In advance of our upcoming deadlines for the Part-Time MBA, Executive MBA and Full-Time MBA formats, we’re sharing insights about telling your story through your application materials.

Crafting Your Narrative

Darden’s application process is a narrative exercise:

Rather than thinking about the different pieces of the application as disconnected parts, think about how they both complement and supplement this broader story. Each constituent element of your application can contribute to this overall narrative of who you are and who you will be in the Darden classroom and community. Make the most of them!

The admissions process is holistic, and we do not prescribe a particular weight to any of our application elements. Different parts of the application will matter differently for different candidates, and our Admissions Committee will be thinking about your full application when evaluating your candidacy.

Keep this in mind when assembling your application materials! One of the best things about the application process is that everything matters. One of the most challenging things about the application process? Everything matters.

Make sure to you give yourself plenty of time to craft your application. While it is possible to complete our application in a day or two of focused work, we consistently find the strongest applications are the product of thoughtful, reflective effort. The more time you can give yourself to think about your application, the more intentional you can be with the overall story you are communicating through your materials.

And now on with the tips!

As you craft your narrative, take a step back and think objectively about your background and experience:

  • What are your strengths?
  • What aspects of your candidacy do you want to highlight and accentuate?
  • What are those areas you may want to bolster?

While there are invariably aspects of the application that you cannot change at this point (for example, Undergraduate GPA, work history, etc.), are there any actions you can take now (i.e. prior to applying) to strengthen your application and ensure you are putting your best foot forward?

There is no minimum or required standardized test score or undergraduate GPA, and our Admissions Committee considers a fairly broad data set when evaluating your preparation for a rigorous MBA curriculum. This includes standardized test scores (GMAT, GRE, EA, MCAT, LSAT), prior coursework (both degree-related and non-degree-related), advanced degrees, professional certifications and work responsibilities.

There are truly no “perfect” candidates. One way to think about the application process is that you are building a case for your candidacy, and this case has personal, professional and academic dimensions.

As you begin your application, take a few minutes to think about your story across these various categories.

  • Who are you and who will you be in the Darden community?
  • What have you accomplished professionally and why do you want to pursue an MBA?
  • How will you demonstrate your academic readiness and preparation for a rigorous MBA curriculum?

This is why narrative is so important. The more your unique and authentic narrative comes through your application materials, the more different you will become from other applicants. While there are certainly applicants in our pool who share your professional or academic background or [insert point of potential commonality here], the more you can be you through this process, the better.

With this in mind, we encourage you to take particular advantage of those application elements where your authentic voice and personality can come through. The short answer questions are an obvious opportunity, but don’t forget about the resume. In fact, we find the resume is oftentimes an underutilized part of our application. Sure, you could simply upload your existing resume, but before you do so, take a moment to think about how the resume aligns with the other parts of your application.

Remember that your story encompasses your full life — not just your academic and professional achievements. Believe it or not, applicants often overlook their personal story when crafting their narrative. It’s no accident there is space on our application for you to share hobbies and interests, volunteer and community service activities, information about your family background and more. Utilize these spaces! If you’ve joined our team for one of our recent Admissions Workshops, you likely remember the three-legged IKEA stool we often use to visualize the key dimensions of a strong application — personal, academic and professional.

And last but not least, once you’ve finished your application, take a moment to think about your materials with the big picture in mind. Are there any gaps or ambiguities in the information provided? Consider using the Additional Comments section of your application to provide additional context, if necessary. The Additional Comments section is not an additional essay, just a place to connect the dots.