2012-2013 University of Virginia Darden Essay Analysis
Share your thought process as you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. How did this experience change your perspective? (500 words maximum)
ONE essay? Eep.
Don’t feel like you need to pack everything in here—clearly Darden is sending you the opposite message by stripping everything down to a single 500-word essay. They’re showing their hand a bit about the reality of career goals and what actually happens at b-schools to send those sideways. Instead, they’re focusing on something they DO think will help them decide who’s got the MOXIE… and who doesn’t.
Keyword here is “change.” Once again, we’re gonna draw on that concept of “before and after.” If your perspective “changed,” it means that it COULD have gone a different way had it not been for… “a challenging work situation or complex problem.” After you identify what the best example is from your past, you need to play pretend for a second and extrapolate what WOULD have happened in that “before” scenario. What had you been like? What had your decision process been? What was your go-to approach? Don’t be afraid to defend it, and embrace what you genuinely ONCE THOUGHT was a solid way of approaching things. Own it. This will help make your “change” that much more profound.
Now, introduce the thing that “blew your mind.” What happened to call your original approach into question? To stop it in its tracks? Walk us through it. Walk us through what it was like to be shaken a bit. To be on uncertain footing. This is KEY.
Now, explain how you EMERGED from it, with SURE footing (even if that aspect took some time). Show us how you evolved and what it means for your future. Why, in other words, tell us about this?
- Give us the before. Give us the “what would have been had it not been for the strange/complex problem.”
- Introduce the complex THING that changed things and your being “off-balance” for a moment.
- Walk us through your evolved thinking, slowly. And explain its significance.
The key here, folks, is to allow yourself to show us that “off-balance” stuff. Every great leader encounters it, and it’s in THOSE moments that “boys become men.” So, embrace the moment of not knowing the answer—walk us through that feeling, holding nothing back. And then explain the VALUE in the newer point of view.