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Duke / Fuqua Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Duke / Fuqua Essay Topic Analysis

Following up on our announcement of Duke / Fuqua’s application essays for the 2017-2018 admissions season, we wanted to offer our essay topic analysis for the Class of 2020 Fuqua MBA hopefuls.

Relative to last year, the Fuqua adcom has maintained their interest in candidates’ goals, personal background and passion about Duke. While the length allowed for each response has stayed the same, Essay 2 has been refined to one prompt, as opposed to a multiple choice last year.

2017-2018 Duke / Fuqua Essay Topic Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at each prompt:

Short Answer Questions
Instructions: 
Answer all 3 of the following questions. For each question, respond in 500 characters only (the equivalent of about 100 words).

  • 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? 

These three questions are quite straightforward, calling for applicants to concisely state their short-term goals, long-term goals, and a professional back-up plan. Although asking about career alternatives is a bit unusual as far as b-school applications go, Question 3 is still fairly direct; applicants simply need to identify a second post-MBA position that would also lead them toward their stated long-term goals.

While 100 words may not seem like much, these questions first appeared with a 50-word limit. This suggests that last year’s 50-word responses didn’t yield as much information as the adcom might have liked as they made admissions decisions, so it will be wise to provide as much detail about your plans and motivations as the length limit permits.

First Required Essay: 25 Random Things

Instructions: 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.

This nontraditional MBA application essay has been a staple of the Duke application for several years running. This suggests that the format is working, i.e. that the adcom has been pleased with the information this exercise provides about candidates’ backgrounds and fit with Team Fuqua. This open-ended prompt allows applicants to showcase interesting and meaningful facts about themselves that they otherwise might not get a chance to share with the adcom. It also amounts to a test of the applicant’s creativity and judgment in arriving at a well-rounded set of admissions-appropriate tidbits.

So, in the spirit of the prompt, here’s our list of ten not-so-random things to think about when developing your response to this prompt:

  1. Keep it positive! Share happy memories, silly details, interesting talents, or (very short) stories of resilience and accomplishment. Steer clear of failure or disappointment (unless you can be light-hearted or self-effacing about it).
  2. Aim to cover all domains of your life, including your interests outside of work and even important personal details and relationships. Writing about the reason you admired your grandmother growing up or what you learned during a long-distance phase in your relationship will help the adcom get to know you on a level beyond your resume.
  3. Short list items are okay!
  4. In fact, the most effective responses to this question will intersperse very brief items (of just a few words) with longer ones that might include several sentences, creating an almost poetic effect.
  5. First-date and job-interview rules apply here — think twice before discussing religion or politics. If these areas are important enough to you to warrant mentioning, limit your comments to personal meaning and community aspects (i.e. don’t try to educate or persuade the reader).
  6. Take a lifespan view. Sharing a few details from your childhood can give the admissions reader insight they won’t find anywhere else in your file. Meanwhile, covering present-day favorites (e.g. food, film, travel destination, place to visit in your city or town) can show the reader who you are today.
  7. Brief anecdotes — for example, about learning something the hard way while traveling internationally or working hard to improve at a new hobby — can showcase both your interests as well as your process when faced with a challenge.
  8. We recommend a maximum of 5 work-related list items (and suggest that you aim for even fewer). As the preamble hints, the adcom can read about your professional background elsewhere in your application.
  9. Aim for balance in content throughout your list; rather than listing items chronologically or by domain (i.e. professional, personal, extracurricular), change things up throughout and keep your reader on her toes to make this truly “random.”
  10. Show your draft to a close friend or relative to get feedback on how well you’re capturing your personality (and on whether you’re overlooking anything).

Second Required Essay

Instructions: Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length.

Fuqua prides itself on cultivating a culture of engagement. Our students enjoy a wide range of student-led organizations that provide opportunities for leadership development and personal fulfillment, as well as an outlet for contributing to society. Our student-led government, clubs, centers, and events are an integral part of the student culture and are vital to providing you with a range of experiential learning and individual development experiences.

Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, how do you see yourself engaging in and contributing to our community, outside of the classroom?

Fuqua has presented a prompt about its student culture for many years, and this one is no exception. Applicants may want to begin by thinking about an element or two of the student culture with which they find the greatest resonance, and should also consider which are already evident in their activities and accomplishments to date. In fact, one to two examples (100-150 words total) that illustrate their skills and potential to make a positive impact should be woven in to selected means of contributing. Consider this in light of the idea that past behavior supports future success.

Of course, the majority of this response should center on the applicant’s planned activities and contribution as a Daytime MBA student. Given the adcom’s preamble about student-led government, clubs, centers and events, applicants will be expected to be fairly concrete in their comments about how they’ll engage in specific activities, to the point of discussing their behavior outside of the classroom and identifying specific student organizations in which they might take a leadership role.

While there is also a focus on personal development, applicants should also describe the impact they hope to make during their two years on campus—after all, this is also geared towards contributing to a community. Candidates should note that speaking convincingly about their ability to make a positive difference will likely require some informed sense of the areas of opportunity and need on campus. Conversations with students and alumni (as well as other resources) will be very important in producing the most effective essay possible.

Optional Essay

If you feel there are circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware, please explain them in an optional essay (such as unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance).

  • 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 circumstances only.
  • Limit your response to one page.

This is a fairly narrow prompt, and applicants should only use this optional essay to address liabilities in their candidacies. While the adcom allows responses of up to one page, applicants should keep their responses as brief and direct as possible.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Fuqua MBA essay topics. As you work on your Fuqua MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Duke offerings:

Need help with your essay?

Call Veritas Prep at +1-310-295-2098 or click to

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Essay Topic Analysis, Essays

Schools: Duke / Fuqua

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