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6 Insider Tips on Applying for the Duke Fuqua MBA

Duke University’s Fuqua School  has ascended to one of the top international business schools in its somewhat brief history.

Fuqua is routinely ranked among the best domestic MBA programs —#6 in the 2023-24 Poets & Quants rankings and tied for #12 in the U.S. News & World Report in 2024 .Outside of official rankings, Fuqua has also been recognized by Forbes as one of the most globally focused schools in the US, with about 47% of their class being international students.

I spent five years as associate director of Fuqua’s Career Management Center and a liaison to admissions, so I’m delighted to witness these candidate-friendly adjustments — from its iconic 25 Random Things essay (I offer some advice on that here) to stretching the early action deadline, to boosting the number of applicants interviewed and providing additional opportunities to waive the application fee.

Three Reasons to Consider Fuqua

If Fuqua is not yet on your target list of business schools, here are three reasons why it should be:

1. Culture

Fuqua is extremely close knit and collaborative, and the program’s emphasis on diversity is deeply embodied in its values and culture. At Fuqua diversity goes beyond gender, race, and culture to include professional experiences and post-MBA career goals.

Team Fuqua is more than a slogan; it is a commitment that the students, faculty, and staff make to one another. The admissions committee searches for individuals who believe in their six paired principles that define and guide the Fuqua community. They are: Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. Ultimately, Duke wants to enroll students who not only excel in business, but also positively impact their communities and the world. Prominent alumni of the program include philanthropist Melinda Gates and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

2. Customization

The curriculum at Fuqua has progressively evolved to encompass 14 unique concentrations (ranging from DEI to Energy Finance and Social Entrepreneurship) and two certificates (Finance & Health Sector Management). With more than 100 electives to pursue in areas of interest, myriad opportunities exist to personalize your MBA education. While Fuqua initially had a strong reputation for marketing and general management, in 2023, more than 40% of students accepted jobs in consulting. Top employers include BCG, McKinsey, Bain & Company, Amazon, Bank of America, and Accenture.

3. Location

Situated in Durham, North Carolina, Duke is part of the internationally renowned Research Triangle Park, one of the oldest and biggest science parks in the U.S. with more than  200 companies, including multinational organizations and startups. Recently, the Triangle area garnered national acclaim as one of the finest locations for commerce and careers. While  Durham might not be on your radar, it’s an extremely dynamic community with a nationally recognized culinary scene, excellent museums, world-class entertainment, and a vast array of options for outdoor activities. As an added bonus, Durham is situated about two and a half hours from the Appalachian mountains and the same distance  from the North Carolina beaches.


Six Essential Tips for Applying for the Duke Fuqua MBA

If these features resonate with you, you’ll need to know what Duke Fuqua is seeking in an MBA candidate. Below are my top tips for crafting a successful application, informed by my experience as former Duke Fuqua Associate Director and a Fortuna Admissions coach.

1. Be courageous.

Fuqua’s first mandatory essay asks for your list of “25 Random things about YOU.” As the prompt suggests, the admissions committee wants to learn about you beyond the professional and academic accolades on your resume. This is an opportunity to have some fun and to highlight an aspect of yourself that may not shine through in traditional MBA essay questions.

Because this is an opportunity to connect on a personal level, it is also a moment to be courageous. If done right, your answers will draw the committee in and lead them to advocate for you during the admissions process. Reflect on your values, hobbies, passions and formative life experiences. These can and should be a combination of poignant, playful, sad, funny, striking, deep and everything that lies in between. Some can be a paragraph whereas others may be a brief declarative sentence. (See my blog here for more guidance and examples.) Remember that these things should reflect the core values of Fuqua’s community – diversity, respect, integrity, collaboration, and contributing to a cause greater than yourself.

2. Picture yourself on campus.

The second essay challenges candidates on how they see themselves contributing to the community outside the classroom. Outside the classroom is key. Applicants frequently miss that portion of the prompt and wax poetic about how their experiences will add value in classroom discussions. Going deeper here is crucial. Fuqua boasts 50 clubs run by students. These clubs and other experiential opportunities position you to act and flex the leadership muscles you’ll be strengthening in the program.

Consider the associations you’d enjoy being a contributor to — professional groups but also activity clubs like Building Outdoor Leaders at Duke (BOLD) or Fuqua Hoops and diversity clubs like Fuqua Pride or the Asian Business Club. Then, contemplate your past experiences and how it will position you to make an impact by reinforcing Fuqua’s mission and goals. Connecting with current club members will ensure you’re able to do this effectively by leveraging an up to date understanding of their key initiatives and areas of focus.

3. Understand what Team Fuqua means to you.

On the surface, Team Fuqua can appear like a gimmicky motto or tagline, but that’s far from the truth. If you invest the necessary time to network with current students and alumni, you can begin to truly recognize what this means. You’ll hear stories about:

  • how candidates gunning for the same internship support each other during interview prep,
  • how current students proactively engage across programs (Daytime, Executive MBA, MMS)
  • alumni who stay connected with the school far beyond graduation, and
  • faculty and staff hosting international students during holiday breaks.

The sum of Fuqua’s community is greater than its individual parts, and throughout your application, you’ll need to demonstrate your experience and understanding of this deeply relational value. (Also, keep in mind that ‘Tell me what Team Fuqua means to you’ is often a preferred question among current students and alumni interviewers.)

4. Offer clear career goals while having a viable back up plan.

At Fuqua, the Admissions and the Career Management Center (CMC) teams are closely connected. If concerns surface about a candidate, their experience, and how viable their goals are, admissions will often receive feedback from the CMC dean. Though you aren’t allotted much space to explain your plan B, this is a very important component of your application.

During orientation, we would often joke that the bulk of first-year students were expected to amend their career goals. While what you write in an admissions essay and what you actually pursue post-MBA may very well change, it’s important that you be clear about the skills you have developed throughout your career thus far and the skills and experiences you need from the Fuqua MBA. That way, if the wind changes (and it will; the MBA is a powerful, transformative experience!), you will be equipped to adjust your sails.

5.  Exhibit an appreciation for diversity.

Fuqua has always placed importance on diversity. The school prides itself on the fact that they have a high number of women in each admitted class and that almost half of its student body is international. Sections and teams are intentionally constructed of students representing different ethnicities, genders, functional and industry backgrounds, and post-MBA goals. (Those with non-traditional career goals are becoming a much greater part of the student body, with many being highlighted on The Fuqua Show podcast).

It’s critical that your cultural savvy shines brightly throughout your application. Explore ways to emphasize your experience partnering across functions, levels, and globally diverse teams and why an appreciation for diverse perspectives is essential to you from a personal and professional perspective going forward.

6.  Engage with Team Fuqua for an Application Fee Waiver

Given the collaborative and close-knit culture at Fuqua, engagement with Fuqua students and alumni is highly encouraged, as is participation in information sessions online and on-campus. Connecting with current students is as easy as reaching out to a Daytime MBA Student Ambassador. You can easily sort by industry and get a sense of their involvement with different clubs and activities. Alumni can easily be found through LinkedIn as well as alumni blogs linked on the Fuqua website.

In the spirit of Team Fuqua, alumni often remain engaged far beyond graduation and their impressions are highly respected by the admissions team. Fuqua urges alumni and current students who have met with potential candidates to contribute direct feedback via online submission if they sense an applicant’s a particularly strong fit for the program (if this occurs, Fuqua will waive your application fee). This offers an additional impetus to network with Fuqua alumni as you deepen your application process. Do so, and not only do you stand to gain an outspoken champion about your fit for Fuqua, but greater certainty that Fuqua will be the best fit for you.

Fortuna Admissions coach Catherine Tuttle is the former Associate Director at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where she worked in the Career Management Center and also served as the liaison to admissions. 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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