UVA Darden MBA Application Essay Tips, 2023-2024
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 form a winning team. Focus in these essays on the stories that do not already appear in other parts of your application.
Essay 1: Community of Belonging: What would you want your classmates to know about you that is not on your resume? (100 words)
Although this question appears first, we suggest approaching it last. What last bit of material for your rug do you need to weave in or key position on your sports team do you need to fill? This essay is a great opportunity to highlight 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 it for an introduction to only your classmates; 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.
Essay 2: Inclusive Impact: Please describe a tangible example that illuminates your experience promoting an inclusive environment and what you would bring to creating an inclusive global community at Darden. (300 words)
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. Also remember Darden’s focus on finding and developing impact-driven leaders.
The first part of the essay prompt asks you to reflect on an experience when you promoted an inclusive culture. Think of a specific example that highlights your support of inclusivity and use the SCAR (situation, challenge, action, result) approach for the first 150 words.
Ideally, for the second part of the essay, leverage the other 150 words to show how you will enthusiastically welcome and embrace different perspectives at Darden, creating an inclusive environment. Build on the experience you talk about in the first part of the essay, and show how you will leverage those learnings at Darden. Think about what you can do specifically and in which environments (class, clubs, career management, etc.) you can help promote inclusivity. Think about where you want to be involved at Darden and how you can support inclusivity in those environments. Be authentic, and if possible, highlight through your experience or plans to make an impact that you will take an active role in ensuring that your Learning Team and class as a whole will embody an inclusive culture.
Essay 3: Careers With Purpose: At this time how would you describe your short-term, post-MBA goal in terms of industry, function, geography, company size and/or mission and how does it align with the long-term vision you have for your career. (200 words)
Here is where you get to share your plans for the future and showcase the self-reflection you’ve done to formulate this path. You can either start with your short-term goal and build up to your long-term vision or start with your long-term vision and work backward to reveal the skills, experiences, and relationships you need to possess 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.
When describing your post-MBA goal, make sure to include the specifics for which Darden is asking. A sample goals statement might be something like this: Product Manager at a large established tech company like Google OR work in marketing role at a mission-based consumer products company like Patagonia. You can highlight the skills or experiences you will gain in this role that will help you achieve your long-term vision. Although you don’t have to have all the pieces worked out, you need to be able to explain your post-MBA goal clearly enough that admissions can assess whether it is a feasible one. If you are too vague, they will have a hard time assessing whether you have set an ambitious yet attainable goal, and you would frankly not be answering the question.
If you are making a career change, admissions will want to understand why you want to switch and the background and abilities you possess coming into the MBA program that you can then leverage in your new career. Use a combination of this essay and the first essay to present and clarify that why.
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 First Coffee, the Batten Institute, the case method, and Darden Worldwide Courses. Download our guide to learn more about UVA Darden!