Darden Admissions recently hosted a webinar for prospective Full-Time MBA candidates featuring seven top application tips from the Admissions team.

Senior Director of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Recruiting Christian P.L. West and Admissions team member Wendy Huber hosted the popular session, highlighting their favorite application tips, ways to engage with Darden and how to keep an admissions perspective in mind when putting together an application. View highlights No. 7-4 from the webinar below. Check our next post for tips No. 3-1!

No. 7: The Right Frame of Mind

  • Embrace opportunity for introspection
  • Consider what you are most proud to convey
  • Remember, you’ve already done most of the hard work!

West: I often describe the application process as this moment for reflection about your professional experience and why you want to attend an MBA program. What are your expectations and goals for the MBA program? What outcomes do you expect after you’re done in terms of skill attainment, competency growth and job outcomes as it relates to your internship or full-time offer after the MBA? Use this as an opportunity as you craft your application to reflect on those questions. Keeping this frame of reference will help you to present an application that is representative of your goals, but also make sure that you’re making the right decision as it relates to an MBA degree and the particular school that you might choose.

Huber: It’s a great time to do a SWOT analysis on yourself.  Make sure that you take time to think about how you can distinguish yourself in this really rich and diverse pool of applicants. This process will take you longer than you think it will, so give yourself plenty of time to do this reflective process. If you go into this business school journey with a mindset that you’re going to have an opportunity to learn about yourself, meet some really awesome people along the way – whether it’s the other prospective students or whether they’re people who work in admissions – try to look at the sunny side of the process.

No. 6: Work Experience and Resume

  • There’s a difference between job history and your resume
  • Highlight demonstrated progression
  • Show leadership and impact

West: As folks look at our application, they will see that there are two main opportunities to represent your work experience.

One is by submitting a resume. And that is done in whatever style of format you choose for yourself, though we do recommend you convert your work resume to an MBA-style resume. There’s also an opportunity to list what we call a job history and a more standardized format through the application.

The resume is a place where applicants get to shape and represent the experience as they see fit. We see a lot of different creative ways that candidates will represent their experience on the resume. And we see a lot of things that they put on there, beyond just their professional work experience, but also interests, certifications and hobbies. They’ll give us a little bit of a sense of their personal interests as well.

The job history is a standardized format that we require as a part of our application. It mainly helps us create good data about our applicants and as a reader, this section creates a standardized format that I can easily digest about your experience and have a good understanding of what that looks like before I move on to other applications.

Huber: When I’m reading the work/job history, the part that I pay attention to is the reason for leaving – why that transition was made. I’m looking for whys and the whats. I’m not focused on a lot of the details, I just want to get to the scope and an overall holistic vision of the path. And then if I really want to get into some of the nuts and bolts, I will go into the resume to learn more.

West: Purpose-driven leadership is one area we’re looking for in our evaluation process for admission. One way for us to evaluate that is through your resume and work history. That doesn’t have to come in a formal way. For example, you don’t have to be a manager and have multiple supervisees. There are ways that you could signal to us that you have had some leadership experiences whether it’s leading a small team through one of your job responsibilities, sitting on a committee at your firm that may be outside of a formal responsibility. Applicants can also signal this through professional personal interests or community service. Of note, there are several ways to demonstrate this in the application, whether it’s through short answer responses or in an interview, so this is not the only opportunity that you have to get across that you have leadership experiences.

No. 5: Short Answer Essays

  • There’s no one right answer, really!
  • Unexpected perspectives are noted, appreciated
  • Personal and professional insights
  • Word count limits require planning ahead
  • When possible, show, don’t tell

West: I will gladly admit that I am one who pays particular attention to the short answer essays. It’s where we get a lot of context and nuance from applicants about their experiences, whether professional or personal. There really is no right answer to these questions. We don’t have a ideal response in a rubric that we’re measuring your responses against. It’s about representing the experiences that you have, as they relate to the prompts and getting across how that might be relevant to the MBA program.

Huber: Really think about all the dimensions of who you are. Have you sprinkled in enough of yourself for me to really get a good idea of who you are? Also, I do like when I get to see a mix of personal and professional. I get that you’re applying an MBA program, but you may have a partner or a family as well – what are the other things that make up your whole self?

One bit of advice for applicants is sometimes they will share something they’ve learned, which is great. But as a reader, what I want to know is, how did that affect you? What did you do differently going forward? What did you do with this information? Show us that in your response.

West: Please proofread and edit before you hit submit. These essays are a representation of your professional approach to the application. That is something we’re also evaluating when we review them.

No. 4: Academic Preparedness

  • Academic preparedness is more than just standardized test scores
  • Professional certifications and coursework are helpful data points
  • Test waiver considerations
  • If you do choose to take a test, choose the one that works best for you!

West: One of the items we are evaluating candidates for is their academic preparedness for our particular MBA program. Darden is a general management program. In the First Year core curriculum, students will experience a wide variety of business areas, some of which are quite quantitative in nature. And that first quarter, students take accounting, finance and quantitative analysis (our version of statistics or static data analysis), and we want to be sure that you have the academic experience to that has prepared you for that.

When looking at preparedness holistically, we are looking at an applicant’s undergraduate program and courses that you have pursued there, as well as your achievement and accomplishments. If you have a graduate degree, that’s something we take into context as well. There are candidates who have taken continued learning courses, whether it’s Coursera courses or certifications, maybe a online course that helps them experience a little bit of a business curriculum. This demonstrates to us that they’ve done a bit of preparing, and it’s also beneficial to just see if you enjoy learning through a business curriculum.

Huber: When it comes to standardized tests, if a GRE is going to represent you better than a GMAT, or if you’ve taken the LSAT or MCAT, it’s all really a piece of the pie. I personally really enjoy looking through a transcript as well – I want to see what types of classes you took that show me you are brave, and I also look for what kinds of quantitative experience you’ve had.

West: We also have a test waiver application process at Darden. It’s a good fit for candidates who have a strong quantitative background. Either they studied something quantitative in their undergraduate program, let’s say statistics, economics, or finance, and we can look at the transcript and have some alternative proof of evidence of quantitative strength. Or, maybe they’re in a current professional position that is quantitative in nature, for example they’re doing modeling or strong data analysis. That’s another way that we can assess that strength.

Stay tuned for tips No. 3-1!

Check our web page for FAQs and application process details, including how to apply for a test waiver.