If you like the idea of constantly 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 the second-largest case publisher in North America, and because of Darden’s commitment to the case study method, a Darden student will examine over 500 business cases throughout the course of their two-year Darden MBA studies.
Darden grads do well upon graduation. According to the data collected by US News & World Report, Darden grads rank 6th highest in placement rates at graduation, and 3rd highest in average starting salary and bonus – trailing only Stanford and Wharton grads. In addition, Darden is among the top feeder schools to the consulting industry, with 32% of the class of 2018 entering consulting upon graduation.
Darden is particularly proud of its recent significant increase in philanthropic support – including its largest donation to Darden ever, $68 million from Sands Capital Management Founder Frank Sands Sr. Darden doubled the available funding for scholarships for students, and even international students qualify for no-cosigner loans in the U.S. – a hurdle that many applicants lacking a U.S.-based cosigner struggle with when accepted to other programs.
Here are all of the questions that Darden asks in its application, with my tips in blue. 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 essay questions
For the 2019-20 application cycle, Darden will again offer multiple short answer questions. We want to get to know all of the various facets of your background and personality.
Darden MBA essay #1
Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact. (200 words)
Darden is seeking more than a brain on a stick, as Dean Scott Beardsley likes to say. Yes, you have to have strong analytical ability, but you also have to prove your drive for impact. This essay allows you 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. CAR (Challenge-Action-Results) format will help you demonstrate the before and after picture of this situation to prove your impact.
Darden MBA essay #2
Diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission, and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community. Read University of Virginia’s Diversity & Inclusion Vision Statement. Share a time in which you engaged with a perspective, identity, community or experience that was different from your own and how it impacted your worldview. (200 words)
Darden’s case method puts students into the role of protagonists from diverse industries and backgrounds. In addition, Darden students hail from 36 countries and 34 states in the U.S. 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 ruin it.
To answer this question well, first explain your own perspective then show how the alternate one challenged you and how you pushed yourself to examine your prejudices and preconceived notions to arrive at a deeper understanding.
Darden MBA essay #3
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. If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to travel, 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 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.
Darden MBA essay #4
Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you – personally, professionally, or both? (100 words)
Darden is one of the smaller MBA programs, with 335 students in the class of 2020. That class size means that every single student needs to be congenial: there’s just no room for a jerk at Darden. This 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 learning team.
Darden MBA essay #5
What is your short-term, post-MBA career goal and why? (150 words)
This question has remained the same for a few years. 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 – as 20% of 2018 Darden graduates did.
A final note:
Darden’s online application form has no word limit for your job description in the “Where Have You Worked?” section of the application form; a generous 550-word limit to describe each activity in the “What do you do for fun?” professional associations and community activities section; and a 200-word allotment for your College Extracurriculars and Employment description. 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 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 2019-2020 application deadlines
|Application Deadline||Decisions Released|
|Early Action||September 3, 2019*||October 9, 2019|
|Round 1||October 4, 2019||December 11, 2019|
|Round 2||January 6, 2020||March 18, 2020|
|Round 3||April 6, 2020||May 6, 2020|
All applications for the full-time MBA are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on the deadline day.
* Darden’s Early Action deadline is not binding. You may accept Darden’s offer of admission and place a deposit of $3000 to hold your place in the class while you continue to apply to other programs.
***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!
• Why MBA, a free guide to writing about your MBA goals
• What’s Life Like as a Darden MBA and Entrepreneur?, a podcast episode
• What Is the Diversity Essay Question & How Do You Answer It?