Why I chose Duke Fuqua, Top 2 Reasons From a 2nd Year MBA Student

2 years ago, I was in the shoes of a prospective student trying to figure out which schools to apply to. It's difficult knowing beforehand how well a school fits your personality and career aspirations, because, well, you haven't been a student there yet. Interacting with current students and experiencing the classroom is helpful but oftentimes less objective. Here is a look at my reasons for choosing Duke Fuqua, with a focus on objective evidence. You may find my framework of looking for clues to be helpful for other schools as well.

General management focus

Like most MBA students, I didn't know what I wanted to do exactly. I knew I wanted to be a leader and work in the health care industry. I was less focused on the short term job search and more on my long term development as a business leader. In fact, I didn't even know what the actual functions that companies recruited MBAs for until recruiting actually started (I'm not proud of this, by the way).

That's why Fuqua's general management focus was perfect for me. Again, a lot of schools have this, but I like the way Fuqua does it the most. This is because classes are short - each lasting 6 weeks. The end result is that we're able to take 5 elective courses in our first year, allowing folks who are career switchers to really prepare for the summer internship.

Other benefits of this approach are that they:

1) Forced us to learn quickly. A shorter class time does not mean less content. Rather, it requires us to prioritize our learning. This is very important in the real world, and especially in the internship. These things only last 10-12 weeks so adjusting and learning quickly becomes an advantage.

2) Forced to learn efficiently. There will be times when class is in 30 minutes and you still haven't read the case. While at first this was stressful, I learned how to be efficient and focus on the most important details. This has been very useful in Corporate America, where you'll find yourself in all-day, back-to-back meetings with little time to do individual work. This requires you to process information quickly and effectively.

3) Exposed to a lot in a short amount of time. A general manager needs to have knowledge in a lot of aspects of a business, as opposed to deep domain knowledge.

The bulk of the core courses (Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Economics, Statistics, Strategy) are completed in Fall 1 and Fall 2, with only Operations remaining in Spring 1. In this way, students are given the option to take 5 electives prior to starting the summer internship. Having this flexibility was key for me, as I did not have a traditional business background.

Student-led culture

I purposely didn't choose "collaborative" culture because many schools have that. Make no mistake, Fuqua's culture is well known for being extremely collaborative. However, I would say that Fuqua stands out because of how much of school operations is led by students.

When you have students conducting the interviews for the next year's class, you know that the culture has to be collaborative and that students have to be engaged. Otherwise the system wouldn't work. This is probably the most explicit evidence of the student-led culture at Fuqua, because no other school does it.

Fuqua students also take charge in many other ways. Orientation is organized by students. Changes in the classroom experience have been spearheaded by students. Students are actively forming new clubs - I know of three that formed my year. I actively participated in one on leadership development, and also helped one start (Duke Ventures). Here's a list of all current Duke MBA clubs.

This student-led culture creates a very entrepreneurial environment, where anything is possible. The culture of engagement at Fuqua is something that many companies are striving to create and I believe that Duke MBA students are well equipped to drive this change in organizations. For those that have read my post about "night jobs", Fuqua's culture of engagement is particularly helpful for preparing for future career growth.

Final comments on culture

This culture may not be for everyone. It requires one to not only focus hard on their career objectives, but also genuinely on each other. When recruiting starts, it gets pretty competitive and people are stressed out and exhausted. Through many of these unique Fuqua ways, the culture is institutionalized and connects us all, even when times get tough.

The last point I'll make is that being collaborative is different than being friendly. Fuqua students are extremely competitive. However, we also understand that collaboration is built on mutual trust and respect, and we want everyone on the team to grow and develop as leaders. This doesn't just happen - it requires a deliberate focus and is harder to build and maintain than an individualistic, cut-throat culture.

When students return from the summer internship, many note that it's very apparent how differently students from other schools work in teams, and how Fuqua students are extremely well equipped to excel in a team environment.


  1. Great post! As a prospective applicant to Fuqua, it really helps to hear your reasons for choosing! I definitely find myself agreeing with your reasoning. As a career switcher myself, having a chance to complete 5 electives before the summer internship would be very helpful, both from a recruiting and a learning perspective.

    I always knew Fuqua has a 'collaborative culture', but I think your term 'student-led culture' is probably closer to the truth. It's something I hadn't given much though to, but now that you have highlighted it, I absolutely love the idea. I can only imagine the kind of engaging environment such a culture would create and I hope I get to experience it firsthand.

    Finally, I have heard of certain companies being extremely aware of Fuqua's reputation for instilling the values of teamwork and that this has influenced their hiring practices as well (as in they prefer to hire Fuqua MBAs). Would you say that was true?

    1. Hello there, thanks for the comment! I really appreciate your feedback about how this post has helped you learn more about Fuqua. Regarding your question, it's true that companies that value engagement and collaboration enjoy recruiting at Fuqua.

      The majority of post-MBA roles require a ton of team work regardless of the function or industry. Spending the 2 years in the Duke MBA creates the opportunity to acquire learnings operating in a highly collaborative culture.

      Imagine yourself as a senior leader in a company and was recruiting MBA graduates. If they got into any of the Top 20 programs you know they can do the work well. What you then start to evaluate is the different ways people approach leadership, teamwork, and engagement.

      You'll want to hire someone who can not only accomplish their task, but make the team operate better as a whole - in other words, people who have leadership potential. The people and the culture that those people create is the foundation for success in any organization.

      In other words, I think Fuqua really focuses on preparing students for their next role after the MBA when they start to lead teams. I strongly believe that Duke MBA students will be active in facilitating this collaborative culture in teams after we leave school, and this is a trait that is highly sought after in the corporate world.

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