Today’s post authored by Second Year student Walker White (Class of 2022). White is a member of the Second Year Admissions Committee, a credit-bearing class that allows students to work on special projects, conduct interviews, and work alongside Darden’s Admissions team to recruit future classes of MBA students. This group of students also serves as informal ambassadors to the Darden experience, lending their own knowledge and expertise to prospective students and applicants.

I remember when applying to Darden seemed, at first, a daunting task. How could I stand out amongst a large pool of interesting, intelligent candidates? How could I portray all I have to offer in just a few short essays and a resume?

Walker White, Class of 2022

These are all valid questions to ask yourself, but I would suggest an approach that focuses on self-reflection and clear communication of who you are, your goals, and what drives you. Telling your story does not stop after admission to Darden. In fact, it’s an exercise that you will go through countless times as you build relationships with your classmates and navigate the recruiting process.

You learn a lot about Darden in the questions that you are asked in the application. What should your learning team know about you, how do you act in a team environment, how do you embrace diversity, and what are your goals? Darden is a place that, at its core, is powered by the diversity of the student body and our commitment to learning from the community as you work through hundreds of cases throughout your academic journey. Your learning team is fundamental to your success and you will bring unique experiences and personality to that team. Lastly, Darden has robust career resources and an incredible network – we want to know your goals so that we can support you through the process of getting a dream offer or starting your own business.

My advice:

Be authentic: When asked what my learning team should know about me, I told the admissions team that I was the Rob Gronkowski of MBA candidates. My answer had nothing to do with football–I just love to perform at a high level, build strong teams, and have a great time while doing it. Don’t be afraid to bring your personality into your answers. In fact, that’s exactly what you should do. If you’re funny, throw some humor in there. If you’re contemplative and find meaning in most things in life, let that shine through. The point is, be you.

Start early: The GMAT and GRE are not intuitive for most people. While Darden has flexibility with these tests, most of you will take one or the other. Give yourself the time to prepare and show what you are capable of. While the Darden admissions process is holistic in nature and this is only a small part of your application, test scores are in your control.

Letters of recommendation should come from people that know you well: Unless you worked closely with your boss’s boss’s boss, that person should not be writing your letter of recommendation. These letters should come from someone who can speak to your work product, your teamwork, your character, and your potential.

Talk to current students: Talking to current students is something that gives you a closer look at the fabric of the Darden community. Find a club that aligns with your interests and reach out. Respect current student’s time and come with insightful questions, and you will find that everyone here is excited to share their experience with you.

Think about if the case method is right for you: The case method is an immersive learning experience. The case method is fast paced, challenging, and a lot of work. While lectures are passive, you are engaged in every minute of class. That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get to tackle challenging business problems with a room full of smart people with diverse perspectives every day. Think about whether the case method appeals to you specifically and how you would thrive in the classroom.

Learn about Darden and Charlottesville: Charlottesville is a special place. There is a rich academic community, great restaurants, national championship winning sports teams, access to the outdoors, and some of Virginia’s best wineries. There is something for everyone. Be ready to share what speaks to you about this community.

Our interviews are different: You will be interviewed by someone who knows nothing about you. Think of your interview as a clean canvas. The interviewers will not have seen your resume or read your essays. The interviews are a conversation about you, your experiences, and your passions. Let that shine through. I remember having a great experience with my interviewer and never felt like I was under any pressure. Relax and be yourself.