Tuesday Tips – UVA MBA Essay Tips

UVA MBA’s admission essays for the class of 2011 are a departure from the themes of the last two years. Due to a relatively small set of questions and brief word limits, you will need to focus clearly on your application strategy. Think strategically about how to demonstrate several key aspects of your background and goals.

1. What pivotal choice(s) have you made in your life that have influenced your decision to pursue an MBA?  (500 words)

Focusing specifically on pivotal moments in your life, this question is still a classic “why MBA” inquiry. Your choice of an MBA program will certainly be related to your career goals, and the narrative will likely follow that of a classic career goals essay. The prompt to discuss your pivotal choices is an invitation to be introspective and demonstrate your unique path.

While the focus is career goals and your decision to pursue an MBA, there is room in this essay to illuminate some of your personal attributes and motivations. Last year the UVA MBA program asked applicants to reflect upon what matters most, and there is certainly room in this essay to communicate a similar level of depth.

When describing your pivotal choice or choices, focus on explaining the situation clearly and specifically and explaining your thoughts and reactions. If you learned something about yourself or changed your path, demonstrate the thought process that led you there.

2. From the following categories, describe the one that has taught you the most: a creative challenge, an ethical dilemma or an experience of failure.  Why?  (250 words)

With only 250 words, you will want to choose your example carefully. Think about demonstrating a new aspect of yourself with the example, and be sure you can reflect upon what you learned from the situation.

A creative challenge could be an excellent opportunity to show your ability to lead and innovate, or a situation in which you transformed a challenge into a success. If you choose an ethical dilemma, an example that provides some grey area to reflect upon is more interesting than a clear cut situation and can demonstrate specific information about your character. An experience of failure can be one of the more revealing aspects of your life and an opportunity to show your ability to learn and grow when faced with personal challenges.

Whichever example you use, state the situation clearly, and describe what you did along with your thoughts and feelings. Reflect upon why this situation was particularly important to you and how the lessons have influenced decisions since. If you have the space, you may have the opportunity to bring in subsequent situations where you practiced what you learned.

3. Describe how you are a fit with the case study method.  (250 words)

The case study method is a cornerstone of the close knit UVA MBA experience and there are several angles you can take with this essay. You can focus why you will learn best through inquiry and interaction with your fellow MBA students, or how the case method will prepare you for your post-MBA career goals. Whatever your reasons for preferring the case method, you will want to demonstrate that you are familiar with the Darden academic approach and that it works well for you.

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