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Duke MBA Application Essays


Required short-answer essay question

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

Essay 1: 25 Random Things about yourself

Essay 2: Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, what are the three most meaningful ways you expect to engage and contribute to our community outside of the classroom? (Your response should be no more than 300 words.)

Duke Fuqua MBA Winning Sample Essays – 1


Duke MBA Essay 1: 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)

I have 9 years of experience in the energy sector with Schlumberger. Now, I wish to specialize further in the energy sector and pursue a leadership development role as in big energy firms like Shell, G.E. Energy, or Siemens. In the long term, I aspire to lead a global energy conglomerate and rise up to senior VP or CXO positions.

My alternate plan would be to expand my choice of the sector to include manufacturing, automobiles, or chemicals and seek general management or business development role.

Duke MBA Essay 2: 25 Random Things about yourself

  1. In my career, I have traveled to more than 21 countries for work and leisure. I have some of my best friends and mentors from international countries and one of my most memorable experiences was when I made my colleagues from 12 different nationalities dance to a Bollywood song.
  2. I was a shy introvert individual in college, during my first job, I practiced relentlessly to overcome my stage fright. Today I have given multiple speeches across countries such as Malaysia, Myanmar, India, and Russia and won awards and recognition both in a personal capacity as well as for my organization.
  3. I won the ‘Harry Cameron Award’ for Integration in the SEA Reservoir Symposium, Malaysia. I was the first person in 8 years to get this award from my segment.
  4. In 2018, I started training for Spartan-OCR (obstacle course running). I developed a passion for the race so much that I trained for the race for 6 months and traveled to Malaysia to get the course medal.
  5. Cycling has been an after-work stress buster for me for 7 years. I own 8 different cycles suitable for different kinds of tracks. I have done cycling in 10 different cities including the highest motorable pass in the world – Khardungla, Leh, India.
  6. I have completed 4-century rides (100 km) in cycling.
  7. I have been wearing my fitness band 24×7 (even during sleep and bath) since 2014. I have burnt out ten fitness bands in the last six years due to continuous usage. It has become an easy birthday gift for my wife now.
  8. I do around 22-25k steps daily, even during pandemics and lockdown. 80% of them are indoors at home.
  9. I practice bartending at home. I am already looking forward to inviting my batchmates to try out my varieties of cocktails and mocktails that I can make.
  10. Coming from a poor country, I am extremely considerate of poor and needy people. I give away 1% of my salary to the needy every year.
  11. During graduation, I grabbed the highest-paying job in 2011 in India. The news of the offer was prominently covered by national newspapers like the Times of India’ and ‘economic times’.
  12. Even after graduating from one of the top universities of India, I choose to take up a blue collared job with Schlumberger as a trainee field engineer. In my job, I have cleaned floors and equipment, done hammering in harsh rainfall and frozen weather. My passion for the job was featured in the cover story of ‘The Week’ magazine.
  13. I have worked in some of the most dangerous and hostile locations of the country. Once my project rig site was invaded by 20 local militants with guns. My team and I hid under potato baskets and inside oil drums for more than 5 hrs in the storage room.
  14. I have been among those unfortunate individuals who have witnessed an Oil well explosion in the first rig site visit and then 3 more during my career. I now believe that I am the unlucky one in the group, as others don’t get to witness this unfortunate incident even once.
  15. I strongly believe that the world is a Zero-sum game, so working for the Oil and Gas sector for so long has pushed me to work against air pollution in my personal capacity. I do not travel to work via a free office car, instead, I use my cycle.  I have gifted around 50 air purifying indoor plants to friends and family. I myself have 30 plants at home – I think it is my way to make the zero-sum game neutral.
  16. In 2017 when Delhi earned an unenviable distinction of becoming the most polluted city in the world, I started a ‘Mask Brigade’ campaign wherein we raised funds to buy 1,200 N95 pollution masks and donated them to the needy.
  17. I was also part of the team which converted Waste Plastic to Petrol. In the final testing phase, we collected waste polythene bags from the dustbins and road, then converted them into petrol, and then used the same petrol to run a bike. The project was covered across multiple news channels.
  18. I am a big advocate for woman’s equality and right, Once a vocational trainee complained to me against our best performing supervisor (also my manager on-site) for sexual harassment. I raised the issue to HR and after inquiry, the supervisor was released from the company.
  19. In 2019, me and my friend (Oxford graduate) started a company – DocPLUS (www.docplus.co.in). The hardest part was not to start or run the company but to let go of people during the pandemic
  20. When my father got seriously ill due to COVID, the doctor moved to their final resort to save him – Plasma Therapy. It was a real struggle to find two donors for him. Later, I opened a Plasma Welfare Association, which continuously published a list of willing and consent donors. I am proud to say that I have saved three lives through that association.
  21. My favorite teacher mistakenly thought that I was a bright kid in the class. I started studying to prove her right. I ended up improving my rank from 34 to 5 (of 35 people)
  22. I was among the most notorious kids in my school. My teacher inspired me to help me see my true potential, later I cleared JEE (one of the toughest exams in India) in the whole group. I still speak to her whenever I need any advice.
  23. I became the youngest all-India sales lead in 2019. I was at least 4 years junior to my peers at the same designation. Given my results of incremental revenue, I was given 3 more countries to handle – Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh.
  24. I was told that at the age of 5, I mentioned my mother’s name (instead of ‘cow’) on the question ‘who gives us milk ?’, reasoning that it’s my mother who gives me milk (in a glass) every day. Although my mother and wife still laugh at it, I defend the 5-year-old me by contesting how practical I was at such a young age.
  25. I prefer street plays to movies. I prefer natural wonders to man-made wonders. I prefer fresh food to frozen food.

Duke MBA Essay 3: Fuqua prides itself on cultivating a culture of engagement. Our students enjoy a wide range of student-led organizations that provide opportunities for leadership development and personal fulfillment, as well as an outlet for contributing to society. Our student-led government, clubs, centers, and events are an integral part of the student culture and are vital to providing you with a range of experiential learning and individual development experiences.

Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, what are the three most meaningful ways you expect to engage and contribute to our community outside of the classroom? (Your response should be no more than 300 words.)

In my career, I have traveled to and worked in more than 21 countries and led multinational teams of up to 40 people to execute projects for clients under extremely tough environmental conditions.  My team and I have survived oil well explosions and militant attacks.

These experiences have made me the tough and successful leader I am today and sharing these learnings is the most significant way I believe I can add value to my peers’ experiences at Duke.

My International experience will help my classmates diversify their skill-set and broaden their perspective.  I can help them have a deeper understanding of how business trends and behaviors vary in different markets from the Middle East to Europe. Further, I can help them become more sensitive to the range of the social norms and tendencies of diverse and particularly reserved cultures which can, in turn, help them become a better leader themselves.

Outside of the classroom, I am a fitness enthusiast and a passionate cyclist. I am into my seventh year of cycling and as of today, I have completed four-century rides (100 km rides). Cycling provides me the venue to disconnect from work and expand my network outside of work. Cycling for more than 100 Km at a stretch has taught me how to push my boundaries and challenge myself. I also developed a liking for OCR (Obstacle Course Race) in 2018 and have participated in the races across multiple countries.

At Duke, I would excitedly look forward to being a key member of the outdoors club and create venues for my peers to form meaningful relationships outside of the classroom.  I would love to take my batchmates from Fuqua out on a cycling trip in the wildness of North Carolina, helping them burn out the assignment pressure.

Duke Fuqua MBA Winning Sample Essay – 2


Duke Fuqua MBA Essay 1: Why is pursuing an MBA the right next step for you?* (500 characters)

I am a lead software engineer and have successfully managed the end-to-end development of many projects. As a result, I have realized that my true calling is in product management. To pivot into a product management career, however, I need to expand my knowledge and hone my leadership and team coordination skills, as these are vital for success in a management role where I would need to lead and communicate effectively with teams. The MBA program at Fuqua is the ideal avenue to achieve this.

Duke Fuqua MBA Essay 2: What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first-choice career plan and your alternate plan.* (500 characters)

My short-term goal is to work as a product manager in a personal finance Fintech startup such as Wealthfront or Chime, where I will lead the development of products that utilize innovative technologies to add novel features. In the long-term, I aspire to found my own tech venture, that would empower consumers to achieve financial independence. An alternate plan is to pursue Fintech at a larger technology company, such as Google or Apple, before starting my own venture.

Duke Fuqua MBA Essay 3: The ‘Team Fuqua’ spirit and community are some of the things that set the MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. Please share with us “25 Random Things” about you. These ’25 Random Things’ help us get to know someone’s personality, background, special talents, and more.

  1. I was a ninth-grader in Bahrain when the Arab Spring protests began. The relatively tranquil life I had known until then was shattered by the daily sounds of gunshots, tanks, and police sirens. As tensions escalated, we moved to the UAE.
  2. I have lived and grown up in 4 countries – India, Bahrain, UAE, USA. This has inculcated a multicultural outlook and attitude in me and has formed a passion for traveling and exploring new places.
  3. I have traveled to 10 cities in the last 3 years, and I collect souvenirs from every place I visit – be it a fridge magnet, keychain, or coffee mug.
  4. I love coffee – I need a daily cup, but more for the taste than to wake me up (at least that’s what I tell myself.) Yes, I’m having coffee right now, and yes it’s in one of my souvenir mugs – a Christmas Village mug from Philadelphia.
  5. I am a foodie and am always excited to try new cuisines and dishes every week. Most recently, I tried hand-ripped noodles, a delicacy from NorthWest China! I look forward to savoring the delectables that Durham has to offer.
  6. I grew up in a closely-knit family of four, where my mom always used to say that “the family that eats together stays together.” Even though today I am halfway across the world from my family, we make it a point to talk on the phone every day. I also keep a family photo in my wallet and on my desk. I guess what my mom said held true – moms are always right!
  7. I have always been an avid cricket player and was captain of the junior Bahrain national cricket team, where I led the team in multiple international tournaments.
  8. It is my wish to watch a match with my dad at Lord’s in England, the mecca of cricket.
  9. I have always had a passion for mobile phones. I convinced my parents to buy me the Nokia 6101 for my 10th birthday, and remember being engrossed by it for months. This passion formed into a life-long appreciation and excitement for innovative technological products, and I eagerly await the yearly “techtober” product releases.
  10. My favorite book is Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, as I feel that it concisely portrays multiple relevant themes, and is a must-read.
  11. I am a fan of Broadway shows – so far I have watched The Lion King, Book of Mormon, and Aladdin, and I apply for the Hamilton Broadway lottery daily. I haven’t won it so far, but I’m persistent in my effort, and am sure that I’ll be watching it soon!
  12. At Goldman Sachs, I have worked with clients across several regions. In a certain week, I had interactions with users in Melbourne, Tokyo, Bangalore, London, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco – a truly global experience, that I thoroughly enjoyed, though calling teams in different time zones did mess up my sleep!
  13. I love stargazing and occasionally used a state-of-the-art university telescope at Berkeley to view the Moon, Mars, Uranus, Neptune. As a child, I was awestruck when I first learned about the solar system and Space. In fact, my first dream-career was to become an astronaut.
  14. As a teen, I jet skied from one Malaysian island to another – by accident! My parents were worried as they thought they had lost me, but I managed to route my way back after a while.
  15. I really enjoy watching sunsets – my favorite is the Manhattanhenge that happens twice a year in NYC, where the sunset aligns perfectly with the streets of Manhattan.
  16. I am not a professional photographer but have an eye for attractive sights. My favorite picture that I have captured is of a partial reflection of the horizon on the One World Trade Center building.
  17. I’m a hot chocolate aficionado and always search for the best hot chocolate in each new city I visit. My favorite was City Bakery in NYC, but it recently shut down due to rising costs. I’m excited to try Nasher Cafe at the Duke campus – I’ve heard great things about their hot chocolate!
  18. I was introduced to meditation by my dad when I was a teenager. Initially, I found it very tough to concentrate and would give up after a few minutes. However, as the years progressed, I have made it part of my weekly routine, and use it to de-stress and refocus myself at the end of every week. This has led to increased productivity in both my academic and professional life.
  19. I have been mountain-trekking in both Nepal and Cyprus, and look forward to exploring the many trails that Duke Forest offers.
  20. I have purchased all the FIFA editions yearly since 2001 until today, and this is my favorite game on the PlayStation.
  21. I suffered from a mysterious knee injury that rendered me unable to walk properly for 2 years.
  22. I’ve had glasses for so long that they’ve become a part of me – I honestly can’t think straight until I wear my glasses in the morning!
  23. I have always wanted a dog since I was young, but the farthest I got so far is a goldfish. Hope to get there one day!
  24. A few weeks ago, I took my first yoga class, and it really opened up the persistent back and neck stiffness. I think I will continue!
  25. I recently purchased a blender, and am excited to use it to make shakes and smoothies.
  26. My friends tell me that I’m always smiling. Even the dentist confirmed that I have a great set of teeth and suggested taking good care of them!

Essay 2: The Fuqua community and you

Instructions: Your response should be no more than two pages in length.

Fuqua prides itself on cultivating a culture of engagement. Our students enjoy a wide range of student-led organizations that provide opportunities for leadership development and personal fulfillment, as well as an outlet for contributing to society. Our student-led government, clubs, centers, and events are an integral part of the student culture and are vital to providing you with a range of experiential learning and individual development experiences.

Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, how do you see yourself engaging in and contributing to our community outside of the classroom?

To me, the Fuqua community can be aptly summarized by the slogan – “Team Fuqua” that reverberates throughout the Duke campus, as well as around the world by its Alumni. At its essence, the MBA program at Fuqua is all about being a part of a highly motivated team that thrives on support, collaboration and cohesiveness between its members. Indeed, this is further demonstrated by the activities and organizations that Fuqua offers, and I am excited to become a part of such a dynamic environment where I can make a positive impact with like-minded individuals. I plan to make the most out of my time at Fuqua, through my involvement with multiple organizations as well as community engagements.

As I aspire to pursue a lifelong career in FinTech, the FinTech Club at Fuqua would make me conversant with pertinent domain knowledge, as well as offer hands-on experience through the partnerships it has forged with the finest companies and industry professionals. The financial services sector is being transformed at breakneck speed through innovative technologies, and with its continued investment in this club, Fuqua has demonstrated its intentions to remain a leader in this space. I wish to be part of its growth and expansion, by becoming a senior member of this club. Additionally, the Tech Club has also caught my attention, and I plan to attend its various events such as the Tech Treks to learn more about technology companies, as well as share my experiences with peers at Fuqua by leading Tech Talk sessions. As I am also interested in the social impact of technology on multiple sectors such as personal finance, healthcare, and education, I would aim to create a new club that partners with tech companies committed to social good and hope that this initiative would receive a positive response, as it aligns perfectly with Fuqua’s values.

In addition to professional clubs, I am excited to be part of the numerous engaging activities that Fuqua has to offer. I have been an avid cricketer throughout my life and was the captain of Bahrain’s junior national cricket team. Since I moved to the US, I realized that many people were unaware of the existence of cricket, despite it being one of the most popular sports in Europe and Asia. In fact, whenever I hear the word, it is always in regards to the cell-phone network company rather than the game! As a previous captain, I want to be an ambassador of the sport and spread its awareness, and have already spent hours educating my peers and colleagues about the nuances of this competitive team sport. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Fuqua is one of the few business schools that has a cricket club. This truly proved to me its commitment to diversity, and I’m eagerly waiting for the opportunity to lead Fuqua’s cricket team and contribute to the cricket fraternity, and even expand its presence by forming a team to participate in inter-college and national tournaments.

Another appealing factor of Fuqua is its thriving international community, where I hope to seamlessly fit in, due to my experience of growing up in 4 countries and being educated in international schools with diverse students. As a result of my upbringing, I have always been keen to learn about other traditions. For this reason, I am especially looking forward to participating in Fuqua Friday events, both as an organizer, as well as an attendee, where I will be able to expand my horizon about other cultures while sampling the unique dishes from the countries of my peers. Additionally, this would also be an excellent way to network with students, professors, and alumni in a laid-back setting, and would allow me to develop more personal connections with these individuals.

Furthermore, Fuqua’s commitment of giving back to the community ties in very well with my own values and goals. Since my early days, I have been an active member of the community through my volunteering experiences, and I plan to continue with these engagements at Fuqua. Education has been very dear to my heart, and I have taken part in multiple efforts to educate the less fortunate, especially through my experiences in volunteering at schools for children with special needs and developing interactive educational applications for children in the Middle East. At Fuqua, I will further this cause by becoming a member of Net Impact, as well as leading initiatives to partner with nonprofits such as The Shodor Education Foundation, which holds workshops and events to promote Durham youths to pursue STEM education. As Dean Bill Boulding says – we need to have a “sense of purpose that the reason that we want to serve others is that we want to make a positive difference in the world,” and this statement resonates with my own beliefs.

Fuqua also appeals to my long-term goal of founding a technology venture, through the Duke Startup Challenge. Here, I will get a hands-on approach to starting my own venture, and this will give me an insight into the entrepreneurial mindset required to found a company and lead it successfully. I am confident that this challenge, in addition to the other initiatives by Innovation and Entrepreneurship, will teach me the intellectual suppleness and problem-solving skills that entrepreneurs must-have, and will provide me with the relevant practical exposure to achieve my goal.

Even though Fuqua offers a wide array of extra-curricular learning opportunities, there is an unmistakable binding factor that ties all of these together: the “Team Fuqua” spirit. Each of its organizations and clubs is managed by students and caters to the entire Fuqua community, which underscores that Fuqua truly believes that a group is always more powerful than the sum of its parts. My own experiences in teaching and mentoring have also inculcated the same attitude within me, and thus I feel that I would be a great fit for Fuqua. By partaking in the aforementioned clubs, activities, and societal engagements, I aim to become a well-rounded individual as well as a lifelong member of the Fuqua family.

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