MBA Admissions Q&A: Duke University's Fuqua School of Business | TopMBA.com

MBA Admissions Q&A: Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

By Seb Murray

Updated March 25, 2021 Updated March 25, 2021

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business is among the most revered schools in the US, with a full-time MBA program that’s consistently highly ranked in prestigious league tables each year. Plenty of notable alumni have come out of the school too, chiefly Apple’s boss Tim Cook.

Unsurprisingly, it’s very difficult to secure a place on Fuqua’s MBA course. The school receives about 36,000 applications a year and accepts just 22-23 percent of the candidates who apply.

So, prospective students should heed the advice of Shari Hubert, associate dean for admissions: “We’re looking for students who will not only be successful in a rigorous academic environment but also share our belief that business can help change the world for the better,” she says.

“We are also looking for authenticity, humility and a genuine appreciation for the strength that lies in difference.”

We asked Hubert for more guidance on what MBA applicants to Fuqua School of Business should consider.

How many applications do you typically receive and what is your acceptance rate to the full-time MBA? 

Every year varies slightly, depending on economic factors and industry trends. However, over the past five years, we have averaged around 3,600+ applications. Our acceptance rate has ranged between 22-23 percent during this same timeframe.

What does your admissions process look like? 

For candidates who want a complete overview of the application process, we’ve outlined it here.

We’re very interested in really getting to know a candidate on a personal level to make sure he or she will be the right fit for our culture. Thus, we want to interview as many people as possible. During the open interview process anyone will be granted an interview, even if they haven’t completed an application. After the open interview process, interviews are by invitation only after the review of your application.

We also really try to get to know our candidates through our essay questions. You may have heard we ask you to list “25 random things” about yourself. It’s a really fun and reflective exercise and reveals a lot about a person. In fact, I made my list before joining Fuqua in October.

Beyond that – we believe it’s really important for prospective students to visit our campus in Durham, North Carolina if they’re able to. We believe meeting us in person and experiencing our community is the best way for a candidate to decide if we are the right school for them.

What are you looking for in a potential MBA candidate? 

We’re looking for students who will not only be successful in a rigorous academic environment but also share our belief that business can help change the world for the better. We’re also looking for authenticity, humility and a genuine appreciation for the strength that lies in difference.

We believe that’s what will make a student successful in Team Fuqua: which we define as a way of working that draws out the strengths in others. The Team Fuqua way of working is core to everything we do here, from the way we design learning teams and our curriculum, to the way our students lead extracurricular clubs.

We talk about it all the time – and our dean recently wrote a blog about what it means. The Team Fuqua style is not for everybody – so we’re really screening in the application and interview for that type of fit. 

What is the one common mistake you see applicants make that sinks their admissions chances? 

Many times, applicants are telling us what they think we want to hear, rather than what’s authentic to them. We really appreciate differences and we aren’t looking for someone who will only agree with us. Trust me, we can tell when you aren’t being true to yourself.

Feel free to express yourself and challenge us if you feel like you should. We are looking for people who aren’t afraid to be different and want to be around people with a range of experiences, backgrounds and viewpoints. 

We’re also looking for people who are respectful of themselves, our staff, students and their peers throughout the process and once they get into the program as well. Someone who is very demanding, disrespectful or has a sense of entitlement can hurt their chances of admission.

What would you like to see applicants do more often?

Spend more time reflecting on the essay questions and don’t try to adapt the same version from school to school. This is really your chance to take the time and figure out if and why this school is the right fit. Invest the time in putting your most authentic, best self forward. Don’t assume a test score alone will get you in. 

I would also encourage applicants to be thoughtful about the number of individuals they seek out during the process to learn more about the program. Don’t just write a long list of students and staff you may have briefly met or interacted with on a surface level, so that you can put in your application that you connected with the school. 

Understand and explain why you’re speaking with that particular person and what they can offer or share with you (and vice versa), which helps move forward your learning about the school and its fit with what you’re looking for. 

Why do applicants come to Fuqua over your closest competitors? 

Our competitors are a fantastic set of business schools and we have tremendous respect for them. Students will also get a great education at any of the schools in our peer set.

It really comes down to fit though. Where does the individual feel more comfortable? Is the Team Fuqua style of working appealing to them? Do they feel connected to the friendliness, genuine support and energy to help each other on our campus?

Usually when admitted students visit Fuqua, it’s what tips the decision to attend. We hear time and time again that being on campus and experiencing our community first-hand made an applicant realize Fuqua was the right fit.

What changes might you make to the application process in the future? 

Our goal is to make sure applicants have a positive experience throughout their time applying to our program, regardless of the outcome. We continue to look at our application process and requirements to ensure we’re not overburdening the applicant yet can still obtain the relevant information needed to make the best decisions for both our program and the applicant, as we look to craft a diverse and competitive class that meets our Team Fuqua standards. 

This year we plan to keep our two essays – the signature “25 Random Things” essay as well as an essay that asks the applicant to demonstrate how she or he plans to contribute to both their and their classmates’ transformation through engagement outside of the classroom. We’ve streamlined some of the language as well. 

Also, to make the process of collecting recommendation letters easier, we have joined GMAC and a host of other top business schools to use a common letter of recommendation this year. We’ll have instructions in our application on how this will work, and we hope it alleviates some of the burden for those applicants applying to multiple programs. 

Our executive MBA programs and one-year master’s programs have also made small adjustments to their essays to make them clearer and more concise.

This article was originally published in May 2018 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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