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Duke's essays maintain their distinctive flavor this year -- here are some tips on how to attack them.

By Ben Feuer


Required 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?

These are standard goals essays.  See any of our previous posts on goals, or our book, for a sense on how to approach this. 

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?

This question is unique to Fuqua.  Simply put, they are testing how adaptable you are to change if your goals do not work out exactly the way you want them to.  There are two great ways to answer this question.  The first way is to focus on the same long term goal, but find an alternate short term path to arrive there -- a different kind of interim position, or a different field.  The other way to approach this prompt is to create a completely new long term goal and explain how you would go about achieving that from scratch.

First Required Essay – Answer the following question – present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may only be a few words, while others may be longer. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.

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. 

This essay has been around for years -- frankly, it's one of our favorites here at Forster-Thomas.  We find it is often very revealing, and a lot of fun to read and to write!  The approach couldn't be simpler -- list random things about yourself.  You can and should draw from every aspect of your life, personal, professional and extracurricular -- be diverse!  You should list more than 25 initially so it is easy to cut a few.  They should vary in length and complexity -- here are two examples, one short, one long.
SHORT: my favorite food is salmon.
LONG: One time I wanted to surprise someone by jumping out of their trunk when they got back to their car, but they never opened the trunk so I was locked in there as they drove home.
Some should be funny, some should be serious -- show a range of unconnected facts about yourself.

Second Required Essay – Choose only 1 of the following 2 essay questions to answer. Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length.

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.

This is a why school essay with a twist -- namely, that your friends, family and colleagues are asking you why you want to go to Duke.  This means that you should spend at least some time discussing your friends and family -- what do they want for you?  What are their primary concerns as far as your development goes?  Maybe your aunt is only concerned about money.  Maybe your wife is concerned with work life balance.  Maybe your uncle is a former college quarterback and wants to know about fun athletics opportunities.  Use the essay both to demonstrate your interest in the school, and to tell Duke a bit more about the important people in your life.

The Team Fuqua community is as unique as the individuals who comprise it. Underlying our individuality 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 our 2 years at Fuqua, if you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 Principles listed below, which one would it be and why?  Your response should reflect the research you have done, your knowledge for Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.

Authentic Engagement: We care and we take action. We each make a difference to Team Fuqua by being ourselves and engaging in and supporting activities about which we are passionate.
Supportive Ambition: We support each other to achieve great things, because your success is my success. The Success of each individual member of Team Fuqua makes the whole of Team Fuqua better.
Collective Diversity: We embrace all of our classmates because individuality is better and stronger together.
Impactful Stewardship: We are leaders who focus on solutions to improve our communities both now and in the future. We aren’t satisfied with just maintaining the status quo.
Loyal Community: We are a family who looks out for each other. Team Fuqua support you when you need it the most.
Uncompromising Integrity: We internalize and live the honor code in the classroom and beyond. We conduct ourselves with integrity within Fuqua, within Duke, and within all communicates of which we are a part. 

First, choose one (and only one!) of the six principles listed below.  Pick the principle that you feel you best embody.  Use about 2/3rds of a page to tell a few stories about previous experiences and accomplishments you have had that highlight why you represent this quality.  Then use the rest of the essay to talk about what you plan to do and take advantage of at Fuqua that will allow you to win this award, using the usual "why school" principles to guide your decisions on what to include.  An essay like this is all about your ability to 'give back' to the school, its clubs and programs -- and in order to explain how you would give back, you have to understand some of what the clubs and programs would actually need from you.  Be specific!
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