Issue 37: Duke admissions interviewer’s best and worst interviews, plus if 3 reasons to consider taking SAT subject tests

Rare insights from this Duke admissions interviewer. Ruturaj Kulkarni, a graduate of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business shares his admissions experience with SocratesPost. Read to learn how his interview questions diverge from the “standard” questions, what surprised him most about interviewing students, his best and worst encounters with applicants, what types of students impress him the most, and his take on campus culture. Any Duke hopefuls will want to read this one.

Exclusive Insider Interview: Duke University interviewer

Mercy at SocratesPost: Ruturaj, tell me about your experiencing interviewing for Duke business school admissions.

Ruturaj at Duke: I wanted to get involved for the business school specifically because I really enjoyed my experience. When I visited, I felt that the students were super helpful, so I wanted to give that back. The way it works is basically, [the admissions office] gives you a group of people that they want you to interview and then assess. Overall, I think what really helps is that because I went through the program, I was able to not use some of the questions that they had expected that we asked – we can change it, we have some leeway – but I also added questions that I felt that I was challenged the most in, “If you were in XYZ situation, what would your actions be?” I think what was really beneficial was me being able to use my personal experience to create questions that I could ask prospective students.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Were you only interviewing students who were applying for your program? Or did they give you a variety of students from a variety of programs?

Ruturaj at Duke: For mine it was just for my program, yes.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Tell me more about your program, and how that led you to your career now, and how you decided to go into that program.

Ruturaj at Duke: I went to Penn State for undergrad and I studied political science and national affairs. I was in D.C. working for a think tank focusing on German-U.S. economics and business development relations, so basically focusing on E.U. and the U.S. I got to get involved in what I specifically want to do, but I knew I wanted to go to the private sector. I thought that I didn’t really have a strong business foundation. I found this program at the Duke Business School, geared towards recent grads who wanted to transition to business who didn’t really have a lot of work experience. This program was perfect in that it was for recent grads with at least a year work experience and had core curriculum that’s important for today’s industry leaders. The way I got from that to where I am now is, I did really well in corporate finance, and I got really interested in mergers and acquisition. At the time, was being acquired by Walmart, and I really wanted to experience primarily what synergies look like, the issues that come with synergies, and basically apply what I learned in class in the workplace. I really got to experience that since October of 2017, since I’ve been here. It has been really cool to see all the different acquisitions; the strategy now is changing. I really credit that to what I learned in my program, and I think the program and the classes we took, gave us an understanding of different fields that we could potentially get into. That helped me hone in on what I wanted to do in terms of specifically what experiences I was looking for after the program.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Earlier you were talking about how the admissions team gave you guys questions to go off of when you’re interviewing students, but you also came up with your own questions based on your experience in the program. What were the differences between these questions?

Ruturaj at Duke: Some of the more behavioral questions were overlapping, but I would create a scenario where I asked, let’s say, for example, “You’re in a group that you’re not getting a lot of input from one of the team members. Give me a time when you had that situation, how you dealt with it,” and then I would segue into that by asking them, “What if that person was contributing, but not letting you contribute?” Basically, play both sides of the story and see how they would act if someone else is playing the leader, and you’re not the leader, and then just see their group dynamics. I think that’s where it overlapped a little.

But I also would ask them questions about how much they actually knew about the school; not just us in the program, but how much they knew about Duke. It’s always interesting to see how much people research about schools. In the business school, we have something called Team Fuqua. I’d ask them, “What do you think Team FUQUA means to you?” I’m trying to figure out: how do they work as a team? Have they done enough research just going on the website to see what the definition is, in terms of what it means to people that go to Fuqua?

Mercy at SocratesPost: Some schools do the admissions interview more like a formality, so that the applicant can ask questions and understand what the school is about. How does the admissions interview at Fuqua, or specifically your program, factor into their application and their chances of getting in?

Here’s a preview of the rest of our conversation! Subscribe to read the rest and support our ad-free newsletter.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Compared to your experience as an applicant, were you surprised by how the admissions team recruited and selected students after you started interviewing on behalf of them?

Mercy at SocratesPost: What type of applicants impress you the most?

Mercy at SocratesPost: What drew you into the program?

Mercy at SocratesPost: I hear a lot about southern hospitality and things like that, and kind of thinking about that when you were explaining that. I wonder if that has anything to do with it. At the same time, Duke also attracts a lot of people from other parts of the world, so it’s not necessarily they’re all local. Maybe it’s just the campus culture.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Do you think there are any differences between what your program says they want in a student versus the students that end up actually taking the program?

Mercy at SocratesPost: What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding about getting into the graduate business program (MMS)?

Mercy at SocratesPost: Can you tell me about one negative interview experience that you had and one positive?

Mercy at SocratesPost: There’s a pretty strong connection between the way you should be interviewing for the program and the way you should interview for a job, because the STAR method is what people recommend for when you’re applying for a job. You’re in business school, you’re learning how to be good at that, so it’s in your best interest, it seems, to show that you can do it.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Do you think there’s anything unique about the application process for the program that doesn’t happen at any other school that you’ve heard of?

Stay tuned to read the remainder of our exclusive insider interview with Duke admissions interviewer, Ruturaj, next week!
Stephan Donche a.k.a. Steph, an artist originally from the South of France, will be designing fresh, humorous college admissions-relate cartoons exclusively for SocratesPost, published only in our weekly issues! “’If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I would be happy to do it for you,” Steph quotes Groucho Marx. Find more of his work and follow him on Instagram here: @life_medium_rare

Dear Socrates Q&A

This week, we selected a question a parent in Weston, MA:

“My daughter took both SAT and ACT and did better on the latter getting close to perfect score. Does she need to take SAT subject tests (she’d rather not) for the schools that say they are ‘recommended’?”

Huge congrats to your daughter for doing so well on the ACT. She does not need to take SAT subject tests, unless the following 3 criteria apply to her. Keep in mind, with every optional piece of the application that is not submitted, other aspects of the application hold a greater weight.

We asked Henry, admissions officer at Whitman College, a top liberal arts college in Washington state, about that. Here’s what he said:

“As far as the way that we consider testing, if we have ten factors we look at and every factor is worth 10%, between your extracurriculars and your grades and the testing and your essays. If you are a test optional student and choose not to submit them, essentially that gets removed from the equation and everything else takes on a greater weight. So, everything else may be a bigger factor now.”

If “optional but recommended” aspects of the application are not submitted, other parts of her application will attract more attention. This could include transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, activities, etc.

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SocratesPost is always on the frontlines scouring the news for relevant updates in the college admissions landscape. We look for anything that can help shape our understanding of the latest trends in admissions and help our readers see the direction in which we’re moving. Questions we explored this week:

  • This group of students is getting extra time on the SAT. Who are they?
  • What’s the skinny on the new tax law that will tax low-income college students as if they’re trust fund babies?
  • Why does this wealth manager think college is always worth the cost, despite student loans?

Get answers below.

May 21, 2019 — Wealthy students.

In wealthy New York area high schools, somewhere between 20-33% of students can get extra time on standardized tests like the SAT. Why? They’ve been diagnosed with disabilities such as ADHD or anxiety that allow for extra time on tests. The problem? In wealthier schools where less than 10% of students get free or reduced lunch passes, over 4% of students get this designation. In poorer schools where over 75% qualify for reduced lunch, only 1% of students get it. Current debates revolve around whether wealthier students are overdiagnosed in a system that eases the process of qualifying for accommodations, while poorer students remain underserved.

What does this mean? More controversy will arise surrounding the SAT and whether it’s a test that serves wealthy students who can afford test prep, psychologists who’ll give ADHD diagnoses, and their parents’ attention. Perhaps a future elimination of standardized tests altogether, especially if the adversity score fails.