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 in our previous post. Today, we reveal tips No. 3-1!

No. 3: Additional Comments and Recommendations

  • Consider your recommendation timing – it’s largely out of your control
  • Additional comments are a great place to highlight areas of the application the committee may have questions about

Huber: Think about the person who knows you best, who you have been working with and who can really speak to your abilities and your potential. Please don’t worry about how to impress the Admissions Committee. Title doesn’t mean as much as you think – what I’m looking for is examples and nice descriptive language about you and your work, but truly I’m not as concerned about where your recommender falls within the organization.

West: We use the GMAC Common Letter of Recommendation, so applicants are welcome to learn about exactly what is being assessed in the recommendation.

West: Regarding the Additional Comments section, at the end of our application, you will see an open ended textbox that reads along the lines of “Is there anything else that you would like to communicate to the admissions committee?” This becomes a catch-all where candidates communicate pretty much anything else they would like to share that they haven’t been able to in other sections of the application. Often this is a good place to explain an employment gap. This will give us some context as to why that gap exists or explain what you did productively with your time during that gap. Also, we see explanations regarding academic preparedness. If a candidate’s feels as though their cumulative GPA is not representative of their entire academic experience, they can give us an insight in that area provide details as to how they prepared for standardized tests.

Huber: If an applicant didn’t ask their current supervisor to submit a recommendation, this section is also a good place to explain why you chose your recommender. I’ve also seen that the Additional Comments section can be an area where people share what else is going on in their lives – if they have had a sick parent or have been ill themselves – it just helps to add context to the narrative you have provided us with throughout the application.

No. 2: Interviews

  • Importance of interpersonal and communication skills is valued greatly at Darden
  • For virtual interviews: Be mindful of your background, be focused, no need to prepare a script
  • Interviewers don’t have any information about you, other than your name

West: The interview is one of my favorite aspects of our application and evaluation process here at Darden. And we do this a little bit differently than most schools! I love the fact that we interview anonymously because it’s a fresh set of eyes on an applicant as an additional reviewer. Later on in the evaluation process, I can see the way that the initial reader who just reviewed the application assesses the candidate. And then independently, the way that the interviewer assesses the candidate can triangulate between those two different perspectives. It is additive and ensures that the assessment we’re making in our initial review doesn’t hamper that candidate’s interview. I really view it as a big benefit to candidates.

I’ll also add that in terms of the things that we cover during the interview, it’s very broad. We give you the opportunity to add additional context to your professional experience and we also want to get to know you a bit better. One of my favorite questions during the interview is “What do you do outside of work in terms of hobbies, interests, etc.?”. There are a few specific items that we’re evaluating through the interview process, all of which align with our core values as an institution. If you’re reading between the lines of our application, you can see those represented and the short answer essays we ask. Or, if you’ve gotten to know our program really well by reviewing our website or hearing students talk about the Darden experience, you’ll have a good idea of what those are. You should expect to be responsive to questions around those core values like leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion, community, teamwork and so on.

Huber: From an academic perspective, if you’re having a difficult time talking in a room with just one other person (in the interview, for example), and if you’re having a difficult time telling your story, you may have a hard time in the classroom unless you practice. In classes, you’re with 60-65 other students in your section, and you’ll need to be able to talk about the case and get the point across without using up too much class time. That translates in an admissions interview because you need to think about how you want to tell stories and get your point across in a timely manner. 

No. 1: Relationships are Key

  • Darden has community mindset
  • We want to get to know you – you will bring your whole self to Darden!
  • Do your research and connect with the community in meaningful ways

West: To dovetail on the interviews conversation, we often talk about community as a core value of Darden. Relationships through this admissions process are really key. We provide you the opportunity to connect meaningfully with members of the Admissions Committee through webinars, workshops and other virtual events. We also provide an opportunity to meet our students through our student ambassador program and on-Grounds opportunities. Take advantage of all of these ways to intentionally connect with members of our community!

Ways to connect:

  • Listen to the Experience Darden podcast on all your favorite podcast platforms 
  • Subscribe to the Discover Darden blog at the bottom of the home page! 
  • Connect with Admissions Committee through a virtual coffee chat 
  • Sign up for one of our many upcoming events – we are excited to bring back in-person opportunities to visit Darden this fall!
  • Participate in an upcoming interactive application workshop 

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