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 grads do well upon graduation; members of Darden’s Class of 2019 earned the most compensation of any Darden graduating class. Consulting was the top career choice, with tech and entrepreneurship at a close second. Top employers at Darden were BCG, McKinsey, Amazon, Bain, and Accenture.
In May 2019, Darden received its largest donation ever: $68 million from Sands Capital Management Founder Frank Sands, Sr., who earned a Darden MBA in 1963. As a result of his generosity, Darden doubled the available funding for scholarships.
Here are the questions that Darden asks in its 2020-2021 application. 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
For the 2020-21 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 has said. 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. A 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.
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.
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 38 countries and 35 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 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 to examine your prejudices and preconceived notions to arrive at a deeper understanding.
Darden MBA essay #3
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 336 students in the class of 2021. 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 #4
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.
In responding to this question, don’t forget the “why” in it. Self-reflection and a response that mirrors your deliberate and astute thought process will make your goal more real and compelling.
Darden MBA essay #5
Each year, Darden 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 job description in the “Where have you worked?” and 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 2020-2021 application deadlines
|Early Action||September 2, 2020|
|1||October 5, 2020|
|2||January 4, 2021|
|3||April 7, 2021|
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!
- 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?