadership development is life long and I would suggest doing some reading, attending conferences/seminars and getting involved through volunteer or internship opportunities while still working. I review books on my blog and you can find the list here (more relevant for health care folks).

Learn to read efficiently

A critical skill for business leaders is to extract the most relevant information from a variety of sources quickly. This is especially important for MBA students as time is extremely limited and is split among three aspects – academic, recruiting, and leadership. One thing I learned to do during the fall terms at Duke was how to effectively focus on the most important things in class. It’s a totally different mindset from undergraduate studies when one had time to fully learn everything. In the MBA, it’s important to understand the 20-80 rule and focus 20% of your energy on getting 80% of the result. Learning to read quickly would help. I recommend taking a look at some books on speed reading. In addition, I would urge prospective students to practice reading their news stories or journal articles at a higher pace and try to summarize key take-aways in the end. This is something I’m currently doing with my outside reading on business and health care, but is something I could’ve taught myself before beginning the program.

Learn to listen

The MBA can feel competitive, especially since you will be surrounded by very intelligent and high performing individuals. In class and on teams, I found that it can be easy to get stuck in trying to contribute and not doing that great of a job on listening. One thing I now do well is to focus my energy on listening to fully comprehend others. It’s not easy to do, and we are taught to avoid this – for example by not falling in the trap of thinking of responses when others are speaking. I would suggest practicing this before the MBA. Learn to be mindful (Google “mindfulness”) and learn how to listen. In conversations, reflect if you’re actively engaged and listening to the other person. This is an extremely important skill to have and is something that the most successfully leaders are known for. Having an extra few months to practice would help a lot.

Did you miss our webinar, Career Strategy for MBA Applicants?

Steven_MaSteven Ma is an MBA student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (’15). He has a background in the life sciences and is passionate about innovation in health care. The Duke MBA and its Health Sector Management Program has been a critical part in Steven’s transition into business and he enjoys sharing his experiences. Visit his blog, From Bench to Board.