UVA Darden 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

UVA_DardenDarden led the way with a one-essay application.  Some may feel that fewer essays indicate that essays are losing importance. My suspicion is that the remaining essays and short-answers are as or more important than they ever were. Especially at a program emphasizing the case method and experiential learning, evidence that you can communicate, analyze a problem from multiple perspectives, and handle the rigorous program that Darden is famous for are all critical. 

My tips for answering the Darden application essay are in blue below.

Essay:

1. Describe the most courageous professional decision you have made or most courageous action you have taken at work. What did you learn from that experience? (500 word maximum)

First of all, I strongly encourage you to watch the video with Darden’s Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions Sarah Neher where she lays out what they’re looking for in this essay:

What is courage? The strength to act in the face of fear, difficulty, criticism, opposition, and possibly danger. Hopefully you didn’t need courage because you were facing true danger on the job, but perhaps you needed it for some of the other reasons I provided. When did you have the strength and courage to take ownership of a project, position, or initiative? When did something become your baby?  What was the decision?  What did you do? Why was it so important to you? What was the result? And most importantly (per the video), what did you learn? 

They not only want to know your reaction to a particularly challenging situation; they want to see how you respond when you are personally invested and excited about a challenge, initiative, or project.

Final tidbit: Make sure you answer all elements of the question. That’s critical.

If you would like professional guidance with your UVA Darden MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the UVA Darden application. 

UVA Darden 2015 Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline Decisions Released
Round 1 October 10, 2014 December 17, 2014
Round 2 January 7, 2015 March 25, 2015
Round 3 April 1, 2015 May 6, 2015

MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips - Download your free copy!

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    If any readers would like a profile evaluation for UVA Darden, please provide the following info:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Or if you just have a question about MBA admissions, I’ll do my best to answer it.

    • Isha

      I
      am right now 7 years into my professional career. Every working day, that I have
      spent excited was with a hope that I, at the end of my career will be able to look
      back at myself proudly, and be satisfied with the life that I had lead. This
      drives me. 3.5 years back I had to make a tough decision of having to leave a
      job I enjoyed doing. Joining an Alumina Refinery, was choice I made in college as
      I looked forward to joining a core industry where I applied so much of what I
      studied right from the calculations of temperatures of exiting liquor from the digester
      vessels based on chemical engineering principles, performance evaluation models
      for Heat exchangers, Filters etc, guiding engineers fresh out of college, getting
      a chance to learn under Mr. Michael Simpson, an expert on Alumina Refining from
      Alcoa for 2 years.

      It
      started with small level demonstrations in UK in front of Vedanta’s offices by
      locals who opposed the construction of Refinery in Lanjigarh as well as opposed
      the mining of mountains that were considered holy, by the local tribes. After a
      committees reviewed

      Female
      Chemical Engineer worked on field in Refinery, for 3.5 years, executed projects
      and developed models for performance enhancement of huge digester vessels,
      filters and heaters, worked with and reported to an expert from Alcoa refinery
      for 2 years, now working, for 3.5 yrs as a Logistics consultant, handling
      projects cycles from development to handover, managed a team of 8 for year and
      was responsible for the delivery of the team as well as of its members.

      2.
      GMAT 670

      3.
      Good Government funded college in India, passed out in 2007, with CGPA of 9 on
      10.

      4.
      Leading an initiative for helping under privileged children for past 3 years,
      with good results. can provide more details,

      5.
      Active in participating in marathons, organizing runs for colleagues and friends
      regularly,

      6.
      Contributing member for a Clean India initiative under an anonymous
      organization which cleans city spots without seeking any publicity.

      7.
      Goal – Product Management, as I believe senior executives in a firm are
      frequently chosen from Product Management resources.

      8.
      Risk – Had to leave the Refinery job as the Refinery Operations were shut down
      due to mining license issues. People working were not laid out, but I chose to
      leave the job as I was not learning anything new, and started a search for job
      and decided to develop skills for the new job by undertaking course and then
      giving job interviews. Now, I am well positioned in the new job. Has
      experienced good progress and a chance to work in Europe.

      • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

        Isha,

        I’m not sure I fully understand your description of your work experience, but I think I got it.

        I would say Darden is a stretch, but give it a try. Consider Kelley, Rotman, UNC, and UT.

        Best,
        Linda

    • Joseph Alexander

      Hi Linda,

      Would appreciate your views on my profile:

      1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
      4 years experience in audit roles. Last 1.5 years has been focused more towards business process improvement and business process improvement with an IT major in India.

      2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
      First attempt 640 (was getting 680 in mocks) aiming a 720 next month.

      3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
      Bachelor of commerce, Loyola College Chennai 70%. graduated in 2010

      4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
      · Voted the best debutant, most enthusiastic team, Mr. Ambitious, Mr.Imaginative and Mr. Sincere in office
      ·Redrafted the Procedure and Quality manual of the function; junior most ISO Management Representative and responsible for ensuring ISO compliance and enhancing quality of the team’s activities
      · Organized and hosted segments of the team’s annual conference and host the monthly internal audit team meetings
      · Prepared the team’s sales pitch; compiled and edited the annual conference docket in addition to contributing articles
      · Placed second in the business case study presentation competition on international finance management
      · Featured as an inspiring person in Dezyre’s blog, an online academy that provides training in job related skills
      · Awarded the “Excellence in Leadership Award” in College for leading social entrepreneurship projects, being the President, Joint Secretary and Treasurer of Loyola Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE, now known as ENACTUS), Managerial Committee Member of the Entrepreneurship Development Cell and the Secretary of the Oriental Languages Department
      · Secured business plan funding of over €67,000 for my SIFE social entrepreneurship projects
      ·National level winners and runners up at the 2010 and 2009 SIFE India National Competitions
      · School Pupil Leader and Secretary of the Literary and Debating Association at school
      · Bagged the Child Scientist Award at the National Children’s Science Congress, Won General Proficiency awards and other prizes
      · Organised an inter school fest cum alumni reunion as the Treasurer of the Old Students’ Association of my school
      ·Completed over 120 hours of community service during
      graduation

      5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
      CA (India), CISA (USA)

      6) Your post-MBA goal.
      Consulting – Business process improvement/re-engineering for 5 years with a bit of strategy consulting. Thereafter join Private Equity.

      7) Other schools considered.
      IESE, HBS, Tuck, Tepper, Esade, IE

      • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

        I am assuming a 720 GMAT. HBS, Tuck, and Darden are stretches. You would have a competitive profile for the remaining schools.

        Best,
        Linda

        • Joseph Alexander

          Thanks for the response Linda. How do you rate these schools for my profile:Kellogg, Columbia & UCLA Anderson?

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            Joseph,

            You’re welcome.

            Kellogg and Columbia are stretches. You would be a little more competitive at UCLA Anderson.

            Linda

  • Isaac

    Linda, thank you in advance for your time and comments.

    1.Work experience
    – Employer: petrochemical industry technology and engineering design leader
    – 4 years experience upon matriculation (Fall, 2016): 1 year as a design engineer before moving into a product manager role (youngest in my company to do so)
    – Responsibilities include managing vendor relationships, composing technical and commercial documents, writing a new employee training manual, quality (ISO) auditor

    2. GMAT (results after third time)
    – 730-96%ile (49Q-79%ile, 41V-94%ile, 5IR-52%ile, 6AWA-92%ile)

    3. College info
    -3.4/4.0 GPA
    -BS Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University (ranked 10-15 depending on the source), graduated 2008

    -Semester long study abroad in Shanghai, China

    4. Extra-curriculars
    – Resident Assistant last year of Undergrad (39 residents, ~50% of applicants are accepted to the position )
    – Volunteer one-to-one professional mentor to community college students through Chicago non-profit/scholarship program (2013-present)
    – New volunteer member on a board responsible for events and marketing/fund raising for the same program as above (selective position)
    -Completed multiple marathons, half marathons, cycling events (non-competitive), black belt in karate

    5. Certifications
    Lean Six Sigma Green Belt; ISO 9001 Internal Auditor

    6. Goals
    -My goal is to work as a consultant in the energy industry, ideally in the areas of sustainability and ethical operation

    7. Misc
    -Born/raised in the Midwest, USA
    -26 upon matriculation (aiming to start Fall, 2016)
    -I want a collaborative environment. I believe in succeeding with those around me, not at the expense of those around me
    -I would like to be stretched personally in the ways that I think, relate to others, and approach problems

    Thank you again for your time.

    Regards,
    Isaac

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      You have a competitive profile for Darden and are applying appropriately. You may also want to consider Ross, Tuck, Duke,Yale, and UT Austin. For a stretch, consider MIT Sloan or Kellogg.

  • SMK

    Thanks for this information. Do you think it would be appropriate to discuss a risk I took by moving across the country following my graduation in order to find a job in NYC (turning down local offers to do so)? I am debating between using this and an experience directly from work which, although arguably “courageous”, was far less risky in absolute terms.

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    – Will have three years as a general product analyst in the wealth management division of a global Bank. Promoted but retained same title (so to a more senior analyst position).

    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    GMAT – 720 (78% Quant, 94% Verbal)

    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    University of Colorado – 2012, 3.7 GPA, Finance major

    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    In college, two years as a VP on Interfraternity Council (probably 15 – 20 hrs/wk)

    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    Series 7, 66

    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Goal is to get into strategy – consulting short term and internally running a business unit in the longer term.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      SMK,

      You have a competitive profile for Darden, and it’s a great school considering your goal.

      In terms of your question, it’s really hard from me to respond with only the information you are providing, but I would say go with your gut feeling and use the story about leaving job offers in your home city to go to NYC without a job and look for the job you really wanted, which is I assume the story. Go with the riskier experience.

      Best,
      Linda

  • Arjun Dhawan

    Hi Linda. Thanks in advance for your time

    1. Work Experience: 5 years with a garment manufacturing and export organization in the operations and supply chain vertical. 1 year as an industrial engineer and spearheaded a lean transformation on the factory floor. 2 years as a assistant manager in the supply chain department. The organization is a family enterprise where I represent the second generation.

    2. GMAT: 680 (Q49-79%ile V34-71%ile) AWA 5.5 IR 7

    3. University of Mumbai-St Xavier’s College, 68% (First Class) Graduated in 2009, B.Sc Statistics with a minor in Math. 3 year degree

    4. Taught in a school for underprivileged children.

    5. Certifications: None

    6. Post MBA goal: To come back to the family business and contribute in a more robust manner. Diversify the organization globally and raise funds for expansion

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Arjun,

      Darden is a stretch. Consider Indiana Kelley, Vanderbilt, Broad, and Penn State.

      Best,
      Linda Abraham

  • PDS

    Hi Linda, thanks in advance for your time and advice. I am applying to Tuck, Duke and Darden in Round 1 and HBS in Round 2. Just want to be sure that I am on right track. :)

    1) I will have 7 years of full-time project management experience in railway construction industry. I have worked in home country (2 years) and abroad (5 years).
    2) GMAT – 760 (99%), Q50 (88%), V41 (94%), IR 7(81%) AWA – 5.0 (60%)
    3) Bachelor of Engineering (University of Delhi) – 69.05% (Top quarter). Currently enrolled in Post Graduate Diploma in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
    4) Collegiate Extra-curriculars – Chief Placement Officer in the undergrad school, Vice-President of College Chapter of SPIE (Research Organization), volunteered in several cultural events and head of hospitality for annual cultural event in 2008.
    Post-Collegiate – I was volunteer member of organizing team of annual convention of international society in my industry. I also co-organize bi-weekly presentations in office to improve presentation skills of colleagues and general knowledge of all participants.
    5) Project Management Professional (achieved perfect score in certification exam) and Six Sigma Green Belt.
    6) Entrepreneurship in energy industry in India.

    Any additional advice is more than welcome. :)

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Hi PDS,

      Sorry for my tardy reply. I missed your post.

      You have a competitive profile for Tuck, Duke and Darden. (I’m assuming you can show achievement and professional progression on the job.)

      HBS is a stretch, because I don’t see a lot of leadership.

      Best,
      Linda

      • PDS

        Thanks a tonne for the revert, Linda. :)
        I should have provided you with better data, my bad.

        I work in public sector company and have led 2 projects & delivered 3 major construction contracts (cumultative worth $50M+) in my niche industry (Railway Signaling). I have led multi-agency multi-functional multi-cultural teams and was the youngest manager in my function to deliver a $10M+ project. I was also nominated for Ministry of Railways award last year [total 7 nominations out of 1700+ and 1 recipient (I wasn’t the one)]. I have also been actively involved in our company’s dispute resolution process with sub-contractors. I have been promoted once only, because its a government org., but my responsibilities have increased with time and experience.
        I have supported my education by getting scholarships and giving private tuitions. In the light of this info, would it be advisable to direct energy into HBS app?
        Thanks…

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          PDS,

          You’re welcome.

          Yes, I think it would make sense to try for HBS. Obviously no guarantees except 1: If you don’t apply, you won’t attend. :-) You may also want to consider UT Austin (competitive) or MIT Sloan as another stretch program, but as you know if you read my responses, I do discourage those I don’t think have a chance.

          Best,
          Linda

          • PDS

            Your honest assessment and feedback are the reason we guys keep bugging you. :)
            And, all this while I thought Austin was just another program (so dumb of me!). Guess I’m gonna relook into MIT, though their loan program isn’t that great for international applicant.
            Thanks a tonne Linda, you’re the best! :)

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            PDS.

            You’re most welcome. Thanks for the feedback, While I’m at it — another obvious stretch for you would be Stanford . Other competitive: Yale

  • Rohit

    Hi Linda,

    1.) 3.5 years experience in Continuous Improvement and Industrial Engineering roles ( Lead a variety of projects at both) in VA , 1 year experience as Business Development Manager in India
    2.)740,97% (92%,89%V)
    3.) 3.3 ( 3.0 for last 60 credits) ,Purdue University,Industrial Engineering
    4.) Board member for 2 Student Organizations and actively involved in other student organizations at Purdue
    5.) Certified Supply Chain Professional (APICS)
    Six Sigma Green Belt
    6.) Post-MBA Goal, Work as a Corporate Sustainability Manager ( Manage sustainability initiatives for a large corporation , only relevant sustainability knowledge and experience comes from leading Sustainability projects at Job 1 with positive results and my interest in the topic

    Thanks

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Hi Rohit,

      Did anything cause your grades to dip at the end? Basically, your GMAT is competitive. your work experience is competitive, but the drop in grades could be an issue.

      Also consider Yale, where you have the same weaknesses, but it is really good for sustainability. Also consider CMU Tepper and Ross.

      Best,
      Linda

      • Rohit

        Hi Linda,

        I appreciate your prompt and valuable feedback.

        So, one of the major reasons why i believe my grades dipped was the fact that I took a heavier course load than normal so that I could graduate early (3.5 yrs) and I managed to do that. For example,in my final semester , I was taking 18 credits while trying to find a job ( this was Dec 2009 and the Job market for International students was quite terrible).
        Also, i was working 12-15 hrs a week part time to meet expenses.

        Despite all that, I take the onus of not managing my time as well as was required , I have worked on this skill since and managed my personal and professional quite well , pursuing several interests outside the workplace and simultaneously managing large projects at work.

        Applied to Ross already (R1), will apply to Yale (R2) and i have an admit from Georgetown . I am still not too sure about Tepper since i have the admit from Georgetown already and I dont know if Tepper really trumps Georgetown by much if at all .
        Thoughts ?

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          Rohit,

          “Better” is frequently in the eye of the beholder. I don’t have a strong opinion on that one. Regarding Darden, I’d think it makes sense for you to give it a try.

          Best,
          Linda

          • Rohit

            Thanks for your feedback! Could you also give me your opinions on how my profile looks for Anderson ?

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            Anderson would have the same issues as Yale or Ross or Darden and same evaluation.

            Best,
            Linda

  • Tim

    Hi Linda. Thank you for doing this.

    1) 3 years into General Motors as an Engineer. I work on Electric and Hybrid vehicles. I started out as a test engineer, then moved up to a design engineer (more responsibility) and now a development engineer (overseeing supplier quality). In the 3 years, I won an innovation challenge (among 150+ GM employees), went on a 6 week countrywide dealership assignment to learn how the engineering organization can help the dealers, part of a core team of 40 people that started a grassroots movement to change GM’s culture and on the leadership team of an internal organization that focuses on new hires career development
    2) GMAT 670 (q47 v34)
    3) Wayne State University, 3.70, Electrical Engineering
    4) Tau Beta Pi (National Engineering Honor Society) member and on the leadership committee during college for 2 years, I run Marathons (just ran my 3rd on 10/26 in D.C Marine Corp Marathon), I code for personal enjoyment and self enrichment and have published 2 apps in the Android Market with cumulative downloads of 15000+, I also hike and backpack extensively around Michigan.
    5) Post MBA goal: Merge my interest in technology and the outdoors into a Sustainability focused education in the Tech industry

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Tim,

      You’re welcome.

      Your work experience is great. Your GPA is strong. Your GMAT is a little low for Ross. It’s probably a stretch, but a worthwhile one. Also consider Foster and Yale (also a stretch).

      Would you consider retaking the GMAT (see http://www.accepted.com/mba/realitycheckwebinar.aspx) ?

      Best,

      Linda

      • Abhishek

        Hi Linda,

        I am working as an Assistant Manager In Lanxess India responsible for it’s manufacturing line. I lead a team of 40 people. I have been responsible in my role for introducing several new products from R & D scale to large scale production. Reducing the manufacturing costs of several other products.
        My overall work experience is 2.5 years ( at the time of applying ) and 3 years ( by the time I join the MBA program)

        GMAT – 710 (Q 50 V 36 IR 5 AWA 5.5)

        B Tech from Indian Institute Of Technology Madras, India
        GPA : 3.4/4.0 ( 8.4/10 )

        Placement Officer for Chemical Engineering Department in College,
        Life Member of the Indian red cross society, led a team for flood rehabilitation program
        Won several medals at the college level in Football, Athletics.

        My post MBA goal, is to obtain a position in Operations of a Reputed company.

        I am considering Kelley, Purdue, Kenan Flagler. What are my chances?

        Thank you in advance!

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          Abhishek,

          You have a competitive profile for these schools. You may also want to consider CMU Tepper, Penn State, and Michigan State.

          Best,
          Linda

          • Abhishek

            Thanks a lot Linda. How about Darden?

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            You have a shot at Darden, but the other programs are more likely acceptances.

            Best,
            Linda

  • AS1987

    Hi Linda,

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience. – Total work experience of 5 years at time of admission. Worked at J.P. Morgan in Equity research in India for almost 2 years. Been working in family business of real estate development since over two years now. Currently involved in two projects worth $300 million (one in JV with US-based Hines group) heading sales and marketing, while also supervising construction activities at sites. Also started my own marketing firm to facilitate sales and marketing on behalf of Lafarge cement and concrete (world’s largest cement manufacturer) to large-scale institutional customers.

    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred. – 720 (94%) – (quant-50 (88%), verbal-37 (84%))

    3) College info: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, B.Tech – GPA – 7.40/10.0

    Had an accident leading to a rupture in spinal disk during sixth semester. Was on bed rest for 4 months and was advised to not sit for long durations for another 6 months due to which grades suffered in the last two semesters. Had been consistently scoring around 8.0/10.0 since 4 semesters.

    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience. –
    1. Head of Entrepreneurship Development cell at IIT Delhi. Led a team of 64 people overlooking PR, CRM, Operations, Event management. Organized the first Entrepreneurship summit in collaboration with Stanford University.
    2. Initiated a voluntary employee engagement program to teach underpriveleged children at our construction sites.
    3. Engaged in other voluntary activities while at IIT as part of National Service Scheme

    5) Your post-MBA goal. – To come back to family’s business and start a new vertical in affordable housing.

    I’m considering Stern, INSEAD, LBS, Kellogg, Fuqua, HKUST, and Tuck. Your feedback would be extremely helpful. Thanks!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      AS1987,

      You have a competitive profile for the schools on your list and Darden, which I assume you are considering because this is the Darden post. INSEAD is a stretch unless you have some international or multi-cultural exposure and I’m just not seeing it, and Kellogg is a stretch because it’s Kellogg.

      Regarding the dip in your grades as a result of your back problem, let them know in the additional information what happened so that they will the necessary context.

      Best,
      Linda

      • AS1987

        Thanks a lot for such a prompt response. A few quick questions.

        1. I’m applying to all these schools in the second round. Do you think that would have any impact on the chances?
        2. Can you suggest a safe school to apply to? I’m not sure if any of the schools I’ve listed above can be considered safe for my profile. And what are the chances for Stern and LBS as these are my top choices?
        3. If not INSEAD and Kellogg, any other top 15 school that you would suggest?

        Best Regards,
        Sharad

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          Sharad,

          If you do not have multi-cultural exposure, I would drop INSEAD. HKUST is a safety for you. The others are not safeties at all. Most schools say that r1 and r2 have very similar acceptance rates. Plus, you can’t turn the clock back to round 1. Do avoid applying round 3 or later.

          Schools to consider UCLA, Duke, USC, Cornell Johnson, and UT.

          Best,
          Linda

          • AS1987

            Thanks a lot Linda.

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            You’re welcome.