Applying to Duke Fuqua

No school has come as far as Fuqua (pronounced “FEW-kwa”) has in the past three decades. Duke enrolled its first class of MBA students in 1970, but things really started to happen after the school took Atlanta industrialist John Brooks Fuqua’s name (and his money) in 1980. What was once a well-regarded school with mostly regional appeal has grown into one of the top MBA programs in the nation.

Young Fuqua used its small size as an advantage over the business school competition, employing an innovative curriculum that allows for breadth and flexibility. Students have four terms (of six weeks each) per year, meaning that they get a taste of many more subjects than students at most other schools. They also complete at least five electives by the end of their first year, which some Fuqua students have credited as a competitive advantage heading into summer internships.

Fuqua’s academic emphasis has traditionally been on general management, although students can earn concentrations in two areas, ranging from typical subjects such as finance and marketing to broader topical areas such as social entrepreneurship and international business. One program that has become a signature for Fuqua is its Health Sector Management (HSM) program, which is the largest program of its kind at any top business school. If you are interested in biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical devices or health care management, then take a close look at this program, which draws a wide range of recruiters to Fuqua every year.

One theme that is prevalent at Fuqua is teamwork. Work in most classes is done in teams, and Fuqua’s graduates have gained a strong team-oriented reputation among recruiters. Students often refer to themselves as “Team Fuqua,” and they mean it. This atmosphere is reinforced by Fuqua’s relatively small size (810 total full-time students, although the school has grown by about 20% since 2002). When you apply to Fuqua, make it clear that you understand what it means to be part of a close-knit community, and spell out why it appeals to you. Along those lines, Fuqua students are heavily involved in everything going on at the school. If you are applying to Duke, make sure that this is what you want out of your business school experience. Even more importantly, make sure to emphasize this in your application through multiple examples of teamwork and involvement.

Admissions interviews are usually conducted by alumni or second-year students. It is therefore important to position yourself as a prospect that your interviewer would like to have as a classmate. This means you should provide examples of professional excellence, but do so in a non-arrogant tone. In the back of his mind, your interviewer will be evaluating you as a potential team member in addition to evaluating you as an applicant overall. Also, if you have three years professional experience or less, you should also expect to receive questions on your ability to contribute in the classroom. Have a response prepared as to why “now” is a good time for you to attend Fuqua.

Another way to show your fit with Fuqua is to demonstrate your sincere interest in the program. Even though Fuqua is still a highly competitive school that’s tough to get into, its yield (percentage of accepted students who enroll) is somewhat low compared to that of other top schools. The school therefore wants to be sure that if they accept you, you will enroll. If you can demonstrate that you truly want to attend Fuqua – and why this is so – you will greatly improve your chances.

Insider Information

Like many other top schools, Fuqua has been placing increasing emphasis on the importance of global business. The school recently replaced its pre-term course for first-year students (formerly called Integrated Leadership Experience) with a new three-week program called the Global Institute. The new program puts students in learning teams that study issues related to leadership and ethics in the context of a global business climate. It’s a nice warm-up for incoming students, and a clear indication of how important global competitiveness is to the Fuqua administration. While a background – or even a strong interest – in international business is definitely not a prerequisite, keep this in mind as you craft your Fuqua application strategy.

What Makes Fuqua Different?

Collaborative Leadership

Duke is focused most of all on collaborative leadership. Other than Kellogg and perhaps UCLA Anderson, few business schools can cite that as the program’s most distinguishing feature to the degree that Fuqua can. This breaks down as collaboration as embodied in “Team Fuqua” and the emphasis on student involvement across the educational experience, and leadership such as all business schools emphasize, but none in quite the same way as Duke with their “Leaders of Consequence.”

Expanding Reach

Fuqua also claims to be “rethinking the boundaries of business school” and as already discussed, has systematically broadened its reach both geographically, being the only school that has a firm presence in major centers around the world, and demographically, by offering compelling options to students in various phases of their careers and from different populations.

Leaders of Consequence

Chants of ‘Team Fuqua’ are commonly heard throughout the campus.
Duke has a stated goal: to create so-called “Leaders of Consequence” a phrase that we believe was coined by Dean Blair Sheppard around 2008, when he assumed leadership, and which has since been refined to “global leaders of consequence”. This “leaders of consequence” concept is so important that it comes into play within the Fuqua application essays. While a concrete definition is lacking, suffice it to say that Duke feels a leader of consequence is adaptable, down to earth, and ethical. As Dean Sheppard put it, they want to produce graduates “who can drink champagne with the rich and famous and can drink chai with those who that’s all they can afford.” In terms of an application, like other top schools, Duke’s admissions teams are looking for people who have made a difference in their jobs and in their communities, and who seek an MBA from Fuqua in their quest to make a real impact on the world in the future.

Evaluative Interviews

Another difference at Fuqua is their Open Interview process: They strongly encourage candidates to travel to Durham and visit campus, and while you’re there, interview with a student. This Open Interview option is available only in the earliest part of the admissions cycle each year, usually starting in mid-September and running through October. Scheduling opens in August for these limited slots. You need not have your application completed in advance of the Open Interview; it is characterized more as an “evaluation” than an interview. A few other schools work this way, too, notably Tuck and Kellogg. These programs are different, and the schools want candidates to come experience it for themselves before deciding to apply. This also helps improve the quality of the applications, since the candidate really knows the program and can speak with some authority about how he or she will leverage the Duke resources best.

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