Duke Essays 2015

Fuqua Application Insight: Our 25 Random Things

Emmy Komada, Dan Tudesco, Emily Silman, Emily Madden and Connie Chai -

For the last several years, Fuqua’s MBA application has included the essay question that asks you to provide 25 random things about yourself—essentially 25 interesting facts. That question is back for the 2015-2016 application year, so we wanted to provide some insight on how you might approach it.

The Fuqua Admissions team wants to get to know you beyond the basic test scores and resume, and the essays help achieve this. As an applicant, the topic can be a refreshing break from more traditional application essays, so give it your best effort, but above all—just have fun with it!

Here are five random things from each of our application essays:

Emily Silman

  1. In 2009, I completed ‘life goal #1’ when I ran the NYC Marathon. OK, more like I ran/walked it, and then hobbled across the finish line. But I finished it, and to me, that’s what counts.
  2. One of my other, slightly more ambitious life goals is to visit every country in the world. So far I’ve been to 20 different countries, so I’ve still got a lot of traveling to do!
  3. My work at Food Network afforded me two TV appearances. The first was in the premiere episode of season five of Food Network Star—in the back, behind Giada DeLaurentiis’s head. (What, you don’t recognize me?) The other was a slot on New York’s Pix11 Morning News, representing FoodNetworkStore.com on live TV to talk about holiday gift ideas.
  4. Serving in the Peace Corps in Madagascar and receiving my government-issue mountain bike turned me into a biking addict. At first, it was a big deal for me to bike 8km up the road, but then I started biking 40km, then 60km, then finally up to 100km in one day! One of the best things I did while in Madagascar was a 3-day, 230km ride through the unpaved roads of the southeast coastal region with three of my Peace Corps friends.
  5. My philosophy on airplanes is that because we’re all stuck together enduring an unpleasant experience, I might as well be a beacon of kindness and civility and try to impart as much positive energy into the situation as I can. One of the most amazing experiences I had with this was when I asked a woman with a baby if she needed help lifting her suitcase into the overhead. Instead of giving me her suitcase, she gave me her newborn to hold!

Dan Tudesco

  1. I launched the “Sad Irish Fan” campaign after I was (unfortunately) caught on TV, dejected, during the BCS National Championship game between Alabama and my alma mater, Notre Dame. The campaign became a national news story and raised a lot of money for leukemia research.
  2. I am a master crane machine operator…at the arcade. I started a South Park plush dolls eBay business in 1998 based entirely on my success with the crane.
  3. I was recently quoted as an expert on eBay selling in U.S. News and World Report. While the South Park dolls are gone, today I am a ‘Powerseller’ and ‘Top Seller’ on the auction site.
  4. I started my first business, a neighborhood candy stand, at age 8, and the next year I hired my brother and sister to ‘franchise’ a new stand a couple streets away. I drove my mom crazy by having her drive to the local wholesale warehouse to buy bulk candy.
  5. My role model is Tim Russert, a man for whom I had the honor to work before he passed away. His incredible talent was impressive, but it was his caring, principled and gregarious personality that to me, as an intern, was a formative and early example of a ‘Leader of Consequence.’ I consider working for him my greatest privilege, and I miss his presence in the news every day.

Emmy Komada

  1. I don’t have a middle name, but I do have two first names: Emi and Emmy, depending on which passport I’m using. Discrepancies between the name on my ticket and the name on my passport have gotten me within a hair’s width of missing several flights.
  2. I once performed a lip-sync on live TV in Ruzhou, Henan Province.
  3. Monologues I can recite from memory include: the president’s speech in Independence Day, Henry’s discourse on love in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, and all of Sebastian’s breakdowns in The Little Mermaid.
  4. I have driven across the U.S., ridden five 50-plus hour trains, biked through Ireland, rock climbed in Yangshuo and Yosemite, led hiking trips in Vermont, and hitchhiked across the Tibetan plateau. But am a total homebody at heart.
  5. I get very competitive at trivia night.

Emily Madden

  1. My first job was working as a waitress at a diner that was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Each employee, from the front to the back of the house, contributed to the customer experience. This summer job offered a great lesson in teamwork and the value that each part of an organization contributes to the final product.
  2. I was a coxswain on my high school rowing team for four years; my boat won second place in a national championship race in my junior year. Though most people think all I did was yell into a microphone, this role greatly shaped me as a leader, a team member, and a strategist.
  3. I discovered my interest in marketing while participating in a case competition my freshman year. I continued to compete in case competitions throughout college. My senior year, my team was sponsored to represent our university at a competition in Thailand.
  4. Many of my best friends live across the country and one way we stay connected is by traveling to compete in running races together.
  5. By the end of my ten-week undergraduate internship I was managing two other interns. I was able to earn the respect of my peers because of my sense of confidence and my enthusiasm for the work. Those qualities were more powerful than a job title.

Connie Chai

  1. I moved to Minneapolis after graduation to work for Target Corporation. My first winter there was quite the experience. I now judge how cold the weather is based on if my nostril hairs freeze.
  2. The longest distance I had ever run in college was a 5K. When I saw pictures of several friends dressed up at the Disney Princess Half Marathon, I knew I had to sign up. I convinced two other friends to train and run the race. All three of us completed the race this February wearing tutus. Seeing that finish line was one of my proudest moments.
  3. The summer between my sophomore and junior year I worked in a fly lab. My basic responsibility was to collect virgin female flies and mate them. By the end of the summer I could distinguish female and male flies without using a microscope.
  4. I speak fluent Mandarin Chinese, and I try my best to speak it with my parents but tend to lapse into a mixture of Chinese and English. At best I can probably read and write at a first or second grade level. My youngest cousin knows more characters than I do!
  5. I love baking. A good friend from Duke introduced me to the world of break and bake cookies, and my hobby just took off from there. I now keep a blog on all my baking adventures. You can check it out at easypeasybaking.tumblr.com.

See more examples from and insight on Fuqua’s 25 Random Things essay

Emmy Komada

Daytime MBA, Class of 2016

Born in Tokyo, but raised largely in L.A., I completed my undergrad studies in Vermont. I have a background in nonprofit development and have been actively engaged in campus activities related to that, and several other areas of interest.

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Dan Tudesco

Daytime MBA, Class of 2016

Born and raised in Poughkeepsie, New York, I’ve lived in the Midwest (Indiana), DC and New York City, which easily makes Durham my warmest and favorite climate I’ve lived in. While here, I intend on developing my PR background into a marketing skillset, and also learning quite a bit about entrepreneurship. My passions are extremely varied; I love talking about everything from Duke basketball to the latest tech products to why Snooze on the West Coast is the best breakfast place in the world!

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Emily Silman

Daytime MBA, Class of 2016

I grew up and attended undergrad in the northeastern U.S. and worked in New York for a few years before realizing I wanted a career that would make more of an impact. So I joined the Peace Corps—working in Madagascar—I’ll be leveraging my experience as a commercial strategy MBA associate for Delta Airlines after Fuqua.

Learn more about Emily|View all of Emily's Posts

Emily Madden

Daytime MBA, Class of 2016

I'm born and raised on the East Coast and have a background in marketing that will remain my focus after graduation. Being involved with the visual arts, eating at my favorite restaurants and going for runs on the campus trail near Fuqua are a few of the things I enjoy outside of the classroom.

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Connie Chai

Daytime MBA, Class of 2016

I'm excited to return to Durham after completing my undergraduate studies at Duke. I look forward to combining classroom learning and experiential learning as I explore different career options in the healthcare industry. In the meantime I'll be involved with Admissions activities and cheering on the basketball team in Cameron!

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Duke / Fuqua 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

Following up on the release of the 2015-2016 Fuqua MBA essays, we wanted to offer some guidance to business school applicants targeting the Duke Class of 2018.

Duke’s essay section of the MBA application is largely unchanged from last admissions season. The Fuqua adcom has doubled the length limit for the school’s three short answer questions about the applicant’s professional plans. Meanwhile, the structure of the program’s longer essays remains the same: all applicants must respond to the first required response, and may choose between two options for the second required essay.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the Fuqua MBA essays for 2015-2016:

Short Answer Questions (500 characters; about 100 words each)
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?

These three questions are quite straightforward, calling for applicants to concisely state their short-term goals, long-term goals, and a professional back-up plan. Although asking about career alternatives is a bit unusual as far as b-school applications go, Question 3 is still fairly direct; applicants simply need to identify a second post-MBA position that would also lead them toward their stated long-term goals.

Of note, the Fuqua adcom has doubled the character limit for each of these responses, giving applicants a bit more breathing room as they provide this information and explain their professional plans to the admissions reader. This suggests that last year’s 50-word responses didn’t yield as much information as the adcom might have liked as they made admissions decisions, so it will be wise to take advantage of the extra room and provide as much detail about your plans and motivations as the length limit permits.

Essay 1: 25 Random Things
Required Essay 1: 25 Random Things
Answer the following question — present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may be only a few words, while others may be longer. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.

The “Team Fuqua” spirit and community is one of the things that sets The Duke MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. When a new person joins the Admissions team, we ask that person to share with everyone in the office a list of “25 Random Things About Yourself.” As an Admissions team, we already know the new hire’s professional and academic background, so learning these “25 Random Things” helps us get to know someone’s personality, background, special talents, and more.

In this spirit, the Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you–beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. You can share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of “25 Random Things” about YOU.
This nontraditional MBA application essay has been a staple of the Duke application for several years running. This suggests that the format is working, i.e. that the adcom has been pleased with the information this exercise provides about candidates’ backgrounds and fit with Team Fuqua. This open-ended prompt allows applicants to showcase interesting and meaningful facts about themselves that they otherwise might not get a chance to share with the adcom. It also amounts to a test of the applicant’s creativity and judgment in arriving at a well-rounded set of admissions-appropriate tidbits.

So, in the spirit of the prompt, here’s our list of ten not-so-random things to think about when developing your response to this prompt:

  1. Keep it positive! Share happy memories, silly details, interesting talents, or (very short) stories of resilience and accomplishment. Steer clear of failure or disappointment (unless you can be light-hearted or self-effacing about it).
  2. Aim to cover all domains of your life, including your interests outside of work and even important personal details and relationships. Writing about the reason you admired your grandmother growing up or what you learned during a long-distance phase in your relationship will help the adcom get to know you on a level beyond your resume.
  3. Short list items are okay!
  4. In fact, the most effective responses to this question will intersperse very brief items (of just a few words) with longer ones that might include several sentences, creating an almost poetic effect.
  5. First-date and job-interview rules apply here — think twice before discussing religion or politics. If these areas are important enough to you to warrant mentioning, limit your comments to personal meaning and community aspects (i.e. don’t try to educate or persuade the reader).
  6. Take a lifespan view. Sharing a few details from your childhood can give the admissions reader insight they won’t find anywhere else in your file. Meanwhile, covering present-day favorites (e.g. food, film, travel destination, place to visit in your city or town) can show the reader who you are today.
  7. Brief anecdotes — for example, about learning something the hard way while traveling internationally or working hard to improve at a new hobby — can showcase both your interests as well as your process when faced with a challenge.
  8. We recommend a maximum of 5 work-related list items (and suggest that you aim for even fewer). As the preamble hints, the adcom can read about your professional background elsewhere in your application.
  9. Aim for balance in content throughout your list; rather than listing items chronologically or by domain (i.e. professional, personal, extracurricular), change things up throughout and keep your reader on her toes to make this truly “random.”
  10. Show your draft to a close friend or relative to get feedback on how well you’re capturing your personality (and on whether you’re overlooking anything).

Required Essay 2
Choose only 1 of the following 2 essay questions to answer. Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length, and should reflect your knowledge of the Fuqua program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.

Essay Option 2.1: When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.
Asking applicants about their interest in the school to which they are applying is standard practice among MBA programs, though Fuqua takes a more personal approach to the question. The adcom is looking for applicants to convey a sincere sense of excitement about Fuqua’s MBA program. As the admissions committee has written about this essay in the past: “When you tell your best friend why you are applying to a specific school, you do so with genuine passion and enthusiasm. We want to hear that honest emotion, along with the reasoning that you give your best friend/mom/significant other/mentor about why you are applying not just to MBA programs, but to Fuqua.”

Keeping that in mind, one way for applicants to approach this essay might be to actually speak to family, friends, and colleagues about their interest in Fuqua, and note which aspects of the school end up being discussed the most frequently in conversation. This could serve as a strong basis for this essay, which should cover the ways a Duke MBA would prepare you for your stated goals (including specific curricular offerings and student clubs), as well as the potential you see to have a positive impact on the Fuqua community and your classmates’ learning experience. Is there an elective course that you can’t wait to take because it fits perfectly with your goals? An experiential learning opportunity you’re eager to take part in? A student club that runs an annual event to which you’d love to bring new ideas? Make sure to let your sincere enthusiasm come across by channeling those conversations with important people in your life. And, given the more personal bent of this prompt, it’s acceptable to (briefly) mention more personal considerations that make Fuqua appealing to you, such as job opportunities for a spouse in the research triangle, your love of college basketball, or the prospect of being closer to friends and family on the east coast.

Ultimately, the adcom is looking for students who feel a personal connection with the Fuqua community and who are also excited about the academic program. This might mean zeroing in on a particular special program or student organization that makes you feel energized about the prospect of attending. And of course, demonstrating an understanding of the unique merits of Fuqua’s program is going to be crucial to an effective response to this question. Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs, and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus or an off-site information session, conversations with students and alumni, or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Fuqua – will pay dividends here.

Essay Option 2.2: The Team Fuqua community is as unique as the individuals who comprise it. Underlying our individuality are a number of shared ideas and principles that we live out in our own ways. Our students have identified and defined 6 “Team Fuqua Principles” that we feel are the guiding philosophies that make our community special. At the end of your 2 years at Fuqua, if you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 Principles listed below, which one would it be and why? Your response should reflect your knowledge of Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.

Authentic Engagement: We care and we take action. We each make a difference to Team Fuqua by being ourselves and engaging in and supporting activities about which we are passionate.
Supportive Ambition: We support each other to achieve great things, because your success is my success. The success of each individual member of Team Fuqua makes the whole of Team Fuqua better.
Collective Diversity: We embrace all of our classmates because our individuality is better and stronger together.
Impactful Stewardship: We are leaders who focus on solutions to improve our communities both now and in the future. We aren’t satisfied with just maintaining the status quo.
Loyal Community: We are a family who looks out for each other. Team Fuqua supports you when you need it the most.
Uncompromising Integrity: We internalize and live the honor code in the classroom and beyond. We conduct ourselves with integrity within Fuqua, within Duke, and within all communities of which we are a part.
Appearing on the Fuqua application for second consecutive year, this essay asks applicants to discuss the ways their behavior in the classroom and contribution to the Fuqua community would embody one of six student-identified values — to an award-winning extent. Choosing which of these principles to discuss will be the first strategic decision that candidates will have to make with this essay. With their emphasis on community engagement and support, it’s hard to go wrong; rather, applicants should consider which will enable them to make the strongest case about the potential contribution to the Duke MBA community. Applicants may want to begin by thinking about the principle with which they find the greatest resonance, and should also consider which are already evident in their activities and accomplishments to date. In fact, after clearly identifying their choice in the first sentence of their response, applicants would likely do well to demonstrate an existing commitment to the chosen principle. This would likely mean a brief (100-150 word) description of 1-2 examples that illustrate their skills and potential to make a positive impact in line with the Fuqua principle in question.

Of course, the majority of this response should center on the applicant’s planned activities and contribution as a Daytime MBA student. Given that the adcom explicitly states that this response should reflect the research one has done into Fuqua’s program, applicants will be expected to be fairly concrete in their comments about how they’ll embody the topic principle, to the point of discussing their behavior in the classroom and identifying specific student organizations in which they might take a leadership role.

Going back to the element of the prompt that anticipates that the candidate will win an award in this area, applicants might even aim to describe the magnitude or scope of the impact they hope to make during their two years on campus. Candidates should note that speaking convincingly about their ability to make a positive difference will likely require some informed sense of the areas of opportunity and need on campus. Conversations with students and alumni (as well as other resources) will be very important in producing the most effective essay possible.

Optional Essay: If you feel there are circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware, please explain them in an optional essay (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance).
This is a fairly narrow prompt, and applicants should only use this optional essay to address liabilities in their candidacies. While the adcom allows responses of up to two pages, applicants should keep their responses as brief and direct as possible.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Fuqua MBA essay topics. As you work on your Fuqua MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Duke offerings:

Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis

Schools: Duke / Fuqua


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