June 17, 2019

Darden School of Business MBA Short Essay 1

University of Virginia Darden

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]
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