Fuqua School of Business – Admissions Interview
Shari Hubert, Associate Dean of Admissions at Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business
• How has your admissions process allowed candidates to get to know the Fuqua School of Business and student community during the Covid times?
To compensate for the lack of in-person and on-campus opportunities for applicants, we’ve tried to be more creative with our virtual events. We seek to create more personalization for prospects or events that are more educational or enriching in nature, versus only marketing our school. A silver lining is that our students and alumni are able to join us more often now, during our recruitment events, as they too do not have to travel, but can log on from the comfort of their home or office. The same is true for prospective international students. I am reminded of how important it is to meet them where they are and continue to conduct events in their time zones to ensure they still have access to our teams and community. We’ve been blown away by the attendance rate of prospective international students at virtual events.
We’ve held close to 300 virtual events to date this admissions season and offered hundreds of individual chat sessions. We held our 1st annual International Prospective Student Applicant Symposium, with close to 350 registrants. We’ve decided to hold it annually moving forward, along with a Welcome Event, just for our students who deferred, to continue to create a sense of community with them.
It’s also easier for us to integrate our admissions events with current student programming. We created a weekly “Summer Scoop” newsletter that highlighted the many virtual wellness, enrichment and social activities happening that was open to both current and incoming students.
We’ve transformed our Campus Visit program to a virtual format where prospects can still sign up and attend a host of virtual programming events, including a virtual tour of the university campus and school. Finally, we’ve also maintained our traditional open interview period as well, and have extended it globally, increasing accessibility for students in countries around the world who, heretofore, would have needed to be physically on campus to take advantage of this offering.
• What was your deferral approach for your newly admitted students due to COVID in 2020? Do you have plans for increasing enrollment for the classes of 2023 & 2024?
We understood why some of our students had concerns about beginning their MBA journey last year, whether it was financial or health-related concerns so were more liberal with our deferral policy than historically. We ended up with fewer deferrals than expected, nonetheless. We still want them to feel part of the community while experiencing the same amount of excitement they had when they were admitted in last year’s admissions cycle.
Therefore, we developed a strategy to help meet their needs while providing them with resources to engage with the Fuqua community. We asked our deferred students how we could help connect them with various members of our community immediately, continue to address any questions they have, and provide resources that would be helpful to them as they prepare to attend Fuqua. We also hosted a welcome reception with Dean Bill Boulding to congratulate them on joining the Class of 2023.
We have opened up programming that is traditionally only for Fuqua students to deferred students, such as our distinguished speaker series, and helped to connect them with student club leaders to begin getting involved. We are currently in the process of introducing our deferred students to our newly admitted students and organizing programming to help them get prepared for business school. Deferred students will also have the option to attend our virtual admitted students weekend, even if they attended last year, and are in constant contact with the admissions team to help them with any questions that arise before starting the program.
The incoming class of 2022 was slightly larger than the previous year. We anticipate another slight increase in the incoming Class of 2023, but look to keep the class size relatively constant thereafter.
• Walk us through the life of an application in your office. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)?
We take great care in our evaluation process and it truly is a committee-based decision with ~3000 hours spent discussing applicants to ensure we are able to craft a class that is diverse and inclusive. Starting last year, we instituted formal implicit bias training for all admissions staff, our external readers and our Admissions Fellows who conduct our interviews. We know how much time, energy and care our applicants take to submit the very best representation of themselves. We want to make sure that our team is ready and able to evaluate each applicant on his or her own merits, mitigating bias in the process.
After an applicant hits submit, our processing team checks to make sure that we have everything needed to complete an application. Good news this year is that we are only requiring one recommendation (preferably still from a current or former supervisor). The second one is optional. Also, some applicants forget that they can still submit their application with unofficial copies of their transcript and test scores. If there are still items missing that are required for the application to be complete, then our processing team will reach out to the applicant to let him or her know.
Once complete, the file is read in full by one member of the admissions committee, who makes a recommendation on whether or not to invite the candidate for an interview. The reader presents the applicant’s file to the admissions committee, and the committee makes an interview invitation decision. The application is then read in full by a second, different member of the admissions committee, who takes into account the interview evaluation once that has been completed (if the candidate was invited to interview or if the candidate participated in our open interview period). The reader makes a recommendation on an admissions decision (admit, waitlist, or deny), and presents the application to the admissions committee again, where a final decision is rendered. The file is read twice and discussed by the admissions committee multiple times before a final decision is released to the candidate.
• How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?
We want to make the application process is as straightforward and meaningful to applicants as we can, while still capturing all the information our team needs to find the best students for Fuqua. With that in mind, we have changed our short answer questions to include just one response, compared with two from last year. We are foregoing our “Why is now the right time for an MBA,” instead only asking, “What are your short-term post-MBA goals?” Over the past year, we learned that your “why” is included in your response to your “what,” and by eliminating the first question, we streamline the short answers for you. Asking for your “alternate plan” also allows us to see your thought process and the research and self-reflection you have done.
We will retain our iconic 25 Random Facts essay as we hear repeatedly from prospects and applicants that the exercise is fun and allows for true self-reflection of what is important to them and what makes them unique. By the way, it’s our team’s favorite essay to read as well, so selfishly we wanted to keep it.
In our second essay question, we are asking applicants to be more focused in their responses. We still want to know how you expect to engage with our unique Team Fuqua community, but rather than focusing on the breadth of engagement opportunities that exist at Fuqua for this question, we are asking applicants to limit their response to the three most meaningful ways they expect to engage while a student. There are so many opportunities available to our students, and one of the first skills you must develop as a student is to prioritize what is most important to you. We are also limiting the response to this question to 300 words (about one page), down from two pages. Again, we are asking students to narrow your response and really reflect on what is important for the Admissions Committee to know about your interest in Fuqua and how you will contribute.
As for potential things to avoid, I would avoid being trite and superficial in completing your essays, and I would also focus less on your professional accomplishments in the 25 Random Facts essay, as we can read those through your resume or another part of the application form. Some people have a difficult time getting to 25 we know, but we recommend including context around how does that fact drive your ability to be a better, different, or a more unique Fuqua MBA. We want the insights behind the random facts, but also how they shape who you are today. It is also okay to infuse humor in your facts. Talk to your friends and family to get ideas of what might be appropriate or interesting to share, as these individuals tend to really know you – the good, bad and ugly.
Don’t be afraid to be somewhat vulnerable in your essays as those are always most interesting.
• Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Do you have any Interview tips for a Zoom call?
The admissions interview is an excellent opportunity to share your story, present a different view of your credentials, and demonstrate your readiness for the MBA program and your genuine interest in Fuqua. We also want to understand how you will contribute to our community and develop into a leader who values diversity and decency.
Approximately half of our applicants are interviewed, and interviews are conducted in two formats. During Open Season, you may self-initiate your interview virtually, no matter what round you ultimately submit your application. You must have “started” an application to schedule your interview. Starting an application is easy and simply requires that you at least create an account with your name, residential and e-mail address. Early Action applicants are required to interview during Open Season. After Open Season, interviews will be conducted by invitation only. Even if you are not selected to interview initially, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are no longer considering your candidacy. We do invite applicants to interview at other points in the process on a case-by-case basis. This season, given that all interviews will be conducted virtually either via zoom or skype, we are planning to continue to offer ways for applicants to get to know us prior to their interviews. We are planning to host daily virtual campus visit programming where applicants can connect with our staff, students and faculty. We post our open interview and virtual campus visit schedules on the website, so that prospective students can register.
Your interviewer will not have read your application, he or she will have only reviewed your resume. Your Fuqua interviews are conducted by Admissions Fellows (second-year MBA students) or an alumnus; and on occasion, admissions staff. Interviews are not “matched” by applicants’ and interviewers’ backgrounds. Most importantly, the interview is your opportunity to allow us to learn about you and it’s your opportunity to learn more about Team Fuqua. Since the interview is conversational, I would encourage applicants to build rapport with the interviewer and to definitely prepare questions even if they feel they know absolutely everything there is to know about us.
• Is your MBA program test-optional for 2020-2021 and/or beyond? If yes, what other factors will you now emphasize more?
We currently accept the GMAT, GRE and EA. We used to require prior approval to submit an EA, but no longer enforce that requirement. We’ve always allowed students to submit their application prior to having a completed test score or with only an unofficial test score, but with the intention that they would be taking the test shortly after submitting, and that any decision would be rendered after having the unofficial test score submitted. Applicants are required to submit official test scores after being admitted, prior to matriculation. As of now, our plan is to continue to require test scores and we encourage any applicant who is having a difficult time accessing an in-person or online test, to contact our office so that we can work with them individually on their unique situation
• What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
Far too often, students think of us as a regional school with limited access to employers, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. We recruit students from all over the world and our students go all over the world for their post MBA careers. Our graduates have access to over 2,600 job opportunities and end up employed in close to 20 different industries each year, with the top 3 being Consulting (31%), Technology (27%) and Financial Services (18%). This past year, the top 10 US Cities where our graduates went were: New York, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Durham, Atlanta, Washington DC and San Jose/Palo Alto (Silicon Valley). Additionally, we have the most accessible career management team in the business, driven by the needs of our students. Our Career Management Center structure delivers both breadth and depth, equipping our students to manage their entire career and not just the first post-MBA role. We also provide career support for life. Check out the full 2019-2020 Career Report here.
• Anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?
Fuqua has long been a school that welcomes and respects the efforts of students reapplying to our program. We define a re-applicant as someone who reapplies in the year immediately following the year they first applied. Our re-applicants do quite well in our process. As plans for many students were changed due to COVID-19 and the after-effects, we are offering the ability to replicate or “clone” last year’s application for the 2020 – 2021 application cycle. What does this mean? Simply that we will copy over all information entered from last year’s application into this year’s application, saving you a lot of time (and money as we’ll also waive the application fee). Re-applicants will only need to update information that has changed, and update any essays that they wish to update; otherwise, all information will carry over into the new application form. We know that resubmitting the information requested in our application can feel tedious, and we want to help make the process as easy as possible. Re-applicants simply need to contact our office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, to request the data be transferred over.