Sunday, December 23, 2007

A take on Duke Essays

With Round 2 deadline approaching, I have been getting a lot of queries on how to approach the essays.

Here's a quick look at this year's essays:

Why are you interested in The Duke MBA and how will it help you achieve your goals? Please also discuss your career path, including your short and long-term professional goals.
If you are interested in the Health Sector Management concentration or a joint degree program, please address in this essay.

Make sure you answer all four parts of this essay: (a) Your career progress (b) Long and Short term goals (c) Why an MBA can help you achieve these goals? (d) Why Duke specifically?

A good essay will nicely weave these stories in one steady flow, the transitions will be solid and the big picture will make sense.

The biggest mistake you can commit is to copy paste the 'Why Duke' from your 'Why Some Other School' essay. When you read your essay, do you feel that these lines can be written only for Duke? If not, then it needs to be re-looked

How will your background, values, and non-work activities enhance the experience of other Duke MBA students and add value to Fuqua's diverse culture?

This is a diversity essay that you must already have a lot of gyaan on.
The idea is to bolster your professional application by telling them about your activities outside of work. The trick is not trying to please the adcom by telling them what they want to hear, but to tell who you really are.
My theory: All applicants who try to please the adcom by presenting themselves as 'Diverse' end up having similar looking applications and hence lack diversity.
Try writing 'your' story once. You'll be amazed how effective that is.

Describe an example of where you were challenged to lead in a team-oriented context. What was the challenge you faced, how did you address it, and what takeaways or lessons learned have you successfully applied in other leadership situations?

Again, essential that you answer all parts of questions. It is good to have a one/ two sentence summary and result of the situation to set up the essay for the reader, before you get into the details.

Describe a situation in which your ability to perform ethically was challenged. What was the issue, how did you handle it, and what did you learn from it?

An initial summary of what you are going to tell in the essay should help here as well.

I like situations where there is no obvious correct path. For example, a team lead who is asked by the client to distort some facts would always want to write that he did not do it. For me, a better story would be where you had to decide whether to hire/ fire new employees (and hence impact your profits) to give a more accurate/ less accurate result to your client. I find it better because here you could have gone either way and not have been wrong.

Describe a significant leadership failure in your life. What did you learn from this failure? How has it impacted who you are today and the kind of leader you would like to be?

Summary first. After that, the story. Then your learnings and the impact the incident had on your perception of leadership.

A story not very recent might be a good idea as it gives you a chance to show how you improved and implemented your learnings from that failure. The essay also seems to be asking about what qualities you perceive are essential for a being an effective leader. So, you might want to think about your failure story in that context.

How has your personal history and family background influenced your intellectual and personal development? What unique personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? Note: The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally.

All points noted in the diversity question above apply to this one. The difference being that the focus is more on how your background influenced your personality. There may be experiences that have led you to take some actions that you took in the above essay. Here's your chance to tell the adcom about these.

Good Luck to those who are busy finishing their essays for the January 3 deadline and to those who are awaiting Round 1 results.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are personal and I have had no interaction with anyone regarding how best to approach these essays.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

kya baat hai........ how are you feeling being "on the other side of the line"
- zoli