The following essay topic analysis examines the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (UVA / Darden) MBA admissions essays for the 2020-2021 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for all of the leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.
UVA / Darden Essay Topic Analysis 2020-2021
Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact. (200 words)
This question is a classic in terms of MBA essays; adcoms are interested in people who make an impact, whether at work, or in other avenues of their lives. They want to know you’ll make an impact while on campus at Darden and as an alumni, as you pursue your career and life goals.
Whether you choose an example from your professional or personal life, it’s important to share all the background a reader will need to appreciate the story before clearly outlining the actions you took and the results you achieved. The more detail you’re able to provide about your role in achieving a positive outcome, the easier it will be for you to accurately demonstrate your leadership skills. It would also be worth commenting on why the impact was meaningful to you to provide some insight into your values.
Diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission, and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community.
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.
Share a time in which you engaged with a perspective, identity, community or experience that was different from your own and how it impacted your worldview. (200 words)
There are three main elements to a response: defining your initial worldview (to set the stage for change), establishing the different perspective, identity, community or experience (so the adcom understands the catalyst for change), and explaining how the selected engagement changed your outlook. For example, perhaps you worked on an international project recently and your engagement with different cultures altered your perspective on leadership, communication or another aspect. In such a case, it will be important to connect to how this has influenced you—ideally shown through some related actions—as the adcom will want to get to know you and how you think and evolve. This may also be an event in which you had a hand, whether a personal or professional one. The door is wide open for examples, but the key is to ensure you touch on each element of the prompt to show how you would fit with the culture at Darden. This can be a lot of ground to cover in 200 words, but if you have room, concluding with a brief example of how you applied what you learned would show that your perspective changed.
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)
This prompt invites more research into Darden’s international offerings. Applicants should start by reviewing the link provided in the prompt, Darden Worldwide Courses, to see what piques their interest. It would make sense for the choice to tie into one’s career goals, though the reasoning could favor the more personal side, e.g. wanting to show your classmates your home country. You won’t have much room to elaborate, so ensure what you do share reveals more about you, your values or interests.
Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you – personally, professionally, or both. (100 words)
Given the narrow word limit, applicants will need to reflect carefully on the aspects of their backgrounds they most want to highlight. While a brief mention of your professional background and career goals may be appropriate, we encourage applicants to use this opportunity to showcase elements of their personalities and candidacies that they will not have the chance to address in their responses to the other application essays. Perhaps you have a particularly interesting work or extra-curricular experience to share, or a personal accomplishment or aspect of your heritage of which you’re especially proud. By focusing on a range of qualities and characteristics, this essay will allow applicants to demonstrate the well-rounded nature of their candidacies even within the 100 word limit.
What is your short-term, post-MBA goal and why? (150 words)
This prompt is an abbreviated version of the typical career goals essay, focusing on applicants’ career plans immediately after graduation. In addition to describing their ideal target employer(s) and job position, applicants are also asked to explain the motivation behind their choices. Noting one’s long-term goal would add more understanding for the choice of the short-term goal, and help to address the “why” part of the prompt. Connecting your detailed short-term plans to your prior career experiences and demonstrated passions will also go a long way towards proving to the adcom that your plans are realistic and well-reasoned.
If there is further information you believe would be helpful to the Admission Committee, please provide it. (250 words)
This optional essay comes at the very end of Darden’s online application. Based on the other sections of the application, this would be the ideal place to address liabilities, e.g. gaps in employment, a weak quantitative record, etc. In such cases, applicants should keep their responses brief and to-the-point, offering explanations without making excuses and humbly bringing mitigating factors to the reader’s attention. That said, it’s possible that there are other elements of one’s background that would be appropriate and not covered elsewhere, for example an anticipated promotion or an element of one’s identity not covered in the program’s data forms. While applicants should make an effort to fully represent their candidacies within the required elements of the application, this leaves a bit of room for short exceptions.
Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Darden MBA essay topics. As you work on your Darden MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s UVA offerings: