University of Virginia Darden Essay Analysis, 2015–2016

*Please note: You are viewing an essay analysis from the 2015-2016 admissions cycle. Click here to view our collection of essay analyses for the current admissions season. 

Once again, the University of Virginia’s Darden School has started the MBA application season with a single essay question. Before you get too comfortable, though, we must inform you that for the past two years, when the school has released its official application, it has snuck in few additional queries—albeit short ones—to which applicants must respond. Last year, for example, the Darden essay prompts related to personal contributions and career goals, thereby requiring two mini essays totaling 400 words. So, we suggest that you begin working on the primary essay now, but keep in mind that you may not be done with Darden quite so easily and will likely need to pen several more brief pieces to complete the school’s application. We will update our essay analysis here after Darden releases its full application.

UVA Darden; University of Virginia (Darden) Essay Analysis, 2015–2016 via mbaMission

Essay 1: Describe the most important professional feedback you have received and how you responded to it. (500 words maximum)

With this question, Darden definitely wants to know more than just what others may think of your professional capabilities. The admissions committee also wants evidence that you are capable of reflecting, learning, and growing. If you are not able to do this, the school might assume that you are simply not cut out to become a standout manager. To craft an effective essay response to this query, focus on describing a “before and after” situation in which the suggestion or input you received served as an inflection point that triggered a dramatic change in you. If you start your essay by simply leading with the feedback you received, you will kill any mystery in your story. Instead, consider relating a narrative that involves a lot of momentum in one direction that is suddenly derailed when you are disarmed by someone else’s input—input that leads to clear and tactical change.

One thing to keep in mind is that feedback is a response. Many applicants will mistake or interpret the word “feedback” in Darden’s query to mean “advice,” but these are two very different things. If your father always told you, for example, that “hard work is the most important thing in life,” that aphorism may have indeed shaped your professional career, but it would not necessarily be considered feedback offered in response to or in light of a specific effort. Some candidates might confuse general advice with feedback and in doing so, will essentially fail to answer the school’s question. Do not let this be you! So, to reiterate, ensure that the incident you choose to highlight in your essay has that element of response and change, and your submission should be an effective one.

And for a thorough exploration of the UVA Darden academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the UVA Darden School of Business Administration. 

The Next Step—Mastering Your UVA Darden Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the UVA Darden Interview Primer today.

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