Darden School of Business

How to Answer Essay #5: "What is your short-term, post-MBA career goal and why?" (150 words)

For Essay questions on post-MBA goals, the first action item is to analyze the school’s curriculum.

Darden MBA Curriculum – Summary

The 21-month Darden Full-time MBA program relies heavily on case study method and experiential learning to impart skills in leadership and General Management.

Darden MBA is among the very few top programs that offer a General Management focus in the core. Like most top Business Schools, customizability has been introduced in the first year itself.

Darden took a step further and added Leadership Development, experiential learning, and electives in the final term of year one.

The core at Darden covers Marketing, Accounting, Operations Management, Leadership, Financial Management, and Management Communication.  

Full Darden MBA Curriculum Analysis here

You might think that 150 words kill all the chance to structure your essay on interesting narratives. Even...

How to Answer Essay #4: "Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact." (200 words)

None of the essay questions for Darden MBA are by chance.

A big part of Darden’s learning experience is in its Global Experiential learning – Consulting, Immersion, Client and Topic courses. A large percentage (35% by function and 34% by industry) choose consulting. To top it all a $30 million fund (supported by the Batten Foundation and UVA Bicentennial Scholars Fund) enables every student (starting from Aug 2018) to take up at least one Darden Worldwide course (24 countries) and receive a scholarship for the lodging, transportation, meals and course fees.

If you are a career switcher planning to enter consulting, use this essay to demonstrate the IMPACT you had on a client/family friend while offering a consulting solution.

Sample Darden MBA Essay –...

How to Answer Darden MBA Essay #3: "Darden strives to identify and cultivate leaders who follow their purpose. At this stage, how would you describe your evolving leadership style and please provide an example." (200 words)

Leadership styles are not stagnant. They evolve and change according to the responsibilities, deadlines, experience, and size of the team.

Sharing this awareness is important.

We have covered about three leadership styles in this essay guide – Autocratic, Democratic and Delegative. Each leadership has value, but autocratic leadership although highly effective (Apple under Steve Jobs, Oracle under Larry Ellison and Uber under Travis Kalanick) is not the right style to mention for MBA Application essays where ‘teamwork’ and ‘synergy’ are the buzzwords.

A better strategy would be to show how your leadership has evolved from undergraduate to initial work years to recent projects.

In this Sample Essay, the applicant starts with the three leadership experiences - ‘cultural affairs’ club in College, the operations of a start-up firm, and now – leading the operations of two...

How to Answer Darden MBA Essay #2: "Each year, Darden connects with over 80 countries. If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to go with Darden? And why?" (50 words)

There are no preferences for shortlisting the location. However, understanding the goal of each Global Immersion courses will help you pick and choose a location that would widen your experience.

For example, if you are planning to enter the Manufacturing industry, visiting Germany and finding out how they withstood the price pressure of developing economies, especially China, and remained a Manufacturing leader is worth mentioning.



How to Answer Darden MBA Essay #1: "Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you - personal, professional or both." (100 words)

1. Write about a life-threatening event and some interesting insights that experience gave you

For this example, I am citing my experience in 2015 when I survived a Viper bite. I am certain most of you don’t have that kind of dramatic experience. But reflect and find experiences that gave you a new perspective.

Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself Personal, Professional or Both (100 Words) (Near Death Experience)

During monsoon, it is customary for stray cats to raid homes and make the occupants their owners. In 2015, the foster cat yowled incessantly. I volunteered to take the extra shift for my pregnant wife and went to the backyard. After feeding the cat, as it was my habit, I put my foot on the table and saw two faint points marked on my left leg. Frightened by my footsteps, a baby viper fanged me. The 2-hour following the anti-venom injection was a moment of clarity. I developed a new philosophy – “Nothing...

Darden is among the few top MBA programs apart from Harvard, INSEAD, Ivey, and IESE to persist with the Case study method as the primary mode of teaching. The MBA Admission team tried using indirect methods of evaluating the candidate’s fit for such a learning environment where active classroom discussion is valued. But the team has taken a step in the right direction this year by directly asking a question that will give hints on how the applicant will cope with a case study method.

Q) "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)

The question does not require you to quote Darden MBA curriculum or demonstrate the future that is possible with the program. Instead, the question is measuring your learning capability, extroversion, and ability to change opinion when challenged with new information.

Case Study Method

Case study method follows a four-step process:

1) Individual Learning

Before you...

Traditionally, the mean signing bonus is around the $25,000 to $30,000 range, but for Darden Full-time MBA, the bonus crossed $31,000, although the total mean base salary was below the $125,000 range seen in top 10 MBA programs. However, Consulting – the most preferred job function attracted offers with $134,770 base salary and total mean salary of $161,700. Finance, the second favorite attracted much lower base salary ($119,585) but attracted the best signing bonus ($41,863) for the class.

Among the Finance function, Investment Banking pulled in close to $50,000 in signing bonus a $126,960 mean base salary, taking the total compensation to $175,898. General Management and Marketing were the 3rd and 4th popular function.

Darden MBA Salary by Function
Darden MBA didn’t break the trend of following the Consulting and Financial Services industries, the former attracting 38% of the class while Investment Banking (18%) job offers was a sizable portion from the Financial Services (27%) sector.

Darden MBA Salary by Industry

On total mean salary,...

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