Duke Fuqua's 25 Random things about me
Duke’s Fuqua School of Business stands for diversity, inclusion and statement. In addition, the school focuses on social responsibility, inclusiveness, collaboration, integrity and service. Therefore, for Duke Fuqua’s admissions committee it’s essential to get to know their applicants at a personal level.
Fuqua’s adcom want to understand your world and worldview. Especially, they want to learn about your experiences so far, things that matter to you, values you uphold, memories you cherish, and how these experiences have impacted you.
With this in mind, let’s discuss Duke Fuqua’s “25 Random Things About Me” essay. It has been a staple there for many years, and this essay does a great job at giving you room to express your uniqueness. It goes beyond the standard essay structure and traditional writing style. It allows candidates to be serious yet playful, and open up in an unexpected and quirky way. The adcom expect you to bear your soul.
However, precisely because it’s so unusual, some candidates find it difficult to pick what to write and skip out. So here I’ll share a few examples of topics you may choose to write about in your “25 random things about me” essay.
Each point should say something about you. It should reflect your personality and character. Writing “I love pizza.” says absolutely nothing about your character. Whereas “I want to be an astronaut.” gives some insight into your adventurous side and ambition.
Finally, unlike many other MBA essay prompts, this one doesn’t call for bragging. Instead, focus on weaknesses as much as strengths—particularly “human” flaws like your terrible handwriting or fear of heights. This way the admissions committee gets a well-rounded view of YOU.
“Try to uncover some deeper meaning behind each of the random things.”
The word limit for the 25 random things essay is 750 words - longer than most MBA applications. If you break it down, that’s 30 words per random thing. However, you don’t have to stick to this guide. Instead, try to vary the length of your points to make your essay more interesting.
Without further ado, here are examples and ideas that should help as you tackle Duke Fuqua’s “25 Random Things About Me” essay:
Through a bit of self-reflection, most applicants can find something they regret doing (or not doing)!
“I regret not studying abroad during undergrad. I want to study abroad during my MBA and be more than a tourist.”
“I caused a car accident by shooting my Super Soaker into traffic. Then I hid in a bush. That was the end of my water fighting career”
If charming people into buying things is your superpower, and it has worked well for you in your career in sales, here’s your forum to boast about it!
“I’m Michael the Mediator. I can convince anybody to talk to anybody else by putting myself in their shoes”
“My superpower is my ability to gain trust. This has helped me build unusually strong bonds with my new coworkers, who I now hang out with at the weekends.”
Talking about religion can be tricky. Balance and open-mindedness are key. Steer clear of polarising discussion and show that you’re keen to see other perspectives. Some solid advice here is to get your point reviewed by other people with different perspectives.
4. I am a sucker for
Everyone has a soft spot for something or the other. Something material or immaterial that you find very hard to refuse. For example, exotic clothing, foreign cuisine, unusual cars, etc.
“I am a sucker for symmetry. It helps me make sense of the world. My parents say I should have been an architect.”
5. Something everyone else likes but you dislike or something no one likes but you like
Maybe you feel like an odd-one-out in your friend group or family. So don’t hold back on showing your quirks in Duke’s 25 random things essay. Allergies, perhaps? And more importantly, how does this affect your life?
6. I’m proud of
Everyone has their proud moments. Be it getting a job you love, an achievement you take pride in, standing up for something, taking a big decision in life, showing persistence to your dreams, or growing personally. So do the self-analysis and find that moment in your life!
7. I want a
What’s something you deeply desire? Perhaps something you wanted as a child but couldn’t afford. Open up about it! Why is that thing so meaningful? What does it symbolise? Also, how do you plan to get it?
“I want a sailboat. My fondest memories with my grandfather were on his daysailer.”
8. First times doing things
Doing something new is fun, stimulating and satisfying. Whether overcoming a fear or fulfilling a long-awaited dream, it’s bound to be memorable.
Discuss the excitement, thrill, success, failure, courage, creativity or realisation you felt. Write what you did, how, why it was impactful, especially why you cherish this memory.
“My first time in the ocean, I nearly drowned. I froze the minute I dived in. My family was worried that I’d be afraid of water, but I ended up winning swimming competitions.”
9. My dearest wish
A dearest wish is another way of highlighting your motivation. Again, connect this to your overall narrative. Perhaps your dearest wish has changed over time as you’ve grown.
“My dearest wish used to be to have a pet dolphin. Then I realised that’s cruel.”
“My dearest wish is that one day every plastic bottle is biodegradable.”
Is there an interesting story to share about your childhood, school or college nickname? Now would be a good time to reveal this.
“I had big ears when I was born, so my brothers started calling me FA Cup after the soccer trophy with big handles.”
11. Things I like
Don’t just say, “I like pizza.” Instead, discuss the deep-seated reason for this liking to convey a meaningful story about yourself.
“I love dogs, but it wasn’t until I got one that I realised I have dog allergies. So now, I still have my dog but I take allergy pills every day.”
“When I was 10, I smashed a window in our house with a ball of play-dough, then lied about it to my parents. I’ve lived with the guilt ever since.”
12. I once made a quick buck by...
Show your hustle. Show that you’ll push to work hard and grow. Add in stories about how you sold t-shirts during college or got paid for fixing computers, or taught kids math to buy a car during college.
“I worked in a call centre to pay for my college expedition. I still remember my opening lines.”
Travelling opens the door to new experiences, different cultures, food, music, living style, ethnographic changes, and life. So pick up an angle and describe your random thing from that perspective.
A classic boring answer is to list how many countries you’ve visited. Spice it up! Tell a significant travel story.
“I lost a shoe at Everest base camp.”
Discuss fears in one of two ways:
Write about an irrational fear or phobia, and add why it still holds a grip on you.
Or discuss a fear you’ve overcome and tell us about the process and how you feel liberated since you overpowered it.
It might seem challenging to open up about your fears, like discussing failures or weaknesses. However, it will show the strength of your character and self-awareness.
Note: The fear you open up about shouldn’t negatively impact your application. In other words, avoid sharing something that hinders you from fully participating in the MBA experience!
15. Hopes and dreams
Your hopes and dreams convey your optimistic view and what motivates you. But it can also reveal your pragmatism. So how have you started working towards fulfilling those dreams?
Just saying, “I want to be a millionaire” isn’t enough! Show them the path you’re on to achieve that.
16. Retirement plan
What’s your retirement plan? Are you planning to live in each country for a month, or taking up an entirely different profession? Perhaps you’ll move to a meaningful remote corner of the world to do humanitarian work? Use this space to share it with the adcom.
This can be an exciting way of demonstrating what drives you when money is not a factor.
“I hope to retire on a ranch. I picture myself living as a cowboy.”
“I’ll follow Charles Darwin’s itinerary through the Galapagos.”
17. Hurdles or challenges
Hard times stimulate growth in a way that good times don’t. What matters the most to the adcom is your approach to dealing with these hurdles. Admit your mistakes. Show that you persevere when things spiral out of your control. Open up about the challenges you’ve faced in your personal or professional life.
We all like to eat, and each one of us might have a favourite dish. But don’t discuss food choices without any context. Frankly, nobody cares.
Think about what holds you close to this particular meal. For example, you might like Armenian food because you can link it to your ancestry so it’s a way to retain your cultural identity.
“Coming from a staunchly vegetarian family, I never had chicken until I accidentally ate Biryani at my friends’ house when I was ten. I was sick and stayed vegetarian.”
Do you have a habit that you find meaningful? Something that could be as mundane as getting your share of daily news while cooking breakfast but could unsettle you if you don’t get to do it every single day? Perhaps you take cold showers?
“The first thing I do when I wake up is making my bed. This makes me feel in charge.”
“I enjoy dressing up and planning my outfits in advance. It makes me feel prepared and confident. I already have my first day of MBA outfit planned.”
Successes are a no-brainer! But try to distinguish between random successes versus academic and professional successes, which will be in your resume.
“When I was 13, I wrote a dark poem about divorce for a talent competition. It won”
21. Childhood obsessions
It can be interesting to look back on how you were as a kid, and how you perceive your childhood behaviour now. However, just writing that you were obsessed with Hannah Montana goodies isn’t good enough. Instead, choose something significant that has impacted you profoundly.
What inspires you to advance further in life is fundamental to your being. So talking about that source of inspiration can be interesting.
“My inspiration is Sushmita Sen. She is Miss Universe 1994, actress, single mother of 2 adopted girls, and a philanthropist. Her efforts inspired me to become a UN Volunteer.”
Discussing the heroes, role models, leaders you look up to is another way of showing who you are and what you’re aspiring towards in life. Write about a particular character trait that you look to emulate.
I help determined applicants get admitted to top MBA programs. So if you need help in writing your own “Duke Fuqua’s 25 random things about you” essay, let’s chat.