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Darden MBA Essay Questions | Analysis and Tips (2019-2020)

For the 2019 – 2020 application cycle, Darden MBA essay questions include multiple short answer questions with a 705-word limit. Darden MBA Essays helps the admissions committee in knowing the applicant’s personal, educational, and career objectives and touches upon Darden’s leadership and diversity ethos. Darden Essays are an excellent opportunity to get a sense of an applicant’s personality, perspective and experiences.

It is advisable to respond in an authentic and genuine manner. The admissions committee believes that while approaching Darden Essays, applicants should show examples that support their stories. As stated in the Darden’s admissions blog “How you choose to answer a question is often as insightful as what you decide to write in your essays”.



In this article, we analyze and provide tips to approach the Darden MBA Essay questions. Here’s an outline of the article:


UVA Darden MBA Application deadline


Below table provides information regarding the Darden’s MBA Application deadline:

Darden’s MBA Application Application Deadline Interviews Decisions
Early Action September 03, 2019 Schedule your own October 09, 2019
Round 1 October 04, 2019 By invitation December 11, 2019
Round 2 January 06, 2020 By invitation March 18, 2020
Round 3 April 06, 2020 By Invitation May 06, 2020


Learn more about Darden School of Business MBA Class Profile, Employment Reports, Notable Alumni.


Expectations of the Darden Admissions Committee



According to Dawna Clarke, Executive Director of Admissions, the purpose of multiple short essay type questions is to give the admissions committee a broader perspective of you as an applicant.

The essay prompts range from questions about:

    • What you want your learning team to know about you
    • Where you want to travel with Darden (Travel objectives)
    • Your Short-term goals/post-MBA goal
    • What you are most excited about exploring in Charlottesville

Apart from the above short essay questions, there is a big emphasis on leadership and impact as Darden cares about cultivating high impact leaders.

The key advice by Dawna Clarke to approach Darden MBA Essays is to be genuine and authentic. If you are funny, include your sense of humor while writing the essay; if you are creative, incorporate your creativity, and once you are through with your draft, ask someone who knows you well to read it and make sure it answers the question ‘does it sounds like me.’

Darden’s admission blog points out that applicants should not overthink their essay responses and get worried about providing specific answers. The admissions committee is not reading your essays with the right answer in mind.

Here are a few tips towards crafting a successful essay response according to Darden’s admission committee are:

    • Think about your application holistically: It is advisable to view your application holistically and think about it as a narrative exercise. Darden Essays are your chance to tell your story and make sure you provide overall information regarding yourself.
    • Do pre-writing: Give enough thought towards what you want to convey through your essay and leave yourself plenty of time to write an essay without feeling rushed.
    • Ask for the second opinion: getting feedback on your essays is a good strategy as it will help you in having a second perspective and catch those typos and grammatical errors you might miss after reading a piece a few times.
    • New comment section: You should use this section only if you have some additional information to add. Darden’s advice is to be brief under this section – make your point and explain if needed. For example: explaining a gap in employment and what did you do during that time.
    • Using the same examples: It is appropriate to use the same illustrations more than once, but you should make sure you are responsive to the questions and provide the best answer to the essay prompt.
    • Copy -Paste: It is advisable to take time out and craft unique responses to the essay questions rather than copy-pasting the same answers that you have given for other business schools.



Guidelines for the Darden MBA Essay questions

The applicants need to upload their essay answers in the space provided in Darden’s online application form. Here is a sample for Darden MBA Essays:


Applicants should keep in mind the word limit for each essay prompt and should be able to communicate within the same.

Below is the word limit for each Darden essays:

      • Darden’s Essay 1 (200 words): Leadership
      • Darden’s Essay 2 (200 words): Diversity
      • Darden’s Essay 3 (100 words): What you want learning team to know (personal/professional or both)
      • Darden’s Essay 4 (150 words): short-term, post-MBA goals
      • Darden’s Essay 5 (55 words): Travel opportunity

In the following section, we will analyze Darden MBA essay questions 2019 -2020 and provide tips for the same.

Darden MBA Essay Questions 2019 -2020: Analysis and Tips

There are five short essay prompts for Darden MBA application 2019 – 2020. Apart from that, additional space is provided to highlight any other information which is not present in your application form.

Darden’s Essay 1: Leadership and Impact

Darden strives to cultivate and identify responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact. (200 words)



This essay question is a combination of two questions that focus on leadership and impact. This essay prompt helps to describe what you have achieved, and how did you do it while providing information regarding your leadership style.

As Darden wants to know about the impact you made, you need to show the results of your actions. But that’s not all. The admissions committee also wants to understand the decisions you made and the steps you took. Thus, explaining your thought process, the values, and the initiatives that made it possible is an excellent way to approach this essay prompt.

Here are the few points that Darden’s office of admissions have pointed out in their blog:

      • Personal and professional examples can both works well for this essay prompt
      • You should choose a story that you feel makes the most compelling essay.
      • Examples are the best way to approach this essay prompt, but you need to provide meaningful insight.

Poonam Tandon, an admissions counselor, points out that while choosing your leadership stories, make sure you include the impact part. Your story should emphasis your ‘responsible leadership’ and ‘focus on purpose’ that led to a meaningful result and a significant impact.

As pointed out by the admissions committee, using examples will help in knowing you better and thus have a narrative essay by using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) method will help in organizing your ideas.

At last, make a note of the two words in this essay prompt “purpose” and “responsible.” As stated by mbaMission, qualities related to these concepts would be good ones to highlight if they are a part of your authentic story.


Darden’s Essay 2: Diversity

Diversity and inclusion are critical to Darden’s mission, and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of Darden’s community. Share a time where you engaged with a community, perspective, experience, or identity that was different from your own. And how it impacted your worldview. (200 words)



The goal of the Darden’s admissions committee is to assemble the best and most diverse class possible for having a more vibrant and more transformational learning experience. From this essay prompt, Darden’s admissions committee wants to make sure that you are interested in what your peers bring to the table. Through this essay, they want to know how you view, react, and approach to people who think differently from you, have different values, and react differently to the same stimuli.

The admissions committee believes that it’s essential to engage with your classmates whose backgrounds and experiences differ from your own because your classmate’s perspectives will shape how you come to think about the world (and vice versa).

Thus, to efficiently answer this question, explain both ‘before’ and ‘after’ a situation where you engaged with a perspective, community, identity, or experience that was different from your own and then highlight the key takeaways. For example, you encountered an experience that led to change or question your belief.


Darden’s Essay 3: Personal/Professional information

Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you?  –professional, personal, or both. (100 words)



There are two things that you need to know about Darden’s MBA program to answer this essay prompt efficiently – Darden’s learning team-based curriculum and case study method.

Case study method: in contrast to a lecture-based approach to education, Darden’s case study method challenges its students to discuss and debate real business problems and possible solutions.

Learning teams are a group of five to six students whose intent is to create a mix of personalities and backgrounds to tackle the next days’ casework together. Your learning team is an essential touchstone for you at Darden, and you will stay connected to these people long after graduation.

In short, learning teams will require strong teamwork skills and contribution, and thus, for your essay to be compelling, you need to show what you can offer to your future teammates.

In this essay prompt, the admissions committee wants to know what you want your learning team to know about you? It can be your attributes such as your hobbies/interests, or it can be your professional attributes such as your negotiation skills that can add value to your team.

With the word limit of 100 words, make sure you maintain a balance between your personal/ professional examples and provide the admissions committee with a well-rounded personality of yours through your essays.

Learn more about Darden’s four-step learning model

Darden’s Essay 4: Short-term/Post MBA Goals

What is your short-term, post-MBA career goal, and why? (150 words)



It’s a straightforward career goal type essay prompt that asks you to explain your short-term post-MBA goals. As pointed out by Darden’s admissions committee, pursuing an MBA is about taking the next step in your career, and thus, they want to know how engaged you are with your career path and what are your plans post- MBA.  This essay prompt is your chance to share your answer for ‘Why MBA.’

One essential advice given on Darden admissions blog is to take a moment and think about your application holistically. Think about answering the two main questions:

  1. How do your responses fit into the broader story you are telling about yourself through your application form?
  2. How do your responses connect the dots between what you ‘ve done, experienced, and where you want to go next?

Spending some time to reflect upon your experiences that led you to pursue an MBA and then explaining the goals that you want to achieve is an excellent way to approach this essay question.

Keep in mind that this essay prompt requires you to highlight your short-term and not your long-term goals. Thus, you only need to talk about your post-MBA career goals.

While explaining your goals, make sure that they are realistic and ambitious. The admissions committee at Darden wants to know that the path you have chosen is attainable, and the program has resources to help you reach that goal.

Darden’s Essay 5: Travel Opportunity

The batten Foundation Worldwide Scholarship provides all Darden students in our full-time MBA program with an opportunity to participate in a Darden worldwide course. If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to travel (5 words), and why (50 words)?



At mbaMission annual conference, held this year on Darden grounds, Dawna Clarke explained that because of the Batten foundation worldwide scholarship, every student at Darden would be able to afford to participate in an international course at some point during their MBA program.  Darden wants to make sure that every student can take advantage of this opportunity to explore a new horizon and gets a chance to study abroad.

Thus, to answer this essay prompt, make sure you showcase your interest to travel and identify a location that truly excites you.

This essay is divided into two parts where a word limit of 5 words is given to identify which country you want to visit, and the rest of the 50 words is for explaining the reason for your choice and how your decision will enhance your learnings. This essay prompt is yet another opportunity for the admissions committee to gain insight into your interests and passion.

Note: You can choose more than one travel location as the word limit to identify your country choice is five words.


Darden Admissions Additional Comments

As pointed out by Dawna Clarke, the additional comment section is a great way to provide further information about any aspect of your application that is not covered elsewhere. Think about your application holistically and utilize this space to explain information such as:

      • Tough semester in college
      • Gap in employment
      • Recommender choice
      • Application timing
      • Low GMAT/GPA Score

Learn about  What is a good GMAT score for Darden School of Business?

You need to be brief while providing additional comments. This section is optional, and thus if you feel the need to use it and think that the admissions committee needs to know more about something that is not in your application and that might raise questions, opt for this section.

Do you aspire to pursue an MBA at Darden School of Business?  A 740+ GMAT score can improve your chances of admission. Kickstart your GMAT preparation by Signing up for our Free Trial!

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