Admissions, Application Tips, Full-Time MBA

Application Advice: All About Our Short Answer Questions

By Brett Twitty-
application-advice-all-about-our-short-answer-questions

Darden’s full-time MBA application is live!

Be sure to check out the recent story announcing the application launch, as well as updates about scholarships, a new STEM designation and enhanced career and academic resources for students. In the spirit of the season, we wanted to offer some insights about this year’s short answer questions. For the 2019–20 application cycle, we will again feature multiple questions, and we are particularly excited about some of the new additions to this year’s application.

Our goal is to allow applicants a broader platform to showcase their background and personality. These questions are a great opportunity for you to help our Admissions Committee understand who you are and who you will be at Darden.

“At Darden, we love getting to know our applicants, and our short answer questions are a great opportunity for you to highlight important personal characteristics — leadership, curiosity, inclusiveness — as well your passions, goals and dreams. Outside of the interview, these questions are our best opportunity to get a feel for your voice and personality. Make the most of it!” – Executive Director of Admissions Dawna Clarke

And when we say “short” answer, we mean it — none require a more than 200-word response.

(For more, check out our Discover Darden blog post as well as Dawna Clarke’s app tip video for insights about what makes a compelling essay.)

Here are the questions applicants will find on this year’s application:

1. Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact. (200 words) 

Leadership is an important part of the Darden ethos, and it’s no surprise that it also makes an appearance in our essay questions. At Darden, students play a critical role in the life of the school. From learning teams (more on that later), to case discussions, to over 50 clubs and organizations, to myriad service roles, you will have many opportunities to practice leadership both in and out of the classroom during your time on grounds. Personal and professional examples can both work well for this question, and you should choose the story you feel makes the most compelling essay.

Our basic advice is to show, don’t tell. Examples are always best, but do not be so broad as to preclude self-reflection and meaningful insight. And as always, proofread and edit!

2. Diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission, and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community. Read University of Virginia’s Commitment to Diversity Statement. Share a time in which you engaged with a perspective, identity, community or experience that was different from your own and how it impacted your worldview. (200 words) 

This question is new but it reflects some of Darden’s most important values. The goal of our Admissions Committee each and every year is to assemble the best and most diverse class possible. And when we think about diversity, we mean diversity in all its many forms and expressions. We know the more difference in the classroom, the richer and more transformational the learning experience will be for everyone involved. And, given that Darden is known for the world’s best business education experience for eight years running (The Economist 2011-18), is it any surprise we focus on the classroom?

As you likely know, at Darden, students learn through the case method. Your classmates’ perspectives will shape how you come to think about the world (and vice versa). You will bring your whole self to class, and the Darden learning model requires a unique orientation — to believe you have a viewpoint to offer while also accepting you have much to learn from others. As an Admissions Committee, we are seeking the inquisitive, the open-minded, those individuals who have a voracious appetite to learn. As Jordan Gates, a recent graduate in our Class of 2019 noted in his Discover Darden Q&A, this curiosity is the key making the most of your time at Darden:

To really get as much as you can out of this experience, it’s important to engage with classmates whose backgrounds and experiences differ from your own. ‘Fit’ at Darden doesn’t mean you’re like everyone else — far from it. Those students who thrive here are really interested in what their peers bring to the table.”

3. The Batten Foundation Worldwide Scholarship provides all Darden students in our full-time MBA program with an opportunity to participate in a Darden Worldwide Course. If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to travel, and why? (50 words)

The question is intentionally broad. While we encourage you to review our Darden Worldwide Course offerings, you are welcome to go beyond the locations where we deliver a course when crafting your response. This prompt is yet another opportunity for our Admissions Committee to gain insights about your passions and interests.

4. Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you — personally, professionally, or both? (100 words)

Darden has a four-step learning model individual preparation, learning team preparation, class discussion and reflection. Your learning team will be an important touchstone for you at Darden, particularly during your first year. This group will consist of five to six students from a variety of backgrounds, and for many of our students, they will stay connected with these people long after graduation.

So, what would you want your team to know about you? This is a chance for you to let your true self shine. Hobbies, interests, passions, values — it’s all fair game here.

5. What is your short-term, post-MBA goal and why? (150 words)

Pursuing an MBA is about taking the next step in your career, and, naturally, our Admissions Committee is interested in your career goals. Business school is about exploration, but we also want to know that you have engaged with your career path and you have a plan. This question is a chance for you to share your why.

When answering these prompts be sure to take a moment to think about your application holistically. How do your responses fit into the broader story you are telling about yourself through your application? This is particularly true for the career goals question. How does your response connect the dots between what you’ve done and what you’ve experienced and where you want to go?

This will also be good practice. During your interview, your interviewer will also want to know why you want to get an MBA, why you want to attend Darden and what your career goals are, among other things. It’s important that what you share in your interview aligns with the story you tell in your application. Spending some time reflecting upon and crafting the narrative you present in your application will ultimately sharpen the story you tell in your interview.