Via its application essays, UVA Darden is looking to understand how you will collaborate with others to create impact as a Purpose Driven Leader. And your past actions are the best indicators of your potential to make an impact in the future. Before you sit down and look at the school’s questions individually, take a step back and identify the key strengths you want to be sure are clearly conveyed in your overall application. Then think strategically about which stories you can tell—and how you might tell them—to highlight those chosen strengths. Imagine the Darden application as a kind of rug with different pieces woven together to make a colorful pattern, or perhaps as a sports team, with your stories as players taking on different positions and coming together to create a winning team. Focus in these essays on the stories that do not already appear in other parts of your application.
Tell us what you want your Learning Team to know about you that is not on your resume. (150 words)
Although this question appears first, we suggest approaching it last. What last bit of material for your rug or key position on your sports team do you need to fill? This essay is a great opportunity to highlight one of your primary strengths or a notable story or achievement that is not covered in any of your other essays. If you are a career changer and have a personal reason for making this change, tell a story that helps explain why you want to take a different professional path. If your other essays have not effectively showcased your ability to collaborate on a team, share a story that demonstrates what collaboration means to you. Don’t take the prompt too literally and mistake this as a simple self-introduction to your Learning Team; be thoughtful about what more you want the admissions committee to know about you and your candidacy after they have read the rest of your essays and then leverage this essay to fill that gap.
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 the 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?
This essay gives you a chance to highlight an example of how you function when solving a problem as part of a group—which should be a positive reflection of how you will work within your Learning Team at Darden. However, you can also use this essay to discuss an experience when you identified an opportunity and created a positive impact; this would reflect on your abilities to challenge the status quo and innovate for good. You have only 200 words for this essay, so we suggest using the SCAR (situation, challenge, action, result) approach for the first 100 words and then reflect on your learnings in the remaining 100 words. Think especially about how you could leverage these learnings on your Learning Team or as a member of a club at Darden.
Diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community.
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?
In a case-based learning environment like the one at Darden, it is important to both advocate your opinion and actively listen to and learn from others, thereby participating in creating new and innovative solutions. Use this essay to show that you enthusiastically welcome and embrace different perspectives. Split your word count fairly equally between relaying your example and explaining how your perspective changed based on the experience. Sharing where you have leveraged your new perspective in a subsequent situation will get you bonus points. Be authentic, and if possible, highlight a situation where you learned something new by directly interacting with other people.
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)
Here is where you get to share your plans for the future and showcase the self-reflection you’ve done to build this path. You can either start with your short-term goal and build up to your long-term vision or start with your vision and work backward to reveal the skills, experiences, and relationships you need to be able to achieve it. Either way, you will have to build a case that your post-MBA role will help you on your path to attaining your long-term aspiration. If you are making a career change, admissions will want to understand why you want to switch and the background and abilities you bring coming into the MBA program that you can then leverage into your new career. Use a combination of this essay and the first essay to present and clarify that why.
Darden has an incredible network of alumni and partners around the world, and, in a typical year, the School 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)
Be honest—where would you like to go? Be specific. And when you explain your why, show that you’ve given real thought to what you feel you would gain from the experience. This is a unique business school opportunity, not a vacation, so your reason should definitely be more introspective than to “just relax.” This is a chance to show the admissions committee how you want to expand your horizons, experience something new, or even connect with a part of your past.
If there is further information you think would be helpful to the Admissions Committee, please provide it:
If you feel your application conveys a complete, accurate picture of who you are as a deserving Darden candidate, then you’re likely best off not submitting any additional details here. There’s little to be gained from adding to the admissions committee’s workload by asking them to read another essay that doesn’t add much of use to your profile. But if you have something truly unique to share that you believe would make you stand out, or if you have an issue of some sort in your candidacy that could benefit from additional explanation (e.g., gap in work experience or education, low GPA or score, disciplinary problem), then this is the place to present and clarify it.
In Stratus Admissions’ Guide to Getting into UVA Darden School of Business, you will find information on a variety of the MBA program’s offerings such as the First Coffee, The Batten Institute, case method, and Darden Worldwide Courses. This free guide also includes class profile statistics and our expert advice on answering the business school’s application essay questions. Download our brand-new guide to learn more about UVA Darden!