Unlike other Business Schools, Darden has focused on just two questions - one pertaining to leadership and the other on Darden community. No specific questions on your career goals and the standard 'Why MBA' is asked in this application. You will get 1000 words to answer your questions. You have to be strategic with your approach for Darden Essay questions.
To start with, you have to focus on your management and leadership experience both in work and community service. You will also have to convince the AdCom on your fit with the Darden culture. Focus on specific examples and demonstrate who you are and how your participation would benefit any community. Describe your leadership style in both work and community services.
1. The Darden MBA program expects students to actively participate in learning teams, the classroom, and the broader community. Please share one or two examples from your past experience that best illustrate(s) how you will contribute to this highly engaging and hands-on learning environment. (500 words)
This question is an opportunity to both describe your fit with Darden and sell yourself to the program. Starting with what you bring to the table is an effective way to approach this essay. What are your points of differentiation from other MBA candidates? Do you bring a unique leadership style or knowledge you can share? How will you contribute to the classroom and the community? Do not limit yourself to purely academic pursuits as the close-knit Darden community expects involvement.
Because you are never specifically asked about your accomplishments or even your goals, this is also an opportunity to hit some of that material as you discuss your contributions at work and in the community that highlight how you will contribute to Darden.
Thorough school research will be a huge asset to this essay. Do not forget the personal touch, speaking with current students and alumni will be invaluable.
2. Please discuss how a global event that has taken place in the past two years has impacted the way you think about leadership broadly and personally. (500 words)
Last year, Darden asked specifically about the economic upheaval in the prior 18 months. This question is more open-ended and therefore might be even more daunting to approach. Start by brainstorming about the events you can easily recall over the last two years. Were there any news stories that struck you either personally or professionally?
For example, perhaps you are interested in focusing on clean energy in your post-MBA career and the Gulf oil spill highlighted the importance of this choice for you. Or you were laid off during the financial crisis and had to learn what was really most important in your life. Once you have a list of potential events, think about the ones that have the most personal resonance and why. If the reasons are consistent with an MBA application and will inform Darden about your potential as a student and a leader, consider using that topic.
An additional layer to your topic is the second part of this question, which deals with your approach and thinking about leadership. To thoroughly answer this question you will need to establish how you previously thought about leadership and how the global event you are writing about has either reaffirmed your attitudes or completely changed them. While a personal example is not specifically called for in this question, it would enhance your essay.
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For a more thorough discussion of what the schools are looking for, an analysis of what is being asked and why, tips to help answer questions, and samples essays, check out our school specific Essay Guides: http://www.stacyblackman.com/essay-guides/
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