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Duke / Fuqua Essay Topic Analysis 2009-2010

The Duke / Fuqua essay topics have changed slightly since last year’s admission’s season.  Like last year, applicants must respond to three essays, however, this year’s essays can be twice the length of last year’s, with the limit increasing from one to two pages.

Although there is no specified word limit, Duke does require that all essays be no more than two pages long with 1.5 line spacing and in a font not smaller than 10-point.

As you prepare to answer these questions, remember to do careful research on Duke’s program offerings and integrate your findings in each response.  Candidates should consult the Clear Admit School Guide to Fuqua for an in-depth review of the program’s unique features, character and curriculum.  Let’s take a closer look at each essay as well as the broad instructions/preamble that Fuqua provides:

Today, companies must navigate through complex and interdependent issues. They must deal with health and security matters, environmental impact questions, and diversity and cultural concerns. Leaders need adaptability, imagination, emotional intelligence, as well as business acumen. Thus, Duke is in the midst of an ambitious global venture that will embed and connect us around the world, and we are seeking future leaders of consequence, those who value diversity and collaborative leadership, and who aspire to impact the companies and communities of which they are a part in a lasting and positive way.

In an effort to identify, engage, and foster the development of future leaders of consequence, the Admissions Committee would like to get to know our applicants in a more holistic manner. We would like to know who you are, what has shaped you into the person you are today, and how you hope to impact both Duke and the communities of which you will be a part in the future. The essays are your opportunity to convey that to us. Please be open, genuine, and passionate. Share with us what makes you a dynamic, multi-dimensional person.

Based on this statement, applicants should keep in mind that Duke is interested in students who are both natural leaders and collaborators, able to work with diverse teams of people.  In addition, while discussing their career goals and aspirations, Duke candidates should emphasize their plans to make a lasting impact.  Based on the second paragraph, Duke values students who can express themselves in a personable manner through their essays, so applicants should obviously strive to infuse their writing with personality and passion.

Essay 1: Required
Describe your vision for your career, your inspiration for pursuing this career path, and the role of The Duke MBA in achieving your goals. If you are interested in a specific concentration or joint degree program, please discuss in this essay.

This is your standard career goals essay, and applicants should have ample space to effectively answer each component of the question.  As you clearly articulate your goals, the reasons behind your goals, and the role that Fuqua could play in realizing these goals, be sure to include the specific information and important details about your future vision that will make your essay stand out.

As is the case with most schools, demonstrating an understanding of the unique merits of Duke’s program is crucial to an effective response to this question.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs, and extracurricular activities—whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading our guide—will pay dividends here.

Essay 2: Required
Discuss a person, event, or experience that has significantly shaped your life and explain why.

This question is essentially the same as last year’s third essay, although it omits an additional bit of instruction that the admissions team had included (in the 2008-2009 admissions season Duke attached the following note along with this essay question: “The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally”).  This change suggests that although Duke is still interested in using this question as a way to get to know candidates better, the school is open to professional anecdotes and comfortable leaving the topic selection fully in the hands of the applicant.

The best approach to this response will therefore be to share an anecdote (professional, personal or otherwise); from there you should draw attention to the priorities and qualities at play in the story, commenting on how you derived these from your development over the years.  Because Duke’s first question focuses primarily on future goals, you have the opportunity in this question to address some of your past experiences.  While the experiences you choose to showcase may range from personal to professional, this essay does offer an opportunity to support the reasons motivating the career goals that you discussed in your first essay.

As you select the anecdote to use and themese to convey, do not forget that you should ideally use this open-ended question to highlight the most important and interesting aspects of your background.  Ideally the Duke admissions reader will gain a sense of who you are and how you are different from others in the pool.

Essay 3: Required
Individuals choose a business school for many different reasons. Through your research, what attributes or characteristics of The Duke MBA program have most resonated with you and why? How do you plan to contribute to the strengthening and enhancement of those attributes and characteristics during your time at Duke and beyond?

This question, new to Duke’s application, requires that applicants demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes and characteristics of Fuqua.  It also demands that applicants highlight their fit with the program and detail how they will promote the school’s values while at Duke and afterwards.  It may be helpful to look at this question as a combination between the standard questions “what would you contribute” and “why this school,” as in this essay Duke requires both research on the school and self-reflection.

It’s important that your answer to this question is not merely a reiteration of the points made in your first essay regarding how Duke will help you reach your future goals. One way in which you can approach this challenge is by discussing concrete aspects of the program that will help you on your career path (i.e. specific courses, clubs, professors) in the first essay, and using more conceptual characteristics about Duke that resonate with you in this essay.  For example, in this essay you could choose to discuss Duke’s spirit of collaboration, citing why this appeals to you, how you would promote this while at Duke, and how you see yourself carrying this spirit forward (i.e. founding or joining a company that promotes collaborative work habits).

Another way you can approach this is by considering Essay 3 as somewhat of a continuation of Essay 1.  By pinpointing specific things about Duke that interest and fit with you in the first essay, you will now have a chance to discuss how you will contribute to these offerings as well as the overall culture of Duke’s MBA program.  For example, an applicant who resonates with Duke’s emphasis on leadership may cite a club of interest in the first essay, and then use this third essay to discuss how they would like to play a leadership role in organizing a certain conference or speaker series for this club.  By being clear about how you would contribute, you will make it easier for the adcom to picture you as an active and valued member of the Duke community.

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