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July 17, 2019

Darden School Of Business MBA Short Essay 4

Darden Short Essay 4

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

Have you seen THE AVENGERS? Or THE A-TEAM? Or “any heist movie ever”? If so, you’re familiar with the concept of individuals with special talents contributing to some group goal. The brute force guy: Hulk. The leader: Captain America. The espionage badass: Black Widow. The guy with remarkable six-pack: Thor. You get the idea. Each person should be capable of something that s/he can do better than just about anyone else on the squad. “Specialists.” It’s not that that’s the ONLY thing they can do, it’s just a more interesting proposition when you utilize everyone’s specialty and sum it all up.

The same idea applies to the “learning team” at Darden. It’s… pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You can read about it here. A half dozen students from different backgrounds and different first-year sections work together to prepare for class discussions and group projects.

On the one hand, you could say something funny here that endears you to your teammates. Or you could wow them with some incredible thing you accomplished somewhere along your road to Darden. But, neither of those will necessarily help you as a crew “achieve your max potential as an Avengers-style squad.” In order to do that, you need to reveal what your “super power” is and how it will be of use to the CREW when the time comes. If you’re Iron Man, for example, it isn’t useful to talk about your preference for Tom Ford suits. It WOULD be useful to talk about how quickly you learned astrophysics, because THAT SKILL may come in handy in a “group mission.”

What’s the mission? You’re gonna be dissecting cases at Darden. What is it YOU BRING TO THE TABLE that would be of interest to your mates? Be sure that this thing isn’t something someone else might ALSO have, or it won’t prove useful in this setting.

In 100 words, spend 50-60 describing THE SKILL, and then use the remaining 40 or so to explain how this will be useful to the group. Without that piece, it won’t sing as loudly.

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July 17, 2019

Darden Short Essay 1

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

Ah, impact. Lots of people attack this with excellent intentions and write killer essays… but, not ones that are truly about IMPACT. Here’s where most folks go astray:

Let’s say you’re working at a consulting firm, or a bank, or a retail outfit. And you outperform folks who have come before you, to the point where upper management goes “wow, you are killing it in XYZ ways! Thank god we hired you, you’ve been an absolute game changer. What an impact you’ve had on… operations, morale, sales, boy oh boy!”

Cool. Here’s the thing, let’s say you leave, and an alien revisits that organization, say, five years later, and does a thorough audit of sales, operational fluidity, morale, everything. If ultimately, the findings are more or less the same as they were while you were there, and as they were five years prior… then while the things you did may still have been INCREDIBLY IMPRESSIVE, and MEANINGFUL TO THE BOTTOM LINE, you have not necessarily made an impact.

Think about impact like a tattoo that doesn’t wash away. A shift in something (operations, supply chain, culture, something) that STAYS the way a tattoo does. Forever. No going back. That’s the kind of story we wanna hear about. Not just wild success. Success that left a mark. A thing that the guy who followed in your footsteps now adheres to because of something YOU did.

“This company now does this thing THIS way which has had X benefit, and that thing exists because of THIS STORY I’M ABOUT TO DROP.”

“This team USED to do X but now they Y because I led an initiative to change it because THIS STORY HAPPENED THAT I’M ABOUT TO TELL.” 

“I set out to change the way the company used to ABC, and HERE’S HOW I WENT ABOUT GETTING IT DONE.”

Any of these will work, among others. However, to satisfy the “leader who follows a purpose” part of the question, your version also has to include something… extra. Something not REQUIRED to meet the bar of success, but that brought forth additional impact that was meaningful for a higher, non-monetary reason. “Not required” is key, because this type of purposeful social impact is strongest when it’s generated from a place of “it was just the proper, or correct, or smarter thing to do, for the good of… future generations, longer-LASTING support, etc. Find your version, and spend some time grappling with why we should care about any of it. Both in terms of why it was important to YOU, but also, what we learn about how you approach new challenges.

  1. Take us through an experience, explain the objectives, the challenges, and what was going through your mind at the time. Explain how you pulled it off, and also how you measured the fact that there was an impact after the fact. [100-125 words]
  2. Give us a reason to care about this. Why tell us? What does it say about your motivations? What did you learn here? Were you humbled? Did it affect the way you define or measure goals/success? Give us some kind of take home… [75 words]


June 17, 2019

Darden Short Essay 5

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

Very straightforward. Always remember, the key here is that you’re not going to win anyone over with just a killer idea, or a killer goal. It has to be the combination of a killer goal and a convincing argument that YOU’RE GONNA SUCCEED AT IT…

Let’s take that one step further. If you can give off the vapor that you’re THE KIND OF GUY/GAL who will likely succeed at whatever your stated goal is… OR ANY OTHER GOAL SHOULD IT CHANGE ALONG THE WAY, now you’ve basically printed your ticket to a top b-school. THAT’S what they want to see. Why state it this way? Because it SHOULD affect the way you approach this kind of essay. It will force you to emphasize and flesh out CERTAIN details and relax your focus on others. (If you’re ever interested in seeing this for yourself, check out successful essays from top b-school admits. What you’ll notice is that there is confidence oozing off the page, always, and clear indications that these guys have success etched into their DNA.)

Okay, so, how do we do this in 150 words? Well, for starters, try to keep the MAIN focus on the short-term goal. That doesn’t mean you can’t ALLUDE to your long-term goal. In fact, we often find that the most effective way of selling your plan for your short-term goal is to place it within the CONTEXT of an overall vision. The point is not to DWELL on the LT piece here.

  1. Indicate the problem you want to solve, or the opportunity that intrigues you. Explain not just what the goal is, but also the “what’s the impact when you succeed at it” … in other words, the “who cares” factor. If you succeed, how will things change? Do this relatively quickly. [25 words]
  2. Now, studiously, rich with detail, take us through the steps, one by one, of how you’re going to GET. THIS. DONE. Starting POST-MBA, what comes next? How did you come up with that first step to begin with? Why is it important? What do you need to accomplish INSIDE that first step? And of course, what purpose does it serve within a “four-step” ST vision? (We just made up “four,” it can be any number.) Each step should logically lead to the next, and we should be convinced that you have thought through not just what the steps should be, but also how you will NAVIGATE those steps. For example, if you were to say “in order to have an impact on telecommunications, first I’ll get my MBA from Darden and then I’ll grab a post as CEO of a place like Google and then I’ll drop some major impact, yo!” …it may be true that the guy who travels that path can indeed make an impact, but… is it likely? If not, the plan itself is garbage. The PATH needs to make sense, AND your ability to travel it as well. [75-100 words]
  3. Quickly, like, really quickly, leave us with a sense of why this matters to you, not because we want to feel fuzzy about it, but because we want to see “skin in the game.” If you’re motivated by this thing, it’s going to suggest that you have the drive to succeed (even if your path changes) and that’s what we’re after. [25-50 words]

June 17, 2019

Darden Short Essay 3

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, and why? (50 words)

It’s always fun to talk about travel! But there should be a CLEAR difference between the way you answer this question as an applicant to business school, and the way any random person off the street would answer the question ‘Where would you want to travel, and why?” For example, does traveling to this place connect directly to your business aspirations in some way? Tell us how. If it isn’t directly connected, find a connection to something you’re curious about on a deeper level (spiritually, philosophically, sociologically, etc.) that… indirectly connects to aspects of your business goals!

In other words, say your business goals are to “lead a startup in Silicon Valley that has something to do with pharmaceuticals.” You’ve been dying to visit MONGOLIA for some time now. Does it connect to your pharma goals? Nope. People there you can network with? Nope. But there’s some aspect of the terrain and culture that has always fascinated you. In other words, this trip might make you a better person, which will make you a better leader. Or, this trip will fill out your understanding of how people in a different culture deal with XYZ circumstances which will benefit you in some surprising way ABC. Don’t force this connection. The point is this: your answer should feel SOBER. Thoughtful. Part of some master plan.

Big picture, there are two options:

A Place You’ve ALREADY Been

If you go this route, there’s got to be a reason you want to go back with a group of Darden classmates. Why do you want to do that? This is important… this is the part where most applicants say something they think Darden wants to hear, and that doesn’t work.

So, find that voice in your sub-conscious and um… extinguish it, kindly. Instead, ask yourself, why would you truly, genuinely want to go BACK to Country X with these Darden fools? What do you have to gain from that? It can’t be because you want to share some experience with other people, isn’t that kind of a waste of time FOR YOU, and sort of disingenuous deep down? Sounds weird, but there’s got to be some selfish motive. Figure out what it is, and sell us on it. It doesn’t have to be “serious” and “save the world” worthy. Just needs to be honest. The adcom wants to know what’s motivating you.

A Place You HAVEN’T Been

If this is an “I’ve always wanted to” story, it had BEST include some version of “but I never did it because going by myself or with Crew X wouldn’t be nearly as good as going with team Darden. Darden mates represent the best version and so BAM, SIGN ME THE EFF UP, because here’s what I’d want to get out of it, and boy oh boy am I excited about this opportunity.”

50 words folks. Zip in, zip out, make your point, be matter-of-fact, be honest. If the adcom smells a rat (aka, they detect you’re writing for the benefit of the reader), they will call you out hardcore…

June 17, 2019

Darden Short Essay 2

Diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission, and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community. Read University of Virginia’s Diversity & Inclusion Vision Statement. Share a time in which you engaged with a perspective, identity, community or experience that was different from your own and how it impacted your worldview. (200 words)

This is a classic diversity essay. A common response is to look for a story where you were open-minded and went in looking to learn from an “other” perspective, identity, community, or experience. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s all you have.

However, the coolest versions of this essay are the ones where the lessons DON’T come easily. Where the “other” wrecks your expectations, ruffles your status quo, knocks you off balance, etc. “Wait, I thought everyone on earth believed that the correct attitude toward X was Y—Am I… different from everyone else here? Oh no!”

If you learned something new and beautiful from this experience, great! But it can also be the case you were once exposed to something dark, ugly, disgusting, disappointing, etc. and that THAT impacted your worldview. Be careful with this one, though, you want to avoid stereotypes or generalizations when talking about the problems in a group of people (whether it’s a cabal of cigar lounge political fixers, or simply a community with a troubling attitude toward something).

No matter how your story develops, one way to make this type of essay effective is to avoid the temptation of “giving away the ending.” Establish the “before” up front: the idea you were confident about (and why), the perspective you had initially (and why), the attitude toward X you had originally (and why). THEN, drop us into the situation that challenged it. Explain the cognitive dissonance. Isolate the friction, explain why it was so shocking. Show how you processed the new information. And then (in the third section, if we’re counting), assess it all, with 20-20 hindsight. What does it mean for your future? In summary: before, after, conclusions.

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