Duke MBA Essays: Tips for 2023-2024

At Menlo Coaching, we noticed that most MBA essays will fall into one of a number of categories: personal essays, career goals essays, behavioral essays, etc.. Read ahead for our expert guide on approaching these essays for the Duke Fuqua School of Business.

Personal Essay

  • The ‘Team Fuqua’ spirit and community is one of the things that sets 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. The Admissions Committee wants to get to know YOU – beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. Share with us important life experiences, your hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. (upload file, 750 words)

Career Goals Essay

  • What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first choice career plan and your alternate plan. (text box, 100 words)

Campus Contribution Essay

  • 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 to the development of leaders. Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, what are 3 ways you expect to contribute at Fuqua? (upload file, 500 words)

Optional Essay

  • If you feel there are circumstances of which the admissions committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance). Note that you should NOT upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area. The Optional Information section is intended to provide the admissions committee with insight into your circumstances only. (upload file, 500 words)
  • Optional Background Information. Do you have other lived experiences that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee that may give us insight into your opportunities, challenges, and/or achievements? If so, please share 200 words or less explaining how those experiences might affect your contributions to Fuqua. (text box, 200 words maximum)

Reapplicant Essay

  • Re-applicant Essay. It is not uncommon for it to take more than one try to achieve a goal. Please share with us the self-reflection process you underwent after last year’s application and how you have grown as a result. How did it shape your commitment to Fuqua and inspire your decision to reapply? (upload file, 500 words maximum).

Applying to Duke Fuqua School of Business

Fuqua is looking for students with a well-rounded background and lots of experience that can be translated into a succinct and compelling statement. They especially value teamwork, camaraderie, emotional intelligence, and empathy. One of the essential tips for an impactful essay is asking yourself why you chose to highlight a particular experience. Did it show significant professional development? Did it show how you overcame a personal struggle? Making sure your essay connects to the prompt, especially that it shows why you are pursuing an MBA, will make your essay stand out. No matter what the essay prompt is, these tips are broadly applicable. With that being said, the three different types of essays you will see on the Fuqua application are: personal, career goals, and school participation. 

The Personal Statement Essay

Personal essays encompass your moral character, passions in and out of work, and the relationships you have fostered with friends and mentors. This essay type is where you can show the MBA program who you are as an individual and the intrapersonal impacts you have made on people around you. Fuqua is looking to recruit students who show compassion and enthusiasm in the office and with the people in their lives. Make sure to emphasize where you have shown empathy in your life while explaining how you will contribute positively to the on-campus experience. One of the biggest mistakes students make when writing a personal essay is focusing too much on their professional expertise. 

This essay is where you can move away from talking about your work and speak about who you are outside of your job. Speak with current students and faculty to capture the essence of Fuqua. It shows you’ve done your research and are a genuinely kind, empathetic person in your real life!

The Career Goals Essay

The career goals essay is the space to emphasize your post-MBA plans. MBA programs want to accept students who have concrete, achievable career plans and a roadmap to success. MBA programs want a glowing post-grad report that proves they produce successful graduates with many job prospects (and who will donate money in the future)! Fuqua also wants students to promote their program to friends, co-workers, and prospective applicants. The career goals essay combines your hard statistics (ex: GMAT score) with your interpersonal skills (ex: recommendations) to formulate the case for getting an MBA.

Make sure to state your achievable short-term and long-term goals explicitly. Explain why an MBA would help you achieve these goals and how Fuqua is essential to your plan. Connecting the positive attributes from your personal essay to your career goals essay is critical to forming a well-rounded application. Fuqua students usually enter the consulting, technology, and financial service industries, so emphasize your findings in the essay to show you’re genuinely interested.

The School Participation Essay

The school participation essay is your chance to tell Fuqua how you will positively contribute to the environment. Fuqua values students engaged in on-campus life outside of the classroom and have a passion for collaboration and communication. Joining on-campus clubs, leadership committees and generally demonstrating that you have investigated student organizations on campus shows commitment to the school. Before writing your essay, find clubs that align with your already-stated interests in the personal or career goals essays. Be specific! Whether you like the environmental club or the art studies club, determine what organizations Fuqua offers. Look up classes and professors that interest you as well. If you can visit the campus, speak to students about any conferences or organizations they recommend, especially larger ones. 

Ask yourself how you can benefit the student population through your unique skill set? Your answer does not have to be groundbreaking. Chances are, students with similar professional backgrounds attend the school already. Use your personal essay as a guide, and combine your intrapersonal skills with on-campus activities and classes.

Optional Essay

Once you’ve completed your application, the optional Tuck essay gives you an additional opportunity to provide the AdCom with any additional information or clarity that you feel would enhance your application.

One trap that MBA applicants fall into is using the additional space provided by this essay to write on a whole new topic. However, this is not always the best idea.

You should only make use of this essay if you what you write will provide context to an element of your application to improve your candidacy—you don’t want to jeopardize your chances by adding unnecessary noise to your application.

Reapplicant Essay

For reapplicants, Tuck requires a specific essay in which you can address how your application has improved since your last application.

In this essay, you can address any improvements to your test scores, promotions at work, additional volunteer or community work, or any significant professional development that you have undertaken since you last applied to the program.

Timing is key for reapplicants, and when you’re applying for an MBA program a second time around, you want to be sure that you are a more qualified and desirable client than you were in the past—even if your application was stellar the first time.


Overall, honesty and growth are the most important parts of a successful MBA application essay. In addition, applying the lessons you learned shows improvement in your interpersonal and professional skills, making you a more attractive candidate for MBA programs.

At Menlo Coaching, our dedicated MBA coaches are prepared to help you take the next step and perfect your essays.

Early Birds Toolkit

Learn 3 Steps You Should Take NOW to Improve Your Profile for R1 2024

In MBA admissions, starting early can significantly boost your chances. 

But there are no shortcuts, and while R1 2024 deadlines might seem far off, building your profile takes time.

Our Early Birds Toolkit has everything you need to get started right now—leave your name and email, and we’ll send you three actionable steps to elevate your profile, plus time-saving tools for faster progress.