Thank you Sara Neher, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions at UVA Darden, for an excellent Q&A. Sara answered lots of questions, and spent some time talking about the application essay question for this year. That’s right, this year UVA Darden asks only ONE question.
Here are Sara’s thoughts on the issue:
Linda Abraham: I have a couple of questions about the essay question on your application. Do you have any advice on what information an applicant should consider in the answer in answering that one essay question? It seems to have a strong focus on globalization. How would you approach the question if you don’t have very global experience?
So more generally, what are you looking for in this one question? Obviously it is very important. And secondarily, what if you don’t have international experience?
Sara Neher: We seem to have caused people a lot of consternation with having only one essay question, and I have to say, it has been really wonderful for us! When we had two essay questions, let’s be real. We know you are applying to other schools and that is okay. But we used to see people pick one of our questions to answer and one they would try to make a copy and paste thing from another school’s question. This way, you have to understand the question. We really appreciate that because people are taking the time and they are writing better responses to our one question than when we had the two bigger questions, so I really appreciate that people are putting in so much time on it.
The other thing is that you need to think about the entire application as an opportunity to help us get to know you. This is only one part, and there are short answer questions in other parts of the application that answer some of the things that are traditionally in essays. The elevator pitch question that we have in the employment area is really about your goals. I don’t need 500 words on your goal; I think 100 words is just fine because that is the amount of time you are going to get to tell a recruiter what your goals are. So it is really for your benefit to help you really distill down what your goals are; you’ll be better off.
For the longer essay itself, it’s okay if you don’t have international experience. We’ll know that from the rest of your application. …Just make sure that it is your perspective and what you have learned. And so if it is a more domestic type experience but it helped you learn about people of different cultures or it helped you learn about people who think differently from you, that is really what we are ultimately after. We want to know, have you had an experience that helps you see that there are differences in the world, and what did you learn from it? That tends to be most obviously global experiences, but if your global experience is limited, it could be any kind of experience like that. We had a great one from a person working in their home country, but with a team of people with different religions. And he discussed what that meant for the kind of things the team had to consider when they were having events and gathering together.
So it can be anything that you had an experience with. And what we are really looking for is: Do you answer the question? How well do you write? Do we learn something from you? Do we think your classmates would learn something from you? And this is just a proxy for that. So it’s not so much about the experience as how you describe it, and what kind of language you use that others would learn from.
For the full discussion, please view the UVA Darden MBA transcript or listen to the audio file. You can also boost your UVA Darden IQ by visiting our UVA Darden B-School Zone page and our blog post, UVA Darden 2012 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips.
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