University of Virginia Darden School of Business Essay Analysis 2017 – 2018

Last updated on August 30th, 2017

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Welcome to this article, where I am going to discuss the Darden MBA program, and Darden’s application essays 2017-18.


If you were to look at what Darden is known for, what its USP is, it has to be the case based method. In fact, if you look at the website and talk to their alumni, (we have students from CrackVerbal who went to Darden), that’s the one thing that differentiates Darden from the other B-Schools – the case based method, which you realize, is a derivative of what Harvard does. Apart from the case based method, the specialty of Darden is that it a small, close-knit community and it is away from major towns, unlike New York, Columbia, Harvard, and Boston. It’s a relatively small town.


Darden has a ritual called first coffee, for example. After the first class, the entire Darden community comes together and for half an hour to forty minutes, have coffee; they interact. The reason why I am pointing out this ritual is that it gives the sense of its culture; it involves a smaller community where the students bond with each other. This translates into a stronger and deeper network, even if the network is small. That’s pretty much what I would are the unique, salient features that set Darden apart from other schools.


2017-2018 UVA Darden MBA Deadlines


Round 1

Application Deadline: October 5, 2017

Round 2

Application Deadline: January 9, 2018

Round 3

Application Deadline: April 3, 2018



2017-2018 UVA Darden Essay Topic


“When preparing for class at Darden, students formulate an opinion on each case before meeting with their learning teams and class sections. When encountering different views and perspectives from their own, opinions frequently shift. Tell us about a time when your opinion evolved through discussions with others.” (500 words maximum)


You need to understand fundamentally what Darden is looking for in this. B-schools are moving away from the very traditional questions such as “why Darden?”. This is because they know that everyone has access to the internet. Now with access to the internet, everything is out there. So I can live a very vicarious life, with the internet. I can follow whom I want on social media, and get a lot of information. Hence, they want to understand the applicant from the softer perspective. “Let me try to understand how he would be if he were to come into the class.” That’s the whole idea. What Darden is really looking for is how you would react if you’re sitting in the classroom for a case study.


It is very important that you have to give a background to this. You cannot start and directly talk about what happened, and why you changed your opinion. You’re already given a setting and I am assuming if you’re at work, you could give a background about the project, what this person was, was the person a colleague?, was he your subordinate?, what kind of a relationship you shared, and what the gravity of this project was. If it was on the personal side, was he your friend or relative?, how close were you to this person?, etc. You need to provide the background so people understand the dynamics involved. We have 500 words, and that is enough to work on the background part.


Then you come with the actual difference of opinion. What did you believe or what was the differing opinion you had? Then you talk about why you realized there was merit to the other point of view. So, you need to give your point, the other point, and why you felt that the other point had merit.


Finally, you can conclude by saying how you as a person have changed because of this new perspective that you had in life. All of us go through this one ah ha moment when we realize that there is something else to the way we did things, and how our perspective changed.


I can give you an example of one story that one of our students from CrackVerbal had written. This student said that in the way she worked, she believed in efficiency. She had a very clear checklist of how things should be and she would just work on optimizing the list when it came to work. but then she had a colleague and what she noticed about the colleague is that the colleague would always question, and say, “why can’t we do it differently this time? We have always done it this way; why can’t we do it differently this time? Let’s have a different approach to it.” Initially, this student had this inertia, some resistance, and she would say “this is how we have always done things, and we know it works”, and the other person would say, “how do you know that this isn’t the better way to do things?” That clicked! She slowly started accepting that instead of just optimizing and improving the efficiency, sometimes it makes sense to be completely disruptive. If you think about it, most innovations happen when we are disruptive.


I remember Steve Jobs once said that if he had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said, “a faster floppy disk”.


The student learned that there are multiple approaches to doing things, and one has to constantly innovate and experiment. Now, this was an example. Whatever your story be, you need to make sure that you’re able to showcase how it helped you in life. So this short essay of 500 words is easy and manageable but picking the right story is going to be the key to cracking this one.


If you need any feedback, or if you need us to have a look at your application essay and give our opinions, just click the link below.