Application Tips

Applicant FAQs: Traditional vs. Non-Traditional Career Paths

By Brett Twitty-

We continue our application tips blog series with another frequent applicant question. In our previous post, we shared some of the ways candidates can potentially strengthen their quantitative profile. Today, we explore how our admissions committee thinks about industry/background when evaluating applicants. Check it out! 

I come from a “non-traditional” employment background. How will the Admissions Committee evaluate my candidacy?

Let’s begin by noting that the “traditional” vs. “non-traditional” career binary in business schools has morphed significantly over the past years.  

At Darden, we have candidates from a variety of backgrounds, and we value this diversity. Darden is a case method school, and we know your class discussions will be richer the more you differ from your classmates and your classmates differ from you.

It bears repeating that we are looking for bright people who will make great leaders, and there is not one background that has a claim on either of these dimensions. As an Admissions Committee, we will take stock of your intellect, but we will spend as much (if not more) time considering the cultural dimensions of your candidacy.

Why? Learning at Darden is a social enterprise. You will interact with your classmates in and out of the classroom, on small teams and in larger learning environments. In addition, students play an active role in the extracurricular life of the school, and clubs and organizations are a central part of the Darden experience.

Consequently, we are interested in understanding how you will impact our community as well as your classmates. Key questions include (but are not limited to): “Are you collaborative?,” “What kind of teammate are you?,” “Do you freely share your expertise?,” “Do you enjoy learning from others?,” “Do you want to be an active participant in your educational experience?,” “Are you relationship-oriented?”, “Do you value different backgrounds and perspectives?”.

As an applicant, focus on what makes you unique. Your work experience and background are important parts of your candidacy, and if you do something that’s a little different from most applicants, view this as a positive. Of course, make sure we can understand your roles and responsibilities and how you have impacted those with whom you’ve worked. And most importantly, help us understand why you want to get an MBA, why you want to come to Darden and how these steps fit into your ultimate career goals.  

In our next post, we will answer several essay-related questions we’ve been receiving from applicants over the past few weeks. Stay tuned!