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University of Virgina (Darden) Essay Analysis

1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? (500 word limit)

This is another personal statement in which there is no explicit request for information about your past or about the school itself. Still, you need to provide some context for your future goals – your goals cannot just exist in a vacuum. Therefore, you should offer some existing experience which shows that your short and long term goals make sense for you. Again, this is not a career history and does not need to be 250 words; a brief 50 word introduction of your context should be sufficient before leading into your goals.

As always your goals should be specific enough that you are showing clear intent and ambition, but not so specific that you are limiting yourself or narrow minded. The bulk of your essay should focus on why your MBA and specifically, your Darden MBA will allow you to achieve your goals. Again, this is not an opportunity to sing the schools praises; you want to connect the schools resources with your professional goals and learning objectives. You want to explain how Darden has the resources to bridge your dreams/goals and reality.

2. Each of our applicants is unique. Describe how your background, values, education, activities and/or leadership skills will enhance the experience of other Darden students. (500 word limit)

This essay is broad and sweeping in nature so it allows you to showcase a mix of your greatest strengths – professional, community, academic and personal. You should attempt to select a diversity of these experiences and present them in such a way you will be able to relate them back to your ability to contribute in a variety of areas – for example, the classroom, your learning team and the community at large. A successful essay will be one which not only details unique personal strengths, but also clearly illustrates how these strengths will be in action at Darden, meaning that you will have an opportunity to show your intimate understanding of and connection to Darden.

3. Choose one of the following questions. (250 word limit)

These questions are flexible enough that you can make a choice about whether you want to add depth to your professional, community or personal profile, depending on the choices that you have made above.

a. What would you do if you didn’t have to work for a living?

This question is quite malleable. Your approach might be to discuss an unusually strong passion or a philosophical/academic interest that you would pursue. While you could discuss an alternative “career,” you should be careful in this regard, particularly in terms of community service. You don’t want to raise the question, “Well, if you value that path so much, why aren’t you pursuing it?” You should try to find an idea that is slightly implausible, but still grounded in reality.

b. Describe a significant maturing experience.

The key with this essay will be to show change and thus the most effective stories will likely be those with a clear climax – a before and after. While 250 words is very brief, your essay may have the following components: before, climax, after, reflection. Even in such a short space, there is still room for a full story and reflection/introspection.

c. What have been the most satisfying aspects of your work life thus far and the most dissatisfying?

The most satisfying aspects will probably be easy for most to identify; most are acutely aware of what they love about their jobs. However, simply stating what it is that you love will not work all that well. We need to experience your passion and energy, via convincing details that prove your point. With respect to your most dissatisfying aspects, it is obviously important not to complain, but to be constructive. You want this constructive criticism to be levied at your company and not become a window into your negativity.


July 19, 2006

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