mbaMission: University of Virginia (Darden) Essay Analysis, 2013-2014


We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Virginia (Darden).

Darden has tweaked its single essay question ever so slightly, changing the second part of the prompt  from How did this experience change your perspective? to What did you learn about yourself? Although the phrasing is a little bit different, the spirit is largely the same. Because Darden offers you such little leeway in revealing the breadth of your experiences, we strongly advise you to make the most of your resume and short-answer responses within your application to ensure that the school learns as much as possible about you. In particular, you will need to rely on your resume to reveal important accomplishments, but you will have to be careful not to overstuff it. Do not mistake quantity for quality.

Our analysis of Darden’s sole question follows

DardenShare your thought process as you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. What did you learn about yourself?  (500 words maximum)

Choosing a situation to discuss that required clear and measured consideration on your part is imperative, given that Darden asks explicitly for you to detail your thought process. Simply describing the nature of the situation and how it played out is not enough for this essay”you must reveal the process of contemplation that ultimately led you to action in your efforts to resolve the issue. Interestingly, you do not necessarily need to show that you achieved your desired results, and the type of challenge you describe is not of primary importance. The key to a successful essay here is not only showing that you invested an appropriate amount of thought for the problem or situation at hand, but also the progression and development of your thinking. The other crucial element of this essay is demonstrating that you learned from the experience”and specifically, learned something about yourself. So, claiming that you gained a new skill, for example, would not constitute an appropriate response. You will need to delve more deeply into how your understanding of yourself differed after the situation and clearly explain what the experience brought out in you that you had not known about yourself before.

For a thorough exploration of Darden’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Darden School of Business Administration.

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