Given that the Darden EMBA application presents only one essay question to answer, the balance of your application – the online form, the resume, the recommendations, the interview – all carry more weight than they do in most EMBA applications that contain several questions (usually including one pertaining to your goals). The Darden EMBA application as a whole must show that you are at the appropriate level organizationally and have sufficient quantity and quality of experience to both benefit from the Darden EMBA and contribute substantially as a student and classmate. Moreover, to be competitive you should also show that you are a high performer relative to peers. This essay is a precious opportunity to give the adcom insight into you as an individual that will complement, enhance, and illuminate the other factual information in the application.
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 words maximum)
“The most.” This superlative requires that the decision or action you choose to describe be truly significant – to you to others, to the organization. Big stakes. “Courageous” – why this specific value out of all the possible ones? Because the adcom is interested not just in what you did or decided, but in your perception of what is important and your values. A recent story would be preferable, but if you need to go with an older story, in the reflection section show how it influences you to this day and give an example. If you have several potential stories to possibly use, since there is only one essay, select the topic strategically, to best showcase elements of your experience that are not elaborated elsewhere and are impressive and/or distinctive.
Devote most of the essay to telling the story. Conclude with the reflection about what you learned. This learning should be meaningful and insightful – an effective discussion of the learning will show your ability to grow and to synthesize experience.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The EMBA Edge, and author of the free special report, Ace the EMBA. Cindy has helped MBA applicants get accepted to top EMBA programs around the world. She is delighted to help you too!