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UVA/Darden Essay Topic Analysis 2013-2014

The 2014-2015 UVA / Darden Essay Topic Analysis is now available. 

Continuing our series of posts analyzing the essay topics of top business schools, we’re now turning our attention to the UVA/Darden essay for 2013-2014.

Darden has kept last year’s structure of one 500-word essay, although with the online application not yet posted for the year, it remains to be seen whether applicants will again need to tackle two shorter essays in their data forms.  The adcom has made a small revision to the school’s primary essay topic this year, placing slightly more of an emphasis on personal reflection.  Let’s take a closer look at the question:

Essay 1: Share your thought process as you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. What did you learn about yourself? (500 words maximum)

This prompt is a variation on a topic that made its first appearance on Darden’s application last season.  While the first sentence remains the same – directing applicants to share their thought processes on a difficult professional situation or problem – the follow up question has shifted focus from the subsequent changes to an applicant’s perspective to a more broadly framed self-assessment as a result of this situation.

There are a wide range of viable topics here, from a conflict with a colleague, to an ethical dilemma, to a particularly complicated work assignment.  Regardless of the event you write about, the key to a strong response will be to provide the adcom with insight into your rationale, explaining the various issues you weighed, the reasons behind the course of action your chose and the final outcome of the situation.  To answer the second part of the question, you should take a step back and reflect on what new insights you gained on yourself as a professional or individual.  You might take this as an opportunity to highlight any strengths or evidence of personal development that your thought process highlights.  Finally, you should consider what personal qualities might make you an especially good fit with the school’s culture based on your personal research, conversations with members of the Darden community and resources such as the Clear Admit School Guide to the Darden School of Business.

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