July 21, 2019

Duke Fuqua School of Business MBA Essay 2

Duke Fuqua

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:

1) Demonstrate deep knowledge for what makes Fuqua… Fuqua.

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.)

2) Make an emotional argument for why Duke revs you up.

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.

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