Duke / Fuqua 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis
Following up on the release of the 2015-2016 Fuqua MBA essays, we wanted to offer some guidance to business school applicants targeting the Duke Class of 2018.
Duke’s essay section of the MBA application is largely unchanged from last admissions season. The Fuqua adcom has doubled the length limit for the school’s three short answer questions about the applicant’s professional plans. Meanwhile, the structure of the program’s longer essays remains the same: all applicants must respond to the first required response, and may choose between two options for the second required essay.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the Fuqua MBA essays for 2015-2016:
Short Answer Questions (500 characters; about 100 words each)
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 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.
Of note, the Fuqua adcom has doubled the character limit for each of these responses, giving applicants a bit more breathing room as they provide this information and explain their professional plans to the admissions reader. 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 take advantage of the extra room and provide as much detail about your plans and motivations as the length limit permits.
Essay 1: 25 Random Things
Required Essay 1: 25 Random Things
Answer the following question — 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:
- 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).
- 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.
- Short list items are okay!
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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).
Required Essay 2
Choose only 1 of the following 2 essay questions to answer. Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length, and 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.
Essay Option 2.1: 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.
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. As the admissions committee has written about this essay in the past: “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, and note which aspects of the school end up being discussed the most frequently in conversation. This could serve as a strong basis for this essay, which should cover the ways a Duke MBA would prepare you for your stated goals (including specific curricular offerings and student clubs), as well as the potential you see to have a positive impact on the Fuqua community and your classmates’ learning experience. Is there an elective course that you can’t wait to take because it fits perfectly with your goals? An experiential learning opportunity you’re eager to take part in? A student club that runs an annual event to which you’d love to bring new ideas? Make sure to let your sincere enthusiasm come across by channeling those conversations with important people in your life. And, given the more personal bent of this prompt, it’s acceptable to (briefly) mention more personal considerations that make Fuqua appealing to you, such as job opportunities for a spouse in the research triangle, your love of college basketball, or the prospect of being closer to friends and family on the east coast.
Ultimately, the adcom is looking for students who feel a personal connection with the Fuqua community and who are also excited about the academic program. This might mean zeroing in on a particular special program or student organization that makes you feel energized about the prospect of attending. And of course, demonstrating an understanding of the unique merits of Fuqua’s program is going to be 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 or an off-site information session, conversations with students and alumni, or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Fuqua – will pay dividends here.
Essay Option 2.2: 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 your 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 your knowledge of 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 our 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 supports 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 communities of which we are a part.
Appearing on the Fuqua application for second consecutive year, this essay asks applicants to discuss the ways their behavior in the classroom and contribution to the Fuqua community would embody one of six student-identified values — to an award-winning extent. Choosing which of these principles to discuss will be the first strategic decision that candidates will have to make with this essay. With their emphasis on community engagement and support, it’s hard to go wrong; rather, applicants should consider which will enable them to make the strongest case about the potential contribution to the Duke MBA community. Applicants may want to begin by thinking about the principle with which they find the greatest resonance, and should also consider which are already evident in their activities and accomplishments to date. In fact, after clearly identifying their choice in the first sentence of their response, applicants would likely do well to demonstrate an existing commitment to the chosen principle. This would likely mean a brief (100-150 word) description of 1-2 examples that illustrate their skills and potential to make a positive impact in line with the Fuqua principle in question.
Of course, the majority of this response should center on the applicant’s planned activities and contribution as a Daytime MBA student. Given that the adcom explicitly states that this response should reflect the research one has done into Fuqua’s program, applicants will be expected to be fairly concrete in their comments about how they’ll embody the topic principle, to the point of discussing their behavior in the classroom and identifying specific student organizations in which they might take a leadership role.
Going back to the element of the prompt that anticipates that the candidate will win an award in this area, applicants might even aim to describe the magnitude or scope of the impact they hope to make during their two years on campus. 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 (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance).
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 two pages, 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:
Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis
Schools: Duke / Fuqua
University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business is a globally recognized MBA program, located in the center of technology and creativity that is Austin. Programs like McCombs can provide an especially strong regional network if you are currently in Texas or plan to settle in Texas after your MBA.
When approaching these essay questions think about the reasons you are pursuing an MBA, particularly at McCombs. Thorough school research will help you come up with specifics, by taking to current or former students, visiting campus, or attending admissions events.
Essay 1. The University of Texas at Austin values unique perspectives and cultivates a collaborative environment of distinct individual contributions. It is the first day of orientation. You are meeting your study group, comprised of five of your classmates from various backgrounds. Please introduce yourself to your new team, highlighting what drives you in your personal and professional life.
Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.
• Write an essay (250 words)
• Share a video introduction (one minute)
For an open-ended essay with a creative option (the video) it can be daunting to think of a topic. Rather than focusing on how you are going to communicate, start thinking about what you want to communicate to the McCombs admissions committee by introducing yourself to your new study group.
The best essays will dive deep into your motivations and aspirations, perhaps getting into your cultural background, formative moments in your life and friends, family and colleagues who have influenced you. To identify one or two key stories you may want to tell, think about those pivotal moments of change in your life.
For many people the transition from high school to college and from college to work led to personal change. Others had formative childhood experiences or experiences that led to shifts in perspective like travel or living outside your home country. Any one of these moments could be a good way to illustrate who you are and what motivates you.
Once you have identified the content of your essay you can decide how to present it. A video could give you the opportunity to add elements of emotion, such as humor, that are harder to convey in writing. A video also allows you to include graphics, photos or other visual elements. If your story fits better into a written narrative you may choose the written essay instead.
Essay 2. Based on your post-MBA goals and what drives you in your personal and professional life, why is the Texas MBA the ideal program for you and how do you plan to engage in our community? (500 words)
This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate strong fit with the Texas McCombs program. As part of your homework before starting this set of essays you have learned as much as possible about the school, now you can bring in your own aspirations and goals to describe what you plan to be part of.
Some of the unique opportunities at McCombs include the Venture Labs, supporting your entrepreneurial dreams, and The MBA+ Program, with opportunities to work with influential companies through a variety of touch points. Austin is another unique benefit to the program that you may want to discuss in the context of your background and goals.
For example, perhaps you are interested in working for a major technology firm to learn product manager skills that you will then take into starting your own business. While at McCombs you can test ideas with the Venture Labs, and also consult for major companies like Adobe or HP to learn how large companies work. These experiences will certainly give you an advantage as your build your post MBA career.
Don’t forget the personal – Texas McCombs has an active and engaged student culture with many student organizations you may be interested in joining.
Optional Statement: Please provide any additional information you believe is important and/or address any areas of concern that will be beneficial to the Admissions Committee in considering your application (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance, or extenuating personal circumstances). (250 words)
This optional essay provides space for you to add your own context to any information that may hinder your admission prospects. For example, if you have a lower than average test score, any grades below a C on your transcript, academic probation or a significant resume gap, you can explain here. Keep your explanation concise and factual, and focused on context for the issue rather than excuses.
Stacy Blackman Consulting can provide personalized, strategic guidance for your Texas McCombs MBA application. Contact us to learn more.
This entry was posted in Application Tips, UT Austin McCombs Advice and tagged advice, application, application advice, application deadlines, application tips, applications, career goals, Essay Questions, Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips, MBA application, MBA Essays, MBA program, McCombs MBA, university of texas, UT MBA, UT McCombs, UT McCombs School of Business.
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