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 your broader story. Each element contributes to the overall narrative of who you are and who you will be in the Darden classroom and community. Make the most of them!

One of the best things about the application process? Everything matters. One of the most challenging things about the application process? Everything matters.

The various 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!

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 efforts.

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 you cannot change (for example, Undergraduate GPA, work history, etc.), are there actions you can take now (i.e. prior to applying) to strengthen your application and ensure you are putting your best foot forward?

Our Admissions Committee considers a 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 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 the application materials, the more you will stand out from other applicants.

The short answer questions are a great opportunity to craft your story, but don’t forget about the resume. We find the resume is oftentimes an underutilized part of our application. Take a moment to refresh your formatting and 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. Utilize the spaces for you to share hobbies and interests, volunteer and community service activities, information about your family background and more. 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.