Darden MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines: 2021-22

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The application for Darden's full-time MBA Class of 2024 is now live! Like last year, Darden asks applicants to write multiple short essays covering a wide range of topics- leadership and impact, teamwork, diversity and inclusion, career goals, and worldwide course. The questions have been tweaked slightly from last year. In addition to these 5 short essays totaling 755 words, the candidates also get an opportunity to share details about their interests, hobbies, community engagement, and love for Charlottesville to showcase various facets of their candidacy.

Darden continues to invites candidates to submit a test waiver request or submit a range of tests, including MCAT, LSAT, GRE, and GMAT.

Application Deadlines:

Early Action

Application Deadline: September 9, 2021
Interviews: Limited Open Interviews

Round 1

Application Deadline: October 6, 2021
Interviews: By Invitation

Round 2

Application Deadline: January 5, 2022
Interviews: By Invitation

Round 3

Application Deadline: April 6, 2022
Interviews: By Invitation

Here is our analysis of Darden's essay questions:

Essays:

Tell us your story

The Darden School of Business is a thriving community of MBA students, faculty, and alumni from a diverse array of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Because of the highly participatory nature of the MBA program— both inside and outside of the classroom— Darden actively recruits and fosters a vibrant MBA community. Below are a series of questions to allow you the opportunity to share the many dimensions of you.

Learning Team

Learning Teams are an invaluable peer resource for Darden students as they navigate the core curriculum. Every student is assigned to a Learning Team consisting of 5-6 students from an array of backgrounds and perspectives, and this built-in support system serves as an important connection to the broader Darden community.

Essay #1: Tell us what you would want your Learning Team to know about you that is not on your resume. (150 words)

This question about introducing yourself to the learning team has been tweaked a little bit and allows you to use 50 more words than last year's question. At Darden, you will be solving cases within your learning teams of 4 to 5 members, so your learning team members need to know that you will be a great team player who will contribute significantly to the team. Through relevant examples, tell your team members about team working skills and attributes. Show them what you will bring to the table by sharing some stories/ anecdotes highlighting those skills in a personal or professional context. You have the flexibility to choose both personal and professional experiences, but make sure not to include elements that are already there on your resume.

Leadership and Impact

Essay #2: Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please respond to one of the following prompts (200 words)

Select the prompt to which you will respond.

Q1: Tell us about a time when you acted with a team to solve a problem or seize an opportunity. What role did you play? What did you learn from this experience?

Q2: Tell us about a time you acted to solve a problem for the greater good. What drew you to this issue? What did you learn from this experience?

For the leadership and impact essay, this year's applicants will get an option to choose one of the two prompts. The first question allows you to share an anecdote when you worked with a team to solve a problem. Your role may have been as a team lead or team player, but you made an impact and grew from that experience. The second question is broader in scope in the sense that it may not be limited to a professional setting but for the 'greater good. Therefore, it's crucial to spell out why that issue is important to you. For example, you may have contributed to the community in any way by procuring medicines or oxygen for the needy during these unprecedented times. Darden cares about cultivating high-impact leaders. Therefore, when brainstorming ideas for your leadership story for this essay, choose an accomplishment when you made a meaningful impact on your organization or community. You have the option to choose a professional or non-work story (extracurricular or community work), but you should emphasize your 'responsible leadership' and 'focus on purpose' that generated meaningful results and created a significant impact on your organization or community. That is, you need to explain that the decisions you made and the results you achieved benefitted your organization or your team member in a meaningful manner.

For organizing your ideas for both questions, as always, we recommend following the STAR Method (Situation, Task, Action, and Result); however, keeping in mind the stringent word limit, you MUST highlight the 'result/ outcome part' of your story. Don't forget to wrap up your narrative with a final comment on what you learned through this experience.

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission, and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community. Review the University of Virginia's Commitment to Diversity.

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.


The Darden School develops practices and cultivates a culture that reflects and incorporates the worldviews of its many community members. In this inclusive culture, the community learns important— and sometimes uncomfortable— lessons from one another, resulting in more conscientious global leaders and citizens.

Please respond to one of the following prompts (200 words)

Essay #3: Select the prompt to which you will respond. (200 words)

Q1: Share a time when you learned something related to diversity, equity or inclusion that was previously unknown to you? How did this experience impact your perspective?

Q2: Share a time when you advocated for a perspective, identity, or community different from your own. How did this experience impact your worldview?

In Darden's case method of learning, students are presented with an actual business problem, along with all the relevant associated data, and tasked with identifying a solution to that problem. Every student analyzes the situation and information on his/ her own, then discusses it with the learning team members, and finally does so in the classroom. So having one's ideas and opinions challenged is vital to the Darden's experience. Therefore, the admissions committee wants to assess if an applicant can listen, reflect, learn, and grow in this environment.

Again, you may choose a personal or professional example/ story. Given the word limit of 200 words, you may not write more than 1-2 sentences on setting up the situation, but make sure to focus more on your thought process and the resulting change in your opinion/ perception. It is crucial to describe the 'before' and 'after' situations so you can share the inflection point that triggered the shift in your thinking.

When selecting examples for the above three essays, you want to make sure to maintain a balance between your personal and professional examples so that you can showcase your well-rounded personality to the admission committee.

Career Goal

Darden's Career Center delivers personalized career searches, support and resources to empower students in their goals to create value as purpose-driven leaders. The team of dedicated, expert career coaches spans every major industry, function and geography and collectively represent over one hundred years of coaching experience. Coaches are prepared to support students wherever they are in their search, as career goals shift and evolve while pursuing an MBA.

Through a wide variety of career-related programming, students gain lifelong skills they will continue to leverage throughout their careers. And this support continues after graduation - All Darden graduates have access to complimentary career support for life through Darden's Alumni Career Services.


Essay #4: What is your short-term, post-MBA goal and how does it align with the long-term vision you have for your career? (150 words)

This is a fairly straightforward goals essay. This question has been tweaked from last year. Last year, Darden only asked about your short-term goal and what led applicants to their goal. This year’s applicants will also explain how their short goal is aligned with their long-term vision. Begin with elaborating on your post-MBA objectives, identify the position you hope to hold immediately after the MBA program and specify a job title/ role, industry and 1-2 organizations/ companies that interest you. Next, articulate your goal and explain why this goal is exciting and vital to you. Please make sure that your goals are ambitious as well as realistic. The schools want to know that the path you have chosen is attainable, and the program has resources to aid you in reaching that goal. To provide an effective response, you can give a very brief career history and explain what skills and knowledge you possess to help you accomplish your goal in your chosen field.

Darden Worldwide

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. Click here for the Worldwide video.

Short Answer Question #5: Darden has an incredible network of alumni and partners around the world, and, in a typical year, the School 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 expects its students to participate in at least one global opportunity during their two years of MBA. In 55 words, identify the name of the country that you would choose for your global assignment, explain reasons for your choice, and how your choice will enhance your learning and the learning of your peers. This super short question not only reveals your knowledge of Darden but also speaks about your personality and interest. You may use this essay to show a different side of you that you have not presented elsewhere in the application.

You may click here for the Darden admission committee's advice on short questions.

To adhere to the strict word count specifications, be as precise as possible in presenting your case. Click here for 11 helpful strategies (illustrated with examples) to achieve brevity.


What do you do for fun?

Organization/ Community Involvement

There are a variety of organizations and clubs at Darden that help shape our community and the Darden experience overall. In this section, we'd like to learn about your unique interests, talents, and passions. Please list the professional associations and community activities (clubs, faith-based, civic, etc.) in which you have participated since graduation from university. If you graduated from university more than 10 years ago, please simply list your activities for the last 5 years, making sure to include:

• Activity type
• Organization name
• Your role
• Dates of participation
• Description of your involvement

There are a variety of organizations and clubs at Darden that help shape our community and the Darden experience overall. In this section, we'd like to learn about your unique interests, talents, and passions. Please list the professional associations, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities in which you have participated during your time as an undergraduate student.

• Activity type
• Organization name
• Your role
• Dates of participation
• Description of your involvement
• Organization Name Role

Add Activity

Hobbies

List up to three hobbies you enjoy in your free time.


After answering the above questions about your community involvement, list three hobbies or interests you like to pursue in your free time. Remember your hobbies and interests make you unique, so feel free to share them to help the admission committee get to know you better. Since there is no prescribed word limit for this question this year, you may write one sentence about each of the three hobbies that you enjoy in your leisure.

Explore Charlottesville

Darden community members love our city. Watch the video to learn why we love Charlottesville!

What are you excited to explore in Charlottesville? (25 words)

This is an interesting question that offers you a platform to share what excites you in the small city of Charlottesville. This super short question offers the admission committee a glimpse into your interest in the activities you want to explore while pursuing your MBA.

Dawna Clarke, Executive Director of Admissions, and Whitney Kestner Senior Director of Admissions recently conducted a webinar to provide insights into Darden's admissions process, standardized test and waiver requests, short answer questions, early action opportunities, reapplicants, and much more.

Click here for the webinar recording:

Free Resources:

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples

MER Students Share their Success Stories

Essay Analysis of Other Top Programs-2021-22

Case Studies

AIGAC Virtual Conference 2021: MER's Key Takeaways

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

You may email Poonam at [email protected] with questions about your Darden application.

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This article first appeared in myEssayReview blog.
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