Essay Analysis
Important Dates

Early Decision I


Early Decision II


Regular Decision


View School Profile

July 21, 2019

Duke Fuqua School Of Business MBA Short Answer Questions

Fuqua MBA Short Answer Questions

Answer both of the following questions. For each question, respond in 500 characters only (the equivalent of about 100 words).


Most people already have a sensible answer to this question. Making sense at all is good, but we’re not interested in good. We’re interested in ADMIT-good, top MBA-good, good enough to beat a lot of “good” competition. To get to that level, there’s a key component you have to get right: “Why next?” (aka, why NOW?)

This is the part many people will miss. To answer this question “correctly” is to demonstrate an absolutely inarguable grasp of what YOU need to in order to achieve the BEST possible version of your future goals. Think about that for a sec. There are other ways to achieve your goals…. Probably some that don’t even include business school… but maybe those versions aren’t as good. Here’s a neat trick to tease that out: Imagine NOT pursuing an MBA as the very next thing you do. Pretend you do thing X next, and then maybe thing Y, and THEN you get your MBA (from Duke) and then pursue your goals exactly as you’d need in order to “win it all.” Where does the best version of that end up? Picture it. Now, articulate to us right now why that version is LESS GOOD than the version where the MBA is the very next thing you do. Show us the delta, in terms of future impact.

Once you have a clear idea of that, now you need to find a way to convey it in 100-ish words. Ouch. Well, the good news is that exercise in teasing out the reason TIMING matters will help you HOME IN on the key nugget faster. You may not have the space to lay out the whole delta for us, but if you do this correctly, we should be able to extrapolate what that delta is, based on your response.


Start by stating your goals in a VERY straightforward way, space is limited. “I want to be an X at a company like Y doing Z awesome thing.” Then, establish what your first choice plan is (tightly) and quickly establish why that’s the best version (speed? Amplitude of success? Some other measure of greatness?). Use the same logic here as we discussed above for the first question: what’s the delta between your preferred plan and your alternate plan? Identify it, and explain how it makes your first choice plan BETTER.

Then, explain how that’s not the only way you could get there, and that alternate plan X is another way. Even if the alternate path is not quite as awesome, it should still be a rock-solid way of getting to that same end goal.

Read More

July 21, 2019

Fuqua MBA Optional Essay

If you feel there are circumstances of which the admissions committee should be aware (such as unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance), please explain them in an optional essay. Please do not upload additional essays or additional recommendations in this area of the application, and limit your response to one page.

Read our team’s complete take on the idea of the optional essay, including a brief (recent) history of b-schools’ relationship with it, and how our recommendations have evolved over the years, right here.

You can also read through our team’s analysis of the rest of Fuqua’s application essays.

Learn more and explore each step of Fuqua’s full-time MBA application process here.

July 21, 2019

Fuqua prides itself on cultivating a culture of engagement. Our students enjoy a wide range of student-led organizations that provide opportunities for leadership development and personal fulfillment, as well as an outlet for contributing to society. Our student-led government, clubs, centers, and events are an integral part of the student culture and are vital to providing you with a range of experiential learning and individual development experiences.

Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, how do you see yourself engaging in and contributing to our community, outside of the classroom? Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length.

Your ultimate goal here? To elicit a reader response that goes something like:

  • “Yep, this kid clearly bleeds Duke.”
  • “Yep, this kid is gonna light a fire here.”
  • “Yep.” {Translation: I believe the commitment behind his/her words here.}

The key to this question is… are you convincing? This is the part, folks, where what you say matters less than how you say it. It is very possible to say all the right things. To indicate that you are going to start Club X, and to engage in Duke Thing Y, and to contribute Awesome Thing Z thing to the Duke community. But how? By doing research, by organizing your arguments so that they are logically sound, seem well considered, etc.

But… if the Adcom thinks that you would probably pick, say, Darden or Ross or Yale SOM over Duke, none of those arguments will weigh much. What you need to achieve is the exact opposite. Let’s take those statements above and ADD another crucial one:

  • “If we admit this kid, there is an unbelievably good chance he’s gonna accept, regardless of where else he gets in.”

If you establish THIS as your burden, it will (it should, anyway) focus your approach to this response in an excellent way. Imagine, for example, that your reader does NOT believe that you are sincere in your stated desire to attend Duke. How would you use this essay prompt to convince him/her otherwise? Address the elements in this question, but in reality, prove to the reader that no matter how many acceptance letters you receive, Duke is the place you are going to engage with the most.

Now. How exactly do you do that? Well for starters it helps if that’s actually the case, ha! But let’s suppose your are business-school-agnostic at this stage, and simply want to attend whichever TOP MBA program accepts you. Allow yourself to APPEAR to be that first guy, the one who would rather attend Duke than Harvard. In order to achieve that, you need to demonstrate two things:


In other words, if the Duke experience is supposedly different from the Yale experience, or the Ross experience, how so? (And then map those differences to things you need – THROUGH your explanation for how you will engage in the Duke community.)


Show how Duke fulfills something inside you that another school doesn’t. Or, why Duke’s version is somehow more appealing to you. This is art, not science. Do you have a girlfriend? Boyfriend? Husband? Wife? Child? Can you explain to someone why you like this person? Try it. Do it on paper. Maybe it starts with “quantifiable” traits. But hopefully, at some point, you reach a moment where you find yourself… unable to quantify the way a loved one makes you feel. Try – like hell – to explain IN WORDS what that thing is. What your emotion is, and how this person elicits that emotion. You won’t be able to, or you may discover a way to. It’s all gold. All of it. Take a look and see what that looks like, and then see if you can adapt it to the Duke community somehow.

When you put all of that stuff together, you should end up with some interesting stuff in your first draft. Here’s one version of an outline that may help kick things off:

  1. Establish what you’re looking for in a B-school. Establish the experience you’re hoping for, and how this corresponds to optimizing your personal potential to succeed (and perhaps to help others succeed).
  2. Now explain why certain opportunities at Duke afford you the ability to not just experience these things, but quite possibly the best version of them. If you can indicate contrasts to other schools, do it. If it’s just highlighting something unique to Duke, do it. As always, relate each example back to something you specifically need, and be very specific about the ways in which you are going to engage.
  3. Lastly, see if you can somehow explain where this sense came from. Give us a taste of the research, the “due diligence” that led to your conclusions. This is also the section where you may wanna “fumble” around those inexplicable reasons that are emotional at their core. Let us see the genuine-ness of your words here.

Organization-wise, it doesn’t necessarily need to follow that order. And to be sure, what we’re calling “Section 3” here is truly something that should be interwoven through the essay. But separating it out this way may at least give you a target for your V1.

You can also read through our team’s analysis of the rest of Fuqua’s application essays.

Learn more and explore each step of Fuqua’s full-time MBA application process here.

July 21, 2019

Fuqua's 25 Random Things Essay

Fuqua believes different types of people, points of view, and experiences bring out the best in everyone. And above all, we place a premium on succeeding while making a positive impact on businesses, organizations, and the world. These ways of thinking set the Duke MBA experience apart, and this concept 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.

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 two pages.

Random, folks. The absolute worst way to play this is to “clearly not have fun with it.” If you take this too seriously, and look at it like an opportunity to impress them with more achievements, you’re going to bore them to tears, and potentially turn them off. To avoid having fun with it will almost GUARANTEE that they conclude that “this is the type of person who is incapable of having fun.” That person is going to be a net negative on campus. We’re looking for “wins.” People who ADD to the community. Those people have personalities. Charm. Wit. Playfulness. Spirit. If this isn’t in you… you’d better get it fast.

Random doesn’t mean “by itself.” It has to tell us something about you. Example:

“A hummingbird flaps its wings about 70 times in a second.”

Great. But… this tells us what about you?

The random thing must give us a key to your coolness, your quirkiness, your… self. Somehow.

“When I was nine years old, in charge of “snacks” for a class camp out, I brought croissants. That was the day I realized I was not only born on the wrong continent, but in the wrong century.”

See the difference? This is revealing. Endearing. Self-deprecating. Tells us something about the author. 25 things like that.

Also, don’t be afraid to get creative. Make up your own conceits to GET you to a place of 25 random things:

“If I had to pick five celebrities to start a brand new civilization, they would be: Person (witty reason), Person 2 (witty reason), etc etc.” Don’t steal that, cuz it’ll look suspicious when several people submit the same thing! But you see the IDEA here, that you can literally invent ANY NUMBER of cool premises to help you reveal something about yourself and your attitudes.

You can also read through our team’s analysis of the rest of Fuqua’s application essays.

Learn more and explore each step of Fuqua’s full-time MBA application process here.

View more essay analyses.

Need help with your
essay writing?

We got you.

View Our Services