Entreprenuership At Duke Fuqua MBA for a Star Cruise Mariner

Duke Fuqua is counted among the US top-10 B-schools across rankings. However, over time, Fuqua has not quite developed the reputation for enabling entrepreneurs that a lot of other schools such as Stanford and MIT have [here’s proof from US News]. That may be entirely because Fuqua hasn’t quite promoted itself in this domain as much as other schools have. Entrepreneurship at Fuqua is not just alive and kicking, but world leading.

Entrepreneurship at Fuqua – Leading Resources

Almost every top B-school today highlights its community and claims that it is a closely knit one. At Fuqua, this goes well beyond just saying, though. The school really focuses on its community in a way that few other schools do. Whether in class, in projects, in clubs, or even when undergoing international experiences as part of the program, Fuqua peers, seniors, alumni, and staff are intricately involved. At P4E (Program 4 Entrepreneurs), undergraduate and graduate students (not just MBA students but those from across disciplines), alumni, and faculty members work together to commercialize innovation. Fuqua also has plenty of other avenues to dig deeper into entrepreneurship. Concentrations in Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship (for those so inclined) add further value. In fact, Innovation & Entrepreneurship is a theme at Fuqua, with its own initiative, which includes business competitions (including the famed Duke Startup Challenge), networking programs, clubs, and research.

What is Unique about Entrepreneurship at Fuqua?

While Fuqua’s resources are excellent, what the schools stands out for is the support that students receive from alumni. Whether it is interviewing with a prospective employer, understanding the landscape in a particular industry, or even looking for partners, Fuqua’s alumni are reported across the board to be not just present, but also contributive. Many students report that GATE experiences (Global Academic Travel Experience, Duke’s version of the international immersion experience) are frequently peppered with meetings with and insights from Fuqua alumni working in the relevant industries, and this can even extend to very non-traditional industries like fashion, hospitality, and rural healthcare.

Avinash at Duke

Entrepreneurship at Fuqua – An Admissions Success Story

Ever heard of the Star Flyer? It is one of the most popular and well-known cruise ships in the world, and was also extensively featured in a major Bollywood movie in 2001. Now, meet Avinash Deori, who is not just part of the staff that ran the Star Flyer, but also helped extricate the ship after it was stuck in an infamous landing incident. When Avinash began working with GyanOne, he immediately came across as a very focused and diligent professional. He had applied to a few other options the previous year, with little success, and now had his eyes set on a bigger prize – a top 10 admit. As a mariner / Merchant Navy professional, Avinash brought in differentiated work experience, but this also meant that his experience was not directly relevant to operations, the domain he wanted to work in post-MBA.

If Stephen Covey ever decides to write a book on the 7 habits of highly successful applicants, two habits that he should certainly feature are resilience and rigor. Throughout the application process, Avinash showed exceptional resilience and thoroughness. Whether it was contacting Fuqua students, understanding the school culture, or conducting research to see if the school could really help him achieve his aims, he did it all very well. When GyanOne provided feedback on his essays, Avinash did not hesitate to make just slight changes, but even rewrote his entire essays to better express himself and his goals. At each point, he scrupulously understood Duke and Fuqua principles and policies and strictly adhered to them.

An example of Avinash’s determination and quality of effort is his 25 things essay, a required essay on the Fuqua application that asks applicants to state 25 random things about themselves. Sailing across the world is as exciting a career as it can be, and so Avinash had plenty of stories to talk about, many from different lands and cultures. In many cases, 25 things are too many to talk about when it comes to oneself, but for Avinash, they may well have been too few! After understanding the essence of this essay from GyanOne consultants, Avinash gave it not 1,2,or 3, but 5 complete attempts! GyanOne helped Avinash understand Duke and Fuqua culture, and gave him important direction in terms of the introspection he must do. Avinash more than rose to the occasion, and yet he had a final stumbling block to tackle – he had long-term goals in entrepreneurship, but struggled to understand how a mariner could believably speak about them without sounding superficial.

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Entrepreneurship and the Fuqua MBA Community

This is again where Avinash’s research and rigour helped. Avinash’s GyanOne consultant encouraged him to follow his heart, and to present an honest picture of his profile. Avinash discussed the many ideas he had in terms of his venture, and used GyanOne as a sounding board on their validity. He then made a strong connect of his ultimate goals with the Fuqua community, showing that while his long-term goals may be further away in terms of time, he had well-formed plans on not just how he could achieve them, but how he could achieve them through Fuqua. 

Learning for Fuqua MBA Applications

In early 2016, Avinash received one of the most vaunted communications that any MBA applicant can hope for – an admit to the Fuqua School of Business, Class of 2018. His decision to apply to better schools and structure his planning with GyanOne paid off very well. Future applicants too have a lot to learn from Avinash, and here are only a few things:

– Apply early. We have said this time and again. Avinash applied to Fuqua’s Early Action Deadline (Sep 15), and that certainly helped. If you are applying to Fuqua, and it is your top choice, there is no reason to not attempt to meet this deadline.

– Do your research. Most applicants do not take the time to understand the school and the opportunities it offers. Think about it – you are going to spend thousands of dollars, and this will probably be your last degree. Do you think this decision can be taken just based on ranking? Research the school thoroughly.

– Be honest, but also be impactful. Honesty is a virtue on MBA applications, but most applicants forget that goals, career choices, and career experiences need to be explained well before they can be well understood. Leverage an expert, or carry out multiple reviews yourself if you can, but put in your best work into your applications only.

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