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University of Virginia Darden School of Business

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Darden MBA Essay Analysis

(2022-23 Application Cycle)

Booth MBA Short Answer 1: Learning Team

Given that you will be forming lifelong connections with your classmates that extend beyond the classroom, what is important for your classmates to know about you that is not on your resumé? (200 words)

Students and alumni often refer to Darden as “bootcamp” because of the intensive coursework. As a Darden MBA candidate, you’ll spend a fair amount of time with your cohort working on case studies and consulting projects. Working closely together, you’ll open up to your classmates about your personal experiences, your unusual ideas and your perspective. That’s what the AdCom wants to know about here.


The biggest challenge with this essay is the low word limit – you don’t have the space to write a detailed story. And you definitely shouldn’t give the AdCom a laundry list of all the things you want to share with your classmates! Instead, we suggest you hone in on 1 important aspect of your life.


Focus on a short anecdote that demonstrates a passion, cause, or interest that you have actively pursued, or explain a transition in your resume.


Option 1: Passions, causes, and interests
Write a relatable, inspiring story that will interest others and leave the reader eager to know more about you. It should tell them something about your values and the direction you’re heading in. Bonus points if it enriches the MBA experience for the rest of your classmates.


Option 2: Fill the gaps
Resumes are a snapshot in time; they don’t explain your transitions between schools, roles or companies. You can use this essay to explain one of these transitions in your resume. 


For example, why you moved between two jobs, or why you chose a career path that was different from your undergrad. This method lets you talk about your priorities and motivations, which is what the AdCom cares about. 


You may want to finish by discussing how you intend to bring these values to the Darden MBA program. For example: 

  • “I’ve dedicated my career to developing hydrogen energy. I’m looking forward to connecting with other classmates who are interested in ways of tackling climate change”.

  • “After going through this transition from consulting to business development at a tech company, I’ll be able to help other consultants pivot into industry”.


Darden MBA Short Answer 2: Inclusive Environment

Please describe a tangible example that illuminates your experience promoting an inclusive environment and what you would bring to creating an inclusive global community at Darden. (300 words)

This is an unusual question; not many schools include a dedicated diversity and inclusion essay in their application form.

Darden is asking you to tell them about a time when you helped create a more inclusive and supportive environment for others. Because that’s what they want you to do on the program. As the Darden MBA focuses on case discussions, a diverse class adds more value for every candidate by bringing forward different ways of problem-solving. And more unique perspectives lead to more interesting class discussions.


Depending on your demographic, there are two ways you could approach the discussion on diversity and inclusion:

  • If you belong to an overrepresented demographic, for example white male Investment Banker or Indian male Engineer, use an example where you have been an active ally or advocate for inclusion.

  • If you’re from an underrepresented demographic along the lines of class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race or ability, your story can explore how your identity and experiences have influenced your upbringing and inspired you to take action.


Either way, we suggest you use the SCAR method to give a tangible example:

  • Situation: Find examples of situations where you promoted inclusion. Describe your role and who was involved.  Maybe you: 

  • Led an international project

  • Advocated for better diversity and inclusion policies at work

  • Spearheaded a CSR initiative

  • Took affirmative action for your community, culture or team

  • Started an entrepreneurial initiative with a DEI mission 

  • Represented and championed your community 

  • Broke glass ceilings

  • Challenge: Discuss the challenge you encountered or the problem you tried to solve. Why was this important to overcome? What was at stake?


  • Action: Share your thought process and the actionable steps you took to overcome this challenge and ensure an inclusive environment for everyone.


  • Result: The keyword in this question is “tangible”. So, having a quantifiable outcome is important to convey the value you added to this situation. Usually inclusion stories are tough to quantify, but that’s the challenge Darden is throwing at you. You must measure your impact in dollars, number of people, project size, percentages, etc. 


The second part of the essay asks you to share what you will bring to Darden to make it a more inclusive global community. Be specific in outlining your plans. Tie the story you shared above to the classes, clubs, activities, and projects you plan to pursue at Darden. 

For example, if you are part of an underrepresented community, you can discuss how you will work to increase campus representation and develop your leadership skills by spearheading a networking club for your community. If you’re from an overrepresented demographic, talk about how you can level the playing field for others by being involved in the Student Association or by using your network to support your colleagues.

Darden MBA Short Answer 3: Career Goals 

At this time how would you describe your short-term, post-MBA goal in terms of industry, function, geography, company size and/or mission and how does it align with the long-term vision you have for your career? (200 words)

With a low 200 word limit, you need to answer each part of this career goals essay as directly as possible. You probably don’t have space for a story here.


Start by clearly stating your short-term goal, outlining the industry and business function you want to work in, and whether you plan to switch geographies. If you’re looking at a triple jump (changing function, industry, and geography), that’s an ambitious plan, so you’ll need to be clear about how you will accomplish it.


Then, connect this short-term goal with your professional purpose or mission. What is the impact you intend to create? 


Finally, explain how this professional purpose will lead you to your long term goal. This might be a continuation of your current role (promotion into C-suite) or it may be a bigger change (launching your own company in your sector). Either way, it should be fairly ambitious!

💡Bonus tip for aspiring consultants: Darden uses the case method throughout its MBA program which lends itself to consulting roles, and it is among the few non-M7 schools on McKinsey’s recruitment list. Lean into this while writing about your goals!

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