Virginia Darden MBA Essays: Tips for 2023-2024

At Menlo Coaching, we noticed that most MBA essays will fall into one of a number of categories: personal essays, career goals essays, behavioral essays, etc.. Read ahead for our expert guide on approaching these essays for UVA Darden School of Business.

Personal Essay

  • What would you want your classmates to know about you that is not on your resume? (100 words)

Behavioral Essay

  • Please describe a tangible example that illuminates your experience promoting an inclusive environment and what you would bring to creating a welcoming, global community at Darden. (text box, 300 words)

Career Goals Essay

  • At this time how would you describe your short-term, post-MBA goal in terms of industry, function, geography, company size and/or mission and how does it align with the long-term vision you have for your career? (text box, 200 words)

Optional Essay

  • If there is further information you believe would be helpful to the Admission Committee, please provide it. (text box, 250 words)

Reapplicant Essay

  • What have you done to improve your candidacy since you last applied? (text box, 100 words)

Looking for Last-Minute Essay Help?

MBA Deadlines are fast approaching…

Did you know that Menlo Coaching can help you with your MBA essays on an hourly basis?

Our five-hour package starts at $2,500, and you can work with our MBA admissions consultants on anything you like, including:

Essay and Resume Edits

Recommender Support

Application Form Reviews

Interview Preparation

Darden’s Personal Essay

The personal essay is a hallmark of most MBA applications. Writing this genre of MBA essay involves divulging information about the core values, morals, and passions that guide your behavior and motivate your decisions. Darden’s MBA admissions committee wants to know more about the actual people to which they are offering admissions, because each applicant is more than their transcript and resume. 

In personal essays, Darden’s admissions committee wants applicants to provide information about personal relationships, hardships, and other individualizing information. It is important to provide concrete examples to demonstrate how your values have influenced you in different areas of your life. Further, Darden wants applicants to demonstrate leadership skills and articulate their reasons for wanting an MBA at UVA Darden. 

When writing your personal Darden essay, you should keep in mind that the best strategy for approaching this type of essay is being open and letting your personality shine through. Successful personal statements often include an engaging story told with an authentic voice. Therefore, as long as you are true to yourself, your Darden MBA essay will be a success.

Darden’s Behavioral Essay

Behavioral essays involve demonstrating how you have used your leadership skills in real-life situations. This Darden essay gives you a space to identify your morality as a leader and how you might benefit from Darden’s leadership development programs. Darden’s MBA admissions committee wants assurance that you are self-reflective and able to identify a moment in which you have been a leader. 

In the Darden behavioral essay, it is important to be truthful and sincere and to tell your personal story in a compelling manner. You should include as much detail as possible for this type of Darden MBA essay, discussing your role in a situation that required a strong leader. You should reflect on what this situation taught you and how your leadership style might have changed after this experience. UVA Darden is looking for MBA candidates who can contemplate how they used leadership skills to solve a problem. 

In this Darden MBA essay, you might want to reflect on your role on teams in your previous work experience. Further, rather than solely focusing on your leadership successes, it would also be beneficial to identify some failures and explain how you have learned from these less positive experiences.

Darden’s Career Goals Essay 

The UVA Darden career goals essay provides applicants with a place to let the Darden admissions committee know how the MBA program you want to attend will help you achieve your professional goals. This Darden essay is a great place to explain why Darden is truly the best fit for you. 

It is vital for Darden applicants to have a solid plan for their post-MBA career aspirations. First and foremost, this is because Darden wants its graduates to succeed. However, there are a few selfish motivations for the career goals essay, including the fact that Darden wants to have an impressive employment report and produce graduates who will become donors someday. Further, the Darden admissions committee wants to ensure that applicants have a career plan that plays on their past experiences and thus ensures success. They also want applicants with the foresight to develop an alternate career plan in case their first choice does not work out. 

Other things to keep in mind for this essay is the necessity to have a career goal that is both ambitious and practical. Applicants should have meaningful goals that fit with what is offered at Darden’s MBA program. Along this vein, networking is extremely important when preparing to write your career goals essay. The more you know about the program and how it can help you achieve your personal goals, the better.

Optional Essay

An unusual aspect of the Darden application is that they have two optional essays: one traditional optional essay, in which you can elaborate on or clarify any element of your application you feel requires further consideration, and an additional family information essay, in which you can expand on your family background and any unusual life circumstances that could fortify your overall application.

One trap that MBA applicants fall into is using the additional space provided by this essay to write on a whole new topic. However, this is not always the best idea.

You should only make use of this essay if you what you write will provide context to an element of your application to improve your candidacy—you don’t want to jeopardize your chances by adding unnecessary noise to your application.

Reapplicant Essay

For reapplicants, UVa Darden requires a specific essay in which you can address how your application has improved since your last application.

In this essay, you can address any improvements to your test scores, promotions at work, additional volunteer or community work, or any significant professional development that you have undertaken since you last applied to the program.

Timing is key for reapplicants, and when you’re applying for an MBA program a second time around, you want to be sure that you are a more qualified and desirable client than you were a year ago—even if your application was stellar the first time.


Applicants to UVA Darden should pay close attention to the specific expectations for each type of Darden essay. Darden also asks participants to write MBA essays providing information about their experiences with diversity and goals for future global travel. Although it may be tempting to look up sample essays and draw from these formats, it is most important to let your personal background guide the construction of your Darden MBA essays. Menlo Coaching can help you throughout your MBA essay writing process, offering one-on-one coaching and exclusive materials.

Early Birds Toolkit

Learn 3 Steps You Should Take NOW to Improve Your Profile for R1 2024

In MBA admissions, starting early can significantly boost your chances. 

But there are no shortcuts, and while R1 2024 deadlines might seem far off, building your profile takes time.

Our Early Birds Toolkit has everything you need to get started right now—leave your name and email, and we’ll send you three actionable steps to elevate your profile, plus time-saving tools for faster progress.