How business schools tackle plagiarism in MBA applications

Plagiarism in MBA applications

Earlier, in 2010, plagiarism in admissions essays had attracted renewed public attention when the admissions office for the MBA program at Smeal detected the crime in a big way. One of the topics for application essays was how the b-school used the concept of “principled leadership.” The admissions office found that not only had some 30 applicants copied some passages from an article on the topic but some of them had not bothered to change the font of the original article, not to mention its voice.

Penn State turned to Turnitin.com, which had developed a software to detect plagiarism in work submitted by college students, and announced its new initiative. The admissions offices of other schools also started using Turnitin’s software. Today, a few thousand schools use the software and more than millions of essays and papers have been processed by it.

What is plagiarism? Simply put, it is trying to pass off someone else’s work as your own, that is, without attribution. Absence of attribution by itself may not be seen as plagiarism. For example, an applicant may use a famous quote without attribution and come to no harm. However, when he copies a sentence or a whole paragraph, he will come under the eagle eye of essay evaluators.

Even in the late 1990s, schools were using online resources to catch plagiarists. Harvard University used Turnitin.com, and the website had already screened 27,000 admission essays by 2007 and found that 11 percent of the essays contained at least a quarter each of unoriginal material.  

In a frozen state

Although business schools are aware of the prevalence of plagiarism in application and student essays, not many schools have managed to take strong measures against it.

According to research published in 2016 by Kira, a Toronto-based online admissions interview video platform, only 17 percent of over 50 northern American b-schools surveyed reported that they used plagiarism-detection software. A Fortune article in 2015 reported that only about 40 b-schools were using plagiarism detection software.

Kira found that 84 percent of the schools believed that plagiarism in school admissions was a problem, but only 30 percent had a system to prevent it. Of the 70 percent of colleges without a system, only five percent even planned to install a detection process. Only 24 percent had a definition of what constituted plagiarism.  

What does Turnitin do?

Schools that use Turnitin, as well as the company, believe that the software has helped reduce instances of admissions plagiarism significantly. The Turnitin software checks an applicant’s essay with millions of web pages, old and archived student essays, journals, and books. It highlights suspect portions of the essay and provides possible sources.

It is, of course, up to the school to decide whether flagging by the software is a false positive, or a major or minor instance, and decide on the applicant’s status accordingly.

According to Turnitin, small instances of similarities could be coincidental, but the chances of a 16-word sentence fully matching a sentence in another source is one in a trillion.  

Applicants from East Asia, mainly China, are a big source of worry for admissions officials fighting plagiarism. A New York Times article in 2011 claimed that 90 percent of Chinese applications to US universities admitted to submitting false recommendations.

Seventy percent of them admitted that they didn’t write their essays themselves (in some countries, it is not considered a crime to copy from a published source), and 50 percent admitted that they falsified school transcripts. In one year, 10 out of 18 cases of plagiarism at Smeal involved Indians, according to a web resource.

A number of free essays are available online. Many websites offer “editing assistance” to college applicants, and others provide examples of “essays that worked.” Websites have put up disclaimers that their staff don’t actually write the essays but only provide inspiration to applications.

A Poets and Quants article quotes Kira’s Andrew Hastings as saying that figures for Chinese applicants have to be seen in the light of the fact that enrolment from China is growing and that only about one in six schools are using plagiarism software. It is a serious problem.

Interestingly, Chinese applicants who use essay-writing services are not the only worry for admissions offices. Nor are applicants with low GMAT scores or poor communication talent who depend on essay writers. Among plagiarists are top applicants vying for acceptance in elite schools, who want their essays to be polished to a shine before dispatch.

Kira found that 62 percent of respondents to its research believed admissions consultants were to blame for plagiarism. Many consultants either write applicants’ personal essays or edit them substantively for a fee. Some of them also plagiarize, and not many applicants check whether the consultant has indulged in plagiarism.  

Greater use of plagiarism detection software likely

Poets and Quants reports that more schools will be implementing advanced plagiarism detection software. Of these tools is Slate, which was being considered for implementation by Sloan, Tuck, and Columbia Business School.

According to the company behind Slate, the software could detect “statistically significant metadata similarities.” For example, if an applicant wrote her personal essay and also her own recommendation letters to be signed by her recommenders and forwarded to a school, Slate would detect “statistical similarities” between the essays and the letters.  

The human element

Hastings says schools could use interviews with applicants to find out whether those neat little essays were actually written by these persons. An applicant may be able to get others to write his essay for him, but he certainly will not be able to commit deception at an interview, whether it is conducted in person or on phone, Hastings feels.

Although software may be a sharp weapon for admissions officials, they need to continue to summon their own expertise in evaluating essays and detecting plagiarism, feel admissions experts. Essay evaluators need to study reports put out by software, and holistically consider the merits and demerits of the applicant.

For example, at Smeal, when software flags an essay, the school officials review the case and detect whether Penn State’s guidelines on plagiarism have been violated.

The Harvard Crimson quotes the Dean of Admission, Harvard College, as saying that admissions officials’ intuition can helps catch plagiarists. The essays that applicants buy from private agencies cannot be labeled as unoriginal, since it may be an original work by a professional writer.

However, when the quality of an essay far exceeds the expectations from an applicant, given her profile, grades, or test scores, officials smell a rat. The applicant is called and asked to give an explanation and, if unsatisfactory, the application is rejected.  

For and against software

However, some admissions offices are worried about “due process,” according to an article in Insidehighered.com. They fear some applicants may be rejected on the basis of incorrect reports thrown up by software, and since applicants are not informed the reason for their rejection, they won’t know about the plagiarism accusation against them.

But due process is possible. Of the 30 applicants suspected of plagiarism at Penn State in one instance, 27 were clear cases of plagiarism and were rejected. Three applicants were asked to submit new essays. One of them was admitted. These 30 applicants came from a batch of 700 applicants, out of whom 200 were admitted. Penn State evolved a system where applicants flagged by Turnitin were not rejected but were further evaluated by essay experts.

Some professors on the other hand are happy that software has empowered them. They say that before the introduction of software, they used to feel helpless against plagiarism. Not anymore.

An expert in college admissions points out that hired writers or even parents themselves can write essays for applicants. These essays will appear original and software may not be able to detect that they are unoriginal.

Although Turnitin has said that a substantial number of applicants plagiarize essays—about 40 percent of essays, it says, have some matching text—some admissions officials wonder if the problem is as bad as portrayed, though they too feel that “more than one or two applicants” submit plagiarized essays.  

Plagiarism by students after admission

Plagiarism continues to thrive after applicants are admitted as students. In 2006, A Rutgers professor, Donald McCabe, found in a survey of 5,000 students in 32 schools in the US and Canada that 56 percent of graduate business students engaged in fraud—plagiarism or using hidden notes during tests. This was 9 percent higher than graduates from other disciplines. Although ethics is part of b-school programs, these programs have obviously not been able to wipe out cheating.

There’s also a culture of collusion and apathy among students that stops them from reporting any academic dishonesty, according to Prof. McCabe quoted by P&Q. When students see that few professors do anything against plagiarism, they ask themselves why they should report their peers. McCabe’s solutions? Stronger enforcement of the honor code and multiple versions of question papers at examinations.

Going after plagiarism is a tender area for most b-schools, as schools, which are already facing funds crunch, would require even more money for a new system.  Moreover, any publicity would affect them negatively. If students or applicants accused of plagiarism decided to take their cases to court, schools would have to find the time and resources to fight these cases.

Universities have also started to think what kind of managers those students who indulge in plagiarism would turn out to be. In business there are countless situations where the question of integrity is going to come up. How would managers with flexible morals behave in those situations? Would poor ethics continue to guide their principles and judgment?

Also read: – UCLA Anderson rejects applicants for unethical MBA essay writing practices   – How using sample MBA essays can hurt you – Sample Harvard Stanford MBA essays using ChatGPT – Impact and implications of ChatGPT on higher education – How do professors know if you copied essays? – Chinese students caught cheating in college admissions   Resources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 | Image credit: uik.eus

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How to Write a Killer MBA Essay

Introduction.

Writing a great MBA essay is a crucial component of applying to business school . According to Lisa Koengeter , the Director of Admissions at Booth School of Business , your essay provides them with “a better understanding of you, your self-assessment and your aspirations.” 

This article will outline what MBA admissions committees look for in your essays, show you how to write a killer MBA essay, and tell you what mistakes to avoid.

Types of MBA Essays

There are a few different types of MBA essay questions you will answer as part of your MBA application. The type of essay can be determined through the keywords used in the essay question. Each type of essay will have its own length requirements, depending on the business school.

This type of essay asks you to detail your personal and professional goals and how attending business school will help you achieve them. An essay question that asks about your aspirations or what you hope to gain from an MBA program is classified as a goal essay.

For example, Wharton is one of many schools that ask for a goal essay from applicants using the question: “What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?” Columbia , NYU Stern , Darden , Dartmouth Tuck , and McCombs are some of the many other schools that ask about your goals.

Self-Reflection

A self-reflection essay is an opportunity for you to showcase the values and characteristics that make up your personal identity. It also requires you to discuss how you handled a failure at some point in your life or how you would approach an ethical dilemma.

Yale School of Management is one business school that uses self-reflection questions in its MBA essays . They want to know what the biggest commitment you have ever made is, including why you chose it and how you went about making it. 

Answering this question will require you to do some deep reflection in order to answer it thoroughly. 

Contribution

The objective of this type of essay is to show an admissions committee how you will add value and contribute to their MBA program. 

Booth School of Business poses this question: “An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are.” 

Booth clearly wants you to elaborate on who you are, what you value, and how you live those values in your everyday life.

Some business schools want to know about the impact you will have on their program and pose a question that asks you to describe a time when you demonstrated leadership. This will involve discussing why you took on the leadership role in your chosen situation and your leadership impact.

Darden School of Business poses essay questions designed to gauge your leadership capabilities and the impact you’ll have on the program. As Dean of Admissions Dawna Clarke states, they are interested in “cultivating high impact leaders.” 

It’s no surprise that one of their essay questions from a recent application cycle was, “Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact.”

Instead of writing a traditional essay, some business schools ask you to submit a video essay. The types of questions asked for a video essay can range from a short introduction to longer, multi-component questions.

Kellogg is one business school that uses video essays . They will ask you three questions. First up is an introduction, and the second is about your career goals and how Kellogg will help get you there. 

The third question varies annually and is generally more randomized, so you and all the other applicants won’t necessarily respond to the same question. 

How to Write a Great Business School Essay

Successfully writing business school essays is tricky. Many factors go into constructing a successful one. However, the top tips we’ve provided below outline how to write an MBA application essay that stands out from the crowd. 

Pay Attention to Your Essay Structure

Blair Mannix , the Admissions Director at Wharton, noticed successful essays all had the same structure: the setup, the pivot point, and the future. 

The setup is the opening of your essay, where you tell the admissions committee about who you are, what you do, and what you have learned so far. 

The pivot point is where you shift from discussing what you already know and do to talking about what you would like to learn and how that will help you succeed. Mannix also describes this as a lightbulb moment, where something clicks, and you realize that if you had more education in one or two areas, you would be better at your job. 

The final section of your essay is your opportunity to describe how gaining knowledge and skills in the area(s) you identified in the pivot point will help your career and why that specific MBA program will make this possible.

For essays that ask you to describe how you will contribute to the institution’s MBA community, Mannix states successful essays are personal, set up as a story, and show how your experiences resonate with the community.

Consider the Tone You Use While Writing Your Essay

It’s important to be genuine in your essay. Admissions committees want to know about you as a person and know if you’re being insincere or simply writing what you think they want to hear. 

As Laurel Grodman from Yale School of Management states, your essay is an “opportunity to speak in your own voice about something meaningful and distinctive in your life.” Don’t waste this opportunity by writing about something you think will make you look better. 

Write something that actually matters to you.

Authenticity is another key element to incorporate in your essay. Clarke recommends integrating aspects of your personality into your essay. For example, she suggests showcasing your creativity, humor, or any other attributes you possess. This allows admission committees to get to know you even better.

The Best MBA Essays Are School-Specific 

At first, this seems like an obvious one; of course, writing a business school essay means writing about the business school itself. However, this is a great opportunity to show off your research and explain why you specifically want to attend this institution. 

Have you looked into the school’s curriculum? Have you found which extracurricular opportunities you want to pursue if you are admitted? Are there any research centers that you want to become involved in? 

Show how this school is the ideal stepping stone to help you achieve your future ambitions. The University of Cambridge Judge Business School provides two MBA application essay examples that highlight the importance of this: 

Example 1 - “The programme will equip me with an entrepreneurial toolkit, allowing me to efficiently evaluate and capitalise on future business opportunities, further bolstering my credibility with future stakeholders.”

Example 2 - “Upon completion of the MBA programme at Cambridge Judge Business School I want to be a decisive and successful business professional.”

The first example is far more compelling; it explains what the student will gain from the program and how they will use it to achieve future success. 

Pick an Event or Situation That Matters to You

When you select your topic to write about in your MBA essay, you need to make sure it is something that had a significant impact on your life and resonates with you personally. This will help ensure your authenticity shows through.

Kellogg Director of Admissions Jennifer Hayes , says that “the best essays [she has] read have heart, are not over-edited, and let the applicant’s personality emerge.” This is best done when you do not force yourself to write something you think admissions directors want to read, but rather tell an organic story that carries significant personal meaning.

The Importance of Storytelling in MBA Essays

Business school admissions officers want to see how you approach traits like leadership and commitment in your MBA application essay. Yet, if you describe an experience and don’t reflect upon it, you will not highlight your mindset, dedication, and motivation. 

The best writers outline the traits that business schools want to see by telling personal stories and anecdotes. But how can you do that? It’s simple — show how your experiences impacted you. Don’t just tell us about it. 

Indeed, to use the idea of commitment as an example, Yale’s admissions committee “cares less about the commitment you choose and more about the behaviors surrounding the commitment.” They want to “come away learning something new about you as a person that helps us understand your values and motivations.”

Illustrating how your experiences affect your values and motivations is difficult; this process requires a lot of introspection and self-reflection. The trick is to use plenty of real-life examples and explain how they embody your values. 

One way to successfully do this is to use the STAR technique . The STAR technique is split into four distinct steps: 

  • Situation - Describe the situation and when it took place.
  • Task - Explain the task and what was the goal.
  • Action - Provide details about the action you took to attain this.
  • Result - Conclude with the result of your action.

Using the four steps outlined above, you can create concise, compelling answers to your essay prompts. Let’s use one of the Berkeley Haas essay prompts as an example for an MBA essay outline:

What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum) . 

We can split this prompt into two sections: 

  • Describe an activity, hobby, or anything that makes you “feel alive” when you do it. 
  • Explain why you find so much enjoyment in this one thing. 

Storytelling is key here, and the STAR technique can help you break down exactly what you want to say. Remember, it is important to reflect upon your experiences and, in this case, show why you enjoy something. 

If you manage to do this in your essays and show how you achieved results along the way, you will submit a strong MBA application essay. 

Plagiarizing Your MBA Essay 

Plagiarism is a big deal. 

Even if a student doesn’t intend to plagiarize someone’s work, colleges can and will detect it. If colleges detect plagiarism, they will likely reject the application outright; UCLA’s Anderson School of Management rejected 52 MBA hopefuls for application plagiarism. 

Applicants can easily and accidentally plagiarize someone else’s work by following MBA essay examples too closely. Essay examples are useful, as they can inspire you and give you an idea of how you can reflect upon your experiences. However, someone has written that example about their own experience in their own words, and you can’t copy it. 

If you are worried about plagiarism, the simple fix is to be original. After all, admissions committees want to hear about your experiences, motivations, and opinions. 

Authenticity is also an extremely important part of writing well; you will come across as more genuine writing about your genuine thoughts and experiences. If you want to check your work, you can use reliable and low-cost plagiarism checker tools like PrePostSEO and Copyscape .  

MBA Essay Examples

US News wrote an article on what makes for a successful MBA essay. They provided the following MBA entrance essay sample essays written by applicants recently admitted into highly reputable business schools.

This sample was written for Fox School of Business at Temple University .

sample essay

This essay was well-received by the admissions committee because it was written clearly and concisely, free of grammatical errors, and told a story. The candidate showed their personality and explained why a Fox MBA would help them achieve their career goals. 

This particular candidate was honest in their essay about their weaknesses and professional growth, which is generally well-received by admissions committees. The candidate detailed the initiative they had taken in learning about the MBA program at Fox and why they decided to apply.

This next successful essay sample was written for the Yale School of Management.

sample essay

Similar to the previous example, this essay told a compelling story through a clear narrative. This particular essay began with an anecdote that demonstrated the candidate’s work ethic, initiative, leadership, and resourcefulness.

This show-don’t-tell essay displayed what was important to the applicant and offered the admission committee insight into their personality and values. It also provided as much detail as was possible, given the 500-word limit.

Don’t Rely Too Much on MBA Essay Examples 

While MBA essay examples are valuable tools to see what got applicants into business school, they all have one problem: They are not yours. Other peoples’ essay examples don’t focus on your achievements, values, motivations, or experiences. 

In their essays, originality and authenticity are two critical themes that business schools look for because your life is unique. Remember, MBA essay writing is all about getting to know you , and your essays should truly reflect who you are as a person. 

MBA essay examples are useful. They can provide you inspiration, an idea of what can work, and outline how to discuss your own experiences. However, you need to draw a line in the sand and write your own essay at some point. 

People are admitted to particular schools for a wide variety of reasons. While their essays are one of those reasons, what works for one person might not work for you. Try not to overthink it — write about your experiences, background, and, most importantly, opinion. 

Mistakes to Avoid While Writing Your MBA Essay

In addition to following the steps for writing a great MBA essay outlined above, there are also some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid while writing your essay. These mistakes are listed below, along with solutions to fix them.

Submitting an Overly Complex Essay

Admissions committees don’t want to know how many buzzwords and how much industry-related jargon you know. They’re looking to find out about you as a person, not solely as a business person. 

Committees may become frustrated if they have to decipher what you’ve written in your overly complicated essay, especially since your application isn’t the only one that needs reviewing.

The fix : Use your own words and write as if you were talking professionally to a coworker. That way, your essay will sound more straightforward and personal and allow you to make a better connection with your reader.

Not Reading the Essay Question Closely or Misunderstanding the Question

You need to know how to answer MBA essay questions. Misreading or misunderstanding the question will lead you to write an essay that completely misses what the admissions committee wants to learn about you. 

This can lead to your application being discarded.

The fix : Find the keyword(s) in the question first. This will provide you with what the admission committee hopes to learn about you in the essay. 

In the Types of MBA Essays section above, identifying terms such as “contribute,” “gain,” and “lead” shows what the admissions committee is looking for you to answer. It is also a good idea to seek clarification if you find the question confusing. 

Restating Your Resume or Letters of Recommendation

Admission committees don’t want your essay to be a restatement of what’s already outlined in your business school resume and letters of recommendation . Your MBA essay should be unique and should tell a story that can’t be found elsewhere in your application.

The fix : Take some time to think about what you want to write about that answers the essay question and isn’t detailed anywhere else in your application. But suppose the moment or experience you want to write about is already included. 

In that case, you could instead focus on a particular project and describe some of the challenges you encountered, how you overcame them, the project’s outcome, and what you learned from the experience. 

Starting Your MBA Essay Close to the Deadline 

Starting too close to the deadline means you won’t have enough time to put together a clear, concise, and expertly written narrative. If you’re rushed, you’re more likely to make simple mistakes.

The fix : Start planning your essay(s) as soon as the essay questions are made available. Take time to create an outline for each essay so you have a solid plan for when you start to write your draft. 

By starting well ahead of the application deadline, you’ll give yourself plenty of time to write and revise without being crunched for time and stressed.

Giving Half-Baked Reasons for Attending Business School  

Business school admissions committees use your essays to gauge your interest in their program and institution. So, if you are vague about your career plans and why you should get an MBA at a specific school, take the time to outline them. 

Admissions officers want to see applicants who demonstrate clear and well-defined goals. So, do your college research and explain why you want to attend their program. 

1. How Long Should My MBA Application Essay Be?

The length of your MBA essay will depend on the specific school; some schools allow up to 500 words, while others want a very short and to-the-point response of 150 words. 

The length set out by the MBA program you’re applying to is an important consideration, and it is not a good idea to go over the word limit. Admissions committees want to see that you can follow instructions and are capable of writing succinctly. It will not reflect well on you to go over the allowed word count.

2. Is the MBA Essay Less Important Than My GPA and GMAT Score?

No, your MBA essay is at least equally as important as your GPA and GMAT score . While your GPA and GMAT scores are good indicators of your academic abilities, the MBA essay is the admission committee’s first opportunity to get to know you personally. 

This is also the first impression you will make on the committee, so it’s imperative that you write a strong and compelling essay. Most business schools use a holistic approach to assessing applications, and your response to the essay question can determine whether you are a good fit for their program.

3. Is There an MBA Essay Guide for Reapplicants?

Many schools will require or suggest that reapplicants submit an additional essay. 

This will vary by school, and it is important to check with each school’s website for the exact details of what’s expected of reapplicants. If it’s optional, it is a good idea to submit one because it allows you to explain how you’ve grown personally and professionally since your previous application. 

4. Can I Use the Same Business School Essay if I’m Reapplying?

It’s unlikely you’ll be successful using the same essay since your response could have been the reason you were rejected the first time around. 

It’s best to consult with an MBA admissions expert or mentor to find out where you went wrong and what you can do to make your reapplication essay strong and stand out in the best way possible.

5. How Do I Edit My MBA Essay Draft to Make It Better?

First of all, make sure there are no errors with your spelling, grammar, and syntax. Business schools want students with superb communication skills, and having basic errors in your MBA essay does not demonstrate that you have strong communication skills. 

Then, you should go through the common mistakes outlined above and make sure those are not present in your essay; if they are, fix them. Seeking a second opinion from a friend, mentor, colleague, or MBA essay editing expert will also help locate errors or improvement areas.

6. How Can I Ensure My Business School Essay Stands Out?

Whether you are faced with the Wharton MBA essays , Harvard Business School essay , or Booth MBA essays , to name a few, there are a few things you can do to make your essay stand out. 

The event or experience you choose to write about should be something you are able to write about in a compelling narrative. It should also be something you can write about with passion, which will allow the admission committee to see your genuine and authentic voice. 

Your strengths should be woven in with the story you’re telling. These things will make your essay stand out to the admission committee and help them remember you.

Unlock Your Future with the Perfect Business School Essay

Knowing how to write a great MBA essay can be a challenging component of the business school application process. 

But, if you know where to start, make an outline for each essay, and get expert assistance, the process becomes significantly more manageable. Following these steps will help you write a killer MBA essay.

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How to Write a Powerful MBA Essay—With Examples

The MBA essay is critical to your business school application. Read our guide to writing the perfect MBA essay, with successful admit examples.

Posted March 12, 2024

mba essay plagiarism

Featuring John K. , Alice S. , and Matt K.

How to Get into a Top 10 MBA Program

Wednesday, april 10.

11:00 PM UTC · 60 minutes

What is the MBA Essay?

The MBA admissions essay.

Those words alone are enough to make most MBA candidates run screaming. Writing in general is hard enough. Writing about why you want an MBA? Your short-term goals and career aspirations? What matters to you most, and why? Forget it.

Of course, you still have to write these essays.

The MBA essay is perhaps  the most important part of the business school application. (It's also getting more and more important by the day, with some business schools moving away from traditional, quantitative measuring sticks, like the GMAT and the GRE.) Every other part of the application — your GPA, your test scores, your letters of recommendation — are quantified, cut and dried, or out of your control. The essay is your chance to show up as a fully realized MBA candidate, with hopes, dreams, and vulnerabilities. Admissions committees are not simply assessing your candidacy as a future leader — they're looking to admit human beings. That's where the MBA applicant essays come in.

That being the case, rather than being intimidated by it, treat the essay like the opportunity that it is — the chance for you to highlight your unique, iridescent self; the only moment in the MBA admissions process (prior to the interview) when you can speak directly to the admissions officers; the time when you'll show them who you really are. It's not easy to write something that will do that, of course, but with the tips and tricks in this guide, and some help from one of Leland's vetted, world-class admissions coaches, we know you can do it. Give the essay the time, attention, and respect it deserves, and you'll be on your way to an offer of admission at your dream school.

Without further ado, let's dive in!

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Ultimate MBA Essay Guide

See the MBA essay prompts, top tips from experts, and real examples from admits with this comprehensive guide.

How Long Will My MBA Essay Take?

First thing's first: let's talk about timing.

The MBA application is a behemoth; between exams, resumes, gathering your official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and the applications themselves, there's a lot to juggle. That being the case, we suggest you give yourself ample time to draft, write, and revise your essays. The last thing you want is to be rushed to the finish line.

So, give yourself  at least three months to write your MBA essays. That should allow you ample time to draft, write, and edit. For more information on timing your entire b-school application, click here for  A Comprehensive MBA Application Timeline--With Chart .

Now, on to the critical question:

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What Makes a Great MBA Essay?

At the highest level, the answer is the one that is truest to you. The whole point of these essays is to shine through as an authentic, vibrant human being, so the best essays are the ones that cut through the clutter, and allow you do to that.

Which begs the question — how  do you cut through the clutter and shine through as a vibrant human being? Here are four critical tips to follow as you begin thinking about your essays.

1. Answer the Question

This one sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many applicants launch into their story, get carried away, and forget to answer the question. Follow the prompt, and answer the question the admissions committee has asked you. Those prompts can actually be very useful when writing your essays — it's a great deal harder to write when you have no guidance or guardrails. With the MBA essays, you have a very specific question you need to answer. So answer it!

2. Be Specific

Another mistake some MBA applicants make is to stay at a high level in their essays, keeping their writing abstract and therefore inaccessible to the admissions committee. If at any point, an admissions officer could replace your name with the name of another applicant, then your essay isn't getting deep enough. It's not enough, for instance, to say that you suffered adversity in high school, or that you really, really want a Wharton MBA. You need to explain, in detail, the adversity you faced, and give concrete and unique reasons why you think Wharton is the right program for you. The best essays offer hyper-specific examples and anecdotes, with details and anecdotes that no other candidate could bring to the table. To get those anecdotes, we recommend using the STAR template, as explained below:

  • Situation : What was the situation you were facing? Where were you? How old were you? If you were in a professional role during this anecdote, what was the role, and how long had you been in it? If you were volunteering, at what organization? How long had you been volunteering there? Why did you start? Offer all the relevant information that the admissions readers will need to understand your story.
  • Task : What was the task at hand? What went wrong? In your professional role, what was the challenge you faced? In that volunteering experience, what were the hurdles you had to overcome? You can't have a good story without conflict or tension, so after you set up the anecdote, explain what that conflict or tension was (and remember, be specific!).
  • Action : What was the action you took to resolve the problem? What did you have to do to fix that issue at work? How did you clear that hurdle in your volunteer experience? Again, be specific about how you came through on the other side of that conflict/tension — and while you're doing it, highlight your leadership capabilities as much as possible! Remember that top MBA programs are looking for future leaders who can assess a situation and decisively take action. (We'll say a bit more about this below, in the Personal Statement section.
  • Result : What was the result of your action? If you were facing a growth problem at work, were you able to increase sales? If so, by what percentage? If you were advocating for diversity and inclusion at your local charity, what new programs did you implement to help with that effort, and what was the enrollment like in those new programs? Detail what happened in your anecdote with as much specificity as possible — and quantify, quantify, quantify!

Get Vulnerable

Most MBA admissions essay prompts are written with the goal of getting to know as much about you as possible in the shortest number of words. To do that, you're going to have to share real things from your life — to get personal, intimate, and vulnerable. Do not shy away from this. If you're starting to get emotional during the reflection, drafting, and writing process, good — that means you're on the right track. Keep going. Pro tip: If it’s making you cry, it will make them cry. Another good rule of thumb is to put something real and true on the table. Admissions officers have to read literally thousands of applications from thoroughly qualified individuals, some of whom might come from similar roles to yours, with letters of recommendation from equally impressive supervisors. In order to cut through that noise, you'll have to share something honest. If you're doing it right, this can feel risky. At some point, you’ll likely think to yourself: “Can I say that?” The answer is: “Yes.” Of course, there is a line, you don’t want to be crass or offensive but err on the side of being open and authentic. The very worst thing you can do is be overly cautious, and write something you think will please the admissions committee. These poor people have to read thousands of essays. If yours is just like everyone else’s, they’ll fall asleep. Don’t let that happen. Wake them up by putting yourself —your true, bright, vibrant, quirky self—on the page.

4. Don't Exaggerate

Finally, do not exaggerate, over-inflate, or lie. This goes without saying, but admissions committees are looking for honest candidates. The surest way to get rejected is to lie about something. (Business schools do a background check on you before you're properly admitted, so they will find out.) Don't be the person who over-inflates on their essays, then has their offer letter rescinded.

The Types of MBA Essays

All right — since we've covered high-level approaches to the MBA essays, it's time to dig into the various types.

There are three general categories of MBA essays you'll see across the board.

1. Personal Statement

These questions ask you to offer up something sincere about yourself. They'll often touch on such things as your values and your character. In these, you'll want to be as authentic as possible, while also highlighting attributes like leadership, intellectual vitality, and teamwork, that business schools are looking for. Here are a few examples of personal statement essays:

  • As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program? (HBS)
  • What matters most to you, and why? (Stanford GSB)

2. Why an MBA/Why This School

The next category of essays is the "Why an MBA" / "Why This School" set.

In these, schools first want to hear about how an MBA will fit into your career, both short and long term. Top MBA programs are looking for candidates who will: first of all, be gainfully employed upon graduating, second of all, have an illustrious career that will make their institution look good and encourage future generations of applicants to apply, and third, be consistent and generous donors. That being the case, they want to know about your career trajectory, and how an MBA will fit into it.

Pro tip: Here, you want to be ambitious and inspiring in laying out your future career, but not naïve. Walk the line between shooting for the stars and sounding dreamlike and uninformed.

In this set of questions, you'll also encounter questions geared at figuring out why you would want to attend a specific school. MBA programs want to know that you're serious about attending their school — yield, or the percentage of admitted candidates who accept their offers of admission, is an important metric for them — but they also want to envision how you'll contribute to their admitted class. What will you uniquely bring to the table, the things that you'll do that the other candidates wouldn’t be able to offer?

We've heard former deans of business schools say that, in choosing a class, they're curating a world-class dinner party, and that each person invited to the dinner party has to bring something different. What will you bring to the dinner party?

Pro tip: To demonstrate that you've done your research, and to help the admissions committee envision you in their program, indicate which classes you might take when earning your MBA and why, which professors you might hope to study with, and in which clubs you might participate.

Here are a few examples of "why MBA / why this school" essays:

  • How is a Columbia MBA going to help you? (Columbia)
  • What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (Wharton)
  • Why Stanford? Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them. (Stanford GSB)

3. Behavioral/Other

Finally, most other essays will either be behavioral, asking you about experiences, traits, strengths, weaknesses, and achievements. There's a wide variety of topics here, but all the guidelines from above apply, with the final note to always prioritize authenticity (as mentioned in the Personal Statement section) and leadership ability (remember, business schools are choosing future leaders). Here are a few examples of behavioral/other essays:

  • Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (Yale SOM)
  • Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (Columbia)
  • Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others? (Stanford GSB)

Top MBA Program Essay Prompts (Updated 2022)

To help you get started, we've compiled the required prompts from a few top MBA programs below:

1. Harvard Business School (HBS)

As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program? (900 words)

For more information, visit A Guide to the HBS Essay .

2. Stanford Graduate School of Business

What matters to you most, and why? (650 words)

Why Stanford? (400 words)

Read What Matters Most When Writing the GSB Essays.

How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words)

Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)

For Wharton-specific advice, visit A Guide to the Wharton Essays .

4. Columbia Business School

Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Essay 2: The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a new co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias, Communicating Across Identities, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Managing Difficult Conversations. Tell us about a time you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)

Essay 3: We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams , an extremely active co-curricular and student life environment, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program .Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? Please be specific. (250 words)

5. Chicago Booth

How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250-word minimum)

An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of your career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are… (250-word minimum)

Read more at A Guide to the Booth Essays .

6. Kellogg Northwestern

Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (450 words)

Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)

Read How to Nail Your Kellogg MBA Application Essays

7. MIT Sloan

MIT Sloan seeks students whose personal characteristics demonstrate that they will make the most of the incredible opportunities at MIT, both academic and non-academic. We are on a quest to find those whose presence will enhance the experience of other students. We seek thoughtful leaders with exceptional intellectual abilities and the drive and determination to put their stamp on the world. We welcome people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers. We want people who can redefine solutions to conventional problems, and strive to preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas. We demand integrity, respect, and passion.

Taking the above into consideration, please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should conform to standard business correspondence, include one or more professional examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria above, and be addressed to the Admissions Committee (300 words or fewer, excluding address and salutation)

Applicants are required to upload a 1 minute (60 seconds) video as part of their application. In your video, you should introduce yourself to your future classmates, tell us about your past experiences, and touch on why MIT Sloan is the best place for you to pursue your degree.

How to Start Your MBA Essay

So you've read about the types of essays, and seen some of the prompts from top MBA programs. Now it's time to actually start diving into the essay.

The very first thing to do, before putting pen to paper, is to look inward.

Why do  you want an MBA? What role will this degree play in your professional growth? How do you imagine it will shape your life? What do you want out of your career? What is the most important thing in the world to you?

Yes, these are life’s deep-end questions, but you’ll need to tackle them in these essays, so before you start writing, take the time to think through them. Go for a run, swim some laps, bake a cake—however you get into the flow — and start a dialogue with yourself. Put down your work, turn your phone off, and give your mind permission to go to the places it usually avoids. That’s a good place to start. That’s where the answers are.

Pro tip: The first sentence is the hardest one to write. When you're starting out if it can intimidating and anxiety-producing. The trick is to simply put  anything  down — and don't look back. Keep putting one sentence after the other. You can edit later: let whatever comes to you out onto the page. If you’re struggling with self-critique, dim your computer screen until you can’t even see the words you’re typing. Then keep going.

Additional Tips & Tricks

Once you've started your essay, it's a matter of persistence: keep writing, then keep drafting and editing until you have something you're really proud of.

To help you with that process, here are a few more tips and tricks:

  • Take Breaks

When you hit the wall — you will hit the wall — stop. This is your brain telling you it needs to do something else. Walk your dog. Take a lap around your room. Eat some cheese. Your body needs sleep every night to function; your mind is the same way. That next leap of inspiration will come exactly at the moment when you’re least expecting it.

  • Read it Out Loud

When you finally have a draft, print it and read it out loud to yourself. Your ear will catch things your eyes miss. Reading out loud is the best way to pick up on spelling errors, clunky transitions, and paragraphs that still need ironing out. It’s also a good way to envision how the admissions committee will experience your essay.

Don’t be precious with your essay. Send it to anyone willing to read it. Solicit as much feedback as you can. If you don’t like what people have to say, you don’t have to incorporate it, but you need an impartial third party to give notes on what they’re seeing, thinking, and feeling. (You’re too close to things to do it for yourself.) This is where a Leland coach comes very much in handy!

  • Complete Everything Early

This is more of a timing consideration, but you do not want to trip at the finish line because your internet went down the night before the deadline, or your credit card was denied when paying your application fee (it's happened before). Don't let that be you!

Here is another article to get you started, written by an expert essays coach: 7 MBA Essay Tips to Make You Stand Out in 2022 .

Example MBA Essays

Finally, here are two essays to help inspire you. The first, a personal statement essay, was submitted by an admit to Berkeley Haas' Executive MBA program; the second, a career goals / why MBA essay, was submitted by an admit to Chicago Booth's deferred MBA program.

Haas Admit:

A person’s identity is shaped by many different aspects, including family, culture, personal interests, and surrounding environments. Please share a facet of your identity or story that is essential to who you are. (300 words) My upbringing in India, filled with countless myths and legends, had a profound influence on me. The most formative tale was about a sage who prays for years to the goddess of knowledge, but in vain. In the end, the goddess didn’t appear for the sage because he was turning his prayer beads the wrong way! As a child, this story upset me: the sage worked so hard and had the right intentions. As an adult, though, I’ve come to realize that the goddess of knowledge was right: you can’t succeed unless you do things the right way. Seven years ago, two friends and I started a company, XXXX: a digital health platform that would allow patients to store medical records online and consult doctors remotely. We had early success—we brought on 2,000 patients at XXXX, a gynecology clinic in XXXX—but ultimately we didn’t have the resources to properly scale, and had to shut the company down. Among the many lessons I learned, the most valuable was that ideas and hard work are common; businesses succeed or fail based on execution—on doing things the right way. Two years ago, I relearned this lesson in the most painful way possible: when my marriage ended. My wife and I loved each other, but we weren’t there for each other when it mattered most. Our feelings weren’t enough—we had to back them up with the right actions. It’s disheartening when you have good intentions but still fall short. When this happens, though, you have to keep trying—because eventually you will do things the right way. I carry the story of the sage with me always, not as a harsh lesson, but as a motivating goal: one that keeps me striving towards doing things the right way.

Booth Admit:

How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 word minimum)
I want to start a geothermal company that will help lead the energy transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy—by targeting existing oil wells as sites for geothermal plants. Oil fields are close to electric grids and have high nearby subsurface temperatures, making them ideal sites for geothermal plants. By building geothermal infrastructure nearby, my company will produce cleaner, cheaper energy, making it more profitable for operators to switch from oil to geothermal. As oil companies decommission their wells, I’ll negotiate for their land rights, so I can use their existing wells for new geothermal vents. I want my company to prove the case for economically viable, carbon neutral energy production. After getting an MBA I want to start a geothermal company which will help me lead the energy transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. I plan to target developed oil fields in Texas, where, in many places, producing wells are flowing enough hot fluid to generate clean energy. Using this geothermal heat, the carbon footprint of oil and gas extraction will decrease as fewer fossil fuels are utilized to power surrounding infrastructure. As the wells approach their economic life, I will negotiate the lease from various operators, saving them millions in plug and abandonment costs, and retrofit the wells for direct geothermal energy production via closed loop binary fluid systems, bringing emissions to zero. To accomplish this goal, I need to shore up my knowledge of energy economics and entrepreneurial finance, develop a strong sense of leadership, and build a network of like minded individuals that will help me lead the transition and I believe I can get those things at Chicago Booth. My immediate career goal is to develop my first co-production site in Shelby County, Texas at the Blanton well site, which produces abnormally heated fluid from the flanks of an active salt dome. Before investing in capital expenditures, developing a strong sense of energy economics and broader markets is necessary to verify financial feasibility. University of Chicago, through the Graduate-Student-At-Large: Business program, is already allowing me to accomplish this goal with my enrollment in “Microeconomics” with Professor Andrew McClellan. His instruction helped me understand the impact taxes and subsidies have on market equilibrium, an important aspect of renewable energy as green energy tax incentives continue to change on a yearly basis. As my company continues to grow, having a strong finance and accounting foundation is imperative to building and sustaining a healthy company. Electives such as “Accounting for Entrepreneurship: From Start-Up through IPO” will provide the skills I need to be successful by following the life-cycle of a business that originates as a start-up, and covers topics such as building an initial accounting infrastructure. I understand that execution of the business is as important as developing the idea and proof of concept, and Booth is the best place for me to develop financial fluency. Leading the energy transition will require a strong sense of leadership. Not only will I need to lead those I get to work with over my career, but to lead the energy transition, and reverse the impact fossil fuels have had thus far, I must have the emotional intelligence to inspire others to join me in my journey. The “Interpersonal Dynamics” course at Booth will allow me to develop my communication skills and better understand the emotions and perceptions of my colleagues. These skills, synthesized with leadership development acquired in “Leadership Practicum” will prepare me to act as a relational leader, who understands the needs of others. As a relational leader I hope to foster an environment which promotes happiness, and maximizes efficiency, not only to make our efforts in changing the world more successful, but to excite other people to join our cause.
To find the greatest chance of success in leading the energy transition, I will need a network of like-minded individuals who can provide a diversity of thought. Chicago Booth provides the opportunity to develop that network through different community experiences. The Energy Club’s “Energy Forward” conference, which designates time to topics in oil and gas and renewable energy will allow me to hear from industry leaders, build meaningful relationships with peers and contribute my sector experience to the public forum as I learn from those around me. Opportunities through the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group such as “SeedCon” will help me connect with successful entrepreneurs and early-stage investors whose ideas and funding might change the course of my venture’s trajectory. Even in the GSALB program I have had the opportunity to connect with other students in various sectors, including the energy industry. I hope to continue to strengthen those connections and continue building new ones with matriculation into the full time program.

Here are several other articles that you may find helpful as you put together your MBA application:

  • The Most Frequently Asked Questions on MBA Applications
  • How to Answer the "Why an MBA?" Essay Question
  • My Top Piece of Advice for MBA Applicants
  • How I Nailed My MBA Interview and Gained Admission to Top 10 Business Schools
  • 4 Expert Tips on Paying for Business School

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before you go

Help us keep in touch — it won’t take long, application instructions, application instructions - daytime mba, help us get to know you better.

We want you to put your best foot forward. Please look over the instructions on this page to help you prepare your application to Duke’s Daytime MBA program. We appreciate all the work you’re doing to ensure your application package is complete. Remember the admissions committee can only review completed application packages. If you have questions after looking over the information here, feel free to send an email to the admissions office .

The Fuqua application is only available online, and it includes sections on both personal and program information.

Apply to Daytime

Personal information needed:

  • Educational background
  • Unofficial Transcripts
  • Employment history
  • Business resume
  • Activities and achievements
  • Self-reported test scores

Program information includes your choices for:

  • Preferred interview location
  • Dual degrees (if applicable)
  • Concentration or concentrations (not required)
  • Certificates or MSTeM Track (not required)

Application basics:

  • You’ll need to create a profile and get a PIN to access the system.
  • You may access the application as many times as you like before submitting it.
  • Detailed instructions are available in the online system.
  • Your application will not be evaluated until you submit it and all supporting materials are received and verified.

Do your research

Talk to family, friends, and mentors. Visit our campus and attend a recruiting event, and then decide whether this program is right for you.

Review the online application and deadlines. Consider important aspects of the timeline, including:

  • When to apply if you’re an international student
  • When to schedule your interview
  • When you’ll receive a decision
  • When your non-refundable tuition deposits are due
  • When to start the visa process if required

Submit your application

Ensure that your application is complete, including your resume, essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and application fee. You can view your application status by logging into your student portal.

There are two types of interviews for admission to Fuqua: those done during the Open Interview Period, and interviews by invitation (which includes interviews conducted during our invitation-only diversity weekends). Depending on when you apply and interview, you may also want to schedule your campus visit activities at the same time.

Receive a decision

You’ll be notified via email of your admission decision on the decision date for the round in which you apply. 

To reserve your place in the class, you must submit:

  • Two non-refundable tuition deposits, one following the round in which you were admitted, and a second in June prior to the start of the program 
  • Official test scores sent directly from the testing agency
  • Official transcripts sent directly from the institution/s you attended

Your non-refundable deposits can only be made in the following ways: credit card, personal check, money order, e-check, or wire transfer. Please plan accordingly so you don't miss the deposit deadlines.

Visit Fuqua

The best way to learn about Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program is by experiencing it firsthand. We encourage you to take part in our campus visit program and Blue Devil Weekend (for admitted students). Visiting campus, either in person or virtually, will not only provide insight to inform your final decision to join the program, but will also provide you with information on transitioning to the Durham area.

Access our incoming student website

Shortly after admission, you will receive access to our incoming student website. This will be your main source of information, helping you more fully understand our community and our expectations and giving you a better idea of what it will be like to be a full-time MBA student at Duke. 

Here you’ll find all the information you'll need to transition into your new academic life:

  • Program announcements
  • Technical and computer information
  • Academic assignments to prepare to return to school
  • Relocation information
  • Classmate information

Apply for a visa

If applicable, visa application information will be included in your student portal along with specific deadlines for submission. Visa processing can take up to several months to complete, so it is critical you apply in Early Action, Round 1,  Round 2, or Round 3  to ensure that you are able to join the program on time.

Application Requirements

Legible, scanned copies of all unofficial transcripts are required for each college or university you have attended where you:

  • earned (or will earn) a degree;
  • studied for one semester or more;
  • earned 12 or more credits (note: 4 or more credits if your university awards 1 credit for the typical class instead of 3 credits);
  • and/or took a class that relates to your graduate study interests. 

If you took classes at a college or university while in high school, do not list the college or university as a separate school in your application.

For transfer credits:  Follow the guidelines listed above, but please note that for any transferred credits that qualify to be reported, we need to see grades/marks .  If the grades/marks as well as the credits appear on your degree-conferring institution's transcript, then the additional transcript will not be required.

For student abroad credits:  Please follow the same guidelines as for transfer credits.

Transcripts must include:

  • Your name and the name of the institution
  • Each course taken and the grade received
  • The degree received and date conferred

If your transcripts do not state the degree and date conferred, upload a copy of your diploma in addition to the transcript. If your transcript is not in English, it must be translated, attested, and uploaded along with the originals. Those applying from outside the U.S. should see additional transcript guidelines for international students.

Two options for sending transcripts:

  • Electronically to [email protected]
  • Directly by mail in a sealed envelope to: Duke University The Fuqua School of Business Office of Admissions 100 Fuqua Drive, Box 90120 Durham, NC 27708-0120

If you do not submit your official transcripts on time, or if you misrepresent, falsify, or omit information, we may rescind any offer of admission or financial assistance.

When to submit copies of official transcripts

Only if you are admitted to the program, will you be required to submit official transcripts from each college or university you have attended for verification. The due date for official transcripts will be noted in your admitted student portal. If you have not yet completed your studies by this date, your official transcripts should reach The Fuqua School of Business no later than one week before your program begins.

You’ll need to provide your thoughts on one short answer and two longer essay questions as part of your application.

Instructions for all written submissions

  • Responses should use 1.5-line spacing and a font size no smaller than 10-point.
  • Do not repeat the question in the document you upload with your application as this will cause the essay to be flagged for plagiarism.
  • Respond fully and concisely.
  • Length requirements vary by question and are detailed below.
  • Responses must be completed before submitting your application.

All essays are scanned using plagiarism detection software. Expressing your ideas by using verbiage from existing sources, including websites and other applicants' essays or materials, or having someone else compose your essays, without properly crediting those sources constitutes an act of plagiarism. Plagiarism, an act of theft and fraud, is considered a cheating violation within the Honor Code and will result in an application denial. Note: if you have worked with a consultant to complete your application materials, please ensure that the Honor Code policy is discussed and yours essays will not be shared with other potential applicants.

Required short-answer essay question

Instructions: Answer the following question in 100 words.

  • What are your post-MBA career goals? Share with us your first-choice career plan and your alternate plan.

First required essay: 25 random things about yourself

The 'Team Fuqua' spirit and community is one of the things that sets the MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. Please share with us “25 Random Things” about you. The Admissions Committee wants to get to know YOU - beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. Share with us important life experiences, your hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are.

 Your list will be limited to 2 pages (750 words maximum). Please present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may be brief, while others may be longer.

Second required essay: The Fuqua community and you

Fuqua prides itself on cultivating a culture of engagement. Our students enjoy a wide range of student-led organizations that provide opportunities for leadership development and personal fulfillment, as well as an outlet for contributing to society. Our student-led government, clubs, centers, and events are an integral part of the student culture and to the development of leaders. Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, what are 3 ways you expect to contribute at Fuqua?

 Your response will be limited to 1 page (500 words maximum).

Optional essay: Tell us more

If you feel there are circumstances of which the admissions committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance). Note that you should NOT upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area. The Optional Information section is intended to provide the admissions committee with insight into your circumstances only.

Submit your required one-page resume electronically within the online application system. For employment and volunteer positions, include the location, title, date, and responsibilities, starting with your most recent position. The education section should include dates of attendance and degrees received.

Your resume can include:

  • Full-time employment
  • Volunteer work
  • Internships
  • Part-time work experience

Your recommender must complete the current recommendation forms associated with the online application—no other format of recommendation will be accepted.

Your recommendation should reflect your performance in your most recent professional setting. Volunteer activities or other service-oriented roles in which you are deeply involved may also be excellent sources for your recommendation. The most valuable recommendations come from people who know your professional skills and abilities.

Submissions by email or mail are not accepted.

New applicants

  • One required letter of recommendation

Reapplicants

  • Reapplicants may use the same recommendation letter provided from last year, and you will have the option to include it in your current application if you choose. You also have the option of submitting one new letter of recommendation if you wish. 

Other recommendation guidelines

  • You are required to use the recommendation forms that are within the online application.
  • Use your recommender's work email addresses, which they monitor more closely, during our credential verification process, rather than personal accounts like Gmail.
  • Recommendations from relatives and friends are strongly discouraged.
  • Academic recommendations often provide a similar perspective to your transcript and are less helpful.

The following questions are included on the recommendation form:

  • Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization. 
  • How does the performance of the applicant compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? 
  • Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.  
  • Is there anything else we should know? (Optional)

Bonus endorsement from Fuqua students and alumni

In addition to the one required recommendation, you may provide additional endorsements from our alumni or current students.

Endorsement Form

If an endorsement is submitted on your behalf before you submit your application, you will become eligible for an application fee waiver. We are unable to provide refunds if your endorsement is received after the application fee has been paid.

Fuqua accepts GMAT, GMAT Focus, GRE, and Executive Assessment (EA) scores. Test scores are valid for 5 years, and we do not require the official score report at time of application - you need only self-report your score and provide official scores when admitted. We do not have a preference for which exam you provide, and scores can be updated after your application is submitted.

Both GMAC and ETS, the administrators of the GMAT/EA and GRE tests, respectively, continue to offer the option to take these tests from a home environment. We accept both test formats. Please visit the GMAC or ETS websites for more information. 

Extra GMAT, GRE, and EA details

  • There is no minimum test score requirement.
  • We will accept scores up to 5 years old.

Admission system test codes

  • GMAT/EA: Duke program code Q13-N5-32
  • GRE: Duke program code 5156, and the 4201 Business Administration and Management Department name on your GRE exam

Need more help?

Information on registering and sending GMAT/EA scores Information on registering and sending GRE scores  

A 225 USD non-refundable application fee, payable by VISA or MasterCard, is due when you submit your online application.

Application fee waivers

You may be eligible to receive an application fee waiver if you meet at least one of the following criteria:

You are a member of the military—active duty, active reserve, or honorably discharged/completed service (within three years) of any nation. Either voluntary or compulsory service is valid for qualification.

You are an active participant or alumnus/alumna of the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or Teach for America.

You receive Fuqua Admissions Committee approval. In your application, include the reason for your waiver request and the name of the committee member granting approval.

You are a member of one or more qualifying organizations: Admit.Me  Access, Beta Gamma Sigma, Choctaw College Connect, Colfuturo, Forte Foundation, Fulbright, Golden Key, Graduate Horizons, Idealist, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), MBA Jumpstart, Posse Foundation, Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA), or Riordan Fellows Program.

Before submitting your application, you register for and attend at least one of the event activities listed below. Indicate the event type, location and month of attendance in your online application. (MBA Fairs are only considered as a qualifying event if you completed a sign in at the Fuqua table during the fair.)

  • Campus Visit
  • Information session
  • Informational luncheon
  • Meet & greet
  • Multi-school information session
  • Virtual information session

You obtain a  recommendation from a current Fuqua student or alumnus/alumna.  In your application, include your recommender’s name, program (Daytime, Cross Continent, Weekend Executive, Global Executive, Master of Management Studies: Foundations of Business, Master of Management Studies: Duke Kunshan University, Master of Quantitative Management: Business Analytics, or Master of Quantitative Management: Health Analytics) year of graduation (if known), and email address.

You attended one of five Diversity Events: 

  • Duke MBA Workshop
  • Women's Leadership Weekend
  • Pride Weekend
  • Veterans Symposium
  • International Applicant Symposium

You are an alumni of Duke University. In your application, include the name of your degree and the year in which you graduated.

Instructions to apply for an application fee waiver

  • Meet at least one of the above criteria.
  • Select an application round in the “Personal Information” section of the online application.
  • Complete the questions included in the "Application Fee Waiver Information" section. 
  • Submit your application after all sections are complete. However, do NOT submit your application if you are asked for credit card information.

Following the above instructions is the only way to receive an application fee waiver. If you submit your online application without selecting the "fee waiver" option, then you will not qualify for the waiver, and no refund will be available.

Interviews provide you an ideal opportunity to present a different view of your credentials to the admissions committee. An admissions staff member, an alumnus/a, or an Admissions Fellow (a second-year MBA student) will conduct your interview. Interviews are offered either in-person or virtually, whichever works best for you.

Interview Fast Facts:

  • Interviews are conducted in English.
  • Interviews generally last 45–60 minutes.
  • Appropriate attire is business casual.
  • Interviewers will have a copy of your resume, but no other portion of your application file.

Two ways to interview

1. During the Open Interview Period

All applicants, regardless of the round in which you intend to apply, are eligible to interview during the Open Interview Period. A completed application is not required to interview during the Open Interview Period, but you must have started an application and have completed the biographical information . Once you have completed your biographical information, you can access the interview and campus visit schedules to select your date. Interviews during the Open Interview Period are on a first come, first served basis, and may be done in person at our Durham campus, or virtually via Zoom.

On-Campus Open Interview Period Fast Facts:

When: September 11 - October 6, 2023 Where: Durham, NC How: Sign up through the online application, select the date for your on-campus interview, and choose from a menu of other activities you may want to join during your visit, such as an admissions session, student panel, or class visit.

Virtual Open Interview Period Fast Facts:

When: August 24 - October 6, 2023 Where: Virtually How: Sign up through the online application, and be sure you complete the mailing address section so we can match you with an interviewer in a similar time zone. You will not be asked to select a specific date for a virtual interview; rather, you will be introduced to your interviewer via email in mid-August, and together you and your interviewer can find a mutually convenient date and time to meet. You must complete your interview no later than October 6.

If your interview is not conducted during the Open Interview Period, your interview will be scheduled by invitation only. For an invitation-only interview, you must first submit your completed application for review by the Admissions Committee. Interview decisions will be made after a review of all submitted applications for a given round have been received, and applicants will be notified via email of their interview decision. An interview decision is not a final decision on your application. Additional details on interviews by invitation can be found in the next section.

To learn more about Team Fuqua, we encourage you to also sign up for activities offered through our campus visit program .

2. Interview by invitation

If you do not interview during the Open Interview Period, you will only be able to interview if invited to do so. Invitations are extended based on a thorough evaluation of your completed application. If invited, you will be interviewed during the interview period that corresponds to your application round.

Interview by Invitation Fast Facts:

Interviews by invitation are conducted in each application round by staff, alumni, and Admissionis Fellows (select second-year MBA students).

When: Interview decisions are sent on published dates for each round Where: Applicants may choose to interview on campus in Durham, in person at one of our off-campus interview locations, or virtually.

Interviews during the Diversity events, which are invitation-only interviews, will be conducted in person during the event.

Interviews are conducted by staff, alumni, and Admissions Fellows, a select group of second year students. All interviews are valued equally, regardless of who conducts your interview or the type of interview (in-person or virtual). As you prepare for your interview, please be aware that your interviewer will only have access to your resume and will not have read your application.

Interview Process

Interviews will be offered either in-person or virtually, and you may select the format you prefer. Early Action applicants should plan to schedule and conduct their interview on campus in Durham or virtually to schedule an interview for our open interview period before hitting submit on your application. If your interview is not conducted during the Open Interview Period, your application will be reviewed for an interview by invitation. Interviews during the Open Interview Period are on a first come, first served basis.

Open Interview Period:

On-Campus: September 11 - October 6, 2023 Virtual: August 24 - October 6, 2023 (see details for scheduling an interview during the open period above)

In-Person Early Action Interview Date Range (invitation only)

September 25 - October 6, 2023

Please mark your calendar accordingly and be prepared to interview during that time.

If you are a Round 1 applicant and are invited to interview, you will be notified via email on October 26, 2023.

Virtual Interview Date Range: November 1 - 17, 2023

On-Campus Interview Date Range: November 6 - 17, 2023

Please mark your calendar accordingly and be prepared to interview during the time frames listed.

When submitting your application, you will indicate if you intend to interview in-person or virtually. If you select Durham as your interview location, you will also have the option to participate in other activities on campus during your visit. If you select the virtual option, you will be connected with an alumnus or student in a similar time zone, and you will schedule your interview directly with your interviewer.

If you are a Round 2 applicant and you are invited to interview, you will be notified on February 2, 2024.

Virtual Interview Date Range: February 6 - 24, 2024

On-Campus Interview Date Range: February 6 - 24, 2024

If you are a Round 3 applicant and are invited to interview, you will be notified via email on March 13, 2024. Please note that interviews conducted in Round 3 are only available virtually.

Virtual Interview Date Range: March 15 - 25, 2024

Please mark your calendar accordingly and be prepared to interview during that time.

Virtual Interviews

As Round 3 interviews are only offered in a virtual format, please select "Virtual" as your interview location in the interview section of your application.

If you are a Round 4 applicant and are invited to interview, you will be notified via email on April 19, 2024. Please note that interviews conducted in Round 4 are only available virtually.

Virtual Interview Date Range: April 20 - 26, 2024

As Round 4 interviews are only offered in a virtual format, please select "Virtual" as your interview location in the interview section of your application.

In service to reapplicants, we offer the ability to replicate or "clone" your application from a previous application year (2019 and later). If you are reapplying, please submit the Reapplicant Request form  (login credentials required) to request that your previous application data be transferred over to the next available round of admission in the current application cycle. Please contact [email protected] should you have any questions or trouble logging in. You will receive a confirmation email once this process is complete, and can edit all or part of your application after it has been cloned.

When reapplying you are required to submit:

  • Short-answer question
  • Standard application essays
  • Reapplicant essay question 
  • One letter of recommendation
  • One-page resume 
  • Valid standardized test score 
  • Online application form 

If you request to clone your application, all data submitted from the prior year will carry into your application. Cloning provides a starting point for your application, and you are encouraged to provide updates and edits as needed to your application information, work history, and essays, as well as to answer any questions that may be new to this year's application. 

Reapplicant essay question

It is not uncommon for it to take more than one try to achieve a goal. Please share with us the self-reflection process that you underwent after last year's application and how you have grown as a result.  How did it shape your commitment to Fuqua and inspire your decision to reapply?

Your response will be limited to 1 page (500 words maximum).

Recommendations

Reapplicants may use the same recommendation letter provided from last year, and that letter will be included in the cloning process if you choose. You have the option of submitting one additional recommendation letter if you wish. 

GMAT, GRE, and EA Scores

Reapplicants do not need to resend official GMAT, GRE, or Executive Assessment scores to us unless the scores have expired since your last application. We will accept scores up to 5 years old.

Application fee waivers are available to reapplicants. 

All applicants are required to complete the core set of application materials; however, non-U.S. applicants have additional application requirements and instructions, which are described below.

Application timing for international students

You are strongly encouraged to apply by the Round 3 deadline to ensure sufficient time for visa processing.

Transcripts and diplomas

Transcripts, diplomas, and academic records must be in English.

If your transcripts do not state the degree and date conferred, upload a copy of your diploma in addition to the transcript.

If your transcript is not in English, you must have it:

  • Uploaded in addition to the originals

The University Registrar, local U.S. Embassy/Consulate, or local Fulbright office/Education Advisor are appropriate sources to make and verify the transcript copy. If you are an international student whose university does not provide an English version of the transcript, you may submit a transcript from World Education Services (WES) in addition to your original language transcript from the university. 

  • Directly by mail in a sealed envelope to:

Duke University The Fuqua School of Business Office of Admissions 100 Fuqua Drive, Box 90120 Durham, NC 27708-0120

English as a Second Language test scores

Fuqua does not accept ESL test scores.  We will use other aspects of your application to assess language proficiency. 

If you are applying for the dual degree with the Nicholas School of the Environment (MBA/MEM), please note that ESL test scores are required to complete the MEM application.

Dual degree application instructions and timing vary by program. For the best guidance, please refer to the following links for more information:

JD/MBA MPP/MBA MEM/MBA or MF/MBA MD/MBA

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Explore This Program

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Team up in 6-week terms.

Design your own experience from 100+ electives.

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Enhance your skills in a focus area.

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Combine your MBA with another Duke program.

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Get outside your comfort zone by exploring a new culture.

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Develop your abilities beyond the classroom.

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Enjoy one of the nation’s most exciting—and livable—cities.

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IMAGES

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  2. Examples of plagiarism: Types of Plagiarism in Academic Research

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  1. MBA Admissions Essays Masterclass: INSEAD and London Business School

  2. Zhang Jiahao:Video Essay for MSBA UCI Merage School

  3. Let's Play Is it Plagiarism? Part 2

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  5. Calicut University 2nd Sem BBA Marketing Management Important Essay Questions with Notes

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COMMENTS

  1. How business schools tackle plagiarism in MBA applications

    Earlier, in 2010, plagiarism in admissions essays had attracted renewed public attention when the admissions office for the MBA program at Smeal detected the crime in a big way. One of the topics for application essays was how the b-school used the concept of "principled leadership."

  2. How B-Schools Detect Plagiarism? And How You May Unknowingly Plagiarise

    5. In case your essays have been edited by someone, copy-paste paragraphs or the entire essay onto Google and search it. You can detect possible plagiarism this way at least if the stuff has been lifted from the web. Though it'll not work if access is restricted (for example, if it's paid) to such material. 6.

  3. How to Write a Killer MBA Essay

    Plagiarizing Your MBA Essay Plagiarism is a big deal. Even if a student doesn't intend to plagiarize someone's work, colleges can and will detect it. If colleges detect plagiarism, they will likely reject the application outright; UCLA's Anderson School of Management rejected 52 MBA hopefuls for application plagiarism.

  4. Striking a Balance: Integrating Ethical Considerations in MBA Essays

    In today's digital age, academic integrity is of paramount importance, especially in the realm of MBA essays and thematic analyses. With the proliferation of online resources and AI-driven tools ...

  5. MBA Applications: Plagiarists Beware

    At Smeal, MBA managing director, Carrie Marcinkevage says 40 applicants were rejected for plagiarism during the 2013/14 application cycle out of 526 in total, nearly 8%. In most cases, the plagiarized passages came from online essay banks, she said. Marcinkevage says that the benefits of culling plagiarists from the applicant pool extend far ...

  6. How to Write a Powerful MBA Essay—With Examples

    The Types of MBA Essays. All right — since we've covered high-level approaches to the MBA essays, it's time to dig into the various types. There are three general categories of MBA essays you'll see across the board. 1. Personal Statement. These questions ask you to offer up something sincere about yourself.

  7. MBA Programs Making Headlines: Plagiarism in MBA Admissions Essays a

    What was a tedious, days-long process for the staff soon paid dividends, though. They discovered that 30 of their prospective MBA applicants had taken unattributed sentences and ideas from two key online sources. Cheating on the MBA admissions essay: now, that was a new animal. Plagiarism Doesn't Pay. New, but multiplying.

  8. Poets&Quants

    It's no secret that some B-school applicants cheat. In 2012, UCLA's Anderson School of Management rejected 52 aspiring MBAs for application plagiarism. A year later, Pennsylvania State's Smeal College of Business turned away 48 applicants for the same reason. At the time, Smeal's MBA Managing Director Carrie Marcinkevage said 10% of the 481 Round 1 and Round 2 applicants plagiarized ...

  9. MBA Admissions Staff Monitor for Plagiarism in Application Essays

    Following the disclosure earlier this year by UCLA Anderson School of Management that it rejected 52 applicants to its MBA program under suspicion of plagiarism, ... Turnitin's introduction has led to a drop in plagiarism from about 1 in 10 essays to 1 in 100, Patrick O'Sullivan, the school's director of studies, told the FT. "We ...

  10. Free Plagiarism Checker in Partnership with Turnitin

    Our plagiarism checker, AI Detector, Citation Generator, proofreading services, paraphrasing tool, grammar checker, summarize, and free Knowledge Base content are designed to help students produce quality academic papers. We make every effort to prevent our software from being used for fraudulent or manipulative purposes.

  11. Plagiarism and Your Application Essays: Not a Good Idea

    The potential danger from compiling essays from previously developed content has just increased significantly: some b-school adcoms are using anti-plagiarism software, called Turnitin, which compares applicants' essays to a database of previous essay content to identify reused material.

  12. What Is Plagiarism?

    Plagiarism can be detected by your professor or readers if the tone, formatting, or style of your text is different in different parts of your paper, or if they're familiar with the plagiarized source.. Many universities also use plagiarism detection software like Turnitin's, which compares your text to a large database of other sources, flagging any similarities that come up.

  13. How to Avoid Plagiarism

    To avoid plagiarism, you need to correctly incorporate these sources into your text. You can avoid plagiarism by: Keeping track of the sources you consult in your research. Paraphrasing or quoting from your sources (by using a paraphrasing tool and adding your own ideas) Crediting the original author in an in-text citation and in your reference ...

  14. MBA Center Global

    Plagiarism will result in your graduate application being rejected if you copy paragraphs and ideas that are not your own. Avoiding plagiarism should be a top focus. ... FUQUA SCHOOL OF BUSINESS - MBA ESSAY ANALYSIS. MBA Global Center Sep 8th 2021 0 73. MBA HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL - THE MBA ESSAY. MBA Global Center Jun 23rd 2021 0 46.

  15. ChatGPT Can Make Or Break Your MBA Application

    ChatGPT may be seen as a powerful tool for MBA admissions essays to Imperial College Business School, but its generic style may fail or be called plagiarism elsewhere.

  16. Plagiarism and exclusion from an MBA program? : r/MBA

    I am an EU student studying for my MBA in Germany. I have been a top student throughout the year. However, my thesis (24%) and the last two assignments (55% and 56%) have resulted in plagiarism. The plagiarism has happened mainly because of self-plagiarism in my thesis, not citing common knowledge while being identically used, not citing page ...

  17. Application Instructions

    All essays are scanned using plagiarism detection software. Expressing your ideas by using verbiage from existing sources, including websites and other applicants' essays or materials, or having someone else compose your essays, without properly crediting those sources constitutes an act of plagiarism.

  18. MBA Essay Writing Service

    Online MBA essay writing service that protects your confidentiality. EssayPro provides A-class academic help to any student in need, all while safeguarding their privacy. We understand the importance of your trust, and we don't take it for granted. We take serious measures to ensure you have a secure and fruitful experience with us.

  19. Breaking Barriers in Healthcare: Baylor University MBA Student Secures

    The Richard J. Stull Student Essay Competition was named after Richard J. Stull, the American College of Healthcare executive president from 1965-1978. The competition was created to stimulate and highlight future healthcare executives' ability to identify and describe prominent issues and developments in their chosen profession.