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. Also, note that Darden has extended test flexibility this year. Applicants can request a test waiver or submit a range of tests, including MCAT, LSAT, GRE, and GMAT.
In these Darden MBA essay tips, we focus on leadership, international exposure, and a sense of passion and purpose. In all of these essays, you will want to communicate who you are and what motivates you. Also, consider both your career and your personal life in your essays. The restrictive word counts can be challenging, so stay focused and precise in your responses.
How should you highlight personal qualities for these Darden MBA essay tips? First, consider that leadership is crucial to future Darden MBAs. Also, teamwork is essential at Darden, a school with a small, tight-knit community. The case method is the primary teaching method, similar to Harvard Business School. Engaging with the case method requires the ability to communicate clearly and bring your perspective to the conversation.
Are you looking for perspective in your approach to your Darden MBA application? Contact us to discuss how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.
Darden MBA Essay Tips for 2021-2022
For the 2021-2022 application cycle, Darden will again offer multiple short answer questions. The goal here is to get to know all of the various facets of your background and personality.
Short Answer Questions
Tell us what you would want your Learning Team to know about you that is not on your resume. (150 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 express their own perspectives.
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 unique professional experiences 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. Learn more about your potential classmates by talking to a student ambassador or reviewing Darden’s MBA Student Stories.
Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please respond to one of the following prompts (200 words)
Option 1: Tell us about a time when you acted with a team to solve a problem or seize an opportunity. What role did you play? What did you learn from this experience?
Option 2: Tell us about a time you acted to solve a problem for the greater good. What drew you to this issue? What did you learn from this experience?
Both of these options ask you to reflect on your experiences and provide an example. Past experience is a great predictor of future performance, and specific examples provide the most insight into your behavior.
When you choose an example, think about former leadership opportunities. How did you behave? Are you a consensus builder or a director of projects? Do you keep the project running on time, or do you question the premise? How do you deal with difficult peers or bosses?
For these Darden MBA essays, either example could be professional or extracurricular. However, it should describe an accomplishment that made an impact. The effect could be big or small, so 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. It’s possible only your department or company felt the impact of that action. However, it shows your values and allows you to discuss how you would significantly affect change in the world.
In either example, you must also describe what you learned about yourself and your leadership style. It’s also reasonable to learn from your mistakes, so even an example that was not perfect could be useful here.
Diversity and Inclusion Essay
The Darden School develops practices and cultivates a culture that reflects and incorporates the worldviews of its many community members. In this inclusive culture, the community learns important — and sometimes uncomfortable — lessons from one another, resulting in more conscientious global leaders and citizens.
Please respond to one of the following prompts (200 words)
Option 1: Share a time when you learned something related to diversity, equity, or inclusion that was previously unknown to you? How did this experience impact your perspective?
Option 2: Share a time when you advocated for a perspective, identity, or community different from your own. How did this experience impact your worldview? (200 words)
This question focuses specifically on diversity and inclusion. Therefore, you should consider your record of engagement with diverse identities and communities in your example. Also, think about any extended experiences 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, which can be a good source of examples.
One of the options to answer this question focuses on your learning about diversity. Therefore, it could have been an experience with a new culture or identity. Consider how you broadened your mind as a result or changed your approach. The second option is more active; this would be an action you took to advocate for others. However, you may have found that you learned about yourself as well. Perhaps in your advocacy, you learned a more nuanced approach to a community or people. Or, you may have discovered your own blind spots and biases. Self-reflection is welcome in this question.
During this time in the United States, racism is top of mind. If you explore diversity with this lens, make sure you place your story in a historical context and navigate power dynamics effectively. In that case, reading resources like the HBR collection on racism in the workplace may be useful.
Career Goal Essay
What is your short-term, post-MBA goal, and how does it align with the long-term vision you have for your career? (150 words)
This question focuses on your short-term career goal. However, it also asks in the context of your overall career vision. 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 get 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 explore 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 positively impacts others, that inspiration should be part of your career aspirations. Darden will help you refine your goals and learn the skills you need.
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. If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to travel, and why? (55 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, what would you like to know with that context, 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.
The SBC team wishes you much luck with your Darden MBA application process and would love to support your efforts. Contact us today to discuss how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help with your MBA essays.