Duke Fuqua Essays: Top Tips + ‘25 Random Things About YOU’ Example

September 30, 2020 | by Catherine Tuttle

“Team Fuqua” may seem like a tagline or gimmicky motto, but that’s far from the truth.

Fuqua’s mission is to transform its students into leaders who are equipped to inspire organizations in a way that leads to positive impact on the bottom line, but also positive impact on the world. Admissions is looking to create a class profile that will embrace this mission and create a culture that fosters strong relationships between students, faculty, staff, and their families.

The short answer and essay questions are an opportunity for you to tell your story in a way that speaks to Fuqua’s core values of collaboration, diversity, integrity, respect, and community engagement. That is why the first essay is so important. (For advice on positioning your Duke Fuqua application, view my related post.)

Fuqua Required essay #1: 25 Random Things About Yourself

While many applicants are intimidated by the prompt, I absolutely love this essay (see a full example of a successful ’25 Random Things’ response at the end of this post). The full prompt clearly states that Admissions wants to get to know you beyond the professional and academic achievements listed on your resume. This is your opportunity to connect on a personal level by showcasing a different side (or sides) of yourself that may not come through in traditional MBA applications. If done right, this essay is where you create advocates among those reading your list.

Think about your values, your hobbies, your interests, and important life experiences. These can and should be a mix of poignant, humorous, playful, deep, and everything in between. Some may be a paragraph whereas others may be a simple sentence. Also keep in mind that they should resonate with the core values of the Fuqua community mentioned above.

It’s also important to highlight your cultural competency. Fuqua has always put an emphasis on diversity and takes pride in the fact that its student body is consistently around 40% international. In fact, the main hallway is lined with flags representing the many countries students come from. Teams are purposefully made of individuals from different genders, ethnicities, and functional and industry backgrounds. It’s important that your savvy self- and cultural awareness shines throughout your application. Look for ways to stress your experience working with globally diverse teams and why a global perspective is important to you personally and professionally.

Fuqua Required Essay #2: The Fuqua community and you – what are 3 ways you expect to contribute at Fuqua? (300 words)

While the essay topic remains the same, word count has been significantly cut this year, so it’s more important than ever that you dig deep into the engagement opportunities on campus and pick three that clearly align with your story, both past and present. Dedicating a significant amount of time to networking with students and alumni is essential so that you can envision yourself on campus and articulate how you will add value to the community.

As an added bonus, students and alumni are encouraged to submit online recommendations after engaging with prospective students and their opinions are highly valued by Admissions.

Outside the classroom is key here. All too often applicants ignore that part of the prompt and wax poetic about how their experience will add value in class discussions. You must go deeper. Fuqua boasts 60+ student clubs, each of which was started and run by students. These clubs and other experiential opportunities allow you to take initiative and flex the leadership muscle you are building in the program. Think about the groups you will be a part of – professional clubs and/or those that are more light-hearted like the Outdoors Club or Wine Club. There’s also the MBA Games, the MBAA leadership cabinet, GATE trips, and other opportunities to get involved.

Reflect on your past experience and how it will contribute to mission and goals of whatever opportunities you choose. If you have networked effectively, you’ll be equipped to articulate how you can add value in vivid detail.

Fuqua Required Short Answer: What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first choice career plan and your alternate plan. (500 characters with spaces)

At Fuqua, Admissions and the Career Management Center (CMC) are well connected. Career Center staff educate the team on what to look for in resumes and the key skills/experience required for certain career paths. If questions arise about a candidate, their experience, and how realistic their goals are, they will bring in the Associate Dean of the CMC to get her feedback. That said, you need to be quite clear about your development so far, the skills needed from the Duke MBA, and how it all translates post-MBA.

While I wouldn’t recommend spending too much character count on your plan B, it is an incredibly important part of your answer. The MBA is a dynamic and transformative experience. At orientation, staff would often joke with the new class that more than half of them would end up doing something completely different than what they wrote about in their application. The point of plan B is to show that you have thought clearly about more than one option and how they will get you to your goals short- and long-term. That way, when the wind changes (and it will), you will be prepared to adjust your sails!

Example of a Successful ’25 Random Things About YOU’ Essay

  1. Having gained seven siblings all at once, at the age of nine, I’ve come to have a loose definition of the word family. My definition is based more on time I’ve spent with someone than our legal or biological bonds.
  2. It took time (and a new addition to the house), but eventually my newly-extend family fell into a rhythm. Our home was louder, but filled with more laughter. Together we learned to discuss topics such as subliminal racism and police violence against people of color with sensitivity, directness, and when appropriate, a sense of humor.
  3. I have a pet Quaker parrot named Blue. I was told it was a male bird so I was shocked when “he” laid an egg!
  4. I’m deathly scared of spiders. My first month living in Chongqing, a spider about 3 ½ inches across found itself in front of my doorway; after frantically facetiming my dad, I dropped a textbook weighing about 5 pounds on it. I didn’t move the book for two weeks.
  5. When I am stressed out I like to watch documentaries about space… or the children’s show “Arthur”—totally different but equally effective.
  6. Ever since I watched the show Madeline at age 5, my interest in studying another language was peaked. While it only included snippets of French (“Bonjour”, “merci”) I was enchanted by the idea of learning French and connecting with a group of people otherwise unreachable.
  7. On Thanksgiving when I was 5 years old, I finally put it together that the turkey we were eating was “turkey”, the bird. I surprised my parents by announcing I was now going to be a vegetarian. I surprised them further by remaining vegetarian until the end of high school.
  8. In college, I volunteered in China with an NGO building libraries in rural schools. When the children first saw me, they ran and hid. It was their first time laying eyes on a foreigner. While they were initially frightened, we eventually bonded over Chinese paper cutting (which I never did quite get the hang of).
  9. One of my first nights in Hunan Province, I tried “huajiao”, a pepper known for its numbing effects on the mouth; I had no idea what I’d eaten and was convinced I was having an allergic reaction. Since we were hours from a hospital I was also half-convinced this could be the end. Now huajiao is one of my favorite spices.
  10. My college roommates and I met on our hall freshman year and the five of us lived together the rest of our time at Penn—we still have yearly reunions despite all living in different cities.
  11. This summer, I had a small “family reunion” in a cozy Italian restaurant in NYC’s West Village. Around the table sat Tao Tao, a close friend from middle school, Alex, Roon and Angie, my hallmates for two years in boarding school, Nick and Amanda, my college roommates, and Freddie and Mark, who lived with me in Chongqing. It was surreal to bring these “family members” from different stages of life and corners of the world together.
  12. I failed the written portion of the driving test three times before passing. My family, who often made fun of me for being the “nerdy” one, got a huge kick out of this.
  13. I once took a 10-day trip around the deserts and plains of southeastern Mongolia with two women who I had just met from Australia and Canada. Despite 10 days in very close-quarters, we became great friends and confidants.
  14. My favorite moments living in China are those in which I completely mess up (e.g. first time I tried to hike Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan province and ended up about a hundred miles off on the Tibetan border.) I had to squeeze into a 4.5ft. bed and go straight back the next day – hilarious and humbling.
  15. Over the past few years, a couple clients’ passion for physics has rubbed off on me. Now, I listen to physics podcasts almost every night. Concepts like particle-wave duality and quantum field theory blow my mind!
  16. I used to be more of a night-owl, until I walked onto the crew team freshman year of college. Even after I stopped my second year, I maintained the habit of waking up early and now I’m a total morning person.
  17. My closest friends in Beijing identify as queer. Through them I have become involved in the LGBTQ+ community in Beijing, where there is still political danger associated with being queer/attending LGBTQ+ events. Locations are never released until just beforehand and only via private message.
  18. One of my favorite memories this past year was trying to teach my 7-year-old niece how to play Mancala. Unfortunately, she never mastered the game… her 4-year-old sister kept flipping the board over.
  19. While studying in France, I decided to stay abroad over the holidays and spent Christmas going on an impromptu tour through Lausanne, Switzerland, given by a professor from the Ivory Coast who I bumped into on the street.
  20. My first job was working in a fine jewelry store. Looking at an inscribed platinum watch a family managed to bring with them after escaping France at the start of WWII, or a Victorian locket that still contained the black-and-white photo of young boy. I love learning the stories behind the pieces and then sharing them with customers.
  21. My youngest adopted brother was drafted by the Miami Dolphins this past spring (my mom immediately bought an aqua and orange phone case to celebrate).
  22. My freshman year at Penn, I thought I signed up for a writing seminar until I showed up for class and realized mid-way through the seminar that I had in fact registered for a seminar about sleep in the nursing school. No idea how I managed to mix that up but I ended up sticking with it and it became one of my favorite classes!
  23. I had two pet rats, Chai and Cappuccino, in college. Side note: between its Parisian location and the fact that the main characters are rats, you may not be surprised to learn by now that Ratatouille is my favorite Disney movie.
  24. Since high school, I have always had an interest in storytelling. One of the reasons I chose to work at ESC was its mission: Help students craft a narrative that tells their unique story.
  25. The first time I played flag football was in open meet-and-greet game. I had a classic moment of almost making a touchdown and the football landing straight on my face. I still joined the team though!

Want more advice?

View my related blog: 5 Essential Tips on Applying for the Duke Fuqua MBA.


Fortuna Admissions Expert Coach Catherine Finch Tuttle brings deep MBA experience as a former Associate Director at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. For five years she worked in the Career Management Center creating, implementing, and evaluating programs and coaching MBA’s to achieve their career goals. She also served as the liaison to Admissions having worked with them earlier in her career as a Marketing Manager. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation

 

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