June 17, 2019

Darden School of Business MBA Short Essay 2

University of Virginia Darden

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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