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UVA Darden’s MBA application essay questions for the 2010-2011 season are slightly revised from last year, with a greater focus on the contribution one would make to the Darden community as well as an applicant’s experiences in and perception of leadership. Requiring two essays with an allowance of just 1000 words between them, UVA’s is now one of the shorter applications among leading business schools. Of course, “shorter” doesn’t translate to “easier;” less room to comment on one’s background forces candidates to think carefully and strategically as they decide which aspects of their experiences to highlight.
Let’s consider each of the school’s questions for this year:
Essay 1: The Darden MBA program expects students to actively participate in learning teams, the classroom, and the broader community. Please share one or two examples from your past experience that best illustrate(s) how you will contribute to this highly engaging and hands-on learning environment. (500 words)
This fairly broad prompt invites the applicant to imagine how his or her past experience might translate into participation in the Darden community. Because Darden describes itself as possessing a “highly engaging and hands-on learning environment,” applicants should ensure that they present themselves as being a good “fit” with this type of community by highlighting their initiative and passion for contributing to – and benefiting – their current community or communities.
In order to provide a focused and effective answer to this question, applicants should use one or two anecdotes from their professional, academic, or extracurricular experiences to demonstrate how they would contribute Darden’s academic and broader community. This response is a great place to showcase specific knowledge of the culture at Darden, as well as introduce information that will help you stand out from the applicant pool. Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus, conversations with members of the community, or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Darden – will pay dividends here.
Essay 2: Please discuss how a global event that has taken place in the past two years has impacted the way you think about leadership broadly and personally. (500 words)
New to Darden’s application, this essay gives students the opportunity to discuss how a world event has impacted their perception of leadership. It’s important that applicants follow Darden’s instructions and offer their observations on global leadership as well as more personal examples. The latter offers applicants the opportunity to present the adcom with insights into their professional and extracurricular involvements, by discussing their work with superiors and/or their own leadership efforts. Providing the adcom with a quick view into one’s career history or out of work involvements will help applicants highlight their unique experiences and thus stand out from the rest of the pool.
Applicants may also do well to discuss how their career goals have been affected by this global event and/or their changing perspectives on leadership. For example, discussing the management of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico might make sense for someone who has career plans in the energy industry, while someone interested in starting a microfinance organization might want to discuss the leadership of Haitian relief after the earthquake. No matter what global event you choose and how it has affected your perception of leadership, the admissions committee is looking for applicants who are clearly attuned to current realities, have strong ideas on leadership, can adapt to changing circumstances, and are using all of these opinions to proactively plan for his or her post-MBA days.
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