Duke Fuqua Gives MBA Application A Makeover

Duke University Fuqua School of Business has made several changes to its MBA application, including new short-answer essay questions. Justin Cook photo

Schools rarely stand pat with their MBA application processes from year to year — and when they see a big dip in applications, they are all but guaranteed to make some adjustments. That’s the case this summer at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, which saw a 6.2% drop in apps in 2017-2018. The school’s changes this cycle do not amount to a “major overhaul,” according to Allison Jamison, assistant dean of admissions, but rather a series of tweaks to ease the process, including revisions to the school’s essay questions, a change in its Early Action deadline, an increase in the number of interviewers, changes in requirements for transcripts, and an expansion of the application fee waiver program.

The new application will be live by August 1, Jamison says.

“The Duke MBA admissions team has made several changes to our application process this year with the goal of increasing accessibility to all applicants, streamlining the process, and providing the greatest number of applicants the opportunity to meet with Duke MBA students and staff in person,” Jamison writes in a blog post announcing the changes.

“We feel that our current application process really helps us get to know our applicants on a very personal level, and so the changes we have made are not major overhauls, but rather revisions and improvements designed to expand the number of applicants we are able to get to know well.”


Allison Jamison, assistant dean of admissions. Duke photo

Last year Duke asked applicants to reply to three short-answer questions:

  1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
  2. What are your long-term goals?
  3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize, what alternative directions have you considered?

For each question, Duke asked applicants to respond in 500 characters only (the equivalent of about 100 words). This year, the school has revised the short-answer essays and are asking for only two replies:

  1. Why is pursuing an MBA the right next step for you? (500 characters, or about 100 words)
  2. What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first-choice career plan and your alternate plan. (500 characters, or about 100 words)

“The questions have been changed to give applicants more opportunity to share their reasons for pursuing an MBA in general,” Jamison says. “We are also asking applicants to focus more attention on short-term career goals, rather than long-term goals, given the uncertainty and dependencies of life that are inherent in planning for the long term.”

Duke’s two longer-response essays, including its iconic 25 Random Things essay, remain the same. “We look forward to continuing to learn the personal stories, passions, and unique experiences of our applicants through these essays,” Jamison says.


Fuqua’s campus visit program, including the Open Interview Period, begins on September 12, 2019. Historically, the school’s Early Action deadline has been the same week that the Open Interview Period begins, but this year the Fuqua School has pushed the Early Action deadline back, Jamison says, to give applicants who are applying in Early Action an extra week to visit campus. “Our hope is that this extra week provides greater access to the Fuqua experience for Early Action applicants, who can then have more opportunity to meet our community before submitting their applications, thereby allowing them to incorporate what they learn into their application,” she says.

Meanwhile, more interview slots are available this year: Jamison says the school’s goal is to interview as many applicants as we can, in order to get to know them as well as we can and give them the opportunity to share their story in person.”

To further ease the process for applicants, Duke is no longer requiring unofficial transcripts for study-abroad programs, the collection of which can often be challenging given time and distance considerations. “We recognize that the process of collecting all required materials for an MBA application can be a long and complicated one,” Jamison says. “Removing this requirement can help relieve some of the time and stress of the document collection process while you are working on your application.”

More conveniences: The school is expanding its application fee waiver program — designed to open up the MBA application process to the greatest number of applicants — to include military veterans of all nations, not just the U.S.; and the admissions team has revamped the school’s Alumni and Student Endorsement form, which allows Fuqua students and alumni to provide an online endorsement of an applicant, which also qualifies that applicant for an application fee waiver. Moreover, Duke continues to add participants of partner organizations to its fee waiver program, such as Peace Corps veterans, MLT participants, Forte members, and others; and the school has continued its program of granting application fee waivers to those who attend recruiting events, both in person and online.

BREAKThe Bottom Line: Ease and Accessibility

Applications to Fuqua fell by 6.2% during the 2017-2018 cycle, to 3,557. Still, the acceptance rate also held steady at a demanding 22%, with 798 getting admit letters and 440 enrolling in the class. Academically, the 2020 Class ranks among the school’s best ever. Average GMATs continue their steady climb. Last year’s 704 average is two points better than the previous year — and eight points above the 2017 Class. Even more, its 3.5 undergraduate GPA average is 0.1 of a point bump over the past three years as well.

In recent years, Fuqua has also trended toward accepting more business and accounting majors. Three years ago, these students represented 29% of the class. Last year, that share is 37%. This number has come at the expense of engineering and natural sciences majors, which fell from 26% to 22% over the past year. Liberal arts held steady at 19%, as economics majors hold 17% of the class’ seats.

In terms of professional backgrounds, Fuqua segments them into very small slices. Translation: there are three industries with larger blocs followed by 16 more with 5% or fewer members of the class. Not surprisingly, consulting ranks as the largest segment of the class at 24%. Financial services (22%) and healthcare (7%) also make strong showings in the class.

“Each of the application changes for this year is designed to continue to enhance the ease and accessibility of applying to Fuqua,” Jamison says. “The goal of our application process is to get to know as many applicants as well as we can, with the least inconvenience to them while making it a fun and interesting experience. The changes outlined above are added to our list of previous modifications (utilizing the Common Letter of Recommendation, accepting both GMAT and GRE scores, no foreign language test requirement) that together provide applicants with the most accessible, comfortable, and personal application experience possible.”

Duke Fuqua’s 2019-2020 MBA Application Deadlines

Fuqua Rounds Application Deadlines Interviews Decisions
Early Action Sept. 19, 2019 Oct. 2, 2019 Oct. 28, 2019
Round 1 Oct. 14, 2019 Nov. 1, 2019 Dec. 18, 2019
Round 2 Jan. 6, 2020 Jan. 31, 2020 March 18, 2020
Round 3 March 11, 2020 March 25, 2020 April 20, 2020


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