The Darden School of Business is a top-tier MBA program at University of Virginia. Due to the strength of its academic community, UVA has significant entrepreneurial activity and is interested in fostering innovation within the MBA program.
A quick glance at Darden’s rankings will reveal just how scattered and silly the whole business school rankings game has become. The Economist puts UVA’s Darden School at number three in the world, behind only Chicago and Dartmouth Tuck. Rival British publication, The Financial Times, has Darden at a rank of 32nd in the world. Both results lack any credibility, largely due to the severely flawed methodologies followed by those two lists.
Darden’s Class of 2015 was among the most highly compensated MBAs in the world. The average starting salary and bonus was $136,474, up 14.4$ from $119,278 five years earlier. The 2015 pay numbers make Darden MBAs the 11th highest paid graduates out of U.S. business schools, with Chicago Booth and Duke Fuqua just ahead of the school’s graduates and Northwestern Kellogg, NYU Stern just below the Darden numbers.
When it came to employment, Darden did even better. Some 94% of the Class of 2015 had jobs three months after graduation. That was seventh best among the top 25 U.S. MBA programs, with Wharton, Emory, and Dartmouth Tuck just slightly higher.
Darden Class Profile
DARDEN Placement Report
Darden Winning Sample Essay - 2
What is your short-term, post-MBA career goal and why? (150 words)
My short-term goal is to join a leading strategy consulting firm such as McKinsey or BCG as a consultant to leverage my problem solving skills and business knowledge gained at Darden to create value and growth for the clients.
My experience at Samsung has helped me hone my communication and problem solving skills. My part-time contribution in my family’s garment business where I helped develop a new revenue stream model, had given me deep insight into commercial aspects of a business. Learnings from these insights have helped me develop a strong business acumen.
After an MBA from Darden, I want to broaden my horizons and gain knowledge in various aspects of a global business. I think my skillset and past experiences can help me make a smooth transition into consultancy. Therefore , I believe join a top consulting firm after my MBA would be a step in the right direction.
How have the changes in the global economy over the last 18 months affected you and your plan for the future? (400 words)
Having an internet dating business, I was surprised to see that the recent global downturn actually boosted the growth of my website – the human need to communicate appears to increase at times of crisis. To provide support for over 13,000 users (up by almost 70% from 2008), I hired a team of five professionals. I had the opportunity to provide a better service to my customers and to give, even if only for a few people – jobs.
I’m also aware of the fact that many companies (including the one I’m working in), had to lay off workers or even declare bankruptcy. The crisis showed how the banking elite, who overreached when times were good, brought the world to the brink of another Great Depression. However, I believe it’s not about good or evil intentions, but about decision-making and ethics. Facing many dilemmas in my line of business, I know the significance of ethics in making business decisions. When does online flirting turn into harassment, requiring my intervention?
For me, the current crisis and its root causes have highlighted the importance of understanding business ethics in-depth. It showed me the importance of business standards based on creating value for customers and shareholders, while taking responsibility for a company’s actions.
Inspired by Professor Freeman’s publications on business ethics, and taking ethics seriously, I pursue a Darden MBA to become a better leader, whose decisions are clear and who is accountable for these decisions.
The downturn also made me realize the importance of entrepreneurship, which contributes to economic growth by creating jobs, investing in community projects and fostering technological innovation. My desire to launch my own technological company has only grown stronger.
My vision for such a company was formed through my volunteer work at a Children’s Hospital, where I see children suffering from painful injections. Identifying the need for a quick, non-invasive anesthesia solution, I started cooperating with Professor Vladimir Gotlib. We are currently working on a patent-pending electronic device for pain prevention, and negotiating funding with Mobile Capital Network Inc, a VC fund.
I believe that Darden will provide me with the best tools to understand and learn the lessons from recent events. This will enable me to establish a company based on sound ethical practices, and form a network with other like-minded students, together with whom I’ll seek to have a positive social impact.
Describe a significant maturing experience (250 words)
During the final year of my B.E. course, I started to work on the idea of a real estate website targeting Delhi. Although the resources were limited, I created some interesting layouts and workflows. While I was planning to launch it, I came in contact with some experienced people in this domain and realized that I had made some grave mistakes. For instance, I overlooked signing agreements with real estate agents for procuring updated market information from them. In real estate business, without latest deals and information, it is impossible to establish a solid customer base. Lack of advertising and in-depth study of existing real estate websites exacerbated the problem.
Soon I found myself standing at a dead end. It was clear that I needed to fold this project. However, closing this chapter allowed me to open a new one. My mistakes were costly but they actually allowed me to refine my understanding of the market, competition, and advertisement. It was a great maturing experience and the benefit was mine, in the end.
In early 2006, I started working on a car website, to provide potential car buyers with unbiased information, reviews and expert opinions on cars in India. I divided the venture into four phases. The first phase encompassed an analysis of the Indian car market and car buyer’s practices and reviewing car manufacturers’ websites. The second phase included design implementation. In phase three, I gathered market feedback through demos of the site’s prototype. The final phase involved feedback-based revisions to the designs and simultaneous talks with car magazines and TV shows. I successfully launched the website “carbazaar_dummy.com” and its doing great. Recently, a leading Indian car magazine evinced interest for collaboration with the website.
Darden Winning Sample Essay - 1
Essay 1: Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? (500 word limit)
Experimentation work during college enabled me to put my ideas into practice and gave me a tremendous sense of fulfillment. Moreover, various responsibilities, roles and projects in the past two years at Company ABC have made my product engineering fundamentals very strong.
My technical prowess and vision was appreciated by Company ABC and I got a steep career growth in a short span. While working intensively in IT and dealing with all aspects of project implementation, I began to realize my need for formal education in business administration. I look at a senior position in a global product/services company as my short term goal. This position will help me learn how to resolve practical issues, develop business plans, formulate strategies and identify new markets. It will also provide me great knowledge about marketing, customer acquisition and retention and brand management.
As a long haul I see myself heading my own product enterprise and turning my ideas into action. I envisage an enterprise which would tap unique user requirements and develop cutting edge software products for individuals and businesses .
I am confident that I have the potential to succeed as an entrepreneur. I have accumulated useful knowledge, managerial ability, analytical skills, and communication skills through my experience at Company ABC. I am responsible, inquisitive and aggressive. I hold several critical positions, such as Company ABC’s link to Apple and represent Company ABC at international conferences. I have filed a patent that will give Company ABC a strong business edge over its competitors.
Although I am confident in my ability to start a successful venture company, but I know that working in my present role I would require experience of years to steer my organization and even experience of many years might not be enough because I will be learning about only one aspect of business i.e. Product Engineering . An education in business administration can help me take a jump start and move towards achievement of my eventual ambition. I cannot accomplish my goal without meeting three preliminary objectives. First, I must develop a concrete business plan. Second, I need to attract creative and talented people to work with me. Finally, in order to reduce the risk of entrepreneurship, I should study entrepreneurial management and related fields such as venture financing. To run a business, I need to better understand the executive’ s viewpoint in today’ s corporate environment. My business venture “carbazaar_dummy.com” gave me an excellent opportunity to understand the car buying practices, market and competition in India. But I feel that I have just scratched the surface.
Post MBA, I will seek a position in a leading corporation in its business building/growth practice to get an insight into the practical issues of new business creation. I am confident that my work experience, the product engineering skills that I have developed and the networks that I have established at Company ABC , combined with the wisdom and business acumen to be gained during my MBA course, will put me on the path of spearheading my company.
Each of our applicants is unique. Describe how your background, values, education, activities and/or leadership skills will enhance the experience of other Darden students. (500 word limit)
I have consciously endeavored to grow positively as a person with each passing day. I am a person of varied interests, ranging from the technical research (papers) to the business (website and Company ABC products) to the artistic (painting) to the altruistic (community service). I always integrate my diverse interests so that my skills and activities complement each other. My self-conviction and ability to make powerful determinations has facilitated my journey from a humble beginning to a successful professional life.
I’m all about possibility rather than subscribing to a rigid set of values. Therefore no matter how daunting the situation might be, I am able define a clear roadmap. My ‘out of box’ thinking has made me accomplish more within a specified time period as compared to other people. I have already filed one patent and another is under process. I have ingrained thought leadership at Company ABC and developed an ability to make existing workflows more efficient. I have been involved in novel ideas generation and research with two of my research papers published by organizations like IEEE. With my research and product engineering fundamentals I will provide a good learning experience to other Darden students.
I’m the person friends turn to when the going gets rough. I have grown in a joint-family of 22 people and sustaining relationship has come to me naturally. Throughout my academic, professional and community life, I have made friends for life. I have been associated with ‘Missionaries of Charity’ for more than 3 years now. My constant exposure to new cultures and people and my good communication and presentation skills have made me a good team player. As I believe that there is no alternative to honesty and hard work, I have always worked honestly and diligently to realize my ambitions. I was a merit scholarship holder throughout my under graduate engineering program and a mathematics scholar.
I believe my ideas, my focus and diligence, my technical prowess and interaction with people from diverse background will add a lot of value to the Darden community.
I have learned the art of schmoozing and networking over the years with my business trips to Europe, USA and Hong Kong. This ability will help me forge long term relationships with the Darden community and participate in each other’s progress.
I am from a business family and have a keen sense of entrepreneurship and an ability to identify business opportunities. I consider my “out-of-box” thinking capability as my key distinctive trait. Realizing the potential of integration of the web and the Indian Car Market, I launched a website called www.carbazaar_dummy.com to provide the Indian customer a centralized place for news, reviews, information, and consultancy about Indian Cars. I will share this rich experience with my peers at Darden and continue to explore similar entrepreneurial ideas. My passionate and innovative attitude to nourish a nascent idea into a business model is infectious and I firmly believe that it will create an environment fertile for creative thinking at Darden.
During the global economic crisis I was an observer, not a victim. I learned a great deal from being a spectator at a play about leadership, with the economic crisis as the backdrop.
When the crisis hit I was developing my own leadership style. From my first day as a military engineer I was persuading people of different backgrounds, ages, and cultures to implement my managerial and technical solutions, not sitting alone in front of a computer. I quickly learned that to lead I needed confidence; learning about the situation before acting, “reading the market”, gave me that confidence. The more successes I accumulated, the more confident I become. I had not yet learned about the fine line where confidence takes on the prefix “over”, and becomes dangerous.
During the crisis I purchased equipment from two family businesses – “Seller & Son”, an importer of leading manufacturers, and “Maker & Son”, a local manufacturer of similar equipment. “Seller & Son’s” business prospered during the crisis, adding an extra work day to keep up with demand. “Maker & Son” survived only as a component supplier, losing the basis of its reputation, its identity as a manufacturer.
Working during the global crisis with both of the leaders, and people who knew them for decades, clarified for me that making the effort to understand the situation, reading the market, is an essential part of leadership.
“Maker & Son” was established in the sixties. Emphasizing technologies and successfully selling systems for decades, its leader felt he didn’t need to focus on service. When customer concerns shifted, “Seller & Son” did its research, “read the market” and offered responsive service. “Maker & Son”, outwardly confident, did nothing to keep its market share. During the crisis it continued to have long response times, forcing clients to find solutions for themselves. “Seller & Son” was always willing to help without looking for an immediate profit, welcoming clients’ problems and providing immediate solutions. Those customers that still had the resources to buy during the crisis voted, with their wallets, for the company providing service.
During my latest project I made the same mistake, while deciding which Sections would be responsible for the safety testing of newly purchased equipment.
I divided the responsibility between two units, without doing the research to find out who already had the necessary expertise. I re-invented the wheel with the new distribution. Only my reputation and good relationships with those involved in the project saved the new wheel from breaking because of the bumps in the road, the internal conflicts, I accidently created.
Struggling to keep my new wheel turning, I remembered “Seller” and “Maker” during the crisis. As “Maker” had done, I assumed instead of checking. I was paying for the over-confidence borne of my past successes. When I admitted my mistake, the road became smoother. Now as I lead, I know that asking the right questions can help you succeed during hard times. It will not harm a leader’s image; it is over-confidence that can ruin it.
Darden APPLICATION ESSAY TIPS
Darden has changed the one required essay question of prior years into a set of very short essays that cover a variety of topics. Darden is looking for leadership, international focus, and a sense of passion and purpose.
In all of these essays you will want to communicate who you are and what motivates you both in your career pursuits and your personal life. The restrictive word counts will make it challenging to elaborate in your responses, so be focused and precise in your communication.
When considering which personal qualities to highlight in this set of essays, consider that leadership is crucial to future Darden MBAs. Your ability to work well within a team of peers is also important to Darden, a school with a small, tight-knit community.
The case method is the primary teaching method at Darden, similar to Harvard Business School, and engaging with the case method requires the ability to communicate clearly and bring your perspective to the conversation.
Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you – personal, professional or both. (100 words)
Darden is a community, and the learning team is the smallest unit of that community. You will be assigned a team of diverse classmates to meet before class and discuss your case assignments. The purpose of these discussions is to ensure that all of you are prepared to participate in the class discussion. Ideally the learning team is a supportive environment and allows everyone to learn and express their own point of view.
This essay allows you to introduce yourself to the Darden community while imagining that you are speaking only to a small group of your peers. What should your learning team know about your background? What diverse perspective will you bring to the learning environment? Perhaps you have a unique professional background that will be new to your teammates.
You may be from an underrepresented region of the world, or you have an interesting personal background. In just a few words, describe what you think will set you apart from your peers and be interesting for the team to know about you. To learn more about your potential classmates, talk to a student ambassador or review Darden’s MBA Student Stories.
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)
To learn more about Darden’s international programs, visit the Darden website. You can connect with an international location by participating in short visits through a Global Immersion Course or Global Topic Course, spend a semester abroad with an Exchange Program, or work directly with an international business as part of the Global Client Courses.
While Darden describes the current programs and countries on the website, this question asks for your ideal location and why you are interested in it. Your interest in a particular region could be personal or professional and should have an academic basis. The focus of these international programs is to learn more about the world of business beyond the United States, with that context what would you like to know and where would you like to learn it?
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)
This set of essays provides a holistic view of your background, motivations and goals – and in some ways this question is a close companion to the career goals question at the end. When you examine your past leadership opportunities, what is the connecting thread? Are you a consensus builder or a director of projects? Do you keep the project running on time, or do you question the premise? What has been your style when dealing with difficult peers or bosses?
You should consider all of those questions and then choose a short example that illustrates your style and purpose. At this stage in your life your aspirations may not match reality yet, and you can discuss a bit of your desired evolution as a leader.
Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact. (200 words)
This example could be professional or extracurricular, but ideally describes a significant accomplishment that made an impact. That impact could be big or small as long as it was meaningful to you and those around you. Ideally this example is illustrative of your larger interests and passions.
For example, if you are devoted to diversity, perhaps you started a mentoring program or funded internships for underrepresented employees. While the impact of that action may have been limited to your department or company, it shows your values and allows you to discuss how you would make a greater impact on the world when you have the ability and platform to do so.
What is your short-term, post-MBA career goal and why? (150 words)
This question focuses specifically on your short-term career goal, but since you are likely taking that next step in order to set the groundwork for your larger career goals it is entirely appropriate to describe your overall career aspirations. In the previous questions in this set of essays you have described your personality, motivations, impact and accomplishments, and your career goals should fit seamlessly into that story.
Do not be intimidated by career goals questions if you are still exploring what you want to do with your life. Darden offers intensive career counseling and you will have an opportunity to explore many career paths in school. The essay question seeks to understand why you are pursuing this path and what you hope to get out of it.
The goal is to understand how you think and plan, and what motivates your career decisions. If you are inspired by what you have experienced as a leader and as someone who has a positive impact on others, that inspiration should be part of your career aspirations as well. Darden will help you refine your goals and learn the skills you need.