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 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  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.

Top MBA Programs for Entrepreneurs

B-schools are always touting their entrepreneurial offerings, programs, and placement, so when we examined the employment reports of U.S. News’ top 25 business schools to see which schools send the most graduates into entrepreneurship, we were surprised to find that only thirteen programs provide this information in their employment reports.

Below you’ll find the results – the U.S. News’ top 25 MBA programs that reveal the number and percentage of 2013 grads who immediately founded their own businesses after completing their MBA:


# of 2013 Grads

Starting Their Own Business

% of 2013 Grads

Starting Their Own Business

Standford GSB 70 18%
MIT Sloan 37 9.5%
Wharton 59 7.5%
Harvard Business School 63 7%
Yale SOM 10 4.5%
UCLA Anderson 14 4%
Kellogg* 3%
Chicago Booth 17 3%
Columbia 18 2.5%
NYU Stern 2%**
Michigan Ross 8 1.5%
Duke Fuqua 4 1%
CMU Tepper 2 1%

* Numbers include all Kellogg MBA programs
** % of reported placements

Clearly, Stanford is way out in front in this horse race. MIT Sloan with its program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation is a distant #2, followed by HBS and Wharton in a tie for third place. Stanford and Sloan have long been known for entrepreneurship, but HBS and Wharton are generally thought of as financial services and consulting breeding grounds. In reality, both programs – without taking away from their strength in consulting and financial services – have sharpened the entrepreneurial saw over the last decade.

This comparison is useful for those of you who want to start your own business ASAP after earning an MBA. It is an indication of an entrepreneurial culture and education. And if entrepreneurial spirit and ultimately an entrepreneurial alumni network is important to you, then you need to know which schools are strong in this area and how they compare.

While this listing is useful, it still doesn’t tell the entire story of MBA programs’ entrepreneurial strength. Many business school grads will work for a few years to pay back loans and then start their own businesses. Among those, there will be a few grads who immediately enter a startup, so essentially they will initially be entrepreneurs on someone else’s dime. There are other MBAs who will work in entrepreneurial areas of established companies. None of these MBAs are reflected in the chart above, but all still benefited from their MBA program’s entrepreneurial education and culture.

Additionally, either we couldn’t find the data or schools don’t all publish these numbers. Consequently, the chart above is incomplete. Don’t automatically assume that programs we haven’t listed aren’t good for entrepreneurship. For example Haas has a highly entrepreneurial culture and many courses relevant to entrepreneurship, but we couldn’t find the number of 2013 grads who started their own business immediately upon graduation. Don’t let that lack of info prevent you from considering Haas if founding a startup is your dream. Similarly, Georgetown has many entrepreneurship resources (See Jeff Reid on Entrepreneurship at Georgetown). Finally, programs outside US News’ top 25, may be excellent for entrepreneurship, deserving of consideration, and easier to get into (For example, Babson).

As with almost all stats in MBA admissions – especially anything related to (un)rankings and comparing programs – take this data as useful information not as the be all and end all of evaluating the entrepreneurial value of different MBA programs. It is simply a succinct compilation of data that you should incorporate into the additional research you should do before deciding where to earn your MBA. Also consider:

• Entrepreneurial curriculum. What classes are offered? Are there opportunities to develop and work on a business plan?

• Extracurricular groups and activities. Are there venture capital competitions, clubs, events, etc.?

• The student profiles at specific schools. Are they entrepreneurial? Would you like to be on a project with them?

Now it’s time for me to get back to drafting that business plan on the back of a napkin.

If any school in the US News’ top 25 includes that data in their employment report and we missed it, or they published the data after we visited their site, please email and we’ll add it.

MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of 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.

IV with a Current Duke MBA Pursuing a Career in Healthcare

Learn more about Duke.Here’s a talk with Steven Ma, a student at Duke Fuqua pursuing a career in the healthcare sector. Read on for Steven’s thoughts on the Duke experience, and don’t forget to check out his blog, From Bench to Board. Thank you Steven for sharing your story with us!

This interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favorite non-school book?

Steven: I was born in China but spent most of my life, and all of my professional life, in the US. I studied biology in undergrad at Oregon State University and graduated in 2010. One of my recent favorite books is Billion Dollar Molecule by Barry Werth.

Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Duke? Least favorite thing?

Steven: My favorite thing about Duke is its ambition. Fuqua is a relatively young business school compared to its peers. It focuses on developing students’ individual passions, whatever they may be, and encourages students to pursue diverse goals. For example, I’m currently on a team participating in the National Cancer Institute/Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Startup Challenge and the support we’ve gotten from the faculty here has been phenomenal. Duke is also building its global presence by opening campuses around the world, including China, UAE, Singapore, just to name a few. Duke is very global and I feel fortunate for the opportunity to learn and grow as a leader here.

There really isn’t anything to complain about Duke. I guess if I thought really hard I’d say that parking can sometimes be difficult and that there is no dinner at the Fuqua cafeteria.

Accepted: Do you have an internship lined up for the summer yet? If so, what role did Fuqua play in helping you secure that position?

Steven: I’m currently in the recruiting process for the summer internship, and will begin interviewing in the next few weeks. Fuqua has been instrumental in attracting the leading health care companies to campus and for establishing strong alumni relationships at these firms.

Accepted: Are you involved in any Fuqua clubs? How central to student life is club involvement?

Steven: I’m currently on the cabinet for the Health Care Club and have participated in the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club, Outdoors Club and Tennis Club events. Fuqua is very student-run, so club experiences have been central to my MBA experience. Along with a handful of classmates, I helped to organize Fuqua’s annual Health Care conference this year and it was very fulfilling to serve the student body and take ownership of our educational experience.

Accepted: What are your post-MBA plans?

Steven: My post-MBA goal is to work in a commercial role at a biotech or pharma company within a leadership rotation program.

Accepted: Can you recommend a nice spot to study on or near campus?

Steven: The Fox Center at Fuqua is a fantastic place to meet and study. It has got big windows with lots of light, so it feels very warm in the winter, even when it’s 10 degrees F outside.

Accepted: Can you tell us more about your blog? Who is your target audience? What do you hope they’ll gain from your blog?

Steven: My blog is entitled, From Bench to Board, and my goal is to help folks who are interested in transitioning into the biotech and pharma industries. I blog about my Duke MBA experience and how it has aided in my transition, so it should be helpful for anyone who is interested in the life sciences industry. I hope that by sharing the books and experiences that have helped me along the way, I can also help many more make the transition.

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 Duke see our Duke Fuqua 2014 MBA Essay Questions & Tips.

Listen to our recent podcast interview with June Kinney: Healthcare Management at Wharton and at Large.

FT’s Best Global MBA Programs in 2014

The Financial Times released its 2014 global MBA rankings! Read on for the list, the facts, the analysis, and the sources.

The List:

2014 Rank

3 Year

School Country 
1 1 Harvard Business School USA
2 2 Stanford Graduate
School of Business
3 4 London Business School UK
4 3 U Penn Wharton USA
5 5 Columbia Business
6 6 INSEAD France/Singapore
7 8 IESE Business School Spain
8 8 MIT Sloan USA
9 10 Chicago Booth USA
10 15 Yale School of Management USA
11 12 UC Berkeley Haas USA
12 15 IMD Switzerland
13 11 IE Business School Spain
14 11 Hong Kong UST
Business School
15 15 Northwestern Kellogg USA
16 19 Cambridge Judge UK
17 17 Duke Fuqua USA
18 18 NYU Stern USA
19 19 CEIBS China
20 18 Dartmouth Tuck USA

To truly understand the rankings, much less use them, please see the methodology so you’ll know what’s being ranked. While there are twenty factors considered in the FT rankings, the FT methodology puts the most weight on increase in salary in $US PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) and weighted salary in $US PPP.

Poets and Quants criticizes the FT rankings for absurd results in calculating “Value for Money” as well as for having too many criteria and several criteria that really don’t reflect the quality of education. Others say that it is biased against U.S. programs.

Regardless of the criticism’s validity, the FT ranking is arguably the most cited ranking of global programs because it compares U.S. and international programs in one ranking and seems to do a better job of it than the alternatives. That prominence doesn’t mean these rankings are Gospel. It does mean you have a lot of data in a format where you can easily compare MBA programs from around the world on designated criteria.

The Facts:

Here are some fun facts about FT’s 2014 rankings:

• 7 of the top 10 and 12 of the top 20 programs ranked are US schools.

• Big jumpers this year include Boston University’s business school and Washington Forster, which each jumped 20 spots, to 75th and 58th place, respectively. Another big US jumper this year was USC Marshall which jumped 17 spots to 65th place. UNC Kenan Flagler jumped up 12 slots this year from its 3-year average rank, moving from #45 to #33.

• The biggest losers this year include Dublin’s Smurfit School (dropped 27 spots to 91st place) and Vlerick Business School (fell 16 places to 100th place), as well as the schools which disappeared off the list entirely: U of Iowa’s Tippie School (74th last year), Korea University Business School (86th last year), Incae Business School in Costa Rica (90th last year), Case Western’s Weatherhead School (94th last year), and others.

• Newcomers to the list include: UC Davis (98th), Wake Forest (94th), BYU’s Marriott School (93rd), and ESMT European School of Management and Technology in Germany (89th).

• In terms of geographic representation, the top 20 schools are all in the US, UK, Europe (France, Spain, Switzerland), China, and Singapore, but further down the list, other countries gain their spots: India comes in at 30th place with the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad; SDA Bocconi in 31st place represents Italy; South Korea appears in 45th place with Sungkyunkwan University’s GSB; Canada’s first school on the list is Toronto Rotman at 51st place; Portugal follows with The Lisbon MBA in 52nd place (new to list); South Africa’s U. of Cape Town GSB comes in at 59th place; in the 62nd slot we have Australia’s Australian Graduate School of Management; and Brazil’s Coppead is in 79th place.

•  The city with the highest concentration of schools in the top 100 is (of course) Boston with six top b-schools – Harvard (1), MIT Sloan (8), Hult International Business School (61), BU School of Management (75), Boston College Carroll (82), and Babson Olin (95).

The Analysis:

While it’s fun to look at the changes – who climbed and who sank – for me the real lessons from this ranking are:

1. The top programs move and change very slowly. That lack of drama in these rankings is a better reflection of reality than the gyrations one sees outside the top twenty. Significant change takes time so sharp jumps and dives probably mean nothing. Sustained change in ranking has greater credibility – if you value the same qualities as the FT.

2. The one point made repeatedly in the commentary on this ranking, and it is the same conclusion I draw from both the FT ranking and the Forbes ranking, which both emphasize ROI and increase in salary, is this: The MBA education at top programs provides a solid return on investment for most students. The MBAs surveyed for the FT rankings started their MBA in 2008, just as the Great Recession hit, and graduated in 2010. These MBAs still report on average a 100% increase in salary over what they were making before they started business school.

There are obviously critics of graduate business education, specifically the MBA, and those detractors either believe an MBA isn’t valuable or that the value has declined. I agree with the latter group. However, the questions for today’s applicants are:

1. “Given my current professional background and salary and my anticipated salary after I earn an MBA, do the anticipated financial rewards plus increased job satisfaction justify the investment (both out of pocket and opportunity costs)?” The fact that those entering b-school ten or twenty years ago could anticipate a higher ROI is irrelevant. It is merely a historical curiosity and for you an unfortunate one.

2. “Is the full-time MBA – or whatever flavor you are considering – the optimal way for me to attain my MBA goals?”

FT, to its credit, also has an article on those claiming the MBA is not worth the effort. Sometimes they are right. Each one of you individually needs to examine your circumstances and goals to see if for you the MBA is an expensive waste of time and effort, or if for you it is likely to be worth both. Clearly, most of the people surveyed by Forbes, the Financial Times, and GMAC are in the latter group.

In this video  Della Bradshaw, FT’s Business Education Editor, discusses the results of this year’s FT Global MBA rankings including the finding that MBAs in the class of 2010 are now enjoying salaries double those they were earning before they entered b-school.

The Sources

• FT Global MBA Ranking 2014

•  FT: MBA Ranking 2014: Key & Methodology

•  FT: Big Names Dominate FT MBA Ranking Top Spots

•  P&Q: Winners & Losers in 2014 FT MBA Ranking

•  Accepted: 4 Ways You Should NOT Use the MBA Rankings

•  Accepted: MBA Rankings: What You Need to Know

Learn how to evaluate your profile to determine the best business school for you!

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of 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.

2013 P&Q Top B-School Rankings

Get application essay tips for the top b-school applications!

Harvard Business School is the top MBA program for the fourth year in a row.

The top 8 schools in the 2013 Poets & Quants b-school rankings remain unchanged from last year, with slots 9 and 10 merely swapping positions (Duke Fuqua moved from 10th place to 9th place and UC Berkeley Haas moved from 9th to 10th).


About Harvard Business School, top MBA program for the fourth year in a row, John Byrne, P&Q editor, says:

Despite less-than-flattering publicity generated by a New York Times’ front page story on gender inequality at Harvard, an MBA from the school remains the quintessential credential in business. No rival beats Harvard in the formidable resources it brings to the game: the outsized number of superstar professors, the diversity of its course offerings, the stellar quality of its students, the size and scope of its campus, and the career achievements of its alumni spread all over the world.

He goes on to sing praises for this year’s HBS entering class – an average GMAT score of 720, a 3.9% increase in application volume, a record high of women (at 41% of the class), and an average undergrad GPA of 3.67.

Other Highlights…

• Chicago Booth ranked ahead of Wharton for the fourth year in a row, making the top three Harvard, Stanford, and Chicago (H/S/C) instead of the traditional Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton (H/S/W).

• Wharton was the only school in the top 10 to see a decrease in its application volume this year with a 5.8% decrease.

• Booth saw the highest boost in app volume with a 9.9% increase.

• For top b-schools outside of the U.S., London Business School again took the top slot.

• Two big jumpers in the top 50 include U. of Washington which jumped 9 places from 33rd place to 24th and Georgia Tech which also jumped 9 places from 40th to 31st place.

The Top 20

2013 P&Q Rank and School 2012 P&Q Rank BW FT
1. Harvard Business School 1 2 2
2. Stanford GSB 2 4 2
3. Chicago Booth 3 1 6
4. UPenn Wharton 4 3 3
5. Northwestern Kellogg 5 5 8
6. MIT Sloan 6 9 5
7. Columbia 7 13 4
8. Dartmouth Tuck 8 12 10
9. Duke Fuqua 10 6 11
10. UC Berkeley Haas 9 14 7
11. Cornell Johnson 11 7 14
12. Michigan Ross 13 8 15
13. UVA Darden 12 10 16
14. UCLA Anderson 17 18 13
15. NYU Stern 14 16 12
16. CMU Tepper 16 11 19
17. Yale SOM 15 21 9
18. UNC Kenan- Flagler 19 17 21
19. Texas McCombs 18 19 22
20. Indiana Kelley 21 15 26

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

The MBA Admissions Directors’ Recipe for Rejection

We asked 14 admissions directors, “What behavior or information would cause you to reject an MBA applicant who otherwise is a strong candidate?

For tips on how to get accepted to b-school, check out MBA Admissions 101While the recipe for instant rejection may vary slightly from school to school, the common ingredients are ethical lapses and poor behavior. These are broad categories that each admissions director elaborates on below, but one sentiment provides the dominant seasoning – dishonesty and rudeness are simply not tolerated. For example, Sara Neher, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions at UVA Darden, writes, “Treating others with respect is something of paramount importance to Darden. Sometimes rudeness is an indicator of bad character and sometimes it means that the applicant is not really that interested in Darden. In either case, I do not want to admit that person, no matter the quality of their work experience or GMAT.”

A clear lack of fit or improper motivation for choosing a particular program frequently peppers the responses. For example, Sherry Wallace, Director of Admissions at UNC Kenan-Flagler explains: “Regardless of whether we are the top choice or the third choice, we want to see some passion and enthusiasm in the candidate.”

For the full recipe, read the admissions directors’ responses in full to the question: “What behavior or information would cause you to reject an MBA applicant who otherwise is a strong candidate?”


Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Liz Riley Hargrove, Associate Dean for Admissions

Behavior: Off the bat, candidates who falsify or plagiarize any component of their application would be denied. We also deny candidates whom we feel would not represent the school well or would not be positive contributors in the classroom and Fuqua/Duke communities.

Information: We collect a lot of information on our applicants and this information is used to determine the academic ability as well as overall fit with our culture and community. If we determined that a candidate did not have the necessary background to be successful academically, we would not admit them to our programs.


Georgetown McDonough, Shari Hubert, Associate Dean of Admissions

• Rude or offensive behavior towards any staff member throughout the application process.

• Finding out that the applicant lied on their application (i.e., not being truthful about a position, title, transcript etc., or not disclosing a lay-off, being fired, etc.) or did not disclose a criminal conviction.

• Finding out that the applicant misrepresented him or herself in taking an exam (TOEFL, GMAT/GRE) or in an interview (i.e., sent someone else in their place to conduct the interview. We can usually guard against this since we ask for IDs from each interviewee, even those we conduct via Skype).


HEC Paris MBA, Philippe Oster, Communication, Development & Admissions Director

When discussing the characteristics and behaviours that turn us off a candidate, the same things always spring to mind: a lack of respect for both the admissions process and the interviewers, telling lies on the application, poor letters of recommendation….But there are few other habits that will put us off a seemingly strong candidate.

Whilst it is important to sell yourself on your application, it is important to remain true to yourself and your achievements. When a candidate goes overboard trying to sell themselves, it raises a few eyebrows. We double check our applications, and if we find out that a candidate has been less than honest about the scale of his or her achievements – even if it was all in the name of making themselves sound a more appealing candidate – we will not be best impressed. We are fully aware that the top MBA courses are competitive but we also know at the same time that the perfect candidate doesn’t exist; when a candidate seems almost too good to be true, they usually are!

Another key factor in a candidate’s application is coherence. We want to attract the best, most driven candidates, and so their motivation in applying for HEC Paris MBA has to be clear. It is completely normal for a candidate to apply for more than one business school, but when someone just blindly applies to the top 25 without thinking about whether that school offers the best experience for them and their professional aspirations, it doesn’t motivate us to accept them. Eclectic choices with little consideration are not an indicator of the strong-decision making and foresight that is so important when studying for an MBA.

Each business school is different, and so it is important for the candidate to carefully consider their choices and only apply for the ones that cater to both their professional goals and personality. We wouldn’t expect a candidate to find that more than four of the top MBAs complement them perfectly, and so their application should reflect this.


IE Business School, Jean Marie Winikates, Director of North America at IE Business School

1. Information that doesn’t add up on the application and is still unclear after the interview.

2. Behavior that exhibits poor judgment.

3. Someone who exhibits goals that do not align with the program outcomes.


IMD, Lisa Piguet, Associate Director MBA Admissions and Marketing

As far as behaviour goes – as you know, our interview process is the most unique in the industry so we get to witness all kinds of behaviours. For me, I do not tolerate people who do not give space to others in a discussion. IMD is 95% international so English is the second language to most of our class (if not the third, fourth or fifth language). Therefore it is really important to me that people give each other the respect and courtesy to express themselves in the best way they know how. If someone in a group discussion does not allow this, I do not tolerate it.

The second part to the question – rejecting someone. We reject people when we see that they have written their own letters of recommendation or if they’ve lied on their application. We also do background checks at IMD (only after someone has been accepted) so if anyone has lied in the application we will find it out here as well and this is automatic grounds for dismissal (obviously we give them a chance to explain or clear things up before dismissing them).


London Business School, Oliver Ashby, Senior Manager, Recruitment & Admissions, MBA Programme

Every communication and information point is a valuable addition to our assessment of a candidate. We have a set of values that define us as a learning community and we look for evidence that candidates are aligned with those when assessing their fit for our school. We do not seek out behaviour to exclude applicants but instead actively seek to champion evidence that a candidate has the right ‘cultural fit’ for LBS. That is to say they demonstrate they are communal, open and engaged. We also look for candidates who we feel are likely to play an enduring role in the schools future.


Michigan RossSoojin Kwon, Director of Admissions

Here are some things that would cause us to reject a seemingly strong MBA applicant:

• Evidence of plagiarism

• Falsification of background

• Poor judgment – could be demonstrated through an essay, a recommendation letter, an interview, a formal or informal interactions

• Lack of cultural awareness and openness to diversity

• Inability to work well with others


Notre Dame Mendoza, Debby Herczeg, Assistant Director, Graduate Business Programs Admissions

Our focus is in ethics and values, so something that may cause us to reject an otherwise strong candidate, would be behavior or information that has shown the candidate to be unethical. There are many situations where a person can fall into this category, so of course, we would review the entire case to see if there would be need for concern.

The additional consideration is values. Does the candidate have any example of not having similar values as the University? Ethics and values are an important part of our curriculum and we hope that all of our graduates represent the program and University based on what they learn here at Notre Dame.


Toronto Rotman, Niki da Silva, Director, Recruitment & Admissions, Full Time MBA

The behaviour that would cause our admissions committee to reject an otherwise strong candidate would be arrogance. The culture at Rotman is a program of equals where individuality is a core value at the School, so a candidate who comes across as arrogant simply won’t be a good fit with others in the program, despite having otherwise impressive qualifications.

We are looking for people who value the contribution and unique skills/experiences others can bring and admitting candidates who believe they are superior to others is far too damaging to the culture to be considered. This arrogance can come across in an admissions interview, sometimes in an essay, and also in reference letters.


The Lauder Institute, (Joint-Degree MA International Studies & Wharton MBA/Penn Law JD), Meghan Ellis, Associate Director of Lauder Admissions

As a program that focuses on international business and management issues, global and regional studies, and cross-cultural proficiency, the Lauder Institute has a strong emphasis on foreign language skills. A successful Lauder applicant must have at least an advanced level of proficiency in one of our non-native language programs (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish).

The only exceptions are that native-level Spanish, French, and Italian speakers can enter our Portuguese program without prior knowledge of the language, and for our new Global program we ask that applicants have strong proficiency in two languages other than English.

The above comments refer specifically to the Lauder Institute – not the Wharton MBA.


UVA Darden, Sara E. Neher, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions

I’m continually amazed by how some applicants every year are rude, either directly to me, or to members of the Admissions team. Examples are things like signing up for events and not attending, short, terse emails, or canceling a class visit or interview at the last minute and expecting the admissions team to be able to accommodate you at your convenience (amazingly – expecting a class visit when there are not classes, like Fridays).

Treating others with respect is something of paramount importance to Darden. Sometimes rudeness is an indicator of bad character and sometimes it means that the applicant is not really that interested in Darden. In either case, I do not want to admit that person, no matter the quality of their work experience or GMAT.


UNC Kenan-FlaglerSherry Wallace, Director of Admissions

Some of the reasons we would avoid admitting applicants that might appear to be strong candidates, include:

• Candidate perceived to be a mismatch with our school. Maybe the candidate’s values (expressed or witnessed) don’t match Kenan-Flagler values. Maybe the candidate seeks a particular curriculum that we don’t offer or a career outcome that we don’t think we are best suited to help them achieve.

• Candidate has been excessive in contacting the admissions office and requesting individual attention. Too many inquiries, too many requests for one-on-one meetings or phone calls – beyond that which is appropriate. Note that we encourage candidates to engage with us. I’m referring here only to those people whose demands for individual attention are unreasonable.

• Candidate received negative feedback from staff or students. Perhaps the candidate came to campus and was rude or inappropriate with the staff or students they met.

• Candidate doesn’t display sincere interest in being a student at our school. We expect that most applicants will consider multiple schools. Regardless of whether we the top choice or the third choice, we want to see some passion and enthusiasm in the candidate.

• Candidate presented fraudulent information.


Vanderbilt Owen, Christie St. John, Director of Admissions

What are reasons we would deny an otherwise strong candidate? I can think of three main reasons.

First, if we hear from our students that a candidate has acted inappropriately in a social situation with the students, i.e., having said or done something highly offensive, we would not admit the person. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when our students report such an incident, we know that the person would not be a good fit in our community.

Second, if we feel that the person has career goals that are simply not feasible, whether because of their lack of essential work experience, their interpersonal skills, or maybe because they want something that we don’t feel our program can help them with. We talk very frankly and honestly with applicants whose goals don’t seem to align with their experience. We explain that we want them to get a job and that we will do everything we can to help, but they may need to be flexible and be willing to work very hard to get into something they just don’t have the background for. We feel this is the only ethical way to do business – to set people up for success.

Finally, we occasionally “google” some of the people we are interviewing, just to get an idea of what their interests are. Many times we discover fun facts that help us find the right students to connect with the applicant. But once, a colleague actually discovered some very serious criminal allegations against an applicant which led to his incarceration. No mention of this was made in the application, and had we not done some searching, we would not have known about this. Many schools use background checks for all admitted students to verify credentials and check for criminal offenses. We haven’t done that for a while at Vanderbilt but we are considering it now.

There are probably other things but these are at the top of the list.


UCLA Anderson, Jessica Chung, Associate Director, MBA Admissions

Blatant plagiarism in the application essay is something that can make an otherwise strong MBA candidate inadmissible. An applicant can have great academics, work experience and other qualities, but if he/she behaves unethically by copying passages from other sources and passing off as his/her own work, there’s a strong chance that this behavior can continue as a student in the program and that’s not someone we want as a part of our community.


Get clear, practical guidelines for answering the MBA goals essay question. Click here to download our free report.

MBA Interview Tip 2: In-Person Interview with MBA Student or Alumnus

Check out our tips for completing the top b-schools application essays!

Use common sense in your dress.

[NOTE: This post is part of a series; if interested please view the introduction.]

Many MBA adcoms delegate the interviewing to alumni and students. In this scenario, typically second-year students interview the applicants who come to campus, and alumni interview off-campus – though in some cases, they also will conduct the local interviews.

Why adcoms use method: Among other things, it allows the adcom members to focus their resources on application review and decision making.

• This approach is a way to keep alumni engaged and involved with the school, and it gives students a voice in the admissions process.
• The adcom already sees the application; this approach gives them another set of eyes and ears, another perspective on the applicant – the perspective of someone invested in the program.
• The alumni and student interviewers market the program to you in a way that official admissions representatives, who usually haven’t attended the program, cannot.

In these interviews, you are not making your case directly to a decision maker. However, admissions offices assert that these interviews have as much weight as ones with adcom members.

Some schools that use this method: Columbia, Kellogg, Duke.

Blind or not blind: Usually alumni and student interviews are blind, i.e., the interviewer will not read your application before the interview, but probably will review your resume.

Process: Alumni and students usually are trained for the interviews. You meet with an alumnus off campus or a student on campus. The off- campus sites can be anywhere from the interviewer’s office to a coffee shop. The interview is a one-on-one conversation with the interviewer, during which she will ask you questions, usually at least some of which are predetermined and will typically cover basic topics such as goals. While you should be prepared for challenging questions, it’s usually a getting-to-know-you introductory discussion. If you are socially adept, you will not just answer questions but may also facilitate conversation. Afterward, the interviewer will write a report to the adcom on the interview.

NOTE: If you are a non-native English speaker interviewing with an alumnus in your own country, please expect to conduct the interview in English!

Benefits and pitfalls for applicants:

• Benefit: can showcase your strong interpersonal and communication skills by the in-person contact.
• Benefit: often a less formal, more natural conversational ambience than with an adcom member. Usually less stressful.
• Benefit: if a student or alum interview does not go well, it is less likely to be a deciding factor than an adcom interview.
• Benefit: if the interview goes well and you are wait-listed, you may have an ally in the interviewer.
• Pitfall: the interviewer is a third party in-between you and the adcom; with each additional link in the chain comes more chance for misunderstanding, miscommunication, etc.
• Pitfall: you have no control over what the adcom actually sees regarding the interview.
• Pitfall: alumni are often very busy, and schedule changes are not uncommon.

How to make this type of interview work for you (this is in addition to all the common sense advice for good MBA interviews):

• Review on and other websites comments by previous interviewees regarding the likely questions. Your interviewer may have a strict script or may be free to improvise, but usually they have at least some questions specified by the adcom.
• Practice answering these questions and other common interview questions – but don’t over-rehearse or memorize verbatim. The biggest turnoff (IMHO) is the glib, over-practiced applicant.
• Google your interviewer beforehand. Think about how to connect with him or her.
• Use common sense in your dress – most of the time business attire will be appropriate. But if you’re meeting a 28-year-old alumna at Starbucks at 9 AM on Saturday morning, pinstripes and cufflinks would be a little jarring.
• The interviewer will summarize the interview to the adcom; make simple, clear points to increase the chance of a strong and vivid report.
• Send the interviewer a thank-you note, just like your mother used to make you write.

Cindy Tokumitsu By , co-author of The Finance Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions Success, and author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last fifteen years with

Top 20 MBA Programs in 2013

Here are the 20 best MBA programs in the U.S. for 2013 according to Forbes:

1. Stanford GSB $80,000 $221,000
2. Chicago Booth $76,000 $200,000
3. Harvard Business School $80,000 $205,000
4. UPenn Wharton $80,000 $205,000
5. Northwestern Kellogg $73,000 $176,000
6. Dartmouth Tuck $72,000 $189,000
7. Columbia Business School  
$74,000 $192,000
8. Duke Fuqua $63,000 $152,000
9. Cornell Johnson $59,000 $155,000
10. Michigan Ross $61,000 $153,000
11. UNC Kenan-Flagler $60,000 $141,000
12. MIT Sloan $70,000 $185,000
13. UCLA Anderson $65,000 $165,000
14. UC Berkeley Haas $71,000 $175,000
15. UVA Darden $67,000 $158,000
16. CMU Tepper $60,000 $135,000
17. Brigham Young Marriott $50,000 $109,000
18. Yale SOM $54,000 $144,000
19. Indiana Kelley $50,000 $120,000
20. Iowa Tippie $46,000 $118,000

For more info, please see Forbes’ lead article “Stanford Tops 2013 List Of America’s Best Business Schools.”

Why the Forbes Ranking Matters

The Forbes ranking is interesting for one simple reason: It focuses exclusively on ROI five years after graduation. This year Forbes looked at the graduates of 2008, the class that graduated into the Great Recession, the financial melt-down, and the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns. It was a tough time to launch a career.

Forbes heard from almost 5,000 grads from 100 schools and “compared their earnings in their first five years out of business school to their opportunity cost (two years of forgone compensation), tuition and required fees to arrive at a ‘5-year M.B.A. Gain.’” It ranks programs based on that pre-tax gain. (For the details of Forbes methodology, click here.) It does not include programs where less than 15% of alumni responded or where there was negative ROI. It also does assume reduced increase in salary without an MBA.

Potential Flaws:

• It relies on reporting from grads who have an interest in their alma mater being highly ranked. In other words, like all surveys, it can be gamed.

• While Forbes does attempt to reflect financial aid and differences in cost of living, it doesn’t reflect disparities in varied industries and functional roles. You are going to go into a specific field and industry. The averages in that industry are going to matter to you more than the average of the graduating class at your business school.

• In its methodology Forbes assumes that without an MBA, the candidates would have had half the increase in salary that they had with the MBA. I don’t know if there is any data supporting that assumption, or if it is generous or stingy.

Take-Aways from the Forbes Ranking

Despite the potential flaws, the Forbes ranking does have value. I noticed or took away the following:

1.  An MBA from a top MBA program pays, and pays well. It doesn’t, or didn’t, pay off as quickly as it did 10 years ago, but it pays. A 3-5 year payback with gravy for the rest of your career is an excellent investment. And if you are lucky enough not to graduate into the kind of almost unprecedented financial disaster the Class of 2008 faced, you should have a shorter payback period and higher gain. This is the clearest conclusion from the Forbes ranking. To me, it is far more important than any individual school’s actual rank or even movement of one school since 2011, when Forbes had its last ranking.

2.  The schools with the shortest payback period were NOT the highest ranked programs. They were BYU Marriott, Indiana Kelley, and Iowa Tippie. See “Busting Two MBA Myths.”

3.  There are some surprising winners (UC Davis, UCLA Anderson, CMU Tepper, Duke, Ross, and UNC Kenan-Flagler) and losers (Yale SOM, UVA Darden, and NYU Stern).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Use rankings for the data they provide and as sources of insight into trends over time. Don’t view any individual ranking as an influential factor in choosing where to apply or where to attend. And for heaven’s sake, take the time to understand what is actually being ranked and evaluated.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of 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.

Duke Fuqua 2014 MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines

More info about Duke FuquaLeadership, 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. 

Three short answer questions and two essay questions must be completed before submitting your application. Prepare your responses carefully. The Admissions Committee considers your answers to the following questions important in the selection process.

Candidates who applied to The Duke MBA between July 2012 and May 2013 are considered re-applicants. All re-applicants are required to complete the Re-applicant Essay in addition to the Short Answer Questions and Applicant Essays.

Applicants also have the opportunity to submit an optional essay to explain any extenuating circumstances about which the Admissions Committee should be aware.

Short Answers: 

Short answer questions will allow for 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. 

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. 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, their 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, with a font size no less than 10-point.)

Have some fun with this list. It certainly allows a more creative approach. 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, 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 Director of Admissions’, advice. I believe you will find it helpful. And very friendly.

2. 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, with a font size no less than 10-point. Please respond fully and concisely using 1.5 line spacing.)

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 part.  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 about 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.

Optional Essay Question:

If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the admissions committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, significant weakness in your application). Note that you should NOT upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area. The Optional Essay is intended to provide the admissions committee with insight into your extenuating circumstances only.

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 2014 MBA Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline Decision Notification
Early Action  September 18 2013  October 30 2013
Round 1  October 21 2013 December 20 2013
Round 2 January 6 2014 March 13 2014
Round 3 March 20 2014 May 9 2014
Click here to download your free copy of Focus on Management Consulting

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of 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.