The following essay topic analysis examines the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (UVA Darden) MBA admissions essays. The UVA Darden essays are for the 2021-2022 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 Essays & Analysis 2021-2022
Let’s take a closer look at the UVA Darden essays.
Short Answer 1: 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.
Tell us what you would want your Learning Team to know about you that is not on your resume. (150 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 for context, note that Darden is looking for material specifically outside of your resume. We encourage applicants to use this opportunity to showcase elements of their personalities and candidacies that they will not have the chance to address elsewehere. 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 150 word limit.
Short Answer 2: Choose One – Leadership and Impact
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?
These options are classic in terms of MBA essays; adcoms are interested in people who lead and make an impact, whether at work, or in other avenues of their lives. They want to know you’ll lead and 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. For Option 1, this includes defining your team and the problem/opportunity. Then, walk the adcom through your actions. 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. For Option 2, it will be important to explain how the results impacted the greater good. You also need to cover why the situation was meaningful to you to provide some insight into your values.
For both, be sure to highlight what you learned—whether refining a skill or discovering a new purpose.
Short Answer 3: Choose One – 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 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)
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?
For both options, there are three main elements to cover: defining your initial perspective/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. While Option 1 mentions simply “learning” something new, you should strive to share an example that incorporates action and engagement. For example, for Option 1, 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. Action would also strengthen a response to Option 2—think beyond comments or campaigns shared on Facebook, and reflect on advocating actively. Option 2 can 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.
Short Answer 4: 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.
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 prompt is an abbreviated version of the typical career goals essay, focusing on applicants’ career plans immediately after graduation and connection to the long term. First, describe your ideal target employer(s) and job position for the short term, and then detail how this plan will lead to your long-term vision. Given Darden’s preamble about creating value and being a purpose-driven leader, it would behoove you to include the impact you hope to have throughout your career.
Short Answer 5: 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.
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)
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.
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: