2012 Duke Fuqua MBA Admissions Q&A with Megan Lynam and Catherine Tuttle

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2012 Duke Fuqua MBA Admissions Q&A with Megan Lynam and Catherine Tuttle

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Linda Abraham: Hello, my name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s Q&A. First, I want to welcome all applicants to Q&A today and congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about Duke Fuqua’s MBA program. It is critical to your decision-making process and your admissions chances that you know as much as you can about the schools to which you are applying. Being here today allows you to ask the experts both from Admissions, Career Services, and the student body about the Duke program.

I also want to give a special welcome to Megan Lynam, Director of Admissions, and Catherine Tuttle, Associate Program Director of Career Services.

Also joining us is Alon Gorbonos, a second year student at Duke Fuqua. Alon is from Israel and served as an officer in the Israeli Intelligence before entering b-school. Last summer he interned with McKinsey in Moscow and is on Duke’s Admissions travel team as well as being a Career Fellow which is a mentor to first-year students. Alon is involved in several other clubs and activities and is currently focusing on a dual concentration in marketing strategy and product management.

Thanks to everyone for joining. I would like to ask Megan, Catherine, and Alon, what is new at Duke?

Megan Lynam: Thank you so much for having us. We are very excited about being here today. This is actually an incredible time at Fuqua. It seems like there are new things going on all the time. It is one of the reasons I love Fuqua and I love working here. Particularly now, we have the opportunity to see the fruits of our labor. We have actually made many changes in the last several years and we are seeing how those changes are having an impact for us.

For one thing, we merged our admissions offices about three years ago. We used to have a separate Executive MBA Admissions Office and a Full-Time MBA Admissions Office and we are now one.

During the last three years we have also launched a new Master of Management Studies program. All five of those programs are under our one Office of Admissions. This is allowing us to have the opportunity to provide much better customer service. We really get to understand the needs of our applicants and where they are in their business career and this gives us an opportunity to help them find the program which is the best fit for them and for their personal career and academic goals.

We are also, obviously, expanding our global reach which has been a very exciting process. Today is actually the kick-off of one of our first campus events for the year. We have our weekend for women starting today. Next weekend, all of our early-action applicants who have been invited to interview are coming to our campus. The following weekend is our workshop for minority applicants, and the first weekend of December is our weekend for LGBT.

We are very, very excited about having a number of the people we have met as we have been out on the road come to campus. This is the exciting time in the process where we get to spend more time with them, really showcase Fuqua, and get to know them a little bit better.

Linda Abraham: Thank you and double thank you for taking the time to come and be here today given that demanding schedule. Catherine, do you have anything to add?

Catherine Tuttle: Yes, it is an exciting time for us, too. Fall break is over, so the students are back on campus and recruiting is back in full swing. We have our second-year students interviewing for full-time opportunities right now. Yesterday we had about 20 companies on campus for our third Career Expo.

Megan mentioned the Weekend for Women. We are also involved with that, so we will be here on Saturday doing presentations to the prospective women students. We are also doing a workshop for alumni this weekend, those who are coming back to help with the weekend. We are doing a continuing education, if you will, and doing a career workshop for them.

We also just finalized our employment stats and those are available on our Web site, but I thought I would take a minute to just highlight a few things. We are happy to report that the students reporting having accepted an offer by three months post-graduation has jumped significantly this year. Right now it stands at 93% which is a great number.

We are also pleased to report that we are reversing a two-year trend this year of decreased hiring. We saw a 26% increase in the number of graduates and interns hired by our top employers this year. At this time last year 2010, the top ten employers had hired a total of 170 Duke MBAs, but this year at this point they have already hired about 215. It is great news.

We are obviously not immune to the economy and its affects, but one of the great things about Fuqua which we like to stress is that we have a very diverse on-campus recruiting portfolio. It is diverse across industries and functions, so that helps us a great deal.

Linda Abraham: Alon, from a student perspective what is new?

Alon Gorbonos: Hey, everyone. Just to follow up on Catherine regarding the opportunities of a student in the past year-and-a-half of being in school and seeing so many global opportunities coming up towards us, including me and my internship and my student friends, there are so many companies that hire not just for international opportunities, but even domestically for international opportunities.

From the student perspective, there is plenty of initiative. There is a new initiative which is called Bold. It is and expedited adventurous trips that are enhanced to build leadership among us. They take us to a very interesting location where we climb mountains. I think they are doing Kilimanjaro now and they did Ecuador last year.

This all has to do with a practical initiative. There are many companies and mentor study programs and opportunities for us students not only to develop academically, but also to develop in a real, hands-on, roll-up-the-sleeve way of getting into the job.

Linda Abraham: That is great, wonderful. We have several questions already posted. Let’s begin with the applicant questions.

Grace writes: "Hi, Megan. I have a question regarding transcripts. My MS and Ph.D. degree was earned in the U.S., so it is no problem; I can provide official transcripts. However, my undergraduate degree was earned from China. My college in China does not produce official transcripts for more than ten years ago, but I have notarized an official transcript. Can I send my notarized transcript from my undergraduate degree when I matriculate?"

Megan Lynam: The transcripts we require are a scanned copy. You scan it into the online application, but the scanned copy needs to be of an official transcript. If I understand correctly, it sounds like you have a notarized official copy.

Linda Abraham: She cannot get an official transcript. She has an MS and a Ph.D. in the U.S., so she has the transcripts for those. The undergrad transcript is not available because it was earned more than ten years ago.

Megan Lynam: Honestly, I have never heard of that, of being unable to get one from more than ten years ago. It is kind of a surprise question, I guess.

Linda Abraham: Maybe she should just contact you offline about that.

Megan Lynam: Yes, and we can figure out how to work with her. There may be record of her undergraduate work through the process of applying and getting into her masters and Ph.D. programs. We can handle that on a one-of basis.

Linda Abraham: Aditya asks: "Thanks for conducting this. Does Duke release interview invitations on a rolling basis? Could you perhaps comment just on the interview process? How is one chosen for interview? What can they expect?"

Actually, it is not just by invitation at Duke.

Catherine Tuttle: No, it is not. The first month of each recruiting year we have an open interview season here on campus. That actually runs from the middle of September to the middle of October, so that period has ended. We have tried to keep that open as an opportunity for anyone to have the option to interview. We used to be able to do that throughout the year. Unfortunately, with the volume of applications we have at this point does not allow us to do that. After that period, we do everything by invitation only. This is how our invitation and application process works. We read every application once and then we meet as a committee to discuss the interview invitations. Based on the strength of one’s application, we will make a decision on whether to invite you to interview or not.

We have interviews offered here on campus as well as in a number of locations around the world. If you interview on campus, you will be interviewed by one of our second-year MBA students. If you interview elsewhere, you will be interviewed by one of our alumni, many of whom were second-year MBA students who did interviewing for us when they were here. They are all weighted equally, and then we go back with your interview, do a second read on your application, and discuss your file again in committee in order to make a decision. We spend much time with each person’s application.

For me, after having been a student—I actually graduated with the class of 2003—to come to Admissions and to realize there is so much time put into each application and so much thought was really wonderful and refreshing. I did not realize this as an applicant.

Linda Abraham: That is great, thank you. The next question is from Mithun who says, "I am very keen to join Duke Fuqua, but I am concerned about post-MBA job prospects for international students. The stats say that Duke found it a little difficult with 70% of international students—he says this is from a Duke Fuqua session. Can you please discuss about job prospects for international students?"

Catherine Tuttle: I am happy to. Things are looking better. They are getting better each year, but I am not going to sugar-coat this at all. It is definitely more difficult for our international students to find jobs in the U.S. It is not at all impossible, but I think the key is being really diligent and working probably harder than a domestic student if you are seeking a job in the United States. This is due to some visa issues and other things.

The good news is that we are seeing an increase in international hiring, especially among consulting and finance. Many of the banks that were unable to hire international students a few years ago are now able to. We are also seeing some great strides, as Alon mentioned, in international opportunities. We have had a huge interest this year, especially in some opportunities in China. We also see opportunities throughout Asia and Russia that are very exciting options for students who may not have work authorization in the U.S. Again, it is not at all impossible, but it is going to be extra work for those international students.

Linda Abraham: Alon, you are actually an international student. Are you trying to find work in the United States or are you planning to return to Israel or go to some other location? Just as a follow-up, Catherine, does Duke help with placement outside of the United States?

Catherine Tuttle: One thing we can do is to work with students individually and we also offer workshops around the process for international students. These are specific workshops for internationals as a group, but also individually. The key is that we can help you identify the companies which are sponsoring students. We can help provide a lot of direction in that way. Alon, I will let you speak to your experience, as well.

Alon Gorbonos: Thank you. Just to build up on what Catherine said, I feel like in my first year, especially, I received so many tools from the CMC regarding how to approach American companies. There were many workshops and one-on-one sessions. It is true. It is not an easy thing to find a job, but if you want it 100% and you pursue it, there are possibilities. The pool is a bit smaller, but it just depends on how sincere your effort is towards it.

In the case of my classmates, most of the people who were looking for opportunities in the States found something. It was the same for me. When I chose to go to Russia because I thought it would be a very interesting and educational experience, I also had an internship opportunity in the States. Right now in the second year, I am looking towards the United States market. Again, as Catherine said, more companies are willing to talk about sponsorships. If you approach it correctly and also explain to companies why you bring added value to the table, there are people who will hear you, work with you, and help you.

Linda Abraham: That is great. Thank you very much, both of you. Grace has another question. This is also for Catherine. She asks, "Can you elaborate on how Career Services helps students find internships? Before I get accepted, if I want to find an internship, will Career Services provide any help for newly admitted students to look for internships before school starts?"

Catherine Tuttle: This is definitely a trend we are seeing with students. They are taking an interest in pre-MBA internships. We offer some resources to admitted students through the incoming student Web site. We provide a lot of information regarding things you can do over the summer to get prepared. We do not work specifically with the companies in terms of recruiting for those internships, but if we have information about them, we will certainly post that information to the incoming student Web site and the incoming student Facebook page.

There are also some summer camp opportunities hosted by companies. In terms of helping with the interview process or resume reviews and those types of things, we do not offer direct assistance. We are still working with our current students, especially our second-year students of whom many are still in the process of looking for a job. If we know of opportunities, we will make you aware of them, but we cannot necessarily offer the one-on-one coaching we do. Once you are here as a first-year, then obviously we have a lot of touch-points with you in regards to preparing for summer internships in between your first and second year.

Linda Abraham: Thank you. Megan, I have a question here for you from Kastur: "I am a prospective MBA student. I am an international student who just moved to the U.S. due to a job transfer. Please let me know how much weight is there on campus for visits or information sessions." In other words, is visiting the campus or attending information sessions a factor in the admissions decision?

Megan Lynam: No, it is not. If you do not come to one, it will not impact you negatively, absolutely not. The positive of actually having the opportunity to go to an information session or coming to the campus is that you know much better about this school. It is probably easier for you to write your application essays because you have more resources. You have the opportunity to potentially talk to a current student. Alon was in New York with me last week and we have students who travel with us domestically as well as meeting with different alumni while we are out on the road. If you come to the campus, you can sit in on a class; you have the opportunity to sit and have lunch with our students; you can go on tours and things like that.

The advantage comes more in the opportunity to learn more about the school and to talk to more people about it. That probably helps you figure out if it is a good fit for you. I would certainly encourage you to do that kind of research just because it is a really long and arduous process, obviously, to apply to business schools. It can take a lot of time and energy. If you do some homework on the front end, it allows you to be selective about where you apply and to do a great job with the application. We would not say, "Oh, my goodness! We never met this person!" It would never negatively impact your application.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. The next question is for Alon from Dan: "I am working in the financial services industry and I am pretty interested in marketing strategy. Duke is pretty strong in marketing. Would you please share with us what benefited you most from the Duke experience regarding this function?"

Alon Gorbonos: Yes, Dan, thank you for asking that question. I think it would be good for me to answer from three perspectives. The first one is obviously the academic one. The professor teaching at Duke—you can find him on the Web site—is one of the best marketing professors anywhere.

Right now there are very interesting electives, so I took, for example, Consumer Behaviors in Marketing Intelligence. I used this information in my internship. They gave me the exact tools I needed and I put them to the test in my summer internship.

Another aspect is the clubs. We have a very, very big Marketing Club. We have a lot of exposure. There is a special program called Mile. It is a program that prepares you for the marketing interview style. It helps you to answer the four Ps and three Cs, if you have heard about those.

Also, there is a big venue each year called the Marketing Symposium which is organized by the club. In one day, they bring in many companies which are hiring the marketing role. For example, there is P&G or J&J. It is a benefit just to hear about recent trends and to understand what is going on.

There is a third aspect to marketing at Duke. At Duke there are so many people in our student bodies who come from marketing backgrounds because it is one of the core practices which we are good at. I learn so much from my fellow students regarding marketing. I was in a marketing competition last year and one of my classmates in my group was working with marketing strategy. We took second place which was pretty great.

When you combine these three aspects together, I think you get a very, very solid fundamental understanding.

Linda Abraham: That is great. Thank you very much. Saurya asks: "I am interested in strategy consulting. I would like to know how much alumni involvement there is in the Consulting Club at Fuqua."

Megan Lynam: We have a Consulting Club and they are very engaged with the companies directly as well as our alumni. Catherine can probably address this one in much more detail than I can, but the alumni are very, very involved in helping our students prepare. For example, they do mock interviews. The alumni also come back in the role, in many cases, as the recruiter for their companies. Many of our alumni are working in the various consulting firms and they come back to do recruiting events, to do case competitions, and things along those lines. They are incredibly involved in both the preparation of our students, in the mentoring, and in recruiting and bringing them into their companies.

One of the things I have also heard from our students time and again is that once you actually get into an internship, you have a lot of Fuqua alumni looking out for you and helping you learn and understand how you can be more successful there. They help you navigate the process, understand what kind of feedback has been given, and how you can get to the end of the summer with the offer that you want in hand.

Catherine, go ahead and chime in because I think you are working more closely with the clubs and the alumni in this area.

Catherine Tuttle: Megan did a great job explaining the consulting aspect. There is a lot of alumni involvement in all of our clubs. On the consulting side specifically, she mentioned the key events. The Consulting Club does a mock interview week and that is a chance for alumni in consulting to come back and prep our first-year students in case interviews. They also come back separate from that week to do prep. Deloitte does a case competition every year and that is coordinated by alumni. They are involved on a number of levels, I would say, across industries and functions our alums are just an incredible resource for our students. They partner with our office and the clubs to make sure that the students are prepared for the internship and for full-time, as well.

Linda Abraham: Thank you. Aditya asks: "Are international students on equal footing with domestic applicants when it comes to scholarship fellowships? What do you look for when you evaluate candidates for these scholarships? I am guessing they have the same qualities as filling the application and essays."

Megan Lynam: You guessed right! Yes, absolutely, we look at all components of the application. They are called merit-based scholarships in the sense that they are not need-based. However, merit is not simply academics and many people have this misconception.

We certainly take GMAT scores and undergraduate and graduate grades into account as one component of the application. We are also looking at the quality of your work experience. We are looking at your leadership and involvement. How involved have you been in things you are not required to do for your job or when you were an undergrad for your school? These are the things you do above and beyond that really make a contribution to your community to make it better and to help you grow personally, as well. Those things are very important to us in this process.

We look at the strength of your recommendations. Your recommenders are really an important part of this process because it is hard for an applicant to provide the perspective of how you have impacted your company, how you compare to your peers, and how you exceeded expectations and have potentially been promoted out of turn. We look for things along those lines. Those recommendations are an important factor.

Obviously, your interview is one component if you are interviewed. Finally, the essays are where your application comes to life. This is where we really get a sense of who you are and where you can bring your story together. It is probably our favorite part, when everything is tied together in the essays.

We are looking at the same things for the scholarship consideration. We want people to come here who are going to make this place different, who are going to leave an impact, and who are going to really contribute on their teams in the classroom and outside of it. These are people who will make us very proud as alumni. This is, obviously, a diverse group of people across all different citizenships, different functions and industries. Regardless of where you come from or what you have done, everyone is equally considered for scholarships.

Linda Abraham: I have a question for Alon that might be interesting. It says, "Tell us how you happened to choose to apply to Duke and to attend Duke. Is it meeting your expectations?"

Alon Gorbonos: I have to go back to what Megan mentioned before regarding visiting the school. I would encourage everyone listening right now to just go and see it with your own eyes. When I wanted to pursue the MBA track, I visited different schools in the U.S. When I came to Duke, I experienced just what Megan described. I was welcomed by students who were waiting for me at the reception. They were talking to me as friends. From there I was taken to the classroom and then to lunch with the foreign students. In the evening when I stayed there they took me out to show me the place.

I think Durham is a very interesting place. It is very different from the big city. For those who live in the big city, Durham offers a chance to relax and really focus on the academics and education. It is a great place; it is very green. Coming from the Middle East, I was looking for warmer climates, so it’s good for me.

Most importantly, I chose Duke for the fact that the program itself is very international. Because we live in a smaller city, there is an opportunity to create very viable, personal relationships. Students are not just going to school during the day and then leaving for the evening and the night without keeping in touch. We are all together all the time, 24/7. After one year, after coming from a different country, I feel like it is my home and my family over here. That is my personal story.

Linda Abraham: What do you like best about your experience at Duke?

Alon Gorbonos: I like the teamwork best. I came from a military background and it was very teamwork-oriented. However, I was uncertain that it would be the same coming to the corporate world. Everything here revolves around teams. It begins with your ILE team from day one. You are grouped into teams and you will work with your team in all of your core classes.

For example, on my team there was a guy from India who was doing consulting to politicians. There was a guy from China who was working for mine operations. There was a guy from Venezuela who was an entrepreneur. There was a girl from the United States working in marketing and another guy who was doing the dual program with the environmental school and the Fuqua MBA school. There was great diversity and being exposed to so many interesting people was something which, down the road, I will look backwards and think about how great it was. There were so many opportunities being exposed to such a diverse and interesting group of people.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. Aditya has a follow-up to my questions a minute ago and your responses. He writes: "Alon, tell me a little more about life at Fuqua which you just did. One of the many reasons I applied is that it is such a big sports school. Tell me a little more about sports and outdoors and Fuqua Fridays."

Alon Gorbonos: I will start with sports and go on to Fuqua Fridays. I think all of us here are quickly becoming Blue Devils. I didn’t even know what "devil" meant before I came here. The experience is so great, going to the basketball stadium and becoming crazy.

Linda Abraham: I have to admit something. When you started talking about the Blue Devils, I was thinking about football. That shows you how much sports I know!

Alon Gorbonos: We have basketball, football, baseball; every sport you can think of exists at Duke. Besides the professional sports, personally, I have the opportunity to use two big gyms with two pools. There is a big soccer playing field. Three times a week I go to the gym and once a week I go to the pool. For me it is like one, huge vacation while being at school. It is great. I don’t know of many campuses which allow this variety of opportunities.

Regarding Fuqua Fridays, it is a tradition. Every Friday we all meet with the professors, the staff, and the students, as well as prospective students coming to visit. We meet for two to three hours in the afternoon to talk and network. There is food and drinks sponsored each time by a different club, so there are different themes. For example, the Indian Club might provide Indian food or the Latin Club provides Latin food. It is very interesting and the networking goes on all the time. Everyone looks forward to Fridays because it signals the beginning of the weekend.

Linda Abraham: Now that we have talked to Alon, we have to get back to work. Mithun asks: "Duke has a strong healthcare program. I have two questions. What are the new trends initiates in the Duke healthcare program and what is the current job scenario for the healthcare sector?"

Megan Lynam: The Health Sector Management program is actually our longest standing center here at Duke. It is a partnership and a collaboration which has happened between us and the Duke Medical Center. We are very lucky to be where we are because Duke Hospital is one of the best in the world and the medical program is, as well. We have capitalized on that. The gentleman, Kevin Schulman, who leads that center, actually has joint appointments between both of the school. He is also one of the leading advisors to UCN healthcare policy.

Obviously, one of the big topics of conversation in the classrooms today has a lot to do with those policies. They are also very, very involved in the Global Health Initiative, so there is a lot of time spent in Africa at conferences and things along those lines. I am sure that this global crisis which exists is something that Duke and Fuqua have been very involved in helping to address. You will find in our health sector focus classes activities much like you would in any other area or concentration at Duke. What is going on in the world right now is a very relevant part of the classroom discussion.

That program also has a boot camp which kicks off the program at the beginning of the year. It happens prior to orientation for anyone who is interested in a health sector management certificate. It is a week-long survey of sorts of everything going on in healthcare, all the different areas. We have wonderful recruiting relationships with companies in every different portion of that sector which includes everything from hospital administration to biotech to med-device, pharma companies, healthcare policy, healthcare consulting, and we find that our students are interested in going into all those areas.

Catherine, you can probably speak more to how recruiting is going in those areas, but I think it has stayed steady and strong despite some of the economic downturns.

Catherine Tuttle: You are absolutely correct. I would say that the healthcare opportunities are those that have stayed steady and are starting to increase. They are areas that were not hit as hard with the economic situation. I think Megan did a great job of outlining the benefits of that center. I will say one of the biggest benefits is the networking opportunities that exist. Students in Health Sector Management have the opportunity to network with industry leaders through a number of conferences and events. They also have done a great job within HSM to facilitate networking across our program. We have three MBA programs for working professionals. Those in the global program have years of experience and knowledge which they can pass down to students in the program.

There are a number of initiatives where you get to interact with those students, as well, and I think it is a great opportunity. HSM also works very closely with our office, so we have a lot of events geared towards preparing students for employment opportunities within the health sector.

Linda Abraham: That is great. Thank you very much. I appreciate both your answers. I want to ask the audience a question now. How many of you have applied already? Okay, about 18% of the audience has applied already. How many of you are definitely going to apply to Duke Fuqua? Half of our audience, 50%, is going to apply. How many of you here are just doing research? This time 22% of you responded. It doesn’t quite add up. Slightly less have already applied and a good half is definitely planning to apply. If you are just doing research, I think you are getting a lot of good information.

Back to your questions, Akshat asks: "I would like to ask about how Duke views re-applicants. Additionally, is it fine for re-applicants and wait around (i.e., second or later)? Is there any support provided by the admissions committee to help re-applicants reevaluate their profile?" There is a related question from another participant. Neisha asks: "For re-applicants, what is the biggest way they can show how much they have improved since last applying?"

Megan Lynam: Hopefully I will hit on all of it. If I don’t, please remind me what I’ve missed. We actually love re-applicants. Typically, people who re-apply have done a lot of wonderful research on Duke. They really understand what is special about this school, and they probably also had the opportunity to do quite a bit of self-reflection. They have the opportunity in the application to do a wonderful job of conveying exactly what we are looking for.

We want to know several things. Who are you? Why are you so interested in Duke? Help us understand the connections between you and the school that make you really excited about us. Tell us how you are going to impact our community. Tell us what you are going to do when you graduate and how you are going to make the world you live in better. Typically, re-applicants have the opportunity to do that in a much more robust way because they have been thinking about this for a bit longer.

In terms of how you can convey your application in a stronger fashion, one would be that passion, honestly. Help us understand all the work you have done. Help us understand what the process of not getting in the prior year has done for you. You learn a lot through things and we love to hear about how people have grown and changed and developed during that time and through that process. Often, it has been a wonderful thing in terms of shaping you. Let us understand what you have learned. Help us really understand what is different between your application this year and last year. For some people, depending on when you applied last year, you may have had more opportunity to change things.

If you have applied at the very end of the cycle last year, you have not had as much total time to necessarily have some great job improvement or any number of other things. Please help us understand what those things are. In terms of when you should apply, we do encourage our re-applicants to apply early in the process. Most of them apply either in Early Action or in Round I. It is not a disadvantage to apply in Round II. Certainly, one of the things we want to make sure of is that you apply when you’re ready and you put forth the strongest application you can. If Round II is that time, it certainly makes sense. I will say that Round III is a little more difficult simply because we do not have quotas or saved spots. We always admit people in Round III; we admit people in every single round, but it is a smaller round for us. I would encourage you to apply earlier in the process if you are able to do so.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. You answered all elements in the question. That is pretty impressive. Abena says: "I had the opportunity to visit Duke last year. At the time it was mentioned that the Global Consultant Practicum would expand to for-profit companies, as well. Can anyone give an update on the status of expanding it to for-profits and what countries currently offer opportunities under the GCP?"

Catherine Tuttle: I am not sure about that one, but it is something I can look into and follow up.

Megan Lynam: I do not know that answer.

Alon Gorbonos: I can try. I was not involved with it directly, but my friends were. I know that GCP, correct me if I’m wrong, you said was called ICE the year before and now they combined into one GCP which is for-profit and non-profit. I do not remember exactly which companies they were working for, but I know they were working in Europe. They traveled to Belgium, France, and England, and they were very excited about it. It was focused on Europe and on Latin America, also. Pharmaceutical was in Latin America.

Megan Lynam: These were actually consulting projects with the students.

Alon Gorbonos: Yes, they were consulting for real companies and their suggestions were implemented as they did presentations. They did the research on the ground. It was a very interesting initiative and practical opportunity.

Linda Abraham: Alberta asks: "I understand that students lead a lot of activities at Fuqua, but I would like to ask in what ways the students can contribute to activities in the clubs or other events? I am particularly interested in the Fuqua On Board program and I would like to know how students contribute to this program.

Alon Gorbonos: Fuqua On Board did a program in which I participated last year. It is a program I really like and enjoy and I advocate it all the time. Basically, it is an opportunity to serve on the board of directors in the first year in a local non-profit. The matching process is very unique because there are many organizations and you are matched according to your past experience and by your desire to contribute in a specific area.

I worked for an organization called The Scrap Exchange with another student (you team up with another student, so we were a group of two). Each month we went to the board meetings. The organization takes industrial waste and instead of just destroying it, it recycles the waste and sells it to local artists who use it for some kind of art. It was a very interesting business model in which they totally financed their day to day activities by the store.

Usually the organizations which approach the program have some kind of a problem. Our organization had the problem of evacuation threat for the building they occupied. We came up with a fund-raising strategy plan which we implemented. We helped the organization move from the strategy level to the practical level of how to find this fund-raising and how to execute it among the different board members.

It is great because it was a very interesting experience in fund-raising. At the same time, I participated as a board member for an entire year which is something I can leverage later on in my interviews. It was a great opportunity to contribute to the place you live in.

Linda Abraham: That was an excellent answer. Saurya asks: "Having visited a couple of schools, it looks like getting an internship in consulting is more difficult than a full-time job. Is this true for Duke, as well?

Catherine Tuttle: I just want to clarify something. The question involves the difficulty in finding an internship in consulting as opposed to finding a full-time job?

Linda Abraham: Yes, that is correct.

Alon Gorbonos: What you are saying is true. For internships, it is always known that the pool is less than the full-time. The full-time is doing much more recruiting and presents many more opportunities with companies. I have always managed to find an internship and a lot of my classmates managed to find them, as well. It just takes a bit more effort and convincing. At the same time, failing to find an internship in consulting is not a bad thing. Consulting companies value internships a lot in other industries when you can bring these other experiences to the table. I think the right approach is to look at where you find yourself in your full-time career and your full-time opportunity. That is what really matters.

Catherine Tuttle: I would agree. I would say that the competition is deep. Consulting is a very popular path for many students, so it can be pretty cut-throat, especially in the first year. Every interaction is an important interaction. I would say that I agree with Alon. Failing to get an internship in consulting does not mean you are never going to end up there full-time. There are a number of students who take different paths. Strategy is quite popular and there are a number of opportunities in that area.

The key is, then, in your second year being able to articulate the transferable skills you have developed over the summer. We work with students very closely no matter what area they are going into to make sure they are able to communicate this effectively so they can then get the full-time opportunity they are looking for.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. Denique asks: "How are older applicants (aged 30-32) viewed at Duke? The average age at some of the other top schools has been decreasing over the last five to six years."

Megan Lynam: I would not consider 30-32 to be older. Honestly, in the application process we are seeking to understand where you are in your career progression, what your goals are, and what you hope to get out of it. People decide to come back and get an MBA at many different times in their careers.

We have programs suited for people at all different stages in their careers. With our day-time program, people are choosing it based on the format. They want to come back to a full-time, two-year MBA program. They want the extra-curricular activity opportunities which come from that. They may want to make a career change which requires a lot more time, investment, and focus which they have the opportunity to invest if they are not also working at the same time. People may choose to do this when they are in their mid-20s; they may choose to do it when they are in their mid-30s. For us in an admissions perspective, we just want to make sure your goals in terms of getting out are going to align with what our Career Management Center has as opportunities for those full-time MBA students. Within the consort, it is actually a very normal age to be. When you look at averages to take into account, one thing is that there is no upper limit, but there is a lower limit.

Linda Abraham: What is the lower limit?

Megan Lynam: Most people have gone to college. If anybody remembers Doogie Howser (which might indicate that I am over 32), I did have a classmate who finished college very early when she was 19. She was a little bit on the younger side, but most people have graduated from college on a regular schedule and have also been working for some time.

In any case, the long and the short of it is that there is no right or wrong age, but there are different stages in one’s career and there are good times to come back for an individual. This is what we are trying to understand. I think I mentioned at the beginning that we do have a number of programs which allow you to continue to work while you are going through the program. Some of our applicants find as they investigate Duke that they may want to continue on the career path they are on while also earning their MBA.

A very similar demographic to our day-time MBA is our Cross-Continent MBA. That is one that allows you to have a very global experience and to continue to work while you are going through the program.

Linda Abraham: Would you call it part-time?

Megan Lynam: We would not call it part-time. By definition it is not part-time, but it is something that allows you to continue to work. Essentially, you kick-off each one of your terms in one of our locations around the world. You spend a week to two weeks with your classmates and faculty members in that region really embedded and connected with the business leaders and government leaders and what is going on there. You will understand what it is like to live and work in that location and what is influencing businesses in that location. As you kick-off your next term, you go onto another location. You then compare and contrast as you move around these major market-defining regions of the world.

In between those times when you are in what we call "residency," you use our distance learning platform, conference calls, and any number of ways of connecting in the same way you would if you are working to connect with your classmates and faculty members and continue your learning. It allows you to have a very global MBA experience, as well as continue on the path you are on.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. Zachary asks: "How does Fuqua view applicants with non-business-related, professional backgrounds?" These are nontraditional applicants.

Megan Lynam: My job is to make sure that the classroom is interesting and that the teams are interesting. Earlier, you heard Alon describe his team. Not everyone comes from one of just a few functions or industries. We want people to think differently and you think differently based on where you were raised, how you were raised, your working community, and your academic experiences.

Understanding how to approach problems and how to value diverse perspectives is a huge part of the learning here. Honestly, the biggest learning I think I had was as I entered my first year. I was arguing a point in a team meeting and I realized that I didn’t fully understand why I thought the way I did, but that I always had because it was how I was raised and due to the exposure that I had. You are learning and becoming more aware of yourself. We love having people come in with non-traditional backgrounds because you will probably approach problems very differently than a teammate who had been working in finance or something along those lines previously. We want to mix it up in the classroom so that the learning experience is richer.

It also means that we have people going into all different fields and industries. Going back to Catherine’s point, we have a very diverse portfolio as far as where our students go. I think this means we also attract an interesting group coming in because they see our alumni working in all areas. We really like to support and place our students in the places where MBA talent is needed, honestly. It is not always what has been traditional in the last 50 years as an MBA path. We have a mix of people going in all different areas.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. I have a final question for you. What are the most common mistakes MBA applicants make?

Megan Lynam: One is that they really don’t take the time to step back and do some self-reflection before they start the process. As I said before, this is an incredible investment of time and energy and money. It is very important to take the time to know yourself and understand why you want to do this. Why now? What do you want to get out of it? What environments do you flourish in?

Each of the top schools has an incredible opportunity for a valuable education, great networks, and any number of other things. It is very important to understand what you want to get out of it so you can evaluate each program and ask, "Do I want to spend two years here? Will I be challenged in this environment? Will it be a place where I will be supported and where I will grow?"

What people need is very, very different. You need to be honest with yourself about what you need and also what you can contribute. I think sometimes people apply to schools on a surface level understanding of that community and culture. It really helps if you have done a lot of thinking about yourself and then do a lot of research about the school. Talk to as many people as you can who have gone to the school and people who are going to the school and are affiliated. It gives you a sense of "this is my network, this is my brand."

You will find that it is an incredibly diverse group of people who choose to do to Fuqua. At the same time, they have core values which are very similar. If that resonates with you, then this is a great place and we would encourage you to apply. If, however, it does not, then those are the sorts of things you should be looking for in another school. It is very important to know yourself well when you walk into this process.

Linda Abraham: Alon, do you have anything to add? Do you, Catherine?

Catherine Tuttle: I will say that Megan made a great point. This will be the first thing we are going to ask you to do from a career perspective, as well. If you do it in an application process, you are going to be one step ahead for when you start the program.

Linda Abraham: They are pretty much a symbiotic relationship. If you do that self-reflection, you kind of figure out where you want to go; you will make a better application; and you will present yourself better in that application and also be one leg up in the employment process. Thank you all very much. Thank you to the applicants who provided great questions. Special thanks to Megan, Catherine, and Alon for joining us and providing their answers. The intro Megan gave shows us that you are very, very busy over there. We really appreciate you sharing your insight and your time. If you have additional questions for the Duke Fuqua team, please e-mail them to admissions-Info@fuqua.duke.edu.

We look forward to seeing you at future Q&A and Events. Coming up next:

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Once again, thank you all for joining us today. It has been an excellent session. I just want to wish you good luck with your applications at this point. Thank you again to Megan, Catherine, and Alon.

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