The MBA Gatekeeper At Duke’s Fuqua School

Duke University Fuqua School of Business

Duke University Fuqua School of Business

What book should every Fuqua applicant have read?

We have a suggested reading list for incoming students. My recommendations might be a little different. I say this only because it’s more of a human interest, from a personal perspective on service and stewardship:  Same Kind of Different As Me (by Ron Hall and Denver Moore). It’s a story about two men who become friends from very, very different backgrounds. It takes place at a point in time when black and white relationships didn’t exist, or weren’t common. It’s set in rural Louisiana in the 1930s. It’s a lesson in how someone who’s completely different from you can change your perspective in life . . . and how important it is to have a higher purpose in life that guides what you do.

When applicants contact your office, is there a line between what might be considered impressive persistence, and being annoying?

There is a line. My rule of thumb, and policy for our office, is, ‘Let’s not do for one candidate what we wouldn’t be willing to do for all of our applicants if they asked.’ If a waitlisted candidate, for instance, asked, ‘Can I come to campus and schedule a second interview?’ Obviously we wouldn’t be able to offer that to all the waitlisted applicants if they asked. We tell them no. We send waitlisted candidates an FAQ. We give them pretty good instructions on how to engage with us.

We try not to engage with applicants in a way that puts anyone in an unfair position. We do have policies that we’ve set up to reinforce that. Sometimes there are . . . overzealous applicants who feel that constant communication or emails or phone calls are going to improve their chances of being admitted, and that isn’t often the case if the frequency is high but the value-add is low. If you’re just calling to reinforce the same things that are in your application . . . it becomes annoying at that point.

What three things should an applicant do before an admissions interview?

Talk to current students. Be prepared to kind of walk through their experience and why they want to come to Duke, and do the research. Have a very good understanding of why you want to come to Duke and what you’ll bring to the program. Students and alumni help us with our admissions interviews. They’re going to want to know, ‘If I’m on your team and it’s two o’clock in the morning and things aren’t going well, are you the person who’s going to help us get though this? Are you going to be the person who represents our brand well?’ We expect that you’ll have a very strong idea of your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll have a very strong rationale for why you want to come to Duke.

What non-verbal cues do members of the admissions team watch for when doing an applicant interview?

We want people who want to come to Duke. You can non-verbally communicate passion and enthusiasm for what you do and what you want from your life. Those are non-verbal cues that we pick up on often. We’re looking for students who have strong interpersonal skills, who have the ability to come and listen and demonstrate that they know what they want and are also passionate about something outside of their work, too.

Applicant X has a 680 GMAT score, a 3.8 GPA, but didn’t get in to Fuqua. Why not?

It goes back to the level of competition. Seventy-five per cent of the applicants who apply to Fuqua could academically succeed and do well in the program, but we’re taking a pool of highly qualified applicants and trying to carve out this diverse group of incoming students who also align with the values that we say are important. We would never look at only a 680 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA and make a decision. It would have to be in context with the timing of the application, with the pool of applications, and the other things that breathe life into the application. We’ve admitted students with 680s and 3.8 GPAs, and we’ve denied them, and the difference could be they’ve applied really late in the process, maybe they‘re not seasoned as professionally as we’d like. It could be maybe they’ve had more work experience than the typical student would have coming into the program and we didn’t necessarily see that that was a key differentiator for them.

If someone expresses interest in entrepreneurship, what do you look for that would suggest they have what it takes?

That’s a really tough question to answer. There’s been lots of research about the characteristics of entrepreneurs. There’s something a little bit different about entrepreneurs in the way they approach their work and their life. It goes back to that demonstration of passion for that thing you want to create and innovate. We’re looking for the story, and the background of your experiences, and the demonstration of all the things you’ve done up to this point, to reinforce the interest that you say you have in this particular entrepreneurial activity. We don’t necessarily try to determine, ‘Are they going to be good entrepreneurs?’ Typically with entrepreneurs there’s some key moment or experience that they’ve had or idea that they ran across that pushes them in the direction of entrepreneurship.

THE GATEKEEPER SERIES:

THE GATEKEEPER TO BERKELEY HAAS
THE GATEKEEPER TO HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL 
THE GATEKEEPER TO STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS 
THE GATEKEEPER TO THE WHARTON SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
THE GATEKEEPER TO THE KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
THE GATE KEEPER TO CHICAGO’S BOOTH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
THE GATEKEEPER TO MIT SLOAN
THE GATEKEEPER TO DARTMOUTH’S TUCK SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
THE GATEKEEPER TO MICHIGAN’S ROSS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS 
THE GATEKEEPER TO CORNELL’S JOHNSON GRADUATE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
THE GATEKEEPER TO YALE’S SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
THE GATEKEEPER TO LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL
THE GATEKEEPER TO CAMBRIDGE JUDGE
THE GATEKEEPER TO THE INDIAN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS