Most & Least Challenging MBA Applications This Year

Studying at the NYU Stern School of Business - Ethan Baron photo

Studying at the NYU Stern School of Business – Ethan Baron photo


Sometimes, the most challenging MBA applications also turned out to be among the schools named by admissions consultants for having their favorite essay questions of the year. That was certainly the case for Harvard, Stanford, Chicago and Kellogg. But the school getting the most kudos for having the favorite essay of all was Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (see below table).

Fuqua’s required two-page essay for applicants to list 25 random facts about themselves is a common favorite among consultants because it allows applicants wide latitude to be creative and highly personal (see How To Answer Fuqua’s 25 Random Things Essay).

“It’s a great question because its nature (a list) encourages concise responses, yet offers the freedom to be creative,” says Hillary Schubach, president of Shine/ MBA Admissions Consulting. “Plus 25 is a generous number! So candidates can feel that they’ve essentially ‘filled in all the blanks’ on their applications, conveyed what makes them unique, while showing a sense of their personality along the way. I’ve seen successful applicants cover everything from their proudest accomplishments to defining moments, inspirations, passions, family traditions, travel anecdotes and hidden talents. Candidates have a lot of fun working on it, which makes it more fun to read as well.”

Consultants also heaped praise on UC-Berkeley’s requirement for applicants to choose “one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why?” as well as Cornell’s mandatory essay that asks an applicant to pretend he or she is “the author for the book of Your Life Story” and to “create the table of contents for the book.”

Other favorites, from Chicago Booth and NYU Stern, allowed candidates to answer any way they wanted: By video, audio, or a slide presentation, flexibility that opened up the application to far more creative means of expression.

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