A reader and applicant to Duke’s Cross- Continent EMBA program has requested that I post tips on Duke’s EMBA essays. And that’s exactly what I am going to do now.
For general advice on approaching the EMBA application, please see "Executive MBA: Applying to EMBA Programs."
Duke EMBA Essay Questions 2005-06
Assume we know nothing of your industry, your organization, and your job. Briefly describe what products and services your organization provides and your top three job responsibilities within the organization. Address your impact on organization strategy and your level of decision-making ability. Tell us why you want to earn the MBA, how it fits into your career plan, and what you will contribute to the MBA program? (Limit to 2 pages)
Write tight to answer this question. The directions are clear and you have a lot to do. Focus on the responsibilities that have allowed you to contribute the most to your organization. In the part of your answer that addresses your level of influence also try to very briefly quantify your impact. (For example, raised revenue X%, reduced cost y%, or improved employee retention by Z%.)
Then segue into a response to a fairly standard "why MBA" question. What would be a good segue? How you want to expand your influence at work and build on the duties that you have found most satisfying professionally. Then explain why an MBA supports that goal. What aspects of Dukes program will help you achieve it?
Finally close with what you intend to contribute. In this last section of the essay, show that you have done your homework and have a good grasp of this program. Talking to current students or recent alumni should give you a more realistic understanding of how you could contribute.
Tell us about your most challenging team experience. What role did you play? What factors made it a challenge? How did your group address these issues? What did you learn? (Limit to 2 pages)
You could use a professional or non-professional experience here, but most of you will choose a professional experience here.
Again, the question is very clear and highly directed. Discuss a challenging team interaction. Why was it challenging. What role did you play. Probably the most important element of this question is the last one. Think about it and try to avoid the superficial responses that plague so many essays. Don’t write what you think they want to hear.
Discuss a person, event or experience that has significantly shaped your life and explain why. (Limit to 2 pages)
Unlike the first two, this is a very broad question. It’s a "We-want-to-get-to-know-you-question." Certainly if you answered questions 1 & 2 with professional examples, you should write here about the non-professional side of you. To craft a winner, think deeply about the forces that have shaped you and write in a revealing, non-clichéd way about them.