Scott Edinburgh
May 26, 2021

University of Virginia Darden MBA Application Essay Analysis 2021-2022

Do you want to attend an MBA program that puts collaboration and teamwork at the forefront of your experience? If so, UVA Darden School of Business may be a great choice for you.

UVA Darden is known for its case-based and customized learning experience. As first years, students are assigned to learning teams that enable them to delve deep into case discussions, strengthen their communication skills, and form strong relationships with their classmates.

Second year students at UVA Darden use these tools learned in their first year to personalize their academic experiences, targeting specific career goals and skill sets.

If you’re looking to apply to UVA Darden’s MBA program during the 2020-2021 application cycle, the school now offers a standardized test waiver. These requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and the admissions committee takes several factors into account when reviewing waivers.

The upcoming UVA Darden application deadlines are as follows:

Early Action: September 9, 2021

Round 1: October 6, 2021

Round 2: January 5, 2022

Round 3: April 6, 2022

UVA Darden’s 2021-2022 MBA Application Essays:

Essay 1: 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.

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

UVA Darden has updated this first essay question slightly for 2021-2022 MBA applicants, removing the suggestion to discuss something personal and/or professional. Instead, Darden added instruction to discuss something that is NOT on the applicant’s resume.

Given this change, Personal MBA Coach advises most applicants to use this essay to share a personal aspect of their candidacy as opposed to talking about their professional leadership or track record. Topics discussed here should enhance (not repeat or conflict with) your “Personal Story,” and should allow admissions committee members to learn more about you.

This is not the time to present a laundry list of hobbies, passions or accomplishments. Instead, focus on what makes you unique. Think about how you might add to the diversity (think literal diversity and/or diversity of perspective) on your learning team.

Be specific and keep in mind that actions are the best predictors of future behavior and provide examples wherever possible. Go beyond just sharing details about you and including the “so-what?”

For example, if you were raised in a unique environment, explain this to the reader but then push further. Consider how this shaped who you are today, what makes you unique and what you will bring to the table for your learning team.

Regardless of the topic selected, show the reader that you are someone your peers will be excited to learn with!

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

Select the prompt to which you will respond.

Q1: Tell us about a time when you worked 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?

This year, Darden gives applicants a choice between two arguably similar questions.

Darden’s statement about responsible leadership should help candidates to focus their answers. You should naturally choose a situation where you solved a considerable problem and hopefully made a lasting impact (though unlike last year, Darden does not specifically ask about impact).

It is important that the selected story also paints a solid picture of your leadership style. Responsible and purpose are crucial words to consider, and professional, extracurricular or volunteer work could fit nicely here.

Do not force this question. There are many examples of problem-solving and working for the “greater good” and not all applicants will have solved major societal or professional issues.

Of course, if you have a strong advocacy story, share it here! However, there are many different levels of problem-solving. Darden wants to see how you think and how you act so include these details.

Finally, leave space to articulate your learnings here. Once again, Darden is looking for the “so-what?”

Essay 3: 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 reflect and incorporate 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 maximum)

Select the prompt to which you will respond.

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?

Darden again has built upon last year’s essay question by adding a second option for candidates to answer. This question covers a topic that continues to be important to leading MBA programs. A personal or professional example would work here. However, Personal MBA Coach encourages candidates to look at their applications holistically when selecting a story to discuss here. You want to ensure this story fits with who you are and that your application includes a nice balance of personal and professional stories.

Ensure that you limit the amount of time spent on set-up and instead focus on your thoughts and actions. While remaining authentic is important, think about the qualities Darden is looking for from applicants and make sure the story selected clearly SHOWS how you demonstrated them.

While the bulk of this essay should be focused on the story itself, be sure to leave time to discuss the implications of this experience and how this experience changed your leadership style.

Essay 4: 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.

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 maximum)

This question is a straightforward career goals question. If you need help articulating your goals, check out this blog! With this short essay, be specific and include both your ideal position and organization type. Articulate what you hope to accomplish in this desired role and why this objective is interesting and important to you.

Unlike last year, Darden now specifically asks candidates about their long-term vision. Given this, be sure to discuss what you hope to learn in the short term and how this experience will prepare you to achieve your long-term goals.

Short Answer: 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.

If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to travel, and why? (50 words maximum)

The “why” is more important than the “what” here. When selecting a country (and considering what you hope to learn from this experience), assess your overall story, goals and passions. Naturally, it may be good to have a tie.

Further, the learnings or experience should prepare you to achieve long-term success. Also feel free to use this opportunity to describe a different side of you that is not reflected elsewhere. That said, as much as you might love to sit on the beach in Fiji, this would not be a great choice for most candidates.

About Personal MBA Coach:

Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 14 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2, currently holding the #1 ranking in the US on Poets&Quants.

We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing and mock interviews. Our team includes a former M7 admissions director and former M7 admissions interviewers.

Last year, our clients earned more than $6.5M in scholarships!

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