News, advice and resources for business school applicants

Duke / Fuqua Essay Topic Analysis 2013-2014

Following up on our announcement of Duke / Fuqua’s essay topics for 2013-2014, we wanted to share our thoughts on how applicants might go about addressing this year’s questions.

After making significant changes to their essay questions last year, Fuqua has opted to keep their essay questions the same for the 2013-2014 admissions cycle.  The school’s essay topics reflect a strong interest in getting to know applicants more personally and in learning about their specific reasons for applying to Fuqua.  Wrote Director of Admissions Megan Lynam, “We strive for questions that will fill any gaps in the application, tie the applicant’s story together, and shed light on what truly makes the person who they are – beyond what is stated in the resume, test scores, and transcripts.”

With all of this in mind, let’s take a closer look at each question:

(Those who previously applied to Fuqua’s MBA program between July 2012 and May 2013 should note that they must respond to a re-applicant essay in addition to the questions listed below.)

Short Answer Questions: Answer all 3 questions.  For each short answer question, respond in 250 characters only (the equivalent of about 50 words).

  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? 

These three questions are quite straightforward, calling for applicants to concisely state their short-term goals, long-term goals, and back-up career goals.  Although asking about career alternatives is slightly unusual, Question 3 is still fairly basic; applicants simply need to identify another post-MBA position that would lead them towards their long-term goals.  With roughly 50 words per question, applicants will need to be succinct and to the point.  In Lynam’s words, “Here, we’re just looking for the facts, with minimal embellishment.”

Essay 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, 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.

One of the more nontraditional business school essays, this prompt allows applicants to showcase interesting and meaningful facts about themselves that they otherwise might not get a chance to share with the adcom.  Given the free-form nature of the task, we’re hesitant to provide too much guidance here; the best advice we can offer is for applicants to think about who they are and the people, events, and activities that have helped shape them, and to then start crafting their list.  We also advise candidates to avoid assuming that the more words one puts into the document, the better one’s list will be (many great lists have an almost poetic nature to them).  Showing the initial result to a close friend or relative could be a great way to determine the effectiveness of a working draft.  One final thing to keep in mind is that while it’s perfectly fine for applicants to mention other people in their lists, they should make sure that each fact relates back to themselves in some way and helps the admissions reader get to know them.

We understand that the level of self-analysis required here can be extremely challenging, so applicants should feel free to contact us for a free consultation, in which a Clear Admit Admissions Counselor can help an applicant think through the elements of his or her profile and determine how to best portray his or her candidacy.

Essay 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.  Please respond fully and concisely using 1.5 line spacing.

Asking applicants about their interest in the school to which they are applying is standard practice among MBA programs, though Fuqua takes a more personal approach to the question.  The adcom is looking for applicants to convey a sincere sense of excitement about Fuqua’s MBA program.  According to Lynam, “When you tell your best friend why you are applying to a specific school, you do so with genuine passion and enthusiasm.  We want to hear that honest emotion, along with the reasoning that you give your best friend/mom/significant other/mentor about why you are applying not just to MBA programs, but to Fuqua.”

Keeping that in mind, one way for applicants to approach this essay might be to actually speak to family, friends, and colleagues about their interest in Fuqua, see which aspects of the school end up being discussed the most frequently in conversation, and then write their response based on those features.  Candidates should remember, however, that they ideally need to address not only what they would gain by attending Fuqua, but also how they envision themselves fitting into and contributing to the school community.  Demonstrating an understanding of the unique merits of Fuqua’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, conversations with alumni, or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Fuqua – will pay dividends here.

Need help with your essay?

Call us at +1-215-568-2590 or click to

Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis

No Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Admissions Tip: Extracurricular Activities - Clear Admit Blog - […] Cambridge / Judge* Chicago Booth* CMU / Tepper* Columbia* Cornell / Johnson* Dartmouth / Tuck* Duke / Fuqua* Georgetown …

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>