If you like the idea of being thrown into the decision maker’s role, using the case method to navigate real-life business situations, then you may want to consider applying to University of Virginia’s Darden MBA program. Darden is one of the largest case publishers in North America, and because of Darden’s commitment to the case study method, a Darden student will examine many, many business cases throughout the course of their two-year Darden MBA studies.
Darden MBAs do very well in the placement process. In fact, despite the turmoil in hiring that COVID wreaked in 2020, 93% of Darden graduates had received at least one full-time offer within 90 days of graduating – and for the fifth year in a row the salaries that these graduates were being offered hit a new record – this year at nearly $140,000 per year. While the Consulting industry remains the largest hirer of Darden graduates, 20 percent enter Technology, and 19 percent financial services (11% specifically in investment banking, where average salaries were $148,125).
Here are the questions that Darden asks in its 2021-2022 application, with my tips. In addition, Darden’s admissions team has offered some great guidance of its own here. Note that Darden’s application essays are all to be answered in text boxes, so you must keep to the word limit exactly.
Darden MBA short answer questions
The Darden School of Business is a thriving community of MBA students, faculty and alumni from a diverse array of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Because of the highly participatory nature of the MBA program — both inside and outside of the classroom — Darden actively recruits and fosters a vibrant MBA community. Below are a series of questions to allow you the opportunity to share the many dimensions of you.
Darden MBA essay #1 (Learning team)
Learning Teams are an invaluable peer resource for Darden students as they navigate the core curriculum. Every student is assigned to a Learning Team consisting of 5-6 students from an array of backgrounds and perspectives, and this built-in support system serves as an important connection to the broader Darden community.
Tell us what you would want your Learning Team to know about you that is not on your resume. (150 words)
Darden is one of the smaller MBA programs, with 404 students in the class of 2022. That class size means that every single student needs to be congenial: there’s just no room for a jerk at Darden. This short essay is a great opportunity for applicants to share an example of contributing to a personal or professional team – during a difficult situation, through a crisis, or just with a specific set of insights, talents, or personality traits. Then, draw the connections to show how this experience will prepare you to contribute to your Darden learning team.
Darden MBA essay #2 (Leadership and impact)
Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please respond to one of the following prompts. (200 words)
Q1: 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 this experience?
Q2: 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?
Darden is seeking more than “a brain on a stick,” as Dean Scott Beardsley has said. Yes, you have to have strong analytical ability, but you also have to prove your drive for impact. Whichever topic you select for this essay, you need to share an example (just one!) in which you applied your drive – ideally in combination with your analytical and leadership skills – to shape an organization or marketplace. A CAR (Challenge-Action-Results) format will help you demonstrate the before-and-after picture of this situation to prove your impact, but make sure you tell the story – not just what you did but also why: what were you thinking? What challenges arose and how did you pivot not just yourself but the group? Finally, explore your learnings – about people and how to lead them through problems and issues for the greater good.
Darden MBA essay #3 (Diversity)
Diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission, and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community. Review the University of Virginia’s Commitment to Diversity.
Diversity stands with ethics, integrity, and academic excellence, as a cornerstone of University culture. The University promotes an inclusive and welcoming environment that embraces the full spectrum of human attributes, perspectives, and disciplines. When people of different backgrounds come together, they exchange ideas, question assumptions (including their own), and broaden the horizons for us all. A University of Virginia community rich in diversity affords every member equal respect and provides a forum for understanding our differences as well as our commonalities.
The Darden School develops practices and cultivates a culture that reflect and incorporate 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)
Select the prompt to which you will respond.
Q1: 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?
Q2: Share a time when you advocated for a perspective, identity, or community different from your own. How did this experience impact your worldview?
Darden’s case method puts students into the role of protagonists from diverse industries and backgrounds. In addition, Darden students hail from 35 countries. Each first-year student is immersed in a learning team of 5 or 6 fellow students for the entire core curriculum to help them understand some of those other perspectives. This short essay question aims to find out if you will benefit from that kind of environment or detract from it.
To answer this question well, first explain your own perspective then show how the alternate one challenged you and how you pushed yourself (and for the second option, others) to examine prejudices and preconceived notions to arrive at a deeper understanding. I personally love the second option because it offers the opportunity to show that you have not only grown in your own personal understanding but also helped others to grow in theirs.
Darden MBA essay #4 (Career goal)
Darden’s Career Center delivers personalized career searches, support and resources to empower students in their goals to create value as purpose-driven leaders. The team of dedicated, expert career coaches spans every major industry, function and geography and collectively represent over one hundred years of coaching experience. Coaches are prepared to support students wherever they are in their search, as career goals shift and evolve while pursuing an MBA.
Through a wide variety of career-related programming, students gain lifelong skills they will continue to leverage throughout their careers. And this support continues after graduation – All Darden graduates have access to complimentary career support for life through Darden’s Alumni Career Services.
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)
You have room here for two small paragraphs to explain your expected path after you graduate from Darden. If your goals are seen as unachievable – for example, investment banking or consulting industry aspirations despite having a low GMAT score, or a pharmaceutical general management ambition despite having no background or education in that field – then you will have weeded yourself out of the class. Darden also has a few fields to which they send most of their students; if you wish to stray greatly from them, you will need to demonstrate your ability to tap your own connections and network to help pave that path.
In responding to this question, don’t forget the “why” implied in it. Why are you excited about this field? How will it prepare you for your long-term vision for your career?
Darden MBA essay #5 (Darden worldwide)
The Batten Foundation Worldwide Scholarship provides all Darden students in our full-time MBA program with an opportunity to participate in a Darden Worldwide Course.
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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)
Darden has an array of international experiential learning programs and expects every one of its students to take part in at least one global opportunity during their two years in the program. Applicants should identify a location somewhere in the world that excites them, and then succinctly explain the unique opportunity to learn or make an impact that they envision there. Ideally, this experience will connect in some way to your past experiences or future goals.
A final note:
Darden’s online application form has no word limit for your descriptions of participation in organizations/community involvement in “What do you do for fun?” or for your College Extracurriculars and Employment descriptions. While I would not recommend detailing every single project you contributed to in these sections, these spaces do certainly allow more detail than many other schools’ applications, which tend to be more parsimonious with their character limits and even the number of activities you can mention in these sections.
Darden is clearly seeking active students and wants to hear about all of your passions. I recommend using some of the allotted space to describe your most significant initiatives, roles, and impacts to compensate for the somewhat limited essay space.
For expert guidance with your UVA Darden MBA application, check out Accepted’s MBA Application Packages, which include comprehensive guidance from an experienced admissions consultant. We’ve helped hundreds of applicants get accepted to top MBA programs and look forward to helping you too!
UVA Darden MBA 2021-2022 application deadlines
|Early Action||September 9, 2021|
|1||October 6, 2021|
|2||January 5, 2022|
|3||April 6, 2022|
All applications for the full-time MBA are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on the deadline day.
Source: UVA Darden website
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions, and deadlines.***Want Jennifer to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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