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Duke Fuqua 2016 MBA Essay Tips

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has released the essay prompts for their 2015-2016 MBA application.

Unlike many schools, which are paring down the required number of essays for their MBA applicants, Duke requires five separate responses in their MBA application essay section.

There are three short answer questions which should be answered in 500 characters (approximately 100 words) or less, as well as two full essay questions to be answered in two pages or less apiece.

Duke Fuqua 2016 MBA Essay Tips

How to Write Your 2015-2016 Fuqua MBA Application Short Answer Responses

For all of their required essays, the Duke Fuqua admissions team will be taking note of not just what you answer, but also how you answer.

Understanding and following the formatting guidelines is a vital first step in creating your essay responses. For all essays, line spacing should be set to 1.5, with a 10-point or larger font.

The length requirement for short answer questions is only 500 characters – not 500 words. While this works out to about 100 words, it is the character limit that counts. Be sure that your essays adhere to that requirement!

The Fuqua short answer prompts read:

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

The first two questions are a fairly straightforward look into applicants’ career goals, although it is interesting that Fuqua breaks them down into short- and long-term aspirations.

However, the third question gives a lot of insight into the type of candidate the school is seeking for their MBA program.

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Duke is looking for students who are thoughtful, proactive participants in their own education and career. They want MBA candidates who will be successful regardless of the challenges that life and the business world put in their way.

Your responses – here and throughout your Fuqua essays – should indicate that you understand and acknowledge the possibility of setbacks, and have actionable plans to pivot when you are required to do so.

Writing Your 2015-2016 Fuqua MBA Application Long-Form Essays

The first of Fuqua’s required long-form MBA application essays asks applicants to submit a list of “25 Random Things About Yourself”.

The prompt indicates that new hires on the admissions team share a list of their own with their new colleagues, which “helps us get to know someone’s personality, background, special talents, and more.” The prompt also highlights that the “‘Team Fuqua’ spirit and community is one of the things that sets the Duke MBA experience apart”.

The remainder of the prompt reads:

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.

While coming up with a list of 25 random facts about yourself might initially seem very easy, it can be a challenge to strike the right balance with your “25 Random Things”.

There are two very important goals for your list to accomplish:

  1. Showing that you understand the “Team Fuqua” spirit, and share its principles; and
  2. Helping the Admissions Committee get to know you as a real person who they will be proud to have as a part of the Duke community.
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You don’t want to recreate your resume or transcript for the list. It should be strategic, but not stiff: hobbies and fun are as important in the prompt as achievements and life experiences.

Dividing the list into mental categories can make it easier to approach this essay.

Depending on your personal brand, you may decide to aim for five educational achievements, five workplace or career successes, five challenges overcome, five hobbies or interests, three future goals, and two purely fun facts.

The precise mix of facts may vary; what’s important is investing the time to truly think through the facts you choose and present an authentic portrait of yourself as someone who will thrive by joining Team Fuqua.

The second required essay for the Fuqua 2015-2016 MBA application allows students to choose from two prompts. The general instructions advise applicants that their essay “should reflect your knowledge of the Fuqua program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.”

The first prompt choice reads:

Why Duke: 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.

The second prompt choice reads:

Team Fuqua Principles: The Team Fuqua community is as unique as the individuals who comprise it. Underlying our individiality 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 [(Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity)], which one would it be and why?

Regardless of which essay prompt you choose to answer, doing your research is absolutely vital to creating a solid MBA application essay.

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Read the Fuqua website, brochures, and blogs. Talk to alumni. If you’re able, visit the campus. And most importantly, think carefully about what draws you to the school and the community, and how you see yourself becoming a member of Team Fuqua.

Teamwork is at the heart of what sets Duke Fuqua apart, as shown in their repeated mentions of Team Fuqua and by the emphasis in their guiding principles on community, loyalty, and support. Your essay should clearly show why you are eager to be a part of that community.

Remember the old adage about effective writing: show, don’t tell. Wherever possible, use specific anecdotes and experiences that make it clear why you are choosing Duke University.

Your Turn

Understanding and communicating your personal brand is a key element of writing a successful MBA application essay.

If you need help developing your personal brand, Expartus offers a free MBA application assessment to help you learn to emphasize your strengths and mitigate weaknesses, and learn the b-schools that will be the best fit for you.