MBA Admissions Q&A: Duke Fuqua |

MBA Admissions Q&A: Duke Fuqua

By Mike Grill

Updated July 23, 2019 Updated July 23, 2019

The Fuqua School of Business rose sharply into the public eye last year when it claimed the number one spot in Bloomberg Businessweek’s MBA rankings (it also ranks highly in the QS Global 200 full-time MBA rankings).

Named for businessman and donor JB Fuqua, who credited his success in business to Duke university’s book lending program (they were delivered to the farm on which he grew up), the school admitted its first class in 1970. It has since firmly established itself as one of the leading schools in the US, with its crowning as the best by Businessweek (for this year at least) marking a high point in reputational terms. It can count Melinda Gates and Tim Cook among its alumni.

The wider university is a key player in North Carolina’s ‘Research Triangle’, along with the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University. As the name suggests, this is an area of high creativity, centering on the high-tech and innovation center of Research Triangle Park. And as any entrepreneurially-minded MBA knows, where there’s innovation, there’s opportunity…

We spoke to Allison Jamison, director of marketing and recruitment for Duke Fuqua’s full-time MBA program to find out what it takes to get into Fuqua.

What is the typical acceptance rate to the Fuqua School of Business MBA program?

The typical acceptance rate is in the mid-20% range. We have not seen a significant impact in our application numbers immediately following the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking (Duke Fuqua was ranked number one in the latest edition of the Businessweek rankings).

What are the most important aspects of the Fuqua MBA application process besides GMAT score, prior GPA, and current job position?

We are truly looking for individuals who understand our ‘Team Fuqua’ culture, and who we believe will be an active part of it. In each application, we are looking for evidence of individuals who have a goal, and who understand not only how Fuqua can help them achieve it, but also how their own goals and passions can in turn make Fuqua and the experiences of their classmates better. This kind of fit and desire for Fuqua is most often found in the essays and the interview.

What is one mistake you see applicants make?

One of the more common mistakes we see is applicants who try to tell the admissions committee what they think we want to hear, rather than their own truth. It makes a huge difference in an application when an individual is truly sharing his or her passion with us, versus an inauthentic application in which she or he tells a story that isn’t true to her or himself. That forced messaging typically falls flat with the admissions committee. The truth is that there is not one perfect application or applicant profile, so you are much better off being yourself, being unique, and being authentic.

What is something you would like to see applicants do more often?

In the Fuqua application, we ask applicants to share their community and leadership activities. Very often, we see individuals not spend as much time on this part of the application. We see applicants reference activities and leadership positions in their résumés and essays that are not included in the listing of activities. We are looking to see applicants recognize the importance of these activities, and be able to connect past participation in activities and leadership roles with their own potential to lead, in many different capacities and communities, throughout their application.

What does the Duke Fuqua application process look like?

Candidates have four rounds of application to choose from: an early action round, in which admission decisions are binding; and rounds one, two and three. Each completed application is read in its entirety by a member of the admissions team and applications are discussed in committees.  If a candidate has not yet interviewed, a decision will be made regarding interview invitations. Interviews are conducted during a specified time period and are held either on our campus in Durham with current students, or at one of our hub locations with alumni interviewers. Once interviews are conducted, the reports from those interviews are added to the application file. Each application is then read a second time by a different member of the admissions team.  Finally, the admissions committee convenes and applications are reviewed, resulting in final admissions decisions.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

The GMAT is truly only one part of the application, so there are many ways in which an applicant can address a lower score. If the quantitative section score is lower, the committee may look to performance in undergraduate or graduate courses in quantitative subjects. We will look to job responsibilities that involve analytical and problem solving skills, and we will review the recommendation letters to see if the recommender specifically addresses quantitative ability.

If the verbal section of the GMAT is the weaker score, we will look to same areas as mentioned above (coursework, job responsibilities, recommendations), as well as to the language proficiency exams for applicants for whom English is a second language. Essays are also considered when assessing verbal ability. Applicants who feel that the GMAT is not representative of their abilities may utilize the optional essay to share their thoughts on the exam and highlight other areas of the application that demonstrate strength in a certain area.

Some students also choose to take specific courses, such as statistics, economics, calculus, or accounting, to present another side of their abilities. And know the policies of each school, as some schools will also accept a GRE score. Some students find they perform better on one or the other test, so know your options.

Admissions tips

Essay: Be yourself. Don’t try to tell us what you think we want to hear. Tell us what really motivates and inspires you. And be specific to the school to which you are applying.

Interview: Prepare. Know what you have written in your application, and anticipate what interview questions may be so that you are prepared with examples to support your answers.

Letter of recommendation: Talk to your recommenders when you ask for their support in writing a letter. Share with them why you are seeking an MBA – if they understand what your goals are, they are better equipped to provide supporting anecdotes in their write up.

CV/Résumé: Follow the instructions on each school’s application on format. If you are asked for a one page résumé, modify your resume as needed to meet the requirement.

School visit: We recognize that not everyone will be able to visit campus. If you are able to visit a campus, take advantage of every opportunity available. Sit in on a class, talk with current students, and plan to spend at least a day there. Insights gained during a visit can be very helpful in writing compelling essays and/or having meaningful interview conversations. If you aren’t able to visit campus, connect with students via email and/or with alumni in your area to get their first-hand accounts and advice.

This article was originally published in April 2015 . It was last updated in July 2019

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