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 the 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 2-year Darden MBA studies.
Many applicants will make the mistake of sweating over their one Darden application essay and then carelessly completing the rest of the application form. Darden actually has several short answer sections in its online application that provide applicants more room to demonstrate to the admissions committee that they are a great fit with the Darden program. Here are all of the questions that Darden asks in its application, with my tips in blue. In addition, Darden’s admissions team has put together several video tips for their application here.
While in the MBA program, where do you want to go to explore a specific economy or business culture? (5 words) Why? (40 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 2 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 a difference that they envision there.
Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you – personal, professional or both. (100 words max)
Darden is one of the smaller MBA programs, with 345 students in the class of 2018. That class size means that every single student needs to be congenial: there’s just no room for a jerk at Darden. Applicants who share an example here of contributing to a personal or professional team – during a difficult situation, through a crisis, or just with a specific set of talents or personality traits – will be offering the Admissions Committee the opportunity to truly envision them in a Darden learning team.
In Charlottesville, you will find members of the Darden community engaged in activities such as: Running on the Rivanna Trail near Darden, tasting wine on the Monticello Wine Trail, listening to live music and dining on the Downtown Mall, tubing on the James River, hiking on the Appalachian Trail, or cheering on UVA’s athletic teams.
What are you excited to explore in Charlottesville? (15 words)
There’s very little room to explain your choice here but you can pique the Admissions Committee’s interest with your selection. Pick an activity you enjoy in your free time now and show how you will continue to engage in it in Charlottesville.
List up to three hobbies or interests you enjoy in your free time. (10 words each)
Do you run for an hour every day (showing your drive and commitment)? Do you enjoy preparing elaborate meals for friends and relatives every weekend (showing your sociability and creativity)? Here’s your chance to give the Admissions Committee some insight into what you do when you are not at work so they can start imagining the role you will play on campus.
What is your short-term, post-MBA career goal and why? (150 words)
You have room here for 2 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 11% of 2016 Darden graduates did.
When preparing for class at Darden, students formulate an opinion on each case before meeting with their learning teams and class sections. When encountering different views and perspectives from their own, opinions frequently shift. Tell us about a time when your opinion evolved through discussions with others. (500 words maximum)
If you have all the answers and can rely solely on your own skills and knowledge, then there is no reason for you to attend an MBA program and certainly no reason to attend Darden, where students integrate each other’s experiences and insights to analyze each case study. This essay gives you the opportunity to share a similar experience with the admissions committee. The best answers will demonstrate initiative in finding alternative opinions and resources – and the ones that challenged your thinking processes the most – instead of relying only on the ones within easy reach and understanding.
Optional Essay: Darden also offers applicants the opportunity to share additional information in a short 250-word Additional Comments space:
If there is further information you believe would be helpful to the Admission Committee, please provide it.
If you have any gaps in your experience, you may address them here. Alternatively, you may use this space to share your affinity for Darden or any details from your background that will entice the Admission Committee to meet you.
A final note:
Darden’s online application form has no word limit for your job description in the Employment History, a 1500-character limit to describe each activity in the Community Activities Since College section, and a 200-word allotment for your Activities During College. 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! I recommend using some of the allotted space to describe your most significant initiatives, roles, and impacts to compensate for the limited essay space.
If you would like professional guidance with your UVA Darden MBA application, check out Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the UVA Darden application.
All applications for the full-time, residential MBA are due by 12:00 p.m. EST (noon) on the deadline day. All decisions are released at 12:00 p.m. EST (noon) on the decision release day.
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
Jennifer Bloom has been a consultant with Accepted for 19 years and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW). She is an expert at crafting application materials that truly differentiate you from the rest of the driven applicant pool. If you would like help with your application, Jennifer can suggest a number of options that work with any budget. Want Jennifer to help you get accepted? Click here!
• Why MBA, a free guide to writing about your MBA Goals
• How to Get Started on Your Personal Statement with One Easy Technique
• How Do You Deal with Criticism? MBA Admissions Committees Want to Know