This Saturday (25th August 2012) I attended the Bangalore Information Session of the Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. At the outset, let me tell you this one great thing about the info session, everyone who attended the session can claim for the Application fee waiver. I found this a really great courtesy from the school towards applicants. So before I start writing my experiences, I would again request to take the matter below with a pinch of salt as the following experiences are my own perceptions and based on my career expectations.
So, the information session was hosted this Saturday (25th August) at the Vivanta by Taj Hotel, MG Road. The event was scheduled to start at 11.00 AM and was hosted by Dan McCleary. Dan is the Regional Director – India and has previously worked as the Director of Admissions at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. The session started with a brief presentation by Dan and various questions were taken during the presentation. The session started with a sense of the macro picture of Duke University. Once a student joins Fuqua, one becomes a part of the Duke University which is one of the finest campuses across the US. A new wing has been added as part of Business school, a new library has come up and the facilities at Fuqua are state-of-the-art. As per the discussions, following are the key differentiating features of the Fuqua Daytime MBA program:
Teach as much as you learn:-
Fuqua School of Business promotes Peer learning as much as it vouches for classroom learning from faculty. When it comes to peer learning, one has to get involved in the discussions and learns from others’ experiences. As part of the experience sharing process, one is supposed to contribute as well to the group and here comes the “Teach as much as you Learn”. This is where the work experience of the students comes into picture. The class is very diverse and hence enhances the peer learning experience. The business school has regional directors across the globe. They monitor the business ecosystem of various economies and this knowledge is also brought to the class to make learning a truly enriching experience where one learns business in a multi-cultural global perspective.
See Around Corners:-
Dan shared his experience that most of the candidates who come to business school were more oriented towards short-term goals like function/industry change etc. The Fuqua business school prepares students to look at the bigger picture and prepare long term goals. They prepare students to look for new opportunities and pursue them and thus change the horizon of vision of one’s goals.
Mastery takes Practice:-
The school is very much student driven. This opens a lot of choices for students to experiment stuff which will not be possible otherwise in a typical work place environment. One can practice different things without the fear of being failed.
Duke as the Bridge:-
The business school acts as the bridge between one’s present skills and the skills required to excel in a typical dynamic business environment. The school provides various resources to do so.
One learns about how to do business in today’s global environment.
As a matter of fact, the present CEO of Apple, Tim Cook is an alumnus of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Apple is a regular recruiter at the business school.
About the MBA curriculum, Dan informed that there are terms of 6 weeks each. Program starts with the Global Institute then there are Fall 1, Fall 2, Spring 1, Spring 2 and then the 2nd year. All the core courses are in 1st year with some electives and the 2nd year is completely electives where we can pursue among various concentrations. There are some off days between terms which are normally helpful for networking and recruitment activities like the week-in-city programs where students go to a city (say, New York) and stay there for a week. For international learning experiences, there are programs like GATE, GCP and Student Exchange Programs with various universities. For example, in GCP, students form a team and work for a project from a non-profit. Towards the end of GCP, students also get to visit the location of the non-profit and help them with their findings. Dan informed that this was a great opportunity for people looking at Social enterprise and Consulting. The presentation discussed about the small class size (about 440) of the business school. When asked about the typical number of students in each of these international experience programs, Dan gave the following details – Exchange (40), GCP (35) and GATE (almost 50% of the class). The business school gives OFF on Wednesdays which apparently helps in catching up with the curriculum and other networking and recruiting activities.
On Career aspects, almost all major firms recruit from the business school. The location of Durham is such that New York is almost ½ an hour by flight. The career management office helps in networking and facilitates other activities for recruiting. During the discussions, it came up that in the recent economic crisis; most of the affected people were those who did not have university degrees and not much the degree holders. On the Scholarships and Financial Aid front, Dan informed that the business school offers loans to international students which don’t require a US co-signor. The processing of the co-signor free loan can be initiated even before the VISA application process so that one can so the loan as the source of funding to attend the business school. All the scholarships are merit based and most students receive some form of financial aid. The process of scholarship decision is independent of the admissions decision process. Dan also informed that most of the scholarship money is distributed by Round 2 and hence very little is left for Round 3 applicants. The typical factors that may decide scholarships are GMAT, GPA, Demonstrated leadership, extra-curricular activities, Work experience etc. Scholarships may range from $ 7,500 to Full Tuition Scholarship. Dan informed that during the last year admissions an Indian had secured a Full Tuition scholarship. The Fuqua School of business does not offer any assistantship options and Dan told that it was not advisable too given the rigor of the MBA curriculum and other activities of the student community.
Few points from the Admission discussion were that the business school typically looks at the undergrad institution, the academic rigor of the undergrad program, GPA, GMAT, Work experience etc. A few myths of the admissions process were also discussed which are like this.
MYTH #1: Duke admits few students from India.
Dan informed that the reality was that Indians were the second largest student community after the US at the Fuqua School of business.
MYTH #2: Indians need 750+ on GMAT
Dan informed that the mid 80% GMAT range for the business school as a whole was 650 – 750. The same range for Indian students was 680 – 760.
MYTH #3: One needs to go to the campus for interviews.
Dan informed that the business school understands that it is expensive affair for a student to travel to the US to attend an interview. Hence, they try to arrange alumni interviews in an applicant’s area.
To answer a question regarding the different grading methodologies of various undergrad institutions across the globe, Dan told that an applicant must understand that the admissions committee sees numerous applications every year from across the globe and have a fair idea of the grading systems in various countries. Hence as applicants, we must believe in the business school that they will understand our grading system and applicants must refrain from converting their GPAs to some other scale. About the application timelines, it was told that one must submit his application when one is best ready with the application. However, it is advisable to apply up to Round 2 as most of the class is decided and admissions decisions have been made by Round 2. Applying in Round 3 may have some disadvantages as the intake may go as low as 10 students from Round 3. On the Early action deadline, Dan informed that it was advisable to apply in this round only if one considers Duke’s Fuqua as his top priority school. This is because once admitted to Fuqua in EA, one has to withdraw all his applications from other business schools. Fuqua receives its almost 15% of the applications for the EA deadline and acceptance rate can be approx. 30% against the typical 25% acceptance rates for Round 1 and Round 2.So it appeared to me that it is definitely advantageous to apply in EA if one is sure to go to Fuqua as his top priority school. On the importance of International experience in the admissions process, Dan told that international experience counts if it fits in the context of our story. However, it is not expected as a mandatory requirement in the admissions decision. The formal presentation ended with this and we got into small groups with alumni and Dan for further discussions.
An alumni present shared his experience of him making a number of switches during and after the business school. He went to Fuqua for marketing and then later on focused on Finance, worked for a venture capital during the mentor-study program, worked for a finance firm post-MBA and is now working with a Venture Capital firm. The idea was that one should go to a business school which is equally strong in all areas because during the course of MBA one may realize that he wants to do something entirely different from what he had planned to do. In such cases, it is better to go to a business school which is equally strong in all areas. I think that this was the biggest take-away for me from this session. I will keep this in the back of my mind while finalizing business school to apply. Fuqua has a program called Mentor-Study program where one gets to work for a venture capital firm 1 day a week. This to me sounds a really great opportunity for somebody looking at a career in Venture Capital. The business school also has a program called Small-Business consulting where a team of students solve a business problem for a small business. This provides a great opportunity to get a feel of consulting in real time. When asked what their biggest take-away was from the program, the alumni told that it was the Network and Duke Brand. They told us that there are some cross-listed programs in the Duke University which one can take and gain knowledge in the areas of interest. The university also offers great Entrepreneurial opportunities. Alumni told that sometimes students from other schools of the Duke University come up with an idea and partner with a student from business school to help them in preparing business plans and the likes. The alumni informed that changing careers is tough and competitive but definitely happens. One just has to show the passion for it. There was lot of discussion on the Health Sector Management program too and it sounded a truly great program for someone interested in the area. When asked, “What is that one area where Fuqua is very strong in the sense that different schools are known for different concentration area like Columbia for Finance, so similarly what was Fuqua’s USP?”, Dan informed that concentrations were added very recently to the program and until recently Fuqua’s program was more of a General Management program so General Management is the strong point of Fuqua School of Business. When asked about one thing that the admissions committee will look primarily in every application, Dan told that it is evidence of Team work. The business school’s proximity with Research Triangle Park (RTP) was also highlighted.The session ended with this and we left the venue.
A couple of more business school info sessions are lined up next. Stay Connected...