Posted on July 9, 2012

Darden Essay Question Analysis-2012-2013

Last week, Darden released its essay question (yes, it is just one question) for 2012-2013.

From Darden website: Next week Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions Sara Neher will be filming a video blog with advice about how to approach the Darden application, including advice about the essay question. Be sure to check back!

Let us take a look at the question:

Essay Question:  Share your thought process as you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. How did this experience change your perspective? (500 words maximum)

1. What is the Purpose of this question?

Through this essay question Darden not only expects you to share an experience a challenging and complex work situation, but also wants you to narrate your thought process during that time, and the learning you gleaned through that experience.

2. How to brains storm ideas for this question?

You need to look for instances when things did not work the way they should have or the way you had expected them to be, or when you were facing problems keeping your team members aligned with each other or to get the desired input from them on a project. You may also reflect on times when you encountered a situation that demanded you to take immediate charge and handle it in your way, or time when you had to go over and beyond what was defined, expected, or popular, or a time when you had to make an important decision without having all the information you needed.

Remember, whatever your story is, it should present you in a positive light, revealing your strengths in the areas of diplomacy, honesty, maturity, ethics, creativity, and integrity. Be honest in providing details of your story, how you felt, what you did, what you said etc. These vivid details of your story would reveal your character traits.

3. How to structure this essay?

Make sure your challenge story has the following four components:

  • the situation/the challenge,
  • the action, (how you dealt with the situation?)
  • the outcome/result, (what happened in the end ?)
  • the significance (what lessons you learned?)

Since the second part of the essay question asks you to share how that experience changed your perspective, it is imperative that you explain at length why that experience is meaningful to you, both in terms of the challenges you overcame, the results you produced, and the lessons you learned. You may also describe how you are now applying or trying to apply those lessons in similar situations at work. The key here is your essay should eventually demonstrate your growth.

In the following example, the applicant wraps up his challenge story by outlining its significance for him.

Example: “Today I recall CIT as one of the most memorable projects. From a revenue perspective, it was not the biggest project I handled. However, it was the most challenging project in terms of saving my company, and above all, my own reputation in front of the mounting unforeseen challenges. The experience taught me valuable decision making and team-working skills that I am now practicing successfully.”

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.