Tuesday Tips: Darden MBA Essay Tips for 2020-2021

darden MBA essay tips

Are you applying to the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business this year? Make sure to read our Darden MBA essay tips to learn more about what Darden is looking for.

Leadership, international focus, and a sense of passion and purpose are important to the Darden admissions committee. In all of these essays, you will want to communicate who you are and what motivates you. Also, consider both career and your personal life in your essays. The restrictive word counts can be challenging. Therefore, stay focused and precise in your responses.

How should you highlight personal qualities in this set of essays? Consider that leadership is crucial to future Darden MBAs. Also, teamwork is essential to Darden, a school with a small, tight-knit community.

The case method is the primary teaching method at Darden, similar to Harvard Business School. Engaging with the case method requires the ability to communicate clearly and bring your perspective to the conversation.

Talking to a current student is a great way to learn more about Darden. With this in mind, the Darden admissions committee makes it easy for you to reach out to students directly on the admissions website.

Darden is offering test flexibility this year. Applicants can request a test waiver, or submit a range of tests, including MCAT, LSAT, GRE, and GMAT.

Are you looking for perspective in your approach to your Darden MBA application? Contact us to discuss how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help with your MBA essays.

Darden MBA Essay Tips for 2020-2021

Darden MBA essay tips

For the 2020-2021 application cycle, Darden will again offer multiple short answer questions. The goal is to get to know all of the various facets of your background and personality.

1. Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact. (200 words)

This set of MBA essays provides a holistic view of your background, motivations, and goals – and in some ways, this question is a close companion to the career goals question at the end.

When you examine your past leadership opportunities, what is the connecting thread? Are you a consensus builder or a director of projects? Do you keep the project running on time, or do you question the premise? What has been your style when dealing with difficult peers or bosses?

This example could be professional or extracurricular but should describe a significant accomplishment that made an impact. Also, the effect could be big or small as long as it was meaningful to you and those around you. Ideally, this example highlights your broader interests and passions.

For example, if you are devoted to diversity, perhaps you started a mentoring program or funded internships for underrepresented employees. And the impact of that action may have been limited to your department or company. However, it shows your values and allows you to discuss how you would make a more significant impact on the world.

Darden MBA essay tips

2. Diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission, and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community. Share a time in which you engaged with a perspective, identity, community, or experience that was different from your own and how it impacted your worldview. (200 words)

This question focuses specifically on diversity and inclusion. Therefore, you should consider your record of engagement with diverse people and communities in your example. Also, think about any travel abroad experiences or a time when you lived or worked in a culture different from your own.

If you have not spent a significant amount of time outside your own country or culture, look at college or work. Many people live and work with diverse groups at university or the workplace, and that can be a good source of examples.

For instance, perhaps you had a teammate who grew up within a different culture. Did you learn more about your teammate’s culture? You may have learned more about holidays and celebrations, or perhaps experienced different attitudes about problem-solving and community. Next, consider what this experience taught you about yourself.

During this time in the United States, racism is top of mind. If you explore diversity with this lens, make sure you are placing your story in historical context and navigating power dynamics effectively. For example, reading resources like the HBR collection on racism in the workplace may be useful.

Darden MBA essay tips

3. Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you – personally, professionally, or both. (100 words)

The learning team at Darden is the smallest unit of that community. You will be assigned a team of diverse classmates to meet before class and discuss your case assignments. The purpose of these discussions is to ensure that all of you are prepared to participate in the class discussion. Ideally, the learning team is a supportive environment and allows everyone to learn and express their own point of view.

This essay allows you to introduce yourself to the Darden community while imagining that you are speaking only to a small group of your peers. What should your learning team know about your background? What diverse perspective will you bring to the learning environment? Perhaps you have a unique professional experience that will be new to your teammates.

You may be from an underrepresented region of the world, or you have a compelling personal background. In just a few words, describe what you think will set you apart from your peers and be interesting for the team to know about you. To learn more about your potential classmates, talk to a student ambassador, or review Darden’s MBA Student Stories.

4. What is your short-term, post-MBA goal, and why? (150 words)

This question focuses specifically on your short-term career goal. But since you are likely taking that next step to set the groundwork for your broader career goals, it is entirely appropriate to describe your overall career aspirations. In the previous questions in this set of essays, you have already outlined your personality, motivations, impact, and accomplishments. Your career goals, therefore, should fit seamlessly into that story.

Do not be intimidated by career goals questions if you are still exploring what you want to do with your life. Darden offers intensive career counseling, and you will have an opportunity to explore many career paths in school. Simply put, the essay question seeks to understand why you are pursuing this path and what you hope to get out of it.

The goal is to understand how you think and plan and what motivates your career decisions. If you are inspired by what you have experienced as a leader and as someone who has a positive impact on others, that inspiration should be part of your career aspirations as well. Darden will help you refine your goals and learn the skills you need.

5. The Batten Foundation Worldwide Scholarship provides all Darden students in our full-time MBA program with an opportunity to participate in a Darden Worldwide Course.  Each year, Darden connects with over 80 countries.

If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to travel? (5 words) And why? (50 words)

Every Darden student now has the opportunity to be part of Darden Worldwide Courses.  While Darden describes the current programs and countries on the website, this MBA essay question asks for your ideal location and why you are interested in it. Your interest in a particular region could be personal or professional and should have an academic basis.

The focus of these international programs is to learn more about the world of business beyond the United States. Therefore, with that context, what would you like to know, and where would you like to learn it? Darden MBA students report that traveling during their MBA experience leads to a greater sense of purpose and an open mind.

6. List up to three hobbies or interests you enjoy in your free time.

This is truly a short answer, and you only need to list your hobbies and/or interests to respond. When you consider what hobbies and interests to highlight, review your responses to the other prompts. And, this is an opportunity to add a new or surprising angle. Finally, this question should be genuinely personal and describe what activities are just for you.

7. What are you excited to explore in Charlottesville? (25 words; see video clip within the application)

Charlottesville is a dynamic small city, and the University of Virginia has a youthful community. While you attend Darden, you can also pursue cultural and recreational activities. To answer this question, watch the video and conduct some of your own research. This is a final opportunity to showcase an interest or a hobby by finding activities that resonate with you in Charlottesville or UVA.

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