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UVA / Darden Essay Topic Analysis 2014-2015

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 2014-2015.

Darden has retained its structure of one 500-word essay for a third year running, though in past years the school has included additional short responses in its online data form, which isn’t yet available for this admissions cycle. The school is again asking applicants to recount a professional situation and reflect on its larger implications, though the focus of this one required essay has shifted a bit—from tackling challenge and complexity to exercising courage. Let’s take a closer look at the question:

Essay 1: Describe the most courageous professional decision you have made or action you have taken. What did you learn from that experience? (500 words maximum)
The descriptor “courageous” could encompass a wide range of workplace situations, from assuming responsibility for a large, high-stakes project to taking a stand on an office policy that affected a relatively small subset of people. Unlike an accomplishment-specific essay, the adcom isn’t necessarily focused on impressive results or bottom-line impact (though if your example happens to include these, it certainly wouldn’t hurt); rather, Darden’s adcom seems most interested in an applicants process of persuading others or taking initiative, even if the results weren’t what the applicant was aiming for. One thing to keep in mind is that in order for a decision or action to be courageous, there must by definition be some element of fear, doubt or uncertainty at play, and so the best topics and their descriptions will likely have an emotional valence.

As always, it’s important to fully address both elements of the prompt, fully detailing the relevant context, the decision or action and the reasons behind it, as well as the subsequent events and outcomes. This should be followed by a treatment of the lessons that the applicant drew from this act of courage. While not explicitly requested, it would make sense to touch on ways that the applicant has used these lessons—or anticipates using them as a Darden student or alum—at the close of this response. This might even include a remark about bravely starting a student club or getting involved in a new on-campus activity that you’ve learned about through personal research, conversations with members of the Darden community and resources such as the Clear Admit School Guide to the Darden School of Business.

For some additional insight, see the Darden MBA Admissions blog for video pointers from Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions Sara Neher.

** This post will be updated with comments on optional and reapplicant essays as these prompts become available.

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Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis

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