Community College to a Duke MBA (with Scholarship)

Sometimes, people think that only “perfect” applicants with a straight and narrow story through a top college, gold-plated employers, and 99th percentile GMAT score are admitted to top MBA programs. Jason proved that this just isn’t true by charting a course that began in community college, passed through some very unusual pre-MBA jobs—such as working for a mom and pop tax preparation company—and then heading for a Duke MBA at the Fuqua School of Business with a scholarship as a step towards a management consulting job.

Applicant Stats


  • Undergraduate Institution
    University of California, Berkeley
  • Pre-MBA Industry: 
    Accounting (tax preparation)
  • Career Goals: 
    Management Consulting
  • Admitted At:
    Fuqua, Cornell Johnson, UT McCombs
  • Coach:

Challenge #1: Building Comfort in Telling the Whole Truth

Jason’s story had a few unusual parts, like attending community college and working for a small, totally unknown company in the tax preparation industry. These steps made perfect sense in the context of Jason’s life and upbringing, but it took a while to convince him that sharing his life story openly in his applications would be the right decision:

I spent maybe a total of five or so hours in terms of video calls and phone calls in getting out my life and my story. That was more than I’ve told 95% of the people in my life that I’ve ever encountered. I ended up being able to portray my story by really digging deep and understanding what fueled me.

– Jason

We reassured Jason that MBA applications aren’t only about business, and explained how telling his life story could show his grit and the way that he had overcome major challenges to get where he was today. 

Challenge #2: Proving Jason’s Ability to Succeed in Management Consulting

Jason’s post-MBA goal was to become a management consultant, which sounds a bit implausible given his background: working as a tax preparer for a 10-person firm.

But as we dug further into the details of his work, there were many strong arguments to be made:

With enough reflection, this career goal went from seeming implausible to seeming inevitable; and when Jason was accepted into the Duke MBA program, he knew that the Fuqua admissions committee thought so too.

Want to hear more admissions case studies from real MBA candidates? Check out our collection of Applicant Stories.

For comprehensive support on your applications to top MBA programs, contact us to get started.

Limited spots available – Don’t miss out!