Associate Dean Liz Riley Hargrove and 2009 graduate Steve Misuraca field questions about the application process at Duke's elite MBA program
Duke's Fuqua School of Business (Duke Fuqua Full-Time MBA Profile) was thrust into the spotlight in 2007 for a cheating scandal that had lots of people beginning to question the ethics of those in business programs. But Fuqua redeemed itself by taking tough action against the 34 accused students, and ultimately put the scandal behind it. Today, Fuqua remains what it has always been: a highly competitive MBA program with innovative programs such as the international MBA introduced last year on six global campuses.
The message from the admissions committee seems to be that to get into the program, you have to turn in a thoughtful and balanced application that shows strength in all areas. Recently, Liz Riley Hargrove (LizAtFuqua), associate dean for Admissions at Fuqua, and Steve Misuraca (SteveAtFuqua), a 2009 graduate of Fuqua's Daytime MBA Program, fielded questions from BusinessWeek reporter Francesca Di Meglio (FrancescaBW) and an audience of prospective applicants during a live chat event. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
2010applicant: When do you expect to publish deadlines and essays for the upcoming application season?
LizAtFuqua: We've just finalized the new application deadlines, and they will be posted on the Web very soon! For those interested in applying this year, I am happy to highlight a few changes: (1) Interviews will be required for admission; (2) Applicants will have the opportunity to choose a regional hub for an alumni interview. You can still visit the Fuqua campus, and we encourage you to do so, however because the interview is now a required component of the process, we are utilizing our alumni to help us interview candidates.
FrancescaBW: Steve, how difficult was it to graduate into this economic crisis? What kind of support did Fuqua provide to you and your classmates?
SteveAtFuqua: Clearly, the environment is challenging. From the moment you step on campus as a first-year [student], you begin forging relationships with your classmates, professors, and administrators. These relationships help in many ways and give you support from many different angles.
JayP007: I am considering applying in the early-decision round. Is it always an advantage to apply in this round if I know Fuqua is one of my top choices, or is this round comparable to future rounds?
SteveAtFuqua: I would always suggest applying when you have the strongest application. Know the program and how you might contribute. If you feel ready in round one, go for it!
jbr: Anecdotal information indicates that there may be an increased number of applicants to MBA programs due to changes in the economy in the past year. Please comment on trends you have observed in regard to shifting demographics of your applicant pool.
LizAtFuqua: These are certainly interesting times. This year at Fuqua, we had a significant increase in applicants from our domestic pool and a decrease in applications from our international pool. We suspect the credit crisis and lack of loan options [for international students] earlier in the admission cycle was a contributing factor. From what I've heard from my peers, the results at other schools are very similar.
2010applicant: Steve, as a recent grad, what do you think separates Fuqua from other business schools that you considered?
SteveAtFuqua: No doubt about it—the people! I was fortunate to visit a number of schools for various welcome weekends. Every time I visited Fuqua, whether for a class visit, an interview, or when I was admitted for Blue Devil Weekend, I felt like Fuqua was a place where I belonged. Students, faculty, and the deans are so welcoming. The campus—everything from the clubs to the classroom dynamic—is significantly student-driven. Students really take an ownership in the culture.
abidshab: What is the average work experience and GMAT score for students applying to Fuqua?
LizAtFuqua: Fuqua students average five years of work experience and have GMAT scores in the 80% range of 640 to 750.
goesto11: Steve, how would you rate Fuqua's faculty? Did you feel like their research was applied to the classroom?
SteveAtFuqua: The faculty was amazing. I felt that my teachers were personally invested in my development. Professors helped me with projects I worked on outside the classroom.
wxyz: Do you still have a 6% oversubscribed 2011 class, and do you expect to admit any applicants from your waiting list between now and late July?
LizAtFuqua: The summer months prove to be challenging when managing the enrollment. Right now the class is still oversubscribed but not quite at the level that it was several weeks ago. Based on historical perspective, I think the class size will be slightly larger than anticipated but not of the size that would impact the quality of the experience or access to resources.
goesto11: Liz, how do you define Fuqua's reputation? What is the one thing Fuqua hangs its hat on?
LizAtFuqua: At Duke, we are seeing individuals who want to be leaders of consequence, or LOCs (as we like to say). Their characteristics encompass someone who is both an effective leader and a contributing team player, someone who is both smart and real, someone who has analytical skills and strategic mindset as well as a global perspective. That's the Duke difference!
SteveAtFuqua: As far as reputation, opportunities at Fuqua are endless, both inside and outside the classroom. I was fortunate to participate in the mentored study program where I worked as a consultant for Duke Athletics. I had friends who participated in the GATE program (Global Academics Travel Experience), where they visited places like Dubai, South Africa, China, and India. As I mentioned before, the leadership opportunities at Fuqua are endless and truly help you grow as a student and young professional. You gain relevant experience working with and leading your very talented peers in a number of different settings.
ElleBee: If we can get a recommendation from a Fuqua alumnus who knows us well, should we submit it? If so, should we submit it before or after our application is submitted?
LizAtFuqua: We prefer that your recommendations be work-related, and if you work with a Fuqua alumnus, then yes! Some of the best students who have walked the halls of Fuqua were recommended by an alum. If the nature of the relationship is not work related, you can have the Fuqua alum submit an additional recommendation via e-mail directly to me.
Midd03: With regard to scholarships, is there any disadvantage to applying to the early action round since it is binding?
LizAtFuqua: There is no disadvantage from a scholarship perspective to applying in the early action round. All admitted students are automatically reviewed for merit-based aid once the admission decision is made. It is best to apply early in the cycle if scholarship is a major consideration for you.
rossunc1: How do you view older applicants? I will be applying this fall and will turn 33 in July.
LizAtFuqua: The average age of our students is about 28/29, but it is the quality of your work experience that is important in the evaluation process, not your age. The full range of years of work experience is 0 to 20!
2010applicant: Steve, I'm curious if you came to Fuqua dead set on what it was you wanted to do once you graduated, or if your career trajectory completely changed once you were exposed to your classmates, the curriculum, etc.?
SteveAtFuqua: I came from a family business background thinking that I might return. Now, I am more dedicated then ever to following my passions, which actually takes me in a completely different direction. At Fuqua you are exposed to classmates from so many different backgrounds and you get to learn from them. I grew a lot the last two years, and I hope to stay connected to the Duke Community in some capacity.
JayP007: Hi Liz, do you have an overall sense of the volume of applications this year as compared to last year?
LizAtFuqua: Yes, this year at Fuqua we saw an increase in domestic applications and a decrease in international applications resulting in an overall decrease in applications by about 5%
Midd03: Steve, what did you like most about Durham?
SteveAtFuqua: Durham is my new home! You get to spend a great deal of time with your classmates at Fuqua. I enjoyed going to Durham Bulls games, eating out at one of the many great restaurants, or grabbing a drink with friends. Almost everyone lives close by, so we see a lot of each other. Clearly, Duke Basketball Games are a highlight!
One of the phenomenal aspects of the Fuqua culture is the relationship between first- and second-year students. I got involved in admissions because second-year [students] reached out to me and helped introduce me to the process. This is very typical of student life at Fuqua. Every Friday, we have a "week end" celebration where the whole school comes together. Faculty, deans, spouses, partners, and children all take part. Various themes and programming events, such as Fuqua Iron Chef or the International Talent Show, help facilitate interaction.
majjam: Do you have any advice for an applicant who would like to end up in a specific geographical location after graduation?
LizAtFuqua: I think there are many students who have very specific geographic goals post MBA. Our Career Management Center does a fantastic job of helping you manage your job search requirements. Students participate in a number of career-related events, such as the Week in Cities or Week on Wall Street events, which help students reach out to different companies and alumni to support their job search efforts.
nmathur: When scrutinizing any applicant, what are the most important parameters for the Fuqua admission committee?
LizAtFuqua: Honestly, there isn't any one dimension of your application that we care about more than the other. All aspects of your application are assigned equal weight. Your GMAT score is just as important as your interview and recommendations. You can interpret this to mean that you should definitely play to your strengths as they can compensate for your weaknesses.
At the core of our process, we want students who want to come to Duke, who demonstrate passion for the things they are committed to, and will make a difference at Duke.
rossunc1: How important is the GMAT? I have great grades, work experience, and extras. However, my GMAT score is average.
LizAtFuqua: Because all factors are assigned equal weight in our process, you may very well have strengths that outweigh any concern the committee has relative to your weaknesses. A very strong undergraduate record can offset an average to below-average GMAT score.
2010applicant: You mentioned that interviews will now be required for admission. Will these now only be granted after an initial review of the application?
LizAtFuqua: We will have an "open season" for interviews from mid-October through early November. During that time, anyone can schedule a campus interview without having an invitation or application on file. Once the open season is completed, an interview will only be granted after the committee has reviewed the application.
kimwood: How is the GMAT used in the admissions process? Hypothetically speaking, if an applicant had an undergrad business degree with a 3.4 GPA and a 600 GMAT score, how would you assess his or her candidacy?
SteveAtFuqua: As a student, and admissions fellow, I believe that applications are looked at holistically. It's almost impossible to tell who the student is based on two numbers. When I interviewed students, I wanted to get a sense for who they were as well as their motivations for applying to Fuqua. GPA and GMAT are a small part of that.
LizAtFuqua: I agree Steve. I always encourage applicants to use the interview as the opportunity to sell to their strengths. It is not necessary to bring up your GMAT score or blemishes in your application or during the interview, unless specifically asked to do so.
ElleBee: How many applications were received last year in the early action round? Do you anticipate an increase/decrease this year?
LizAtFuqua: Last year was the first year we offered an early action round, and we received several hundred applications
Midd03: Which peer schools do you typically see the most overlap with in terms of applications?
LizAtFuqua: We share the largest number of applications with schools that are also ranked in the top 10. We also share a good number of applications with schools that are in close proximity to Duke.
SteveAtFuqua: As we begin to wrap up, I will share my perspective on the application process. I think it is really important to take the time to reflect personally. Make sure you know what is important to you. Know your story. Articulate your passions and who you are both as a person and as a young professional. Take the time to learn how you would fit in with each school you are applying to. Again, Business school is a significant investment. You owe it to yourself to find a school that will help you grow.
nmathur: I am an international applicant. I think internationals have been worst hit by the economic downturn. Difficult education loans and the uncertain H-1B [visa] policy have added to their misery. How is Fuqua taking care of international students considering all this?
LizAtFuqua: I am very sympathetic to how tough the business school climate has been for international students. From a financing perspective, Duke has just signed two agreements for international student loan borrowers with fantastic rates—better than we've seen with our current loan programs. These loans programs will be made available to all admitted international students without a U.S. co-signer. This is great news for our international community and a tangible sign that we value the diversity of thought and people [in our program].
JayP007: Are your interviews conducted blind or does the interviewer review the applicant's profile beforehand?
LizAtFuqua: The interview will still be a blind process, meaning the interviewer will not have access to the information submitted with the application for admission.
Midd03: Typically, when do you start allowing applicants to schedule on-campus interviews?
LizAtFuqua: We will have this information available on our Web site very soon and no later than mid-August.
SteveAtFuqua: I know the processing is changing, so check the Web site and future postings. But I would like to make a comment. Student Life at Fuqua is special. If you have any doubts about it, I would suggest coming on campus and experiencing it yourself.