3 Success Tips to Nail your Darden Essays + Deep Dive into Essay Prompts

The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia prides itself in building a close-knit community of students, faculty, and staff. In thinking about constructing this community, admissions counselors are looking to bring in students with different perspectives and backgrounds with the goal to build a diverse cohort that shapes the way students will interact in their classes and extracurricular activities. With that said, the Darden essays are a fantastic opportunity to highlight who you are, what your passions are, and what unique perspective you would bring to the Darden community.

Here are 3 success tips to guide you in your Darden essay writing process:

  1. Answer the prompt - This might sound simple, but you would be surprised by how many applicants avoid answering the stated question and take the essay real estate to communicate their love of the school, their career goals, or something else that was not asked. Simply put, if the essay prompt doesn’t ask you to explain why you like Darden, then do not write about your interest in Darden. There are other opportunities to do that, most of the time the interview captures your interest in Darden, or perhaps a short-answer question.

  2. What are the lessons learned? - Spend less time describing the what of the situation and more time on the why. For example,

if you had to describe your most meaningful work contribution, try to spend less time describing the task or nature of the work, and more time describing what you did, how that added value, how you grew, and what you learned. Every success or failure in the workplace has a lesson, and writing that lesson out for admission counselors lets them know you are a self-aware leader prepared to learn more and grow in an MBA program.

  1. The blind test - One of the best ways to know if you’re answering the prompt and providing a compelling answer is to form a “board of directors”, these people can be friends, family, roommates or colleagues, and ask them to read the essay without giving them the prompt. If your “board member” can reasonably guess the prompt after reading your essay, then you’ve done a great job in providing a clear story.

Now let’s take a look at Darden’s prompts for 2018 - 2019 and dig a little deeper into what the prompts may be looking for:

“Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you - personal, professional or both."(100 words)

  • Be honest and be yourself! With only 100 words, think about those skills, interests, and passions that are unique to you - these can even include personal interests, travel interests, or goals that you have for yourself.

"Each year, Darden connects with over 80 countries. If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to go with Darden? And why?" (50 words)

  • Global programs are becoming more popular at Darden each year. Think deeply about the brand that you’re presenting to Darden. Are there any travel spots that highlight your interests or what you bring to Darden? Take a look at Darden’s global courses and their corresponding topics to get a better idea.

"Darden strives to identify and cultivate leaders who follow their purpose. At this stage, how would you describe your evolving leadership style and please provide an example." (200 words)

  • The keywords here are purpose and evolving; consider thinking about an example where your leadership style grew or changed. Providing an answer that not only describes your leadership style but why it is the way it is, will help the reader better understand you.

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